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Displaying items by tag: kent grammar school appeals

This article looks at three communications from Kent County Council to headteachers, addressing issues about  grammar school admissions and appeals at this time of Coronavirus.

The first is a letter sent to schools regarding the timing of the 2020 Kent Test for grammar school suitability in 2021, currently planned for September. 

I also look at two separate items relating to grammar school places for this September for some children. The first of these is about problems at appeal regarding unsuccessful Headteacher Assessments caused through the crisis; the second looks at late applications and testing.

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

The Conundrum of Kent Test scores solved

Like many others, I have puzzled over the low pass mark of 106 required in each of the three assessments of English, Maths and Reasoning to produce 21% of children taking the Kent Test assessed of grammar school standard.

The Tests are nationally standardised so one would expect an untutored child on each test to score 113 to come in the top 21%. An initial look at these figures might suggest that Kent children are less bright than average, but a closer investigation of scores for the individual subjects, shows a very different picture and provides a full explanation of the conundrum.

Quite simply, whilst the majority of children have scored considerably more highly in the reasoning test than in the mathematics or English, a large number have failed to reach the standard in one of maths or English, dragging down the pass mark to provide the numbers.

As a result 4446 Kent children reached the pass level of 106 in English, and 4884 in maths, out of a total of 9902 taking the test, but less than half this figure will have passed in both!

In summary, Kent children have outperformed the national standard in all three assessments, whether through natural ability or the effect of tutoring on maths and English being open to question. However, the tutoring effect is still seen to the full in the Reasoning assessment, although this now counts for just one third of the assessment compared with the two thirds of previous years.

In my view, this data shows the new Kent Test has been highly successful if its aim was to select children with ability in both maths and English, and reduce the effect of tutoring, although the days of the bright male mathematician whose literacy skills are poor are over, if this pattern is repeated in future years.

The Judd School, which has been influential in the design of the new test, with its call to reduce the effect of coaching and improve standards of literacy in its intake, should be well pleased with this outcome and is surely likely to back off from its plan to introduce its own test for the 2016 intake.

I have already published an article on the Kent Test outcomes, and another on my reflections of the admissions season this year, both of which now need to be read in the context of the above. As soon as I receive the necessary data from KCC, I shall also publish a full analysis of Kent (and Medway) test outcomes. .....

Published in News and Comments

This has been a particularly busy admission season for me, primarily because the change in structure and scoring pattern of the Kent Test have considerably increased uncertainty about chances of access to super selective schools and appeal success to grammar schools across the county. My news item on the Kent Test saw the fastest rate of hits ever on the website, totalling 7000 in just over a week. The article on the Medway Test, with about a sixth the number of applicants has already attracted over 3000 visitors.

The other major factor has been the urban myth and misinformation circulating amongst parents, too often driven by some primary headteachers trying to be helpful and some secondary headteachers keen to encourage numbers.

I have covered most of the comment and information below in previous news and information items on this website, but now that most  Secondary School Common Application Forms (SCAF) have been submitted, I have time to reflect. Kent parents will know that exceptionally, KCC has extended the closing date to 5th November (nationally it was 31st October) to give parents good time to consult schools after the Kent Tests results were sent out, allowing for half-term in between.

I hear many good reports about the advice freely given by KCC School Admissions, and know that, as always, the Department has been massively overworked. However, they are not allowed to comment about individual schools as I am. Medway Council also runs an advice service. 

I explore these issues and a variety of others below......

Published in News and Comments

The main secondary school appeals are now ended, although places are still being freed up, mainly in non-selective schools through movement in waiting lists. This article is an overview of the latest situation across Kent and Medway, although I am happy to be corrected on details or to add in additional items. In particular,  information on non-selective school situations would be helpful.

 For grammar schools, the main pressure area has been West & North West Kent for boys,   with Tunbridge Wells Grammar school for Boys having 89 appeals, and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys having around 70. As a result Kent County Council came under considerable pressure  from families whose sons had passed the 11+, but had no grammar school place. In the event,  nearly all of these boys have been offered places off waiting lists or at appeals, with TWGSB taking 32 at appeal, Wilmington over 30,  Gravesend Grammar taking in nearly all who had passed without the need to go to appeal. 

Oakwood Park in Maidstone has also taken up a number of these and, after appeals, now has 164 places allocated, leaving its additional form of entry only part filled. As a result, this OFSTED ‘Outstanding school’  is surprisingly still welcoming applications from anyone who has passed and should be able to offer the vacant places without appeal.   I believe that otherwise all these schools are now full, along with Skinners, Judd, Dartford Grammar Boys and Maidstone Grammar. Interestingly, admission authorities can accept a second appeal .......“because of a significant and material change in the circumstances of the parent or child”.  For example, if your child comes up with two Level 5s in the recent SATs it may be worthwhile  asking  a grammar school with vacancies if it will consider a second appeal (it has an absolute right to say no). ......... 

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 02 February 2012 19:58

Secondary & Primary School Appeal Outcomes 2011

I now have the data for  appeals for those primary and secondary schools in Kent, whose appeals were heard by an Independent Appeal Panel organised by KCC. In previous years I have had the data for all schools at this time, but figures for the 26 secondary schools who organise their own appeals will not be available until later in the year. I do not publish school by school data here, as it varies so much year on year, depending on the pressure on places, the decision of the admission authority (in most cases the school)  as to how hard to resist the appeal and the make up of the panels. However, I do identify below where there are particular trends. 

2011 Secondary Appeal Numbers

Appeals Heard Appeals Upheld % Upheld
Foundation & Voluntary Aided Grammar Schools 542 186 34
Community Grammar Schools 237 101 42
Totla Grammar Schools 779 287 36
Non Selective Schools 186 129 69

Details follow.........

Published in News Archive
Tuesday, 05 October 2010 00:00

Oversubscription Appeals

Last updated April 2020, but still a work in progress, as other areas need more attention. 

You will find a page on the possible effects on school appeals of the Coronavirus here.

You will find data for 2019 Appeals in Kent and Medway here

 Each year I used to receive a number of enquiries about oversubscription appeals following the normal application process for primary and secondary schools (having now retired from offering individual advice).These are where the school (it may be non-selective or grammar) is full. I advised many parents to put in a holding appeal (simply writing "I am appealing for a place for my child (name) at (name) school. A more detailed letter will follow" on the form, which means you do not need to submit full details by deadline day). You can then leave submitting a detailed letter until after the first round of reallocations takes place. 

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. I regret that I have now retired from offering individual advice. 

You will find data on 2019 appeals here. 

To make an appeal for a Kent school you should download an appeal form here

  • The latest Code of Practice for School Appeals, issued by government, took effect in 2012. Some key issues are set out at Code.
  • If your child is not allocated their first preference school in March, you may be able to secure a place at a school higher in your list through appeal or via the waiting list and you can follow both processes at the same time.
  • First piece of advice is – don’t panic. You will not get an earlier appeal or a better hearing by sending in your case early. If you are not ready, make sure you record your appeal by the closing date, using such words as “I am appealing for….... I will send in my detailed case when it is ready”. This enables you to take advice or plan your appeal without additional pressure (it is already stressful enough!). If yours is one of the few academies that organises early appeals, you can still send in your case when you are notified of the date, without penalty. Appeal dates for each school are published on the school website, theoretically by February 28th (secondary). 
  • Appeals are always possible for both grammar non selective schools when the number of pupils applying for a school is larger than the approved number of admissions.
  • Kent admission rules allow parents to apply to any school not on their original list after the first Allocation of vacant spaces in April using the In Year Admission process. Use this to the full, as at the least you are placed on a waiting list and then have rights of appeal. Some children who did not originally apply for a school and who now apply after first Allocation will be offered places ahead of others on the waiting list. The situation in Medway is more confused and confusing. 
  • You will be asked to submit a case and appear personally at the Panel hearing. 

Remember that the Appeal Panel will wish to give you a maximum of half an hour at the hearing in a busy day for them. A key task is to make it easy for panellists to absorb your case. So your written submission to the appeal panel should never be more than about a page and a half long. How it is written - typed, pen, bullet points, in full is irrelevant. Focus on the main points and, whilst providing written evidence such as school reports, and headteacher's letter of support (both essential otherwise the Panel will wonder why) there is no need to go into too much detail -leave the panel something to ask questions about.

The rules say that you will need to show that that the admission of one or more additional pupils will not damage the education of those already admitted, or if not that your child has a special case that trumps this. Secondly that your child is one of those who should be included amongst those to be admitted. Do not spend too much, if any, time on the first as panellists will themselves challenge the school over its capacity. If there is a group meeting (see below) then this point will be fully resolved  at the meeting and you have no need to address it. 

Instead, focus on why your child should be one of those who should be included amongst those to be admitted. 

You should visit the relevant Individual Schools page for Kent here, and Medway here on this site to see the size of the task, as these pages give data on success outcomes in previous years. There is no general recipe for success as Panels are given no guidance on what to look for. As a result, different Panels would often come to different conclusions, some favouring the multi talented pupil, others cases of Special Need, and other difficulties that argue the child needs to be in a particular school. I have talked to panellists who are  wary about giving a school  too many children who pose problems for them. I have read too many advice pages that come up with a particular recipe for success. Apart from the general points set out below, it does not exist, and each case will be considered on its own merits to fit the panel's sense of what is right for the child and the school. In my extensive experience this can vary widely across different schools in Kent. All you can do is your best!

Your case should contain the following:

(1) what is it about the school that attracts you, and give a mention to something that caught your child's imagination on your visit. It is important to show you you have visited the school in this way, and not by quoting the prospectus which will not convince an experienced panel.

(2) what is it about your child that s/he needs to be there

(3) relevant special circumstances - the key word is 'relevant'. Flippantly, grandparents and pets have a habit of dying or becoming seriously ill, requiring the child to need security, or many variations on that theme. Members of appeal panels have heard it all before. Relevant also covers Special Needs of different types, but where possible you need to explain why THAT school is necessary or at least the most suitable 

(4) Why the school you have been offered is unsuitable/less suitable for your child. Try not to denigrate the other school - panellists tend not to like this - but focus instead on factors such as transport issues and lack of facilities appropriate for your child.  

It should also be accompanied by a recent school Report and if possible a positive reference from your child's headteacher, although many will rightly find it difficult to make a case for a child and a particular school to fit together, 

If the case is one where another child has been wrongly selected ahead of your  own, or that the admission policy has been interpreted wrongly, you have a very strong case for success, and other factors become secondary. 

  •  Some Foundation & VA schools are keen to admit additional pupils, and in such cases the appeal is much easier, if you have a reasonable case, or your child appears to ‘fit’ the school ethos. you will find information on this in my Individual School pages for Kent and Medway
  • Each oversubscribed school has its own character and approach to appeals for additional pupils.
  • Grammar school oversubscription appeals can be very complex, as appellants may have children who have passed the eleven plus, others will not have, and the appeal panel has to balance competing claims.
  • Remember, at the end of the day, if the school is genuinely full there may be no way to secure admission.
Group Appeals
Many schools in Kent and Medway operate what a called Group Appeals for many of their Appeal hearings, where schools are oversubscribed.  The Admission Code for School Appeals recommends that where a school is oversubscribed, appeals should be divided into two stages. Where this happens, the first part is called the group stage, where all parents appealing are invited to a meeting at the start of proceedings. At this meeting, all the issues relating to oversubscription are debated between parents and the Admission Authority Presenting Officer in front of the Appeal Panel. No matters relating to individuals are  considered. This enables the Appeal Panel to determine before hearing individual appeals how many children, if any, can be admitted before prejudice applies (see section on appeals).  The second stage is the individual appeal where each parent puts the case for their individual child. In the second stage there is no discussion of oversubscription issues. The Panel then has to decide which children should be offered places, possibly accepting that for some, there will be prejudice, but their individual circumstances outweigh this. Many parents are inhibited by the Group meeting and find it difficult to put forward their points. Occasionally  the meeting rapidly degenerated into an unpleasant verbal battle; at others very few parents turn up, few views are expressed and the meeting fizzles out (more likely). My advice is go to the meeting, at the very least you will see the Appeal Panel members in advance. Don't be afraid to speak out if you believe the school is capable of admitting extra children although this can be come quite a technical argument and school cases for not admitting additional children can be quite intimidating.  You won't affect your individual chances by making the case that more children in general can be admitted. However, where there is no Group Appeal, questioning on prejudice is required to take place in every appeal and can be quite perfunctory and formulaic, so there does need to be a  change of approach.   One of the strongest arguments year on year comes from looking at the numbers in older year groups. If the school can manage these, then why shouldn't it manage the same number again. 
Monday, 04 October 2010 00:00

Kent Grammar School Appeals

Last updated April 2020: You will find a page about the effects on school appeals of the Coronavirus here.

 Coronavirus: Please note that this article takes no note of potential changes to the Appeal Procedure caused by the Coronovirus pandemic. For latest information go to: School Appeals and Coronavirus: Part 2

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I am afraid I have retired completely from my appeals advisory service, but hope this page offers some general help to assist you.  

You will find data for 2019 Appeals in Kent and Medway for 2019 entry here and more information about individual Kent schools and appeal numbers and success rates here

First piece of advice is – don’t panic. You will not get an earlier appeal or a better hearing by sending in your case early. If you are not ready, make sure you record your appeal by the closing date, using such words as “I am appealing for….... I will send in my detailed case when it is ready”. This enables you to take advice or plan your appeal without additional pressure (it is already stressful enough!), but make sure from the school website you know when the appeals are being heard and ensure your further information  is submitted in good time. If yours is one of the few academies that organises early appeals, such as Highsted and Borden grammar schools, it is essential to get the appeal lodged early, for although there is no statutory time limit for appealing, lodging a late appeal may find the school full after others have been heard.

As well as this section, I recommend that you read my general information page on school appeals.  Parents will  received an appeal form with their allocation decision letter in March

Background
Kent and Medway grammar school testing takes place in September. Many Kent children who have not initially passed the Kent Test are given a second chance through the Kent Headteacher assessment (HTA) process  in October (although this is by headteacher recommendation and parents are not made aware of whether their children are included).  It is not always advantageous to have gone  down this route for, if unsuccessful, the Report of the HTA is presented to any appeal panel, and can prove counterproductive. Medway parents are offered a Review of any non selective decision in November, but are advised to read the Review section of this website before doing so. You will find a fuller explanation of the two processes through the links. These stages take place before the selective decision is confirmed.

In any case, parents need to be aware that if their child is unsuccessful in the test, or in HTA or Medway Review, there is no right to appeal until after school allocation, 1st March (for 2020 entry). You cannot appeal against a non selective decision in general and your right to appeal is to a particular school which has not offered your child a place. Whilst appeals usually begin in April/May, some may not be heard until late June.

There is a basic division between grammar schools run by the county (community schools and voluntary controlled) and the academies, foundation and voluntary aided schools that form the majority. County run grammar schools use KCC's own Appeals service run independently of the education department. The other schools and academies each have their own approach to appeals: some using a county independent appeal panel; others engaging an independent panel administrator to run appeals for them; the remainder (a small minority) choosing their own appeal clerk and panel members. Some wish to admit additional pupils, others resist strongly. These produce a wide range of success rates, both from county to county and for individual schools within counties. You will find appeal history and further information for each individual school here. I advise you, in the case of academies, foundation or VA schools who use an administrator or provide their own Independent Appeal Panel, to contact the school which may be willing to offer the school perspective. Some grammar schools are regularly oversubscribed with successful candidates, particularly in West Kent. If you are deprived of a place on this basis, you still have the right to appeal.

Parents can only appeal to a school they have named on the application form, so choice of schools remains critical. However, in Kent if you choose not to apply for a particular grammar school, you still have the right to apply using the In Year Admission Process after the closing date for acceptance of offers (usually late March) and if turned down because your child has not taken the test (in which case they will be asked to sit it), or has not passed the test, or the school is full, you can appeal. However, this route carries additional risk if the school is likely to be full after the normal round of appeals. 

What follows is somewhat rambling, as there is no foolproof guide to winning appeals and different points will carry weight with different individual panels. Remember that an Appeal Panel provided by KCC will be drawn from a pool of around a hundred volunteers. All are required to be trained, but in the appeal room each will have their own rules. 

General
There are four main situations with regard to grammar school appeals:

1) The child has not been found selective and there are spaces available

2) The child has not been found selective  and the school is full.

3) The child has been found selective and the school is full;

4) The school is 'super selective'  and the child has not reached this year's cut off score, or has lost out on distance grounds

In all cases you should explain (briefly) why you are appealing for the particular school. This will be based on knowledge, including a visit to the school, and you can expect to be asked about this. Do not simply rely on quoting from the Prospectus! In the first two cases, your main task is to show your child is of grammar school ability (see below). In the other two, as well as confirming ability, you need to focus on your child's qualities and what they can bring to the school. 

It is my personal view that if the school is full you should not spend time focusing on why it can admit additional pupils; the Panel will do that themselves and have the expertise to ask the right questions. Your task is to show why your child 'needs' to be at that school. 

I am strongly of the view that an appeal letter should not be of more than a page and a half, although the style is irrelevant. Appeal Panels are solely interested in relevant content, so make it easy for them.  There is no purpose in enclosing lots of supporting letters showing what a good person your child is at their various sports and activities. A paragraph to cover these is usually sufficient and I have tended to recommend no more than one such letter, many families have none and will not be disadvantaged.

Remember, the Panel may have many cases to consider, and no more than half an hour for any one. Your task in that short time is to convince the panel your child is right for the school, they will not thank you for large amounts of extraneous documents.

(1 & 2) The Case
I am often asked what scores are likely to be successful in a grammar school appeal. This is an impossible question to answer and Appeal Panels will wish to take other factors into account. These may include
  • what evidence do you have to demonstrate that your child is of grammar school ability (essential);
  • what special circumstances do you have that will convince a panel that your child underperformed at the Kent Test;
  • be aware of whether the school is oversubscribed or does it need or want additional pupils;
  • was there a Head Teacher Assessment. What did it say;
  • what support is forthcoming from the primary school;
  • does your child have Special Education Needs? Different Panels will have their own views on this one. 

You are most unlikely to achieve success at a Kent appeal if no score is above the 110 of 2020 entry (but look at success rates; there may be one or two where you could stand a chance with strong evidence). 

Central to any successful appeal on grounds of a non-selective assessment by the Local Authority is EVIDENCE  that the child is of grammar school ability. Without it you are almost certainly wasting your time and that of the Panel of volunteers who hear your appeal.

Appeal Panels will expect to see:
  • a Headteacher Letter of academic support for the child (telling the Panel that he or she is a lovely person, kind to animals, engages in sports or other extra-curricular activities etc, is of limited value);
  • a recent positive school Report
  • probably through one of the above, or in addition, evidence of school assessments such as CATs, SAT pre-tests, National Curriculum Levels, and alternatives indicating a grammar school performance.

Private, paid for assessments,  however strong as alternatives, rarely carry weight; it is the school view that is regarded as objective and fair (usually, although a Panel that knows the local scene may also know their schools!), with letters from Private Schools that have taken your child's fees to help them succeed sometimes being treated according to Panel preferences. Letters from tutors are often taken as negatives (if your child cannot succeed with tutoring, they may not be deemed suitable for grammar school) 

Other possible relevant factors that parents may put forward include

  •  the selection panel was missing information which can lead to a different decision – e.g. medical condition or family circumstances not reported which affected the child's performance, but can be demonstrated;
  •  information provided was incorrect – you have the right to see all relevant documentation.

You may also succeed if none of these apply but marks are near the cut off and you find a sympathetic appeal panel. If none of the above apply, your chances are low; so plan an alternative route for your child’s secondary education – although each year I am delighted to hear of successful appeals which originally looked unpromising.

I am regularly asked what the significance of particular medical conditions or family circumstances will be. Again impossible to answer. Whatever you put forward, the Appeal Panel will first need to be convinced that the child is of grammar school ability from the evidence you are able to supply. The extenuating circumstances you supply then allow the Panel to understand if and why the child underperformed at the Kent Test. Each Panel will have its own view on what is a valid case, which may well vary according to the pressure on places, so you can but try.  Death or illness of relatives or pets occur with astonishing regularity, so don't place too much faith in these.  

(3 & 4) The Case
There is no formula for winning appeals, the key points are to emphasis the qualities of your child and why they need to be at that particular school. Over the years I have seen many different types of appeal win through. 

Kent Grammar Schools

At all Kent grammar school appeals against a non-selective decision, the Kent test scores and any HTA report will be distributed to the Panel and parents. This also has the effect of eliminating false parental claims about the results. Some parents have not seen the HTA document before, so make sure you ask to see it before writing your appeal, as this is likely to have an influence on your case.

In most cases, the Panel will also be told the school to which you were allocated on 1st March. This presents a problem for some parents of children who have passed the Kent Test making multiple applications to grammar schools. Where the school is non-super selective, if you are awarded a grammar school lower on your list, the Panel may decide that because the school is oversubscribed your needs have already been met by the lower school, and give preference to those without a grammar school. In at least one area, where the panel tends to be drawn from a small group of panellists, they see appeals from parents who have put down only one grammar school to benefit from this policy. However, the panel has become wise and will not look on these as a priority, sometimes leaving the child without a grammar school. Life can become difficult!

There are number of websites and books offering advice on how to succeed at appeal. Most of these offer general advice, not tailored to specific schools or local authorities, and so are of limited value. 

A good website for general information on admissions and appeals is: eleven plus exams. However, you need to treat the contributions with caution. It is  Buckinghamshire based but, whilst the school appeal advice varies considerably from the many varieties in Kent, it can be very helpful. There is also a lot of forum discussion about West Kent issues, often very different from those in the rest of the county. 

Thursday, 16 September 2010 00:00

Can I help you?

I am afraid I have now retired from providing advice to individual families. See article here. I continue to welcome information about issues in schools or the Kent and Medway Local Education Authorities. All communications are confidential, unless you authorise me otherwise.

In process of rewriting. 

Basic Information

You may wish to  first visit the Education website or telephone the Department for factual advice, as below.

Kent County Council: Education Website, here. School Admissions (and other education departments), telephone: 03000 41 21 21.

Email: kent.admissions@kent.gov.uk

Medway Council: Education Website here. Telephone: 01634 306 000.

Email: customer.relations@medway.gov.uk

Enquirers find the Kent County Council Schools website and Admissions Department especially helpful. Many parents find that Medway Council is not helpful, nor correct in its advice, which can vary from family to family. 

Both departments should be able to provide you with any factual information you need to assist you to make a decision, but are not allowed to offer you opinion, nor compare different options.

If your child is currently at school, you should also talk to their headteacher, who is likely to have a good knowledge of local schools and more importantly, should know your child.  

Published in What I Offer