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Thursday, 25 August 2016 10:04

Transfer to Grammar Schools in the Sixth Form

Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 28 August 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here.

Last year the two Thanet grammar schools, Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon, admitted 124 students from non-selective (NS) schools into their Sixth Forms, whilst the two grammars in Folkestone took in just five between them. Dartford Grammar School recruited 107 new students but just two from NS schools. King Ethelbert's School saw 48 students transfer to grammar school Sixth Forms, although four other NS schools had no such transfers.

On the surface, an average intake of 16 NS students across the county for the Sixth Forms of the 32 grammar schools looks healthy, and I have always argued that the opportunity for a second chance to join a grammar school, in the Sixth Form, is a necessary criterion for a successful Selective System across the county. However, this average hides a massive variation, as too many grammar schools focus on recruiting the very top scorers in their chase for league table places.

Alternatives for taking A Levels, the key route to University and many professions, are shrinking with three of the four Further Education Colleges now having abandoned courses, focusing on vocational pathways.

However, there are 18 non-selective schools who run Sixth Forms with over 50 students who took A Levels 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 just 76 A Level students.....

The three top scoring NS schools on average point score per A Level entry are in order: Mascalls; Westlands; and Bennett Memorial, all scoring better than five of the grammar schools. Many of the NS schools offer a mixed menu of A Level and vocational courses to their students allowing them to keep their options open.

One other school that stands out is the non-selective Canterbury Academy, which had the largest Sixth Form in Kent, with 589 students last September. Astonishingly it had the third largest increase in numbers of any Kent school from Year 11 to Year 12, up by 91, the only NS school in the county to show any increase. Most of these students are following its wide range of highly successful vocational courses,

A number of these NS 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 others reduce the number of courses on offer, also the reason why three out of four Further Education Colleges have abandoned A Level.

One major problem is that Kent, with its wide geographical spread, sees each locality offering a different range of options at post 16. Under new government legislation all young people are required to stay in learning or training until the age of 18, but this can include full time study in school or college, part time education or training with work or volunteering, or taking up an apprenticeship or training. Kent County Council is required to enforce this but has no power to ensure the courses are provided.

So in Thanet, with the East Kent College having abandoned its A Level offering, and just two of the five NS selective schools offering small A Level groups, there is little alternative to the grammar schools for A Level courses, although they have welcomed the opportunity with open arms.

In Dartford, the four grammar schools admit just 28 non-selective students between them, the two Dartford Grammars chasing high grades and the two Wilmingtons having little room to expand. Perhaps as a result, most of the NS schools have thriving A Level provision. However, Ebbsfleet Academy which has no Sixth Form saw just four students transfer to grammar school, probably in Gravesend.

However, the most interesting District has to be Canterbury, with the two Langton Grammars taking in 43 NS students between them, whilst Barton Court Grammar admitted just four. Altogether Simon Langton Boys saw the second largest increase in numbers in the country, rising from Year 11, by 92 students to a total of 222 in Year 12. Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School saw its roll slip sharply from 152 in Year 11 last year, to 122 in Year 12, in spite of an influx of 16 girls from non-selective schools. Barton Court Grammar, also in Canterbury, saw its Year 12 wither to 93 students, from 126 in Year 11, although it only attracted (or wanted?) just four students from NS schools. It certainly appears that as well as its positive attitude to NS students, there is a considerable transfer of grammar school students to the Boys’ school, a phenomenon that is repeated in some other towns.

One would assume that the overwhelming majority of children entering grammar school at age 11 would anticipate completing a seven year course to A Level there. However, this is not always the case, with some remarkable fall out rates including the examples above. However, the biggest fall was at Folkestone School for Girls, which rightly prides itself on its table topping A Level Grades. It managed to lose an overall 37 students, attracting just 4 NS girls to compensate. Why and where did so many girls choose to leave the school after their GCSEs?

So what does all this mean for those receiving their GCSE results this week? 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 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. You will find some further advice on my website at www.kentadvice.co.uk, but I am afraid you are basically on your own, unless your child’s school does offer independent advice (to be fair, many do). Also on my website you will find an expanded version of this article, looking at each District separately and providing further data. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 18:46

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