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See article in Kent on Sunday: 1st April 2017 

This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar schools. The main pressure point is in North West Kent with applications from SE London and north of the Thames growing annually and strongly. Dartford Grammar leads the way the number of grammar school qualified first choice applications oversubscribed soaring to 257 (226 in 2016). It is followed by Dartford Girls with 188, again up sharply from 119 in 2016. These two are now the most oversubscribed schools of all types in Kent and Medway. 

dgs            dggs 2

Then come the three West Kent super selectives: Tonbridge 151 (142 in 2016); Skinners 143 (119); and Judd 102 (97). This is followed by a large gap down to Wilmington Girls at 58 first choices turned away. At the other end of the scale, eight grammar schools in Maidstone and the East of the county had 240 vacancies amongst them. Kent has seen an additional 192 places (net) put into its grammar schools this year, to meet rising rolls in several areas.

I look more closely at individual schools below, and you will find my preliminary article on allocations published at the beginning of March here, including cut-offs for super-selective grammars, and for 2016 here. You will find a similar article on non-selective schools here, with Medway schools to follow.

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This is my third annual analysis of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries. You will find the 2014 figures here.  Abbreviation: ooc = out of county

Headlines:
  • 757 ooc children offered places in Kent schools, with 552 Kent children going out county, both figures well up on 2014.
  • 70% of the 455 ooc children taking up places in Kent grammar schools are going to schools in Dartford or Gravesend, with Wilmington Girls Grammar taking 105, Wilmington Boys 79 and Dartford 70. Nearly all are from London Boroughs.
  • Elsewhere, highest are The Judd with 41 ooc boys and Rochester Grammar taking in 41 Kent girls.
  • For non-selective schools, highest is Holmesdale taking in 41 Medway children, followed by Knole Academy with 35 Bromley children, and Homewood School 28, all but one from East Sussex.
  • Exporting: 159 Kent children to Bexley (95 from closure of Oasis Hextable Academy); 139 from Kent to Medway; 121; 100 from Kent to East Sussex; 67 from Kent to Surrey; 53 from Kent to Bromley; and 122 from Medway to Kent,

As in previous years the official figures give a very different picture from the more lurid headlines ……..

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This article looks at secondary allocations for non-selective and Free schools across Kent and Medway with further articles on grammar schools and cross-county movement to come. It is somewhat delayed as I have been overwhelmed with clients for secondary appeals this year, the number of parents going to appeal appearing to have shot up. A previous article provides the initial key statistics about school allocation.

After the headlines, immediately, below, I look at the key points in each of the Kent Districts and Medway.

    • Most oversubscribed non-selective school for the second year running is Brompton Academy, with 159 first choices turned away, just pipped by Dartford Grammar School overall with 162 grammar qualified first choices rejected. Next comes St George’s in Broadstairs, up from 4th place with 150 first preferences not offered. 
    •  Two of Kent’s Free Schools, Wye and Trinity, are in the top ten of most oversubscribed non-selective schools in the county. The third, Hadlow Rural Community School, is also full. 
    • The sudden closure of Oasis Hextable School with the consequent pressure on neighbouring schools, has seen 95 additional Kent children having to be allocated by KCC to schools in Bexley. 
    • I have featured five schools with serious problems in recruitment in recent years. Three of these have closed, but Pent Valley, Folkestone (““Good”” OFSTED) and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook (“Requires Improvement” twice, so not a bad school) still have over 50% of their Year 7 places vacant for September, now joined by Castle Community College, suffering for its disastrous fall from “Outstanding” to Special Measures a year ago.

I recently wrote an article at the request of Kent on Sunday on some of the many good non-selective schools of Kent. With apologies to those I have missed out, you will find the article here......

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By the end of October, some 20,000 families in Kent and Medway will need to have selected their choices of secondary schools for their children (Kent allows an additional week of grace because of the half term immediately preceding the national cut off date of  31st October). In Kent you have up to four choices of school, and in Medway six, with overall around 97% of families getting one of their choices, around 83% their first choice.

This article looks at some of the factors around those choices for both non-selective and grammar schools and provides some general advice. It is very difficult to address specific issues in such an article, as circumstances change considerably between towns and areas, and individual family circumstances such as distance from schools, scores in the selection tests, or religious affiliation vary widely.

The first piece of advice is that you should always list your schools on the application form according to your preferences, as the method of allocation means there is no tactical way to improve your chances by trying a different order. Too many schools are still falsely advising that you can improve your chances to gain a place at their school by putting them first and if you don't you won’t be considered. Completely untrue.

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With this week’s news that Kent’s first Garden City is to be built in Ebbsfleet, we also learn that six of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent and Medway are in neighbouring Dartford, so there is already immense pressure on provision and it will be essential to get the education infrastructure in place at an early stage.

Dartford Grammar School has not only expanded its intake by 30 to 150 boys this year it has turned away 146 grammar qualified applicants who put it first choice, to take top spot for popularity amongst grammar schools. Leigh Academy keeps its top spot in Kent for non-selective schools, having rejected 106 first choices. Dartford Girls Grammar turned away 89, with three other Dartford schools also heavily oversubscribed. These are Wilmington Academy (44), and the two Wilmington Grammar Schools, the Boys having extended its intake by 30 but still being 28 places oversubscribed. Wilmington Girls is full for the first time in some years, turning away 20 grammar qualified first choices. 

Elsewhere, as usual the pressure on boys’ grammar school places is very high in West Kent,.......

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I have now received further data from Kent County Council and Medway Council regarding secondary school places for September. Now that children have been allocated to schools using the co-ordinated admission process, it is possible to see the pattern of oversubscription, and schools where there are too many empty spaces. This pattern will change significantly between now and September, because some children will secure places off waiting lists, over six hundred will win places on appeal, and others will go off to private schools, often where they have been disappointed by the school offered. I have previously published the general admission statistics for Kent and Medway. You can find last year's pattern to compare here

I have tried to look at the key areas, notably: Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover and Folkestone, Medway, Sittingbourne, Thanet and West Kent, together with a list of those grammar schools with vacancies. However, first a look at the ten most popular  grammar and non-selective schools, the most popular school having more than doubled its level of oversubscription in rising from eighth place last year. Yet many people will never have heard of it, let alone know where it is.

brompton academy

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This is my second annual analysis of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries. You will find the 2013 figures here

I now have official details of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries to take up secondary school places for 2013 entry and, as in previous years it gives a very different picture from the more lurid headlines on this issue. I have divided the cross border movement into four sections below: Medway; North West Kent; West Kent & South Kent. I don't have precise figures for which part of the county children live in so some of these figures are best estimates. The headline figures are: 602 (589 in 2013) children from out of Kent are taking up places in Kent secondary schools, with 441 (436) coming the other way, figures very similar to 2013 & 2012. For Medway it is 188 in and 111 out. But don't jump to conclusions. Read the following:...

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This article is being updated as fresh information is received. You will find the parallel article on Kent here.

This is a fairly brief article on secondary transfer, as Medway Council is rather grudging in its release of information this year, possibly because the number of Medway children getting their first choice school has fallen sharply from 86.0% in 2013 (similar to previous years) to 81.2% for 2014 entry - claimed by Medway Council to be nearly 82% (more problems with arithmetic!).  For 2013 admission the number of children allocated a school place by Medway Council (i.e. offered none of their choices) more than doubled over previous years to 3.2%; this year it has worsened further, increasing to over 4%.  I also take the opportunity to look at the recently published Chatham Grammar School for Boys OFSTED Monitoring Inspection. The Medway press release in full reads:......

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This is a summary of a more comprehensive article that appears elsewhere in this website, prepared for Kent on Sunday 

The face of secondary education in Kent is changing rapidly as government decisions allow popular schools to offer additional places to meet demand. In Kent, with 75% of secondary schools either academies or in the process of change, this freedom is producing dramatic results. 

In 2013, schools created an additional 352 places by temporary or permanent expansion, most high profile being the West Kent grammars, where Judd, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar and Weald of Kent Grammar each admitted an additional class of entry. Less prominent were Skinners Kent Academy (30 more children) and Bennett Memorial School (16 children). Most of these schools have not declared their intentions for admission next September, so parents are left uncertain of their chances of winning places at their school of choice. Parental choice is of course even greater this year as the Trinity Free School in Sevenoaks joins the Kent admission scheme. I anticipate that within two years this mix will also see the arrival of the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks.

The three new Free Schools, Trinity, Wye Free School, and Hadlow Rural Community School added a further 240 places, creating a total expansion of nearly 600 new places.

Not surprisingly, this saw KCC able to claim the highest proportion of satisfied families in recent years, with a record high of 84% of children getting their first choice school.

I anticipate that this trend will continue, as even more of the popular schools choose to admit more children, giving them additional finance and clout in the educational world.

Already for 2014 entry, with some of these schools making their enlargements permanent, and others joining them, I count 525 additional places confirmed since 2012, with another 140 probable and others expected to join this great monopoly game......

Published in Newspaper Articles

Government introduced new flexibility into the number of places each secondary school could offer for 2013, and many popular Kent schools responded positively with hundreds of families being pleasantly surprised to receive offers at schools they were not expecting. 

For 2014, the situation has changed further and considerably, some of the changes being confirmed, others removed and more having made increases, or in a few cases decreases, in their numbers. Further, we can be sure that some schools will once again increase their admission number when and only when they see their application numbers.

I have identified below those changes that are confirmed, although several are subject to further change before March. There is also the additional factor for a number of non-selective schools which, knowing they may lose children in the post allocation churn, mop up any appellants before the appeals take place. See article on appeals below

There are three major consequences of these changes:

1)  Parents can’t be sure when making application decisions, if the number of places advertised for a school will be increased by the school after applications go in. This can only happen in the case of an academy, free school or a Foundation or Voluntary Aided School who are their own admission authorities.  

2)  This pattern both of uncertainty and lack of similar historical patterns makes it more difficult for parents in some areas to make logical choices.

3)  For schools, government policy allowing popular schools to expand has the mirror consequence that those at the bottom of the pile are likely to spiral into further decline in numbers. I anticipate that as a result there will be closures within a couple of years.

A detailed breakdown of the known changes follows.....

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  • Fort Pitt, Holcombe and Rochester Grammar Schools: Schools Adjudicator Rejects Admission Criteria as Unlawful

    The Schools Adjudicator, responsible for deciding on school admission policy disputes, has ruled that the determined admission arrangements for 2019 for these three schools are in breach of the Schools Admissions Code and ordered them to be changed. This will ensure that the new rules are fairer to local children or, in the case of The Rochester Grammar School, that more appropriately qualified girls are admitted.

    Three other schools acknowledged the validity of my complaint at an early stage and withdrew their proposals. These were: Brompton Academy, Hundred of Hoo Academy and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School.

    Medway Council, with oversight of school admission rules published on its website, neither took action to block the unlawful proposals (if indeed they noticed them), nor bothered to express a view on their legality to the Schools Adjudicator when invited. There has been just one complaint about a Kent school's proposals since 2012 (relating to In-Year Admissions), as KCC monitors proposed changes. 

    To look at the decisions in detail follow the links: Fort Pitt; Holcombe Grammar; The Rochester Grammar, with my analysis below.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 13 September 2018 20:15 4 comments Read 2646 times
  • Academy News: September 2018

    I am afraid this regular update is well overdue because of pressures elsewhere. I will be publishing a second article shortly (I hope) but this one is primarily about new and proposed academies and the increasing practice of re-assigning academies to other Trusts when there has been a break down of performance in some way. 

    Panorama, 10th September: Financial Mismanagement in Academy Trusts
    This is a subject that I have explored many times in these pages, most commonly in the scandal of Lilac Sky Academy Trust and more recently with The SchoolsCompany Academy Trust. I have enclosed a comment outlining the issues with the two Trusts at the foot of this page. 

    Another ten schools have become academies this year, bringing the Kent total to 89% out of 101 secondary schools including applications in progress, and 37% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 54 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest conversions below, along with new applications to become academies, and a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.

    The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 10 September 2018 23:42 Be the first to comment! Read 258 times
  • Private Schools Coaching for Grammar Entrance

    This is an updated and revised version of a story I wrote as the events below unfolded 

    The BBC excitedly revealed the results of ‘an exclusive undercover investigation’ on Monday last. This had discovered to no one’s surprise that private schools depending on a high rate of pupils securing grammar school places for their existence prepare those pupils for the Kent Test. You will find on the BBC website here a much watered down version of the original headline grabbing, anti-grammar school story which dominated the channel and Radio Kent for two days leading up to the Kent Test. The programme was followed the next day by another ‘lead story’ which also recycled and expanded on remarks by Robert Halfon, MP and Chairman of the Government Select Committee on Education, several months earlier but presented as breaking news. This also criticised KCC for creating ‘confusion’ by not knowing how a Review it had commissioned into coaching would turn out! 

    The two BBC employees who have taken the trouble to express their great unhappiness about the story to me confidentially, are completely in the right. The new anodyne website version which completely loses the initial hysteria is surely an implicit acknowledgement of the error of judgement.  

    The BBC 'revelation’ about private school coaching can hardly come as news to anyone who has had dealings with or enquired about admissions to private primary schools for possible entry over the past decade or so. Many of these schools owe their existence to their ‘success rate’ in seeing pupils secure places at grammar schools, whether or not they contributed to it. They will charge families up to £10,000 p.a. to maximise chances, advertising their achievements through websites and in the media .

    It is most unfortunate that the BBC item was published this week in particular, attracting a large amount of media coverage in the run up to Thursday’s Kent Test. For it, and the subsequent media comment swirling around about grammar school matters in general, would have been an unnecessary distraction for many of the families whose children sat the test.

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    Written on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 09:50 2 comments Read 437 times
  • Paul Carter and Grammar School Numbers

    Revised 1st September

    Paul Carter, Leader of KCC had an important interview with The Times published on Monday, along with commentary by the newspaper which can be found here.  He expresses concern that the proportion of pupils admitted to Kent’s 32 grammar schools has risen to well over the 25% target set by the Council, which risks weaken­ing the specialist purpose of grammar schools and is damaging to non-select­ive schools nearby, diluting the quality of their intake. This is down primarily to the operation of the school admission appeals process in some schools, the expansion of planned grammar school places not keeping pace with the general rise in numbers of the school population.

     I have written my own analysis of the situation earlier this year, but went further and explored the reasons why the proportion of Year 7 Kent grammar school pupils had risen to 31.7% from 30.3% between 2012 and 2017, and why it was in any case above 25%.

    Paul’s article, whilst showing unhappiness about the situation, identifies his own reasons for the increased proportion but gives no indication there is an appetite to wind back the proportion of children going on to grammar school. Indeed, I don’t believe that with the loss of control by KCC to individual academies this would be possible.

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    Written on Thursday, 30 August 2018 20:12 Be the first to comment! Read 388 times
  • Falling Rolls,Year 10 through to GCSE

    On Tuesday, The Times newspaper headlined a story about schools removing pupils or encouraging them to leave in the run up to GCSE, followed by two pages of analysis inside the paper. This is an issue I have followed closely in recent years, mainly from the viewpoint of numbers of children being Home Educated and Permanently Excluded, most recently here.

    Medway UTC 1


    This article explores schools where the roll has fallen way above the norm over this period. On average 2% of Kent children leave mainstream schools in Years 10 and 11, and 4% in Medway, raising the question of why this should happen at all. Surprisingly, the schools losing the most pupils are generally different between 2016-17 and 2017-18, suggesting that none have a consistent policy to remove pupils unlikely to do well before GCSE, although several have extremely high levels of ‘Elective’ Home Education. This is contrary to the examples given in The Times.

    For the cohort taking GCSE in 2018, the five biggest losses of pupils were: were: Medway UTC 25%; New Line Learning and Victory (Medway) Academies 13%; Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy 10% and Robert Napier School (Medway) 9% the only school to appear in the lists for both years. In 2017 they were: Orchards Academy 17%; Brompton and Strood Academies (both Medway) 12%; Ebbsfleet Academy and Thamesview School 11%. In all cases that is three or more pupils on average from every class. Below I give a fuller list for each year.

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    Written on Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:38 1 comment Read 289 times
  • GCSE Results and Admission to Sixth Forms

    GCSE results out yesterday have provided considerable speculation as to the effect of the changes. What follows is a very personal view, parts of which were shared in an interview on ITV Meridian last evening. I conclude with a brief consideration of applications to school Sixth Form courses, also looking at certain illegal practices, amazingly including further malpractice at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls.

    It is my opinion, shared  by many others, that GCSE students are the victims of yet another of a series of pointless changes. These appear to me to have no virtue whatever, as explained below. However, whatever has been thrown at them, my congratulations go out to those that have achieved their aims at GCSE and my commiserations to those who have not.

    Sadly, the latest changes are yet another massage of GCSE structure and assessment methods to enable the latest in a line of governments to try and convince us that something is being done to improve standards.

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    Written on Friday, 24 August 2018 23:17 1 comment Read 515 times