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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:41 am 
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Firstly, as a new joiner to this site, thanks to all for your wealth of information! Am very encouraged to realise I am not alone in the nightmare of navigating the secondary school lottery!

I have very recently become initiated to this secondary school admission issue when my stepdaughters came to live with us just before this summer. The eldest – would she be DSD1 as per the acronyms used on this site? – has just started Y5 and so the clock has started counting down to CSA applications next October.

The thing is, we didn’t buy our house based on the quality of the local schools; it was never an issue, as we never imagined they would come and live with us. Sadly, they were neglected by their mother and as a result we now find ourselves searching for answers most families plan for for years! I have now spent a good few months digesting and analysing every bit of relevant data, every relevant Ofsted report, a multitude of school websites, admissions data, personal sentiments and forum opinions. The conclusion? We have to move.

Where we are in NW Kent there is a good supply of grammar schools, and if DSD1 passed her 11 plus there is a pretty good chance she could get into one of them. However, smart though she is, she has suffered years of neglect and has not had the academic support and encouragement that would do her “raw ability” justice. I am tutoring her to try and give her the best chance – a chance she should by rights have had without needing tutoring – but I would say the changes are no better than 50/50 she’ll pass, and probably worse (realise we still have almost a year to go, so have factored that in, but the poor child understandably has other issues so I am not prepared to push her too much). In any case, though it is hard to tell at this stage, it is unlikely that DSD2 will be a grammar school contender, so we need to be in a place with a reasonable option for her in 3 years time (and it would be preferable to be in situ for the start of DSD1’s secondary career, rather than cause problems moving/commuting for her later on).

The non selective (and non-Catholic) options where we are are fairly dire, hence the decision to move – even if it means selling up and renting. The gamble that she won’t get into a grammar is just to risky.

I am trying to find a location where the following criteria apply:
a) Potential access to grammar schools if she does pass.
b) A sound alternative or two for if she doesn’t, preferably with no “nasties” that you might end up allocated if you just miss out on the better local options.
c) Ok transport links into London for me.
d) Good access to the whole SE region in car for DH.
e) Preferably a rural-type community, as it’s possible mother-in-law will come with and she won’t go anywhere too built up.

So far my research all points to one place – Paddock Wood and surrounding villages – except for one thing: access to grammar schools.

Paddock Wood is a comprehensive area – and its Comprehensive Mascalls looks very promising – but this means, as far as I can tell from admissions details and posts on this forum, that it’s considered out of area for the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells or Maidstone Grammars (closest potential options I believe). And even if it wasn’t, you might be piped-at-the post by closer contenders, as it is unlikely DSD1 will hit the “super selective” grade.

So my questions are therefore thus:

1. What are the realistic grammar options for a just selective, not super selective, girl living in Paddock Wood? Which ones do you stand the best change of getting into?
2. What are the travel prospects for these options like – I know there’s a bus between Paddock Wood and Maidstone schools, but does anyone know a child who does this journey and if so, what’s it like?
3. I know Invicta Grammer in Maidstone is usually under-subscribed. Does that mean if she passed we could rely on a place there? What are members’ thoughts on the “Accelerated learning” scheme they operate?
4. Any one have any thoughts on Mascalls they would like to share – and/or Paddock Wood as a place to bring up children and commute into London?
5. Any one have any other suggestions of where else in the South East might satisfy our tricky list of requirements? Personally I think Maidstone/Ashford would not be the best commute for me (into London Bridge/Charring Cross in under an hour would be preferable).
I like Tun. Wells but it will be too built up for mother-in-law, and the non-grammar options do not necessarily look the best, at least in part due to very small “catchment” area for the better ones. Cranbrook looks lovely but there is the issue of Cranbrook School being a 13+ entry Grammar school, and the Foundation Angley not receiving the best praise all round. Any thoughts much appreciated.

Apologies for the long post and thank you in advance to any help given.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:01 pm 
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Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2009 3:38 pm
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Location: Maidstone
You may want to consider Yalding too and it has a good primary too. I think some areas are within the grammar schools catchment, hopefully Kent99 will come along and clarify. Mascalls is highly regarded and I think its worth finding out first how far they went out on allocation so you have an idea of how far away you can live. From my understanding it seems everyone who passes in Paddock Wood ends up with a grammar place in the end through waiting list or appeals etc.

There is Hillview in Tonbridge too for girls non selectives and its been recommended to me that they do well. For the grammars you'll have Weald Grammar which is not a superselective.

Before you move please make sure you find out how far these schools went out in the previous years.

Regarding Invicta it has been undersubscribed in previous years but they always alternate with MGGS so you cant be sure what will happen next year. Invicta has a new Head too so that may just turn things around. Personally I am not a fan of accelerated learning but I wouldnt let that be the deal breaker unless you have a choice. After all Invicta is becoming academically strong so the AL must be working for them.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:13 pm 
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Thank you Sherry_d. Do you know which Grammar most Paddock Wood girls go to, or is there a fairly even spread?


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:24 pm 
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Location: Maidstone
I think most tend to go to MGGS because they just drop of at the Barracks a 5min walk to school and it seem this year they got into MGGS from Paddock Wood on allocation. If you scroll down here you'll see the post viewtopic.php?p=169102

It may be worth ringing MGGS and find out if girls from paddock wood always get in. Paddock Wood has been discussed a bit in the past on here. If you use the search function and type "mascalls" or "paddock" you'll see some previous post on the same issue. I think the problem tends to affect boys more but hopefully someone in the area will give more info.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:06 pm 
Hello Indy
O.K. Here goes:

1. Until a few years ago Mascalls had a defined "priority area" for applicants. This has changed and the school now uses distance from the school as the main oversubscription criterion. However, its old catchment area (which is defined by parish boundaries) is still regarded as outside the 11+ area and therefore children from those parishes are a lower priority than "in-area" candidates for the Maidstone grammar schools. A list of the parishes affected is to be found somewhere on the Tonbridge Grammar School website (try admissions-prospectus-FAQ). It is possible, therefore, if you pick your location carefully to live in the 11+ area and still get a place at Mascalls (and quite a few children do). This is a slightly risky strategy as Mascalls is generally heavily oversubscribed and you might be over the edge of that year's distance cut-off. If you are willing to wait for second round allocations, however, you stand a good chance from the nearby 11+ parishes. Conversely, if you live at the further extremities of the "comprehensive area", you might be lower priority for a place at Mascalls than some children in 11+ areas.

2. In recent years I believe that all girls in the Mascalls area who had a selective assessment did eventually get places at one of the Maidstone girls' grammars (if they wanted one) although it might not have been their first choice of grammar school (as between MGGS and Invicta) and/or they might not have got the place until the second round of applications. No guarantees for future years though. Depending on where exactly you live it may be most convenient to take a bus into Maidstone or the train.

3. A few girls from that area get places at Weald of Kent grammar, but that's not to be relied upon. Others get governors' places at TGS, but that requires a higher score in the 11+.

4. You may find that Mascalls is better equipped to deal with your daughter's emotional needs than a grammar school. Last time I looked around it had a dedicated pastoral support department (which I did not notice at any of the grammars, though they may be there I guess) and it may be able to provide a wider range of options in the GCSE years (e.g. vocational courses or day release to West Kent college) if it turns out that a straight academic pathway does not appeal to your daughter in a few years time.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:46 pm 
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Location: groombridge, e.sussex
Have you definitely decided on Paddock Wood? As someone has already mentioned Hillview in Tonbridge has a good reputation and you have access to 2 grammars (ie super selective Tonbridge and Weald of Kent) both of which are excellent. Rail links to London are good as you are on more than one line (trains to Tun Wells as well as Ashford etc) and road links ideal with A21.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 5:49 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 30, 2010 9:30 am
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Hi,

No we are not set on Paddock Wood, it just seems to tick most boxes.

We will definitely consider Tonbridge too, though I doubt my mother-in-law would follow us there as she needs rural/village type places. Though we are likely to rent initially (as the combination of what we would get for our house and mortgage market restrictions will limit funds, and time scales are kind of non-flexible!), in a couple of years we would want to buy again, so good value property is a consideration, and Paddock Wood does seem to be quite good value.

Thanks for your thoughts so far everyone - really appreciate it.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:31 pm 
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I have sent you a pm


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:57 pm 
Well some of the villages around Paddock Wood are very pretty. PW itself has reasonable shops and a mainline station but it may not have the rural feel you are looking for. If you want Tonbridge, you could look at one of the very nearby villages (e.g. Tudely) which are only a couple of miles from the town centre and station but feel very rural. Prices are significantly higher than a bit further East though.

Cranbrook is lovely (though the shops cater for the wealthy and charge accordingly) and might suit your eldest step-daughter as she could try for a "grammar stream" place at Angley with a view to transferring to Cranbrook school in year 9. Unless it has recently changed, admission to the grammar stream (which is a two year accelerated class for children planning to move to Cranbrook) is by the school's own test rather than the 11+. I gather that they are much more flexible about admission than the 11+ process so you would be able to explain about your daughter's personal circumstances. She would still need to pass the 13+ test for Cranbrook school, but would at least have a couple more years to catch up first.

Cranbrook school now selects on score order (I think) but from within a defined catchment area. I know children who have got places there who certainly did not have the sort of 11+ marks required for a super-selective 11+ grammar. I'm not sure this would work for your younger child though. Angley seems to be strong pastorally but not so hot academically. It's a sports college and has a farm so if your younger daughter is football crazy or wants to work on the land it might work. Otherwise, I don't know.

I guess you could start elsewhere and move into the Cranbrook catchment in a couple of years' time if you think at that stage that it would work for you. Houses in the CSCA do, however, carry a price premium.

Tenterden is also nice and has a highly regarded comprehensive. It might be a bit too far from London though.

Is there no chance of getting into a decent comprehensive in a neighbouring county from where you currently live?

TBH, in your shoes I might forget the grammar thing and look to move near a decent comprehensive in a different county (e.g. Oxted ). Trouble is, housing does tend to be expensive around such schools.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:47 pm 
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Kent99 wrote:
TBH, in your shoes I might forget the grammar thing and look to move near a decent comprehensive in a different county (e.g. Oxted ). Trouble is, housing does tend to be expensive around such schools.


Agreed. You seem to be trying to have your cake and eat it.

Unfortunately, I suspect grammar schools are part of the REASON why non-grammar schools in their areas are often not great. Where most of the bright involved kids with committed/pushy parents are creamed off to go to grammar, that leaves far fewer of them in the non-grammars than there would be in the comprehensives of a comprehensive area.

We moved to a grammar school area largely so DC1 could go to grammar, and I know I was dreading the prospect of what to do if he didn't pass. Fortunately he did.

I totally agree too about not pushing the kid too hard when she has other emotional issues to deal with. Getting her feeling positive about things generally, and developing a sense of her own purpose, has to be priority No 1. It sounds like she needs a decent comprehensive in a nice area with not too many problem kids, where she can catch up at her own pace and have the potential to shine later if she's up to it.

I don't know personally but a friend of mine just moved to Winchester and said he wasn't particularly worried about schools because all the schools there (comprehensives) were good. Or maybe somewhere in Oxfordshire or Surrey.


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