The Local Governing Body of Chatham Grammar was disbanded at the end of 2015, although parents do not appear to have been informed of this removal of an important local voice, so that “Powers for moving the proposal forward have therefore reverted to the Board of Directors”....
The school has published information on the consultation and the decision process here, including Consultation Feedback for Parents and Minutes of the Board of Directors of the Trust that made the decision. These Minutes provide interesting insights into the Consultation process.
A Trust response to a question stated: “We agree that there is no ‘right’ answer to the question of whether single sex or mixed education is best. What is clear is that for some students a single sex environment is best and for others a mixed environment is best, therefore, parents and students should have the opportunity to attend the school which best meets their personal needs.” It is therefore unfortunate that this action removes that opportunity for many boys to attend a boys’ grammar as has existed for many years. Again: “We agree that at the moment the local selective education offer is essentially restricted to single sex education and that parents and students will appreciate the opportunity to have an alternative choice of educational setting in a mixed Grammar school”. This is actually not true, as most families have the alternative choice of Rainham Mark Grammar (just a few missing out because RMGS operates a scores cut off a few marks above the pass). At present, a number of Chatham children attend the mixed RMGS already, so the opportunity does exist and is exercised.
There is considerable calculation about Council forecasts showing they are inaccurate, although this is mainly because the three popular and oversubscribed grammars have regularly taken additional children by increasing their admission number at the last moment or through appeal, out of Council control. Of course there are two other reasons: the Medway Test has in recent years for some reason of its own consistently fixed a pass mark that sees fewer than the planned 23% of children through, and it is also heavily biased towards girls, as explained here, which has kept the imbalance of boys and girls sufficient to keep three girls’ grammars afloat, as distinct from two boys’ now to reduce to one. Oddly, the Consultation document acknowledges this, but then puts in place a change that exacerbates the problem, unless this is a strategy to deliberately close a girls’ grammar outside the Trust: “The system has existing and much greater inequities that we are not aware of being addressed or raised as concerns: 1. Every year significantly more Girls than Boys are deemed selective by the current 11+. For September 2015 entry 338 Boys were deemed selective compared to 416 Girls. The provisional preferences for September 2016 entry suggests that once again there are significantly more Girls being deemed selective than Boys, approximately five Girls are deemed selective for every four Boys. 2. Girls already have more choice of Grammar Schools to attend than Boys in the local area – 3 single sex Girls Schools and only two single sex Boys Schools”.
The Trust “made contact with Chatham Grammar School for Girls in December 2014 to discuss possible proposals for closer collaboration between the two schools. The Chair of Governors of Chatham Grammar School for Girls, Dr C Johnson, confirmed in April 2015 that after consideration “The clear outcome for our governing body was an emphasis on retaining the current status of Chatham grammar School for Girls as a single-sex grammar school”. “Chatham Grammar School for Girls will only be impacted if prospective parents choose to send their daughter to the new mixed Grammar School rather than a single-sex Girls Grammar School. This would be a consequence of parental choice”. I have to say, I find it difficult to imagine the nature of such ‘collaboration’ other than a takeover, given the Trust’s agenda to provide “additional co-educational provision”.
The sense of the Consultation Report is that there is little or no objection to the proposal, although the Minutes of the Director’s Meeting suggest otherwise: “The “disagree” responses received from Medway Secondary Schools was (sic) discussed”, although no detail is provided and, apart from a brief comment on Chatham Girls’ Grammar. are ignored.
It won’t be the last.