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Monday, 08 December 2014 00:00

Medway Test and Review Results 2014: As always, plenty of talking points

This article reports on the full details of the Medway Test for entry to Medway grammar schools in September 2015, and explores the implications of the results.  

To be eligible for  entry to a Medway grammar in September 2015, children had to score an aggregate of 525 in the Medway Test. This comprises age-standardised papers in verbal reasoning, mathematics (score doubled up) and a single piece of English writing (also times two).  So a child scoring 100 in VR, 95 in maths and 119 in English would pass with an aggregate of 528 made up of 100 + 2x95 + 2x119. There is no minimum score in each paper as in Kent.

Headline comments are that:

1)The figures confirm that the fall in numbers of children has bottomed out and rolls are again rising, which will come as a relief to those schools who have suffered from falling rolls in recent years.  An increase of 130 children in the age cohort is a welcome 4% rise from 2013 for the schools most under pressure.  

2) Even so, there is a fall in the number of boys taking the Medway Test, accompanied by a further increase in the proportion of girls to boys both taking the test and also passing, compared with the 2013 figures; see below.

3) There is also a fall in the number of boys being put forward for Review, a total of 36 children out of the 239 put forward being successful. This is only 1.2% of the total cohort, against a target of  2%, or 62 children. According to Medway Council: “The academic evidence supplied did not support a grammar assessment for the maximum 2% of the Medway cohort.” With growing concern over primary school standards in Medway, the inability to find another 26 children whose work is up to a grammar school standard only underlines the problems of literacy and numeracy in those schools.  

4) I have highlighted before the built in prejudice of the Medway Test, showing a discrimination against both boys and younger children.  For 2015 entry, the bias towards older children is similar to that in 2012, the previous time I analysed the figures, with 55% of passes going to children born in the first half of the year, and 45% in the second half of the year, on both occasions. Just 21% of boys in the cohort passed the Test this year, compared with 25% of girls.  

5) Remarkably, every one of the top four schools by percentage pass rate are Catholic Primary Schools, these being the only Medway state schools scoring over 50% grammar school passes. This is in spite of the fact that Catholic  schools are encouraged to support St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, rather than the grammar schools.

6) The number of children from outside Medway, taking and passing the Medway Test continues to rise inexorably as Kent children hedge their bets by taking both tests, and London families increasingly look to Medway as an alternative, but the reality is that few of the latter actually arrive.

Medway Council is conducting a Review of the Medway Test at present and I would expect these issues to be central to the discussion, although I have raised most of them before with no response from the Council.

In the remainder of this article, I expand on these points, as well as provide the relevant statistics on which the article is based.....

MEDWAY TEST RESULTS 2014

Children in Cohort

Candidates

Successes

% successes

% of cohort

MEDWAY CHILDREN AUTOMATIC PASSES AUTUMN 2014

boys

1524

856

321

38

21.1%

girls

1568

987

397

40

25.3%

TOTAL

3092

1843

718

39

23.2%

REVIEWS FOR MEDWAY CHILDREN AUTUMN 2014

boys

101

17

17%

1.1%

girls

138

19

14%

1.2%

TOTAL

239

36

15%

1.2%

TOTAL MEDWAY PASSES AUTUMN 2014

boys

1524

856

338

39

22.2%

girls

1568

987

416

42

26.5%

TOTAL

3092

1843

754

41

24.4%

TOTAL FROM OUTSIDE MEDWAYAUTUMN 2014

boys

287

156

54

girls

286

165

58

 TOTAL

573

321

56

TOTAL MEDWAY PASSES AUTUMN 2013

boys

1460

871

352

40

24.1%

girls

1502

971

382

41

26.2%

total

2962

1842

732

40

25.2%

TOTAL FROM OUTSIDE MEDWAYAUTUMN 2013

boys

239

133

56

girls

276

166

60

 TOTAL

515

295

58

1)The figures confirm that the fall in numbers of children has bottomed out and rolls are again rising, which will come as a relief to those schools who have suffered from falling rolls in recent years.  An increase of 130 children in the age cohort is a welcome 4% rise from 2013 for the schools most under pressure, as all battle for students.  The fall in numbers over the past eight years has seen four schools merged into two,  of which one, Bishop of Rochester Academy, has still seen its admission number  reduced by a further 60 places. Many others will be breathing a sigh of relief at the turnaround, even if it is slow at this point.

2) Even so, there is a fall in the number of boys taking the Medway Test, accompanied by a further increase in the proportion of girls to boys both taking the test and also passing, compared with the 2013 figures. I find this pattern perplexing and have no explanation for it, unless primary schools and parents are reacting to the reality of seeing fewer boys pass in previous years.

As I have pointed out on many occasions previously, I believe the Medway Test discriminates heavily against boys, who perform poorly on the extended writing exercise, a single piece of writing. This year I have collected the marks scored by children on the individual tests, which place the problem into stark focus. A child would achieve a pass standard scoring 105 on each of the five tests. On the extended writing, 30% of girls reached this standard and only 20% of boys. The maths and verbal reasoning scores balance out, with more boys than girls reaching the standard in the maths. So either girls are inherently more capable of writing than boys, or else there is a problem in the teaching in primary schools. Whatever, if this test pattern continues, it is clear that primary schools need to improve the standards of writing of boys.

3) Oddly, there is also a fall in the number of boys being put forward for Review. What is more startling is that of the 101 Medway boys and 138 Medway girls who  went to Review, just 17 boys and 19 girls were successful, a total of just 1.2% of the total cohort, against a target of  2% or 62 children. The Review is all about academic work produced in school. According to Medway Council: “The academic evidence supplied did not support a grammar assessment for the maximum 2% of the Medway cohort.” With growing concern over primary school standards in Medway, the inability to find another 26 children whose work is up to a grammar school standard, only highlights the problem and increases the pressure, especially as half the successful Reviews came from just five schools.  For the Review Panels comprise Medway headteachers and teachers will have set out to recruit the full number, and their failure to do so is an indictment of standards in schools delivered by local professionals.   

4) I have highlighted before the built in age prejudice of the Medway Test, showing a discrimination against both boys and younger children.  For 2015 entry, the bias towards older children is similar to 2012, the previous time I analysed the figures, with 55% of passes going to children born in the first half of the year, and 45% in the second half of the year on both occasions. Just 21% of boys in the cohort passed the Test this year, compared with 25% of girls.   

5) Remarkably, every one of the top four schools by percentage pass rate are Catholic Primary Schools, the only Medway state schools scoring over 50%. They are headed by St William of Perth at 55%, followed by St Benedict’s, English Martyr’s and St Thomas of Canterbury.  Of course the Medway Test is curriculum based, with 80% of the marks going to English and maths, so this reflects especially well on the teaching at these schools. This is in spite of the fact that Catholic schools are encouraged to support St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, rather than the grammar schools. Just two schools had no successes, All Faith’s Children’s Community and Wayfield Community Primaries, both academies. Twydall Primary School, very much in the news at present, saw 22% of its pupils passing.

6) The number of children from outside Medway, taking and passing the Medway Test continues to rise inexorably as Kent children hedge their bets by taking both tests, and London families increasingly look to Medway as an alternative, but the reality is that few actually arrive. I suspect that the vast majority simply use the Medway Test as another practice for grammar school exams nearer their homes. Last year 107 Kent children were allocated places in the six Medway grammar schools,  but only 17 others, all but one from the London Boroughs, very few of whom will actually have arrived. Of the 321 out of Medway passes, this year, 270 have come from Kent, all but three of the others from London Boroughs, ranging from Bexley to Harrow. A total of 573 out of Medway children took the test. The  Medway Cabinet Member for Education has argued that the Council should consider making a charge for out of county testing. For once, I find myself in agreement with his view, but seriously doubt that it would be legal.  

Last modified on Monday, 24 October 2016 22:56

1 comment

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 December 2014 08:14 posted by Deb

    Hi Peter Interesting reading, thank you for pulling the stats together and I will post a link through my facebook page. Concerning that although the cohort has increased it is liekly that yet again some grammar schools will be struggling to fill their PAN. Mainly as a result of the OOC passes not taking a place and the low review successes.
    I am often asked if there is a published ranking of school's pass rate for the Medway 11+ test but as far as I know there is no such list available. Is this information available? PETER: I am afraid I don't encourage it as there are so many factors involved, especially private tuition which favours those schools with the most well off patents! However, top and bottom are usually of interest as here. Nothing to stop anyone doing an FYI themselves!

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