Proposed Catchment

We understand that in the 1990s Reading and Kendrick Schools mainly took children from the Borough of Reading but this was extended at some point to open up admissions to a far wider area. Whenever a line is drawn on a map there are winners and losers but we wanted to take a step back and carry out some objective analysis.  Using postcode mapping data made available by the Ordnance Survey we’ve estimated population densities and come up with what we think are rational catchment areas for Reading and Kendrick Schools.  Not everyone will agree our suggestions but  please sign the petition if you do.

The current catchment areas

Neither Reading nor Kendrick schools provide a catchment map making it very difficult for anyone to comprehend the extent of their catchments so we used the postcode information to produced a Google Earth kml file which displays every 10th post code in the catchment areas which allows this to be visualised. (Update: July 2015. Schools are now providing this information although it is hard to find. Reading catchment map, Kendrick catchment map).

With between 15 and 20 households per postcode (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis: UCL) figures for the current catchments are as follows:

  • Kendrick School, 33,500 postcodes, 586,250 households.
  • Reading School, 23,000 postcodes, 402,500 households.

To get an idea of how far these households are from the school these are plotted by distance, rounded to the nearest km, on the following graph.

Number of postcodes at each 1km distance from the schools

Number of postcodes at each 1km distance from the schools

The graph shows that the number of homes in catchment decreases as you get further from the schools as you would expect but then dramatically increases beyond the green line (12 – 13km) as the catchments extend beyond the local town and surrounding country into remote densely populated areas.

Proposed alternative

The Academies Act 2010 Section 1 (6)d states, “The characteristics [of an Academy] are that … the school provides education for pupils who are wholly or mainly drawn from the area in which the school is situated.”  The information provided Ordnance Survey suggests a natural radius for the catchment should be approximately 12.5km or 190 square miles.  (π × [12.5× 0.621]^2≅190).

Another issue we felt  with the schools’ current catchment areas is they are defined by a confusing mix of postal districts, postal sectors and partial postal sectors. We think it would clearer to base the catchment on whole postal districts. (A postal district is the first part of the post code before the space – eg RG1 whilst the postal sector includes the first digit of the ‘inward code’ after the space – eg RG1 5).

The next step was to look at each full postal district and calculate the percentage of the individual addresses which fell within this target area (table 1). This shows 10 postal sectors contain 95% or more of their postcodes within 12.5km (shaded green). The three next closest districts RG7, RG8 and RG9 (shaded yellow to green) contained between 50% and 75% postcodes within the target range.

Number of postcodes under 12.5km per postal district

Table 1: Number of postcodes under 12.5km per postal district

Although about half the postcodes in RG8 are beyond the optimal target distance this is far less than RG42.  Only 10% or 20% of the postcodes in RG42 are within the target distance suggesting this is a very clear place to ‘draw the line’ whilst still working with full postal districts. Based on our objective analysis of population density based on the postcode data we proposed the catchment should consist of the thirteen full postal districts; RG1, RG2, RG4, RG5, RG6, RG7, RG8, RG9, RG10, RG30, RG31, RG40, RG41.

The proposed catchment consists of approximately 112,000 households and plotting these by distance from the schools results in a far more natural decrease in the number of households with distance.

Number of postcodes at each 1km distance from the schools based on new proposed catchment

Number of postcodes at each 1km distance from the schools based on new proposed catchment

If you think this proposed catchment is a more reasonable than the current catchment then please sign the petition  If you disagree or have any other suggestions to put to the schools please contact their governing bodies.


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20 Responses to Proposed Catchment

  1. Munni Dodeja says:

    Fully in support of allowing LOCAL children into our LOCAL school. The Kendrick is on our doorstep but we are forced to look further afield for our daughter’s education because of the current admissions policy.
    Good education should be available for all, not just the privileged who can pay for extra tuition to pass the 11 plus or those who are naturally gifted.

    • Bob says:

      Local children ARE allowed to attend Kendrick! And I’m not sure who is ‘forcing’ you to look further afield for your daughter’s education? You are allowed to consider Kendrick if you wish. In fact everyone in Reading and the surrounding area is free to do so. The admissions policy is clear, it is based on ability. If your daughter has the ability she could go there, no question. If she doesn’t, she can’t. Grammar schools operate a first-past-the-post system without prejudice.

      Your implication that Kendrick is for the privileged is largely incorrect. I concede that some parents do target getting their daughters in there with extra tuition, but in my experience the majority don’t. Besides, extra tuition far from guarantees getting in as entry is based on ability as already stated. Both Grammar schools go to considerable trouble to ensure as best they can that their tests are based on intellect and not tutoring. Both Kendrick and Reading’s website says “They [the entrance exams] will be tests for which no additional preparation is necessary.”

      Saying ‘naturally gifted’ children are ‘privileged’ is wrong. I think you are missing the point of why Grammar schools were introduced.

      • James says:

        Glad you raised the fact that the school’s claim that no additional preparation is necessary. There’s a private tutoring organisation in Slough who claim they got 38/96 (40%) girls in to Kendrick. That would seem to support Munni’s point that paid for tutoring is part of the equation.

        • Bob says:

          Tutoring may help some children get over the line but they would need to be of a certain ability in the first place for sure. The standards of entry are very high.

          I made the point that tutoring is no guarantee of getting in. A total of 634 candidates sat the test at Reading School this year and a further 569 candidates sat the test at another venue requesting their results be shared with Reading School? That’s an awful lot of interest for 100 odd places. How many of those who failed to get into Reading do you think were tutored? Without knowing all the facts it is hard to appreciate the statistic you quote in isolation. I’m sure the numbers for Kendrick would be similar. Incidentally, the link you posted doesn’t appear to work so can’t check what you are saying.

          Parents are entitled to invest in tutoring if they want, but I believe many parents have unrealistic expectations regarding their children’s ability.

          Parents who pay for tutoring are not necessarily wealthy. Many parents are prepared to make financial sacrifices to get their children a good education, which I personally think is commendable.

          Children can also receive tutoring from other sources, like their parents or primary school. Is this an unfair advantage?

          Then there are the children receiving private tutoring who attend state comps and public schools, because their parents feel or believe their child needs help. Should this be frowned upon or seen as unfair?

          I also think there is a big difference between a child who say has two years of tutoring to try and get them into a Grammar school and one who has a month of doing practice papers with a tutor.

          Both schools go to lengths to make their tests intellect based, like an IQ test. I believe you wouldn’t be able to pass these tests without the ability.

          If you believe tutoring can gain a Grammar school place I think you are wrong. It can help but the child would need to be bright in the first place.

        • Chelys says:

          You have to use your own judgement about a claim such as this. I find it difficult to believe that 38 out of the 96 pupils were tutored, let alone that they were tutored by one company. Ask them how many of those they tutored failed to get in? No doubt they will claim a hugely successful pass rate!

          I believe, also, that the claim no longer has any relevance, as both schools changed their entrance examinations last year with the express purpose of making them as uncoachable as possible.

          • James says:

            @Bob – that webpage seems to come and goes but is there now. It says Kendrick 38 “passes” so as you suggest that’s probably those above the cut off and not those actually getting places.

            Tutor proof? There’s no shortage of tutors who are offering to tutor for these tutor-proof tests. Should we be alerting Trading Standards? 😉

            On what basis are CEM claiming their tests are tutor proof? To validate this claim objectively you need two large representative populations, one which has been tutored and one which hasn’t. Slight problem with that, I don’t see those who have tutored their children volunteering this information. Someone else asked CEM about this and kindly shared their reply with us, CEM replied, “The philosophy behind our approach is to design tests with the specific goal of minimising the impact of intensive coaching.” My goal is to visit Mars. It doesn’t automatically follow that I’ll succeed.

            Until recently NFER were the incumbent test writers. The Sutton Education Trust said grammar school entrance tests should be changed regularly so they are tutor-proof and then CEM rocked up with a “tutor proof test” but the best ‘evidence’ there is that these actually are tutor proof is the success CEM have had in selling their tests to the schools. Their income from these tests more than doubled between 2012 and 2014 to over £750,000.

            Do parents tutor their children? It would seem so:

            It’s a tricky one. The Sutton Education Trust called for all state school children to get 10 hours of prep. Dr Pamela Cowan from Queen’s University Belfast argues for the use of computerised adaptive testing (CAT) “which meets the standards of technical fidelity and removes the option of coaching to the test thereby ensuring equity to all pupils.”

        • Steve says:

          Yeah, I found that claim hard to believe. Maybe they mean 38 girls reached the 110 pass mark – not that they got 38 into the school ?

          • Chelys says:

            Annoying that we run out of replies so quickly…
            James above confirms that what you say is correct. They mean 38 passes.

            I don’t know the exact number of applicants in the year to which these figures apply, but I imagine it was around 650-700. How many children did they coach and how many failed, I wonder?

            It strikes me that, even if correct, 38 is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the efficacy of tutoring given that many of the 38 would probably have passed anyway. Since then, the test has been changed with the intention of making it even less coachable. It is clearly the intention of the schools to level the playing field as much as possible in order to take parental finances out of the equation.

          • Steve says:

            That’s only 1 tutor company though Chelys

            I reckon most pupils there had some form of preparation

            To be honest though, that’s a massive topic in it’s own right – probably beyond the scope of this proposal

            TRAK is just pointing out that lots of these kids that passed the 11+ have very similar scores and it makes more sense for some of the places to be allocated to local children

  2. Louise Nielsen de Mesquita says:

    I have three girls and have never considered Kendrick to be our first choice of schools simply because it appears too competitive and has an ‘unhealthy’ focus on results tables, which I feel detracts from what should be an enjoyable school experience and attitude towards learning. I feel that by reducing the catchment to a more local area a wider range of achievers with a broader socio-economic background will be able to gain access to the school and therefore make it a more ‘natural’ learning environment with a greater opportunity to explore children with surprising and unexpected talents within the local community. In this case I would be more inclined to consider Kendrick a school for us.

    • Bob says:

      Considering NONE of your daughters go to Kendrick and by your own admission you have never considered it a priority, you seem to know an awful lot about the place. You say the school is ‘unhealthy’ and imply going there is not ‘enjoyable’ or ‘natural’. Where did you get these opinions from?

      These two local Grammar schools do so well because they are full of bright talented children. There is nothing more mystical to it than that.

    • Pamela says:

      I’m not sure why you believe Kendrick has an ‘unhealthy focus on results tables’; interestingly, unlike many comprehensives and some other grammars, students are not entered early for exams such that they can amass a large number of GCSE passes. There is a significant focus on not just teaching for the purposes of passing exams but to foster independent thinking and self development.

    • Chelys says:

      As Pamela states below, Kendrick does not have an “unhealthy” focus on league tables, but encourages the students to take part in many extra-curricular activities and to leave with a broad, well-rounded education. Being high in the league tables reflects the ability and hard work of the students and teachers and there is no reason, other than preconceived bias, to suggest otherwise: a focus on league tables is not at all necessary for the success of the school.

      Perhaps some parents do have an unhealthy preoccupation with league tables, in either a negative or a positive way, and they may do their children a better service by ascertaining facts rather than relying on hearsay.

      • Steve says:

        It’s interesting re. league tables. The only argument I’ve heard against the proposal is that league table positions and ‘standards’ would fall

        • Chelys says:

          I think you are lumping “standards” and “league tables” together when they are completely different.

          Kendrick and Reading take very bright children and empower them to make the best of their ability. They, the schools and the students, seem generally to do a pretty good job if it, and the resulting high level of achievement leads to a good ranking in the league tables. The place in the league tables is the effect, not the cause.

          Kendrick and Reading were doing this for very bright students long, long before league tables existed and will continue to do it when the education wheel turns full circle, as it generally does, and league tables are abolished.

        • Steve says:

          Just to clarify Chelys, that wasn’t my view – I was mentioning a comment that someone else had made.

          I don’t believe this proposal will make any difference to the ‘standards’ of the schools. They are both excellent and I can’t see that changing.

          It may make a very slight difference to the league tables (but no way of knowing) but to be honest who cares if a school is No7 in the tables, or No27 ?

  3. Pete says:

    Poor people living far can easily move closer if their child is awarded a place.
    What is wrong with this?

    What stops a poor person renting a house closer to a school?
    They have a school place in March. Six months later the child attends a new school.
    Tennacy agreeemts are usually 6 month terms. They can easily move.

    So the fairest way is to scrap catchment areas.

  4. Xrobat says:

    The whole point of grammar school is that children who have similar academic capabilities can study together to achieve higher. The idea of catchment area is just totally crap. The only long term effect of catchment area is to artificially boost the local house price and drive poor families out.

  5. Steve says:

    I considered writing a concise response as to why this petition is so very wrong – by any measure – but then, why waste my time. The issue is very simple, if a child cannot get into a selective school, which selects the best candidates on the basis of academic ability, then the child is simply not intelligent enough. That’s the end of it. Other local schools are available, and as you clearly state, children who attend Reading school often live outside of Reading town – no-one can claim that the brightest local children are being taken away from local schools! Should all university applicants who happen to live locally in Cambridge or Oxford have a right above anyone else to go to those universities? Of course not. If you possess an extreme liberal, political agenda, want to impose social engineering on society, and therefore despise selective schools, then you are entitled to your view, then you clearly need to rethink your point of view. There is of course a third point of view – you want everyone brought down to the same level – the brightest should not be allowed to progress. How very sad.

    • trak says:

      Whilst we want to encourage everyone to air their opinions I’ve removed those parts of your post where you appear to be personally attacking someone you know absolutely nothing about. Please confine any future comments to the general debate and don’t use this website to insinuate things about others from a position of total ignorance.

      I don’t normally bother to respond to unsubstantiated opinion but will introduce some facts. Starting with the local specifics, the Schools Adjudicator confirmed that Reading and Kendrick school admit 0.6% and 1.5% FSM children respectively. That compares to 18.2% for the Local Authority. Looking at the wider picture, my research ( based on the national IDACI scores of half a million pupils shows very graphically the link between wealth and 11+ success and any rational and objective person should be asking themselves why, as Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw put it, “grammar schools are stuffed full of middle class kids.”

      The obvious hypothesis is that children who get into grammar school have been tutored extensively to pass the tests and clearly only better off families can afford all this tuition. More facts, CEM introduced a “tutor proof” test but under pressure from myself and others have now withdrawn marketing claims that they assess ‘natural ability’ acknowledging that, “Without extensive and expensive research, it is not possible to quantify the impact of coaching on the results from our tests.”

      The corollary of your argument is you belive, as a generalisation, poor people are too stupid to go to grammar school. In the absence of any objective research, which for some reason the 11+ test providers who earn millions each year from providing these tests seem reluctant to conduct, that is also a valid hypothesis. Alternatively you may be arguing that Wilshaw’s empirical observations are mere coincidence in exactly the same way tobacco companies argued that the link between smoking and lung cancer didn’t necessarily prove causality.

      Maybe you could clarify your position on this.

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