Begging bowl raises millions for classroom

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The Independent Online

The Judd School in Tonbridge, Kent, is cited in the Social Market Foundation report as proof that parents are prepared to make huge payments for their children's state education.

The selective school, in an attractive area of the country within commuting distance of central London, is one of the top-performing state schools in the country. This year its pupils achieved an average A-level point score of 24.8 – better than that of many private schools and the equivalent of at least three B grades a pupil. It regularly sees 100 per cent of its pupils get at least five A* to C grade GCSE passes.

According to Anthony Seldon, the author of the think-tank report, parents at the 850-pupil boys' school have raised about £2.5m during the past five years for projects at the school.

Keith Starling, the school's headmaster, says this is an exaggeration, but admits his parents have been generous with funding. At present they are raising cash for the school to get rid of the last of a number of so-called temporary huts still being used as classrooms. Their last venture was helping to raise money towards a £1.4m music centre. "We are a voluntary-aided school, which means that we have to find 15 per cent towards the cost of any capital project," Mr Starling said. "That means we have no alternative to getting the begging bowl out."

He also admits that the local grammar schools' reputation for good academic performance has had an effect in driving up house prices. "There are several grammar schools in the area – all providing a high standard of education," he said. "That – but also the high salaries that can be offered in the city – must have had an effect on house prices here."

According to the report, parents are prepared to pay up to £40,000 extra on the cost of their mortgage in some parts of the country to ensure they live in the catchment area of a top school.

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