TUNBRIDGE WELLS is top of the class when it comes to the number of school leavers aged 18 entering university, according to new data released this week by the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS).

The figures are drawn from the 17 parliamentary constituencies across Kent and show that in Tunbridge Wells almost 43 per cent of students went on to university last year, an increase of 9 per cent compared to 2016.

This puts the borough at the head of county league tables, with Sevenoaks next at 42 per cent – an 8 per cent rise.

Third spot goes to Tonbridge & Malling on 40 per cent although the borough has one of the biggest year on year rises of ten per cent.

Nationally, the biggest number of parliamentary constituencies fall into the 25-30 per cent category.

The fact that in Tunbridge Wells just over four out of every ten school leavers aged 18 enters university will come as no surprise. The town has long been recognised for the high educational standards of its schools both in the state and independent sectors. Indeed local schools, are credited with being one of the main attractions for families moving to the area.

When the Times approached Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark to comment on the figures, he said: “Tunbridge Wells has an excellent choice of schools – all ability, grammar, church and independent.  It’s great that so many are going on to university, and a testimony to all the heads, teaching and support staff that encourage pupils to aim high.”

Kent County Council’s Roger Gough, the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, added: “It is excellent to see such good outcomes for Tunbridge Wells students. The wide variety of local schools – whether grammar schools, denominational schools, or wide ability – all deliver to a very high standard.”

The UCAS figures, however, reveal a measurable east/west divide in the county, with some areas seeing just one in four leavers go on to university. In Dover, for example, the figure is 24 per cent.

This has prompted Dover MP Charlie Elphicke to suggest that all too often more money went to ‘schools in leafy west Kent’ leaving east Kent deprived of the investment needed.

Mr Clark also pointed out that a university education is not the only option available to school leavers: “We mustn’t forget the growing number of high-quality apprenticeships that are now on offer,” he told the Times, adding “I  think that, over time, more and more young people will take this alternative career path.”

Percentage of school leavers aged 18 entering university by constituency

                                                    2017                        2018

Ashford                                        27.6                        23.2

Canterbury                                   30.7                        21.4

Chatham and Aylesford               24.8                        17.2

Dartford                                        31.8                        24.2

Dover                                           23.9                        21.6

Raversham & Mid Kent                31.0                        24.2

Folkestone & Hythe                      28.0                        18.9

Gildingham & Rainham                30.1                        20.9

Gravesham                                   29.7                        21.1

Maidstone & The Weald               35.5                        29.4

North Thanet                                 25.3                        19.7

Rochester & Strood                      32.8                        22.1

Sevenoaks                                    41.7                        33.6

Sittingbourse & Sheppey              25.1                        19.5

South Thanes                               28.1                        21.4

Tonbridge & Malling                      40.0                        30.2

Tunbridge Wells                            42.6                        33.7