The key statement in the School Case to the Appeal Panel is as follows:
This curriculum is designed for the top 25% of the ability range. Students below this level would struggle to engage with the curriculum and its delivery. Therefore, students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School. Any score around the 100 mark, (50th percentile) indicates average. A score below 100 suggests that there may be difficulty in that area unless there are mitigating circumstances.The school case is signed off by Mr Gwynn Bassan, Executive Principal, April 2018.
The problem is that this Case uses data applicable to the Kent Test, very different from the Medway Test, and so seriously flawed. The issues are explained in detail here. As a result this sets a bar far higher than the Medway Test as the two are not comparable in any way. Kent data would however be familiar to the Appeal Panel provided by Kent County Council after the previous Panel understandably withdrew and it appears from Appeal notes that at no point was the discrepancy explained.
'It is unfortunate that Mr Bassam, in the school statement, fails to understand the scoring system of the Medway Test, claiming that a score of 100 is that of the average child, and so a score of under 100 is unacceptable. In fact, it is the score of the average Medway child taking the Medway Test, which is very different. Indeed, a child with a score under 100 in all three tests, can qualify for Holcombe Grammar School under the Medway Test arrangements. Mr Bassam also falsely claims on this basis that ‘Therefore, students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School.’ This is the role of the appeal panel and he therefore denies the role of the appeal panel to come to their own opinion on this matter. Can you please confirm that Mr Bassam or his representative will be correcting these mistakes at each appeal, so the Appeal Panel is not misled?'
After an initial hiccup when the school could not even find its own copy of the school case, and asked me to provide it (!) I received the following:
'Mr Bassan understands the scoring of the Medway Test very clearly and did not refer to 100 as being the score of an average child. The Panel asked him for the highest score from a case in each category and the lowest score so that they could make an informed decision of the ability of the child'.
Of course, this is a false claim as the school case, signed by Mr Bassan, explicitly states that Any score around the 100 mark, (50th percentile) indicates average, also highlighted in his statement above. I can see no way that asking for a highest and lowest score can enable a Panel to make an informed decision on ability of a specific
Not surprisingly, I took my FOI to the next Stage of Internal Review, writing:
‘I do not understand how Mr Bassan can deny what he put explicitly in writing. Further, you make it clear he did not correct this mistake in writing. …I remain unclear from your response whether this is a misunderstanding of the Medway Test scoring system, or a deliberate attempt to mislead the Panel. I cannot see an alternative explanation for this statement, but am happy to receive one. It is unfortunate you have chosen not to respond to my challenge about: “Mr Bassam also falsely claims on this basis that ‘’Therefore, students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School’’’.
On 9th July, I received a Response that at last acknowledged ‘that the case from Mr Bassan does clearly state that “Any score around the 100 mark, (50th percentile) indicates average”. I have clarified with Mr Bassan and he has confirmed that this was an error in the letter’. Actually, it is the central part of the case (not a letter)! No mention of the false claims denying this in between, or any hint of apology to anyone.
The internal Review then claims that Mr Bassan provided the accurate information verbally to the panel at the appeals hearing, as the Reviewer confirmed by looking at the Minutes of appeal meetings. ‘These minutes support the verbal case Mr Bassan provided the panel and it has been recorded that Mr Bassan outlines in his case the average scores for each paper: 105 for English; 108 for maths and 106 for reasoning. In addition, the panel asked on a number of occasions the highest and lowest scores achieved by students who had been allocated a place. Therefore, the panel had a very accurate picture of the type of scores students who passed the 11+ achieved’.
I have copies of four sets of Notes (they are not Minutes) of Appeal Meetings. There is no mention in any of these that Mr Bassan supplied the accurate information, or in any way acknowledged that the Case for the School was untrue! Nor is there any reference to the claim about average scores. Nor is it the recollection of these families that such statements were made. I suppose it could be a remarkable coincidence that these sets of parents were singled out not to be told the truth! I can see from the wording chosen in the response that Mr Bassan may have outlined the average scores for each paper on one occasion (although all families are entitled to the same information), but I can see no way that either this or knowing highest and lowest scores benefits the decision making of the appeal panel.
Even the conclusion that ‘the panel had a very accurate picture of the type of scores students who passed the 11+ achieved’, is false. The lowest score of any student ‘who passed the 11+’ was of course the pass mark of 495. According to a separate FOI, there was just one appeal heard from a boy who had been found selective, so there is no way the Panel could form ‘a very accurate picture of the type of scores students who passed the 11+ achieved’ from this one case. There is no record that they asked for other such cases.
The Internal Review ends with: ‘I have finally reviewed the successful appeals that have been allocated and can also report that 2 successful applicants were supported who had scores below 100 which supports the view that the panel did not reject appeals on the basis you have identified. I therefore conclude that the written statement provided by the school is misleading however that at the appeal meeting the verbal presentation was correct and the panel understood this and therefore I do not support your view that this was deliberate’.
There is no recorded verbal presentation supporting this conclusion in the notes I have examined. I have never claimed the written statement was deliberately misleading; I put it down as one of two alternatives and asked which. I can only therefore conclude this is an admission of failure to understand. There were three successful appeals from boys who had not passed. Two had scores below 100, so one had all scores 100 or more, so he must have passed. Just a minor mistake compared to the others!
This response confirms my initial view that the Case for the School was misleading, arose because the author of it did not understand how the Medway Test operates, as supported by the subsequent and contradictory attempts to explain it away.
The above failures surely invalidate the whole appeal process, whilst the attempts to cover up this shocking situation surely reflect a culture that permeates previous controversial failures by the Trust relating to Holcombe Grammar School, as described here. Still, with the current lack of academy accountability, presumably Holcombe Grammar School and the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, ably supported by Medway Council, will simply march on to the next controversy.