As a property finder, clients often ask me “where in Kent should we live to have the greatest chance of obtaining a grammar school place for our child?” This is frequently a prime requirement for parents with relatively bright children. They are keen to secure what they see as the best state education available for their child.
Of course, other considerations will come into play, for instance places of employment. The train from Ashford to London takes about 1 hour 25mins, TIMETABLE The return trip could become a bit of a drag at the end of a long working day. Parents may consider this an acceptable trade-off for a better chance of a Grammar school place as there are generally more schools in mid and South Kent where your child can “pass the Kent test (11-plus) and get in”, rather than competing for the places.
There are some lovely villages in the Ashford area, including Pluckley which is five miles to the west. This picturesque village with its 900 years old Grade 1 listed church can be found in the Domesday book. It has a wealth of pretty cottages and village shops. Current Average Property value here is £536,000 although it is possible to buy a 4 bed semi-detached house for around the £380,000 mark. Nearby Smarden also offers fine examples of period property with its magnificent 15th and 16th Century Kentish hall houses. Your property finder can have access to off-market properties and sometimes get you a better deal.
It is far harder to obtain a place at the super selective Grammar schools in the Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks areas where competition is high. Here the “posh” factor comes into play in addition to close proximity to London and house prices reflect this. However, it is still possible to get quite a lot of house for your money. You can get a large 4 bed Edwardian semi-detached house in the pleasant market town of Tonbridge for around £475,000. In Tunbridge Wells just down the road the equivalent will cost you £ 25000-£50000 more.
If you have a very intelligent boy you could consider St Olave’s in Orpington. ST OLAVES. However, as the state school which consistently comes top in all the league tables, competition for places here is fierce. Only around 10% of those sitting the school’s own entrance exam are awarded a place. Like the other top Grammar schools, The Judd in Tonbridge for boys JUDD SCHOOL and Tonbridge Grammar School (TOGS) for girls TOGS, have no catchment area. They cherry-pick high achievers from far and wide.
Further east property is also more affordable in the county town of Maidstone which has several very good Grammar schools. Maidstone Grammar School MAIDSTONE GRAMMAR and Maidstone Grammar school for Girls MAIDSTONE GIRLS GRAMMAR, consistently come high up in the league tables. Although education is a major driver for the housing market in the town there is still plenty to choose from like the little nooks of terraces in the centre and the period homes and terraces between the centre and Mote Park. For posh suburbans try Loose to the south or Buckland Lane to the north-west and around London Road for detached Victorian and Edwardian Properties.