Note: Chatham Grammar (no 'School in the title) is the new name for Chatham Grammar School for Girls.
First of all, notice the elementary mistake in this advertisement from a joint venture by a grammar school and a private tuition company based in Rochester, presumably designed to attract customers for both organisations who may wish to improve their spelling, amongst other skills.
This pales behind the bigger question. Should a grammar school be working with such a company, who are charging families for coaching for the Medway Test, or indeed for the Independent Examinations Board entrance tests for entry to fee-paying private schools? I find the whole concept highly dubious. So why is this partnership happening? The mis-spelling in the announcement of partnership appears on the Chatham Grammar Twitter Account for 30th September and I remain astonished the school hasn't removed it yet (it went on the 5th October!). This is just one of several announcements of the Partnership, although there are no clues as to what it means in practice.
The key benefit to the tuition companies is obvious, in that it gives them status to impress parents and encourage them to sign up and pay for courses. Also, see below. Is the school also offering expertise to private companies through the partnerships, to assist them to have a higher success rate into Chatham Grammar? Wouldn't this be grossly unfair to pupils not able to take advantage of the connections? What extra expertise in the Medway Test do the tuition companies need from Chatham Grammar when they have been preparing students for many years. Perhaps Chatham Grammar could advise on the RTC appeals advice section (for example pupils' work is never taken into consideration as claimed), although when the school gave such advice directly several years ago, it betrayed its own lack of understanding of the process.
These partnerships must surely have been approved by the Board of the University of Kent Academy Trust (UKAT) which runs Chatham Grammar but, looking at the high quality of membership, I am very surprised they have allowed it.
So what is the key benefit for Chatham Grammar? Quite simply the school is desperate to improve the size of its intake. For entry this year, only a hundred girls were offered places in Year Seven out of 180 available. The problem arises as there is a large surplus of grammar school places for girls in Medway and the decision of Rochester Grammar School to prioritise local girls will only exacerbate the problem. Just 57 girls offered places were from Medway, with17 of the 43 from outside Medway coming all the way from Greenwich, some of whom will not have taken up their places in September. However, to underline the pressure to fill places, 59 out of the 63 appeals were successful, which is an astonishing 94% of the total, against an average 23% across Kent and Medway grammars and a far higher percentage than any other local school in all the many years I have been dealing with school appeals. It will also beg the question for some as to whether Chatham Grammar is truly a selective school.
The Chatham Grammar Sixth Form is also in trouble, although the government has funded most if not all of a new £2.3 million sixth form teaching block, which will apparently enable the school to expand its Sixth Form from the 136 students of September 2019 to 200 (actually down even further to 134 in October 2020). The net loss of a third of the Year 11 cohort in each of the last two years is hardly an optimistic sign that the money has been well spent. With just 84 students in Year 11 last year, the 2020 figures for the Sixth Form are likely to look even bleaker.
To cover up the problem with numbers, the two UKAT schools Chatham and Brompton Academy are merging their Sixth Forms next summer, the advertising claims reaching amazing new heights: 'The two educational establishments, Chatham Grammar and Brompton Academy under the strategic direction of the University of Kent provides high quality learning opportunities, the like of which can only be offered by an established leading University'. Oddly, the Brompton Academy Sixth Form 'Welcome' does not even mention the collaboration with Chatham Grammar, although one would have thought it could be an added incentive for the students from this non-selective school.
These are set to take place shortly after this year's Medway Test takes place: 'The aim of these workshops is to introduce your child to the questions that are involved in the Medway 11+ Test and to also boost your child’s confidence and understanding of the types of tasks that are involved in the Medway 11+ Test. The workshops are charged at the incredible rate of £10.00 (non-refundable) as we are keen for as many young people as possible having access to this supportive and innovative intervention with no obstacles or barriers preventing participation - such as financial issues during this unprecedented time'. So, as well as winding up girls a year before they can take the Test by being allowed to take just one of these three brief 'workshops' (apparently not all three in view of high demand) presumably as an advertising ploy, families have to pay for the privilege. Perhaps this is what the partnership is about, with RTC providing the expertise, introducing their business to parents and taking the money!.
The New Entrants Creative Writing Competition is amongst other desperate advertising ploys on Twitter, making use of eleven-year-old girls who haven't yet joined the school by publishing cringemaking panegyrics they have written about Chatham Grammar. One can only speculate what the brief for the creative writing was.
What on earth has the school's leadership been about, since coming under the auspices of the University of Kent?
I have argued before that the solution to the imbalance of places is for Chatham Grammar to become co-educational, as it is in the sixth form. Perhaps the change of name was the first stage in this process.