Thanks for this - that's helpful.
We have visited both SHSB and WHSB now and have been impressed by both. I (as an old boy of SHSB) was slightly biased, but there are perhaps more compelling reasons for our son to go to Westcliff (he has a cousin there in yr 8 and also if our daughter ends up at a Southend grammar school in 2 years time, the Westcliff schools being next door to each other would be a big advantage).
We have now found out that SHSB reserves 25 places for out of catchment boys, whilst WHSB reserves 39. the reality is however that, due to the lack of catchment boys achieving the pass mark, SHSB usually takes 45 out of catchment and WHSB about 60 (both these figures were confirmed to me directly by the respective heads).
Because of this, I am slightly confused by you saying it is easier to get into SHSB? If the quality of the applicants is the same to both schools (a reasonable assumption), then surely WHSB would work their way further down the list of applicants than SHSB (given that they generally take more), hence a lower entrance score for WHSB?
What we don't know is if the schools have an equal number of applicants (we only get the Essex book, which tells you how many applied last year, but doesn't include the Southend schools!).
Thanks for the info about CRGS - I think that's off the list now. Just still puzzling a bit about which is the optimum order to put the 2 Southend schools in. Maybe we should just follow the advice of every head that we've seen, that is to put them in our honest order of preference and not worry about the chances of getting in.
I agree with your last comment as there is little between SHSB and WHSB - put the one he prefers. The reason I said put WHSB before SHSB is because you have to score higher to get into WHSB (don't know why!) and if he achieves the score he will get in. If he puts SHSB second he will get offered there even if he has achieved the score for WHSB - its just the way the system works. As there is little between them, why don't you let your son choose the one he prefers.