The above figures still understate the pressures on the oversubscribed schools, as a further 190 families put a grammar school in first choice although their children had not passed the Medway Test. Many of these would otherwise have put one of these five schools first on their list. There is of course no advantage in putting a grammar school first in this case, as it makes no difference to a subsequent appeal panel, but neither is there a disadvantage (apart of course from muddying my figures!) as it doesn’t give you any advantage (or disadvantage) when making allocations to non-selective schools.
The Victory Academy (run by TSAT, see below) does not appear to have thrown off the difficult reputation of its predecessor Bishop of Rochester Academy yet, with 110 vacancies which, if one adds in the 6 children allocated by Medway Council who did not apply to the school, adds up to nearly half the total places available. This must be a really worrying figure as at this level financial pressures really bite, money being closely connected to the number of students on roll. When waiting lists and appeals for other more popular schools and grammar schools take their toll, the final intake figure is likely to be even less than last year's 123 children which had seen 46 gain places lost to other more popular schools between allocation and admission in September. Most of the remaining 61 Medway Allocations go to The Robert Napier School and St John Fisher Catholic School, which would otherwise have had 55 and 53 vacancies respectively for their 180 places. The decision not to place more allocations at Victory Academy is an interesting one, especially as two years ago Medway Council was criticised for allocating children to the faith St John Fisher Catholic School, which then sent parents a questionnaire asking them to declare their commitment to the Catholic church!
Non-selective schools across the border into Kent draw 124 Medway children away from local schools,most for geographical reasons, with 39 heading for Holmesdale Technology College, 24 to The Malling School, 22 to Aylesford School or, presumably for religious reasons, 11 to St Simon Stock Catholic School. Just 53 are coming the other way, not surprisingly mainly to the five schools around the Kent/Medway border, the deficit increasing the pressure on the more vulnerable schools.
The Rochester Grammar School is 18 first choices oversubscribed, having increased its PAN by 5 girls to 180. Even so, this is quite a fall in popularity from 2015, when it increased the PAN to 205, and was still 22 girls oversubscribed. However, the cut-off of this super selective school has risen to 18 points above the Medway pass mark of 521. Unless the school is able to increase to seven forms of entry this year which looks unlikely on these numbers, then appeal prospects look low – last year there were just 6 successes, all of whom had passed the Medway Test (another 12 who had passed were turned down).
Fort Pitt Grammar School is well oversubscribed this year, by 17 first choices, having had vacancies for the past two years, but in recent years, appeal chances have been very low, for 2015 entry it was three upheld out of 39. Rainham Mark’s PAN has now settled at 205, 30 places up on a few years ago, leaving it just oversubscribed, but still with a cut-off of 528. Last year there were seven successful appeals.
The increased numbers at The Math, Rainham Mark and Rochester Grammar, have taken a heavy toll on the two Chatham Grammar Schools. Chatham Boys reduced its Pan a few years ago to 120, but has still only recruited 91 boys at this stage, although this is 10 up on the disastrous 2015. If the Math admits an extra form on appeal again most of whom had already passed last year, it will be badly hit again. Chatham Girls has kept its PAN at an unrealistic 142, in spite of a decision last year to restrict final numbers after appeal to three forms of entry. Even so, it has increased its allocation figure by 21 girls to 87, most of whom will stick, so may well encourage appeals for 2016 and go for four forms of entry.
The first of these factors ensures there are 81 vacancies in Medway Grammar schools, all at the two Chathams’, but the true figure is hidden by the large number of Kent children, 113 coming over the border, taking up 13% of the total grammar school places allocated. Another 33 come from elsewhere, mainly the London Boroughs, but I suspect very few of these actually arrive.
Rochester Grammar is taking 48 Kent children and 11 from London. Sir Joseph Williamson’s is taking 20 from Kent, some of whom will be siblings, the rest mainly from the villages bordering the West of Medway. Most of the remainder are going to the two Chatham Grammars, who both accept a Kent Test pass as an alternative means of entry, and Rainham Mark Grammar.