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Considering move to East Kent but unsure how I feel about the selective school system

(100 Posts)
jeanniedeans Fri 22-Feb-13 09:39:37

We are lucky enough to be in a position to choose where we move to next (we are currently living in Scotland) although the decision is proving a little daunting. Top of my list of potential locations is Canterbury, Kent, although one major sticking point is the grammar school system they have there. My partner and I were both educated at state comprehensives and I confess to knowing very little about how the grammar school system works. Our kids are only 6 and 2, so this might seem a little premature, but we want to get this move right and feel very ill-informed right now. My main concerns are 1) if the kids were to get in to the local grammar school, would the school be very 'results' driven (ie focusing on academic subjects rather than giving the kids a more 'well-rounded' education, and 2) do the non-selective schools suffer as a result of being in an area where there are several selective state schools? Any advice people could give me on this would be much appreciated. Thank you.

jeanniedeans Fri 15-Mar-13 10:40:05

Thanks for the suggestions Talkinpeace. We looked at Fordingbridge but decided you'd be too reliant on the car there and the roads seemed very busy (this might be because we've become too used to Scottish roads). We didn't visit Ferndown or West Moors. Is there much of a centre (shops, leisure centre etc) in either of those, or are they mainly residential? I remember visiting Verwood and ruling it out because it hardly had any facilities, although the houses and gardens were nice round there. Yes, we probably do need to think again about the Poulner area. We had a good walk round there when we visited Ringwood. I remember the schools were good. Is it walkable into town from there, do you know, and what would the walk be like? New Milton I don't know anything about - I will go and research it now. Thanks!

Talkinpeace Thu 14-Mar-13 20:30:34

Yup the road is a pig. They will put a speed limit on it after the latest incident.
BUT you do not need to live near it : back edge of Poulner for example ...
What about Fordingbridge ?
Or Ferndown / West Moors
or even New Milton : inland side

jeanniedeans Thu 14-Mar-13 20:01:39

Funnily enough Ringwood was the first place we looked at - we went on a trip there last Easter. We really liked the town and loved the New Forest on the doorstep, but that dual carriageway going through the town sad. I'm not sure if I'd get used to the noise from that. And the pollution too I suppose. A big shame, as we thought we'd found the perfect place when we first read about it. We reconsidered it recently, having trawled through a lot of other places since then, but that road still came up as a big thorn in its side.

Talkinpeace Thu 14-Mar-13 16:49:32


jeanniedeans Thu 14-Mar-13 13:56:37

Sorry for delay in replying - have had my head stuck in Ordnance Survey maps and rightmove for far too long, ugh. Tolliver, list of things we are hoping to find (some of) in our location quest are (in no particular order)
- prospect of reasonable jobs close by (although we've both been self-employed in the past so this could be an option for us again). So if it's a small town, there would need to be a larger town within easy striking distance (ideally accessible by bus/train)
- good state schools within walking distance (kids are 6 and 2) so primary age, but also looking ahead to secondary, although I realise a lot can change in the intervening years.
- good fishing river for DP nearby (not fly fishing he informs me, which has cut out lots of lovely sounding towns in Hampshire)- I guess within 5 miles.
- easy access to the countryside for us all (for walking, cycling and generally letting the kids loose). I'd ideally like woods, but in our search we've realised how few places in England actually have woods next to a town.
- nice climate (currently live near St Andrews which is a fabulous town and I would stay here if it wasn't so darned cold most of the year!)
- reasonable range of shops that are walk/cycle-able to. So we're looking to live on the edge of a town somewhere but would ideally want to be within a mile or so of the centre of town (which cuts out the larger towns).

It's quite a hit-list, I know and I realise we will have to compromise on some things. As well as Canterbury, we are currently considering Ross on Wye, which seems lovely but has limited employment opportunities and DP really liked Southwell in Notts after a recent visit there and wants me to go there and check it out too. Chippenham, Wiltshire sounded perfect for us, until we read about plans to expand it further with huge housing estates and a possible ringroad round the other side of it, which has pretty much ruled it out for us as it would make the countryside/town balance hard to achieve without using a car, which we are keen to avoid. So there you go! We've been hunting for somewhere for nearly a year now and will probably have to move in the summer so it will need to be decision time soon. I've been interested to read older threads on MN from people who've had to make similar decisions re moving. Any other advice or opinions gratefully received.

TolliverGroat Sun 03-Mar-13 16:05:36

What's on your long and impossible list, OP?

QOD Sun 03-Mar-13 14:22:38

Ummm hopefully there's no one from Folkestone here ...... I work there, some bits are dead dead rough. I'd look at the villages round.
Hawkinge, Lyminge, Lympne, Saltwood, or go more coastal toward Dymchurch, Ham Street, places like that.

FastLoris Sat 02-Mar-13 22:30:50

Hi Jeannie

We made the move you are contemplating to East Kent a few years ago. We had been in a bad part of London until then and our academically able oldest DC was completely neglected by his primary there. So we unashamedly sought out a grammar area for him and younger sibling, among other factors.

I wouldn't worry about the "pressure" aspect. At DC's school, there's definitely a culture of working hard and taking results seriously, but that's all tied up with a culture of enjoying learning and taking knowledge seriously. I can't speak for every kid, or every school, but certainly he is happy there because he can indulge his geeky side to the max without worry about peer pressure or disruption by others. You can't have it both ways - if you have a kid with that kind of personality who will thrive in that kind of environment, then there's going to be some sense of pressure involved.

As for your second question, I think there is definitely a concern. There are some pretty bad high schools here. But then there are some pretty bad comprehensives in many areas of the country. There are also some that people seem to be really happy with, from what I hear around.

I think if you moved to a nice upper middle class area with comprehensives, you'd be better placed to avoid the risk of bad schools, and if your DC are academically minded they'll probably do pretty much as well as they would in a grammar anyway. The problem with that, however, is that you'd have to pay much higher property prices than in East Kent. The area is unusual in combining extremely high bang for buck property-wise with extremely good schools IF you can get into them!

jeanniedeans Sat 02-Mar-13 21:41:31

Thanks everyone for their input. Canterbury is still on my list of possible places to move, but the education issue is a big one for us and we want to get it right. No, GreenShadow, it doesn't have to be Canterbury - it just happened to fit most of the rather long (and probably impossible) list of things we are looking for - I will look into Folkestone, thanks for the suggestion. We are very open to suggestions of other nice places to live. DP is currently in Southwell, Notts, checking it out and we have also looked at Brockenhurst, Hampshire and Ross on Wye, Herefordshire. I'm currently researching Chippenham, Wiltshire. Quite a varied list! It's a tricky decision trying to decide where to move to when you have potentially the whole country at your disposal, well the southern half anyway. We are currently in Scotland and it's lovely but just too cold up here!

notthegoodwife Thu 28-Feb-13 21:26:58

I went to one of the grammar schools in Canterbury and was incredibly unhappy. It really wasn't a good fit for me and because I was 'average' with hindsight myself and a group of friends were definitely allowed to drift (as not Oxbridge material and not needing any special help) and my GCSEs were really good but A-levels were mediocre.
I don't really want to name the school but my experience is that there can be definite complacency amongst the grammar schools in this area because of the 'system.'
But as others have said such a nice area!

JuliaScurr Mon 25-Feb-13 14:23:09

Folkestone has some nice facilities, eg the adventure park near the beach, the Triennale art fest etc.

dd's primary school gets crap Ofsted because it is very good with SEN - hence
low SATS results. But individual children do really well, eg dd So don't base your decision on SATS/Ofsted

GreenShadow Sun 24-Feb-13 16:26:21


Does it have to be Canterbury? How about further south - the Folkestone area grammars don't tend to be as competitive - a few years ago, they were about a third full of children who hadn't even passed the test but got in on appeal.

Callthemidlife Sun 24-Feb-13 14:08:23

I think OP must have been put right off the city by now....

if OP still thinking about coming then she could do a lot worse than putting her DC in one of the very good primaries (not sure of the current top of the pile, but assume Blean, Bridge, Selling, St Peters still v good?) whilst at same time attending CoE church. Churchgoing in many of the villages round here still seen as far more of a social commitment than a religious one, and church is a brilliant way of integrating into a new area if you have no previous links. In our local village church I estimate that only around a third of churchgoers are 'properly religious', most of the rest go because is expected of them, because they want to support the vicar (tedious as the sermons are) and because it opens up a really nice social scene that crosses all the usual class divides.

Archbishops is then a pretty good (but presumably oversubscribed) fallback option if the kids dont make it to grammar. If OP reasonably wealthy there is of course one very unsnobby private option for secondary (which is well used to bringing in the previously state educated kids who didn't quite make it into grammar). Of course if the kids pass Kent test (which is far more onerous and stressful for the parents than the children) then options are great and schools are very rounded in what they offer (lots of sport and art and drama etc and not just hot houses).

It's a shame the school system here is sooooooo very crap (and even worse to the east of Canterbury), because other than this I would say that Canterbury is a very civilised part of the world to raise your kids in. Sailing, horse riding, woodland everywhere, not far from london. its a nice part of the country.

Talkinpeace Sun 24-Feb-13 13:07:58

PS Special schools will always have very high FSM
because disabled children are a HUGE drain on family resources, often prevent one parent from working and where the cause of the SEN is environmental, the parents may well have difficulties themselves.
variations in FSM between special schools can probably track back to the specialism of the school reflecting the demographic of the parents it covers (wheelchairs vs behavioural)

JuliaScurr Sun 24-Feb-13 13:06:34

Medway takes 10% on appeal/review. Some grammars are OK (dd is at one for good pastoral support) - non-selective 'comprehensives' are not great - behaviour & bullying poor. Some Kent academy comps are in special measures etc, same in Medway

seeker Sun 24-Feb-13 12:55:33

There's a private primary in Canterbury whose main selling point is a near perfect 11+ pass rate.

Talkinpeace Sun 24-Feb-13 12:54:11

Too right they get the middle intake - DH has worked at several
and the sad thing is that the exceptionally bright kids of unmotivated parents have not got a hope in hell in a non comp area.

Round here the kids arrive at the school and can be moved up the sets to reach their potential ...

muminlondon Sun 24-Feb-13 12:08:21

It's where private and selective mean virtually the same thing then - when people defend the private sector as being vastly superior they are talking about 200 or so ex-direct grant selective schools, while there are hundreds more private secondaries on their coat tails which do not necessarily produce good results. We can't know prior attainment or figures because they don't publish them. But independents in Kent must get the 'middle' intake.

Talkinpeace Sun 24-Feb-13 11:58:48

Also Kent is one of the very few counties with more kids at private primary than secondary - because parents who can afford to send their kids to prep schools to get them into the grammars

again using the grammar system to reduce social mobility rather than increase it .

TolliverGroat Sun 24-Feb-13 10:06:16

Also the schools have dual objectives of getting good SATS results and getting good Kent Test results (because parents will be looking at those) so possibly will end up focusing more on the top end of the class (I'm sure most teachers are good and won't do that, but if a few of them do then that could skew the figures).

muminlondon Sun 24-Feb-13 09:57:06

Sorry, I mean
17% low attainers (Kent = 20.1%)
50% middle attainers (Kent = 46.4%)
33% high attainers (Kent = 33.4%)

25.3% disadvantaged (Kent = 18.5%)
12.5% English not first language (Kent = 5.6%)

That's really interesting - there's a bigger divide between high/low than in the national picture - I wonder if some children just stop trying if they think they won't get to grammar school? The pupil premium isn't going to help them here ...

seeker Sun 24-Feb-13 09:50:37

Muminlondon- you then end up with high schools with figures like 36% low, 57% middle and 8% high, which is such an unbalanced cohort. Just as unbalanced as the 95% high achievers. It really is a rubbish system!

TolliverGroat Sun 24-Feb-13 09:44:38

Actually, you might have been in the same class as one of my brothers at St T's <counts on fingers> although maybe the year above him as he's not 39 until December. And my other brother achieved school-wide notoriety, although that may have been the year after you left.

I am so going to have to NC again now... grin

muminlondon Sun 24-Feb-13 09:42:11

'high attainers' are those who gained above Level 4 according to this:

So must be Level 5 both for English and Maths. The national average is roughly 33% 'high', 49% 'middle' and 18% 'low' - which is what you'd get at an average comprehensive. If Kent grammars only take the top 25% some of those high attainers would need to go elsewhere. But 'middle' is a really wide group - could include brilliant linguists but bad at maths or fantastic maths/engineers behind in writing skills. Whether it's SATs or 11plus, sorting children at that age is just too crude/cruel in my view.

seeker Sun 24-Feb-13 09:25:59

I know! I've tried to find out before and given up......

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