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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. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 April 2020 06:46