|Update: This article has already produced a number of enquiries from parents of, and in a couple of cases, students themselves looking for Sixth Form places. As in past years, a number of schools, grammar, non-selective and especially academies, are ignoring the precise admission criteria laid down for each school and making ad hoc decisions. Parents and students both have a legal right of appeal in such cases.
Last year, the two Thanet grammar schools admitted 124 students from non-selective (NS) schools into their Sixth Forms, whilst the two in Folkestone took in just five between them. Non-selective Canterbury Academy astonishingly admitted 45 students from grammar schools travelling in the reverse direction, in the almost bizarre Canterbury situation; see more below.
An average intake of 16 NS students across the county for the Sixth Forms of the 31 grammar schools hides a massive variation from 65 at Dane Court, to six grammars admitting fewer than four. King Ethelbert's NS school saw 48 students transfer to grammar school Sixth Forms, although four schools had none. I have always argued that the opportunity for a second chance to join a grammar school, in the Sixth Form, is a criterion for a successful Selective System. These figures show it is working in places but as always - could do much better!
With most of the Further Education Colleges abandoning A Level courses because of cost, opportunities to study A Level are shrinking in many places, although some NS schools offer their own successful A Level courses, as explained below.
KCC publishes a very useful information article on choices and you will find an information article here on decision making at 16 plus, after GCSE, which looks at a variety of options, emphasising the point that it should not simply be moving on in the same establishment, but this is an opportunity to look round at alternatives.
Then there is just the one non-selective school that has increased its roll over each of the past two years!
What is even more remarkable about the Canterbury Academy story, is that it admitted 45 students from grammar schools, into its Sixth Form, going the other way.
However, this article does focus on the transition from GCSE to school Sixth Forms, looking at change of school and focusing on individual schools across the county, below. It is partially a follow on from a previous article that was more general, but which provoked my enquiry. You will find an article in Kent on Sunday, with some slightly different data, here.…
Please note that many schools made offers of places on Sixth Form courses months ago and so late applications will be unsuccessful for these at this time, although high GCSE grades could tempt! For next year's students, plan early.
For 2015 Sixth Form Admissions, 507 students made the decision to change to grammar school and were accepted, with 4880 remaining at NS schools for a variety of courses including A Level. Every one of Kent’s 31 grammar schools admitted some students from NS schools, with Dane Court, Chatham and Clarendon, Norton Knatchbull and Gravesend all taking in 30 or more to their sixth forms. At the other end, nine grammar schools admitted four or fewer sixth formers from NS schools, including five in west Kent, so opportunities are very different across the county.
Against this, there are 18 non-selective schools who run Sixth Forms with over 50 students taking A Levels in Year 13, in 2015, all but one achieving respectable A Level Grades. Largest were: Bennett Memorial (152 students); Hillview Girls (133); Fulston Manor (108); Homewood (103); and St Simon Stock (92). Compare these with the smallest grammar school, Barton Court with 76 A Level students. A number of these schools are clearly taking in students from others where there may not be the same range of opportunities. Currently financial pressures on Sixth Forms have seen many reduce the number of courses on offer, also the reason why three out of four Further Education Colleges have abandoned A Level.
More details below of transfer rates from individual non-selective schools by District, and the remarkable case of Canterbury Academy, with the largest Sixth Form in Kent.
Way out ahead of non-selective schools seeing students transferring to grammar school is King Ethelbert’s, at 48, one of just four non-selective schools without its own sixth form, followed by Charles Dickens with 26, then Hillview Girls’, Towers, St Anselm’s Catholic, Hayesbrook and Thamesview all with 17 or more.
At the other end, only four non-selective schools had no students transferring to grammar school: Hugh Christie; Leigh UTC; Longfield; and Orchards Academy.
There are many factors influencing transfer rates: student aspiration, the attitudes of both grammar schools and non-selectives to change of school, required GCSE grades for admission, independence of career advice, opportunity, the financial pressures on school Sixth Forms (which not only sees some schools cutting courses, but others encouraging admissions to keep courses open), culture in the District and schools, and new government legislation requiring all young people to engage in education or training to the age of 18.
Each grammar school will have its own view on encouraging such transfers or not, partially depending on its assessment of whether non-selective students can make a success of the A Level curriculum, or in some cases the chase for ever higher A Level Grades. Other grammars have only limited spaces for external students to join in any case.
Half of Kent’s grammar schools see the number of students in Year 12 larger than in Year 11, for each of the past three years; those with the highest increases including schools recruiting the highest and lowest numbers of students from non-selective schools. What is notable is that in each of those three years, the same four grammar schools top the list with, for September 2015: Dartford Grammar increasing its roll by 107 students (but only 2 from NS schools); Simon Langton Boys 92 (27 NS); Chatham and Clarendon 60 (59 NS); and Judd 39 (2 NS). For the past two years, the next three in order have been: Highworth 26 (14 NS) in 2015; Dane Court 25 (65 NS); and Gravesend 12 (30 NS).
What I have tried to do below is look at the situation on a District by District basis, aware that some students will be looking at grammar schools away from their home area.
Independent Advice on Courses
For those with a statistical bent, there is plenty of data out there to indicate which the best schools are in terms of academic progress from GCSE to A Level. But where does everyone else turn for objective advice? I recall when I was Chairman of what was then an Independent Kent Careers Service, we had independent staff based in various centres throughout Kent, and also providing advice in each school so able to put flesh on some of the questions I hope this article has posed. The Careers Service has long since gone, and much of the advice in Kent is now provided by the school itself, theoretically required to be independent, but many schools will always have an interest in guiding the outcome. The Kent County Council website offers some basic advice at Kent Choices, although it covers none of the local situations discussed above, but the reality is that you may be basically on your own, unless your child’s school does offer genuinely independent advice (to be fair, many do).
District by District
Many more boys than girls transfer to grammar schools, with Norton Knatchbull admitting 40 (although the school clearly loses a high number having a total increase of just 2 students from Year 11 to Year 12) and Highworth 14. The Towers School with 19 transferring is the main source of new grammar school Sixth formers, although it still has 155 in its own Year 12. The North and John Wallis Academy contribute just 8 between them. Homewood School in Tenterden, with its own very strong sixth form of 458 students, second largest NS school in Kent, will barely miss the 11 students transferring, looking presumably towards Ashford for their grammar school education.
As always, a fascinating, enigma, with Simon Langton Boys taking 27 students (both boys and girls) into its Sixth Form from non-selective schools, although it increases its roll by around 100 external students annually. Many of these additional numbers will be drawn from the other two grammar schools, with Barton Court seeing its roll fall from Year 11 to Year 12 in 2015 by 33 students, not helped by taking in only 4 NS students, leading to the smallest Year 13 of any selective school in the county at 75. More remarkably, the currently controversial Simon Langton Girls, had a roll fall of 30 in September 2015, in spite of admitting 15 non-selective students.
But going the reverse way, Canterbury Academy achieved two unique accolades from students, with 45 choosing to join the Academy Sixth Form from grammar schools, only the two grammar schools admitting more students from NS schools. 28 of this intake came from the three Canterbury grammars, 17 from Simon Langton Boys, probably not having reached the high Grades required for admission to the Sixth Form, including A/A* Grades in all subjects to be studied at A/AS Level. This intake to Canterbury Academy has contributed to the most astonishing increase of any school in 2015, having the third highest increase of any school at 91, taking its Year 12 roll to 306, and sixth form total to 539, just edging Dartford Grammar as the largest Sixth Form in the whole of Kent, and the only Kent non-selective school to increase its numbers into the Sixth. There is of course a partial explanation in that it will have admitted a high proportion of students from the closed Chaucer Technology College, a factor that will not apply in future years, but it still saw seven of its own students transfer to grammar school.
St Anselm’s Catholic saw 17 students transfer to grammar school, unusually high for a Catholic school, and Archbishops had 13. Herne Bay High with its own strong two year Sixth Form saw just three NS students choose a grammar school place. There was just one from Spires Academy, so its now failed attempt to link up with Simon Langton Girls will not help this.
Between them, the four Dartford grammar schools saw only 28 students transfer from non-selective schools to grammar Sixth Forms, with Dartford Grammar admitting just 2 of these. The issues separate as Dartford Boys chases high performing students, its increase of 111 to 272 students in Year 12 inevitably absorbing a considerable number from the Girls’ school, that saw its roll fall by 22 students, but still clearly not that enthusiastic about NS students, admitting just seven. The two Wilmington Grammars are pressed for space and their intake of 19 NS students between them mirrors the total increase in numbers.
With these figures, it is not surprising that the four urban NS schools between them saw just 20 students transfer to grammar schools, even though Ebbsfleet Academy has no Sixth Form of its own, with Longfield Academy and Leigh UTC being two of the four Kent schools that saw no students moving to grammar schools at all.
With the Dover Test having been in operation for many years, admitting a large number of additional students to the two Dover grammar schools at age eleven, it might be thought there was limited potential for further transfer from NS schools to the Sixth Form. In fact, another 24 students were admitted last year, to provide 12% of the total grammar school cohort. Sir Roger Manwood’s admitted eight, which will be mainly from the 16 leaving Sandwich Technology College to go to grammar school.
Gravesend grammar schools have long had a tradition of offering Sixth Form opportunities to students from local NS schools and I am delighted that this continues, with Gravesend and Mayfield Grammar Schools admitting 57 NS students between them, 41 from the local High Schools, including 17 from Thamesview which has no Sixth Form of its own. St George’s CofE and St John’s, both with thriving A Level Sixth Forms, contribute another nine, and some will also come from Dartford schools.
All four Maidstone grammar schools appear to encourage applications from NS school students, admitting 54 between them. However, these are spread out across the 11 NS schools, most transferring from Wrotham (9) and Maplesdon Noakes (8). One can understand why only one transferred from Valley Park, third most popular NS school in the county at age 11, and fourth highest Year 13 amongst NS schools, showing the strength of its own Sixth Form. But it is just one of the six Maidstone schools seeing four or less students transferring, the other five all struggling for numbers, because of lack of popularity or low academic standards: Swadelands (4); Aylesford (3); Holmesdale (3); and Malling and New Line Learning, just one each.
Something very strange here, with the two grammar schools having admitted just 5 NS students into the Sixth Form for September in 2015, in total. Contrast this with the three other coastal areas, Dover, Gravesham and Thanet all taking in large numbers. The additional numbers coming through from the Shepway Test have not arrived, and both schools had a fall in numbers between Years 11 and 12, especially Folkestone School for Girls which saw the greatest drop of any selective school in the county, from 146 to 109, so could certainly have done with the numbers. Folkestone Academy certainly retains a large proportion of its students, with the fifth largest two year sixth of any NS school, at 135 students, seeing just 1 NS student transfer, along with Marsh Academy; Brockhill Park having six and the now closed Pent Valley just three.
Highsted Grammar struggles to retain numbers into the Sixth Form, by Year 13 having the second smallest Year 13 of any selective school, of just 83, not helped by its small transfer rate of NS students of just three girls. Borden does much better admitting 17 boys and girls, reflecting the added draw of boys’ grammar schools for the opposite sex in many towns. Queen Elizabeth’s in Faversham is also very popular, taking in 26 NS students, presumably from across the area and into Canterbury District, as just five come from the local school, Abbey.
With two High Schools, Fulston Manor and Westlands having strong two year Sixth Forms of their own, the three Sittingbourne NS schools see just 22 students transfer, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, whilst losing 78% of its Year Eleven students, and with no FE College nearby, saw just three of its students going on to grammar school.
Thanet is surely the model of how a selective ‘system’ ought to operate in this respect, with the two local grammar schools admitting 124 NS students into their Sixth Forms between them. It is perhaps no surprise that King Ethelbert’s with no Sixth Form of its own and in Federation with Dane Court Grammar saw 48 students, the highest number in Kent and a third of its total Year 11 roll, transfer to grammar school, but second highest in the county with 26 was Charles Dickens, which has had its troubles, but still sees students aspiring to make progress. The other four schools with fairly similar proportions of their numbers, provided another 39 grammar school students, all suggesting there is a strong and healthy culture of progression in the District, although combined, or perhaps leading to, small two year Sixth Forms in the NS schools.
Because there is considerable movement between the West Kent towns to attend grammar schools, I am looking at West Kent as a whole in this article. There are certainly some opportunities for young people from NS selective schools to transfer to grammar, with Weald of Kent taking in 28 last year and Tunbridge Wells Boys 15, Weald admitting boys and girls. However, after Tunbridge Wells Girls with 7, the other four grammar schools, take in just 10 NS students between them, all schools looking for the highest performers at GCSE. Of the three Tonbridge NS schools, two Hayesbrook and Hillview account for every one of the 36 students moving on to grammar schools, with Hugh Christie none. Of the four schools that market themselves as comprehensive, Bennett Memorial lost 13 (although still attracting by some way the largest number of A Level students of any NS school in Kent) and St Gregory’s just three, with Knole and Mascalls both seeing seven students transfer. Hillview School for Girls, which lost 19, still has the second largest A Level numbers of any NS school in Kent at 133, At the bottom, High Weald saw two and Hugh Christie, none, although the latter is running a successful A Level Sixth Form of its own. Mascalls with its A Level number at 81, had the best Grades of any NS School, higher than eight six grammar schools.