However, there is a much fuller sixteen page document here, for those who wish to persevere.
It would be boring to re-iterate all the arguments against this proposal, which you will find in previous articles on this website, most recently here. These were also made by nearly all the other secondary schools in Medway outside TSAT, accompanied by a strong challenge from Medway Council which you will find here, together with concerns expressed by local politicians. However, it is worth looking at the new case put forward to parents for the change of gender composition.
1) At the moment, parents of children deemed selective who live in this part of Medway can only ‘choose’ a single sex grammar school as there is currently no co-educational option. That is unfair. A ridiculous argument. There is currently one co-educational grammar school in Medway, Rainham Mark Grammar, which gives equal access to children across Medway recruiting the highest scorers, so the assertion is untrue. With the other boys’ grammar school in Medway, Sir Joseph Williamson’s in Rochester heavily oversubscribed, with pupils living nearest it having priority, such a change would deprive many local boys of any opportunity to go to a single sex grammar school.
2) We have the capacity to provide enough places for every boy and girl who wants one. Currently the school is full in Year 7. In order to keep a gender balance the school would therefore need to double its size in order to provide enough places. Are the premises really half empty? Not mentioned is the increasing pressure from London families for grammar school places which is growing rapidly and annually. For entry this year, 13% of offers in March went to out of county children, a figure that will have increased further through late applications and appeals. I have no doubt that this trend will continue and accelerate with no ceiling, so to promise to admit every grammar qualified (an important omission in the proposal) child who apllies is foolish. Further, the full Consultation Document falsely claims the following admission figures, stating:
"Firstly, the School has been consistently under-subscribed for several years and the numbers of applications have been consistently lower than Medway forecasts".
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The school 'actual' figures for applications omits any reference to late applicants and boys admitted on appeal. I have demonstrated the dishonesty of this argument by including an additional column called 'Census Reality' showing the true number of boys admitted, the 2016 estimated figure taking account of the number of successful appeals this year. The word 'applications' is itself very misleading, and should have been replaced by 'offers', which refers to grammar qualified boys who were offered places on 1st March, including boys who placed the school first to fifth on their preference lists. Altogether there were 325 grammar qualified applications or preferences for Holcombe Grammar School. Why does a successful Academy Trust need to produce misleading data and arguments in this way, to bolster its arguments: answer, the arguments do not hold up to challenge.
3) There is substantial research which shows that students who are educated in a co-educational school achieve well academically. Now they are really struggling. Whilst this is self-evidently true for students in many co-educational schools, it appears to be suggesting that boys in single sex grammar schools do not achieve well academically. This thought (one can hardly call it an argument) appears to be based on a quite bizarre quotation from 2008, used in the full Consultation Document as evidence of something:
Baumeister (2008): “Many boys and girls do fine with co-ed schools. But some do better in same-sex schools. Society can benefit from choice and diversity. Let's offer both co-ed and same-sex schools".
This proves nothing, so why remove the opportunity to attend a single sex boys school from all children in the Eastern half of Medway, and most of the Hoo Peninsula. Roy F. Baumeister(born May 16, 1953) is an American social psychologist who is known for his work on the self,social rejection, belongingness, sexuality and sex differences.
4) There is substantial research which shows that students who attend a co-educational school go on to experience happier and better balanced lives.This claim appears based on a paper from researchers quoted in the full Consultation document. The paper concludes in the section on Social outcomes in Later Life that: "Single-sex schooling appeared to have no impact on the likelihood of marriage or childbearing, or on the quality of partnerships as reported by the cohort members. Neither did it appear to affect the division of labour within the home, nor attitudes to women’s work outside the home. However, men who had attended single-sex schools were more likely to be divorced by age 42". This hardly lives up to the claim quoted.
5) An increasing number of schools nationally are seeing the advantages of the Thinking school strategies we employ here and are implementing them. This includes a number of Medway primary schools. By opening our doors to girls we provide female students at those primary schools with another Thinking School secondary option (Please note that the two best grammar schools for GCSE 2016, according to DfE performance tables October 2016, were the two ‘Thinking Schools’, namely the Rochester Grammar School and Holcombe.) Any school can apply to become a “thinking school” but there are just 30 schools in England who have chosen and been accredited to become Thinking Schools, of whom 16 are secondary schools, and 6 are Kent or Medway grammars. Just two of the secondary schools were initially credited in 2016, and four in 2015. Is this really an increasing number, especially as I am aware of at least one school that has withdrawn from the scheme?
It is unfortunate that the Holcombe Grammar School's Prospectus and Admissions website page is so out of date that it is in fact illegal as it does not contain the approved oversubscription criteria for 2017 Admission, and the Prospectus is for 2014/15 Admission. However, the 'Holcombe Admission Consultation 2017 (subject to co-ed proposal being approved)' which of course has now been discarded indicates the direction of travel, with admission priority being given to children attending TSAT Primary schools or with siblings at TSAT secondary schools. This cartel approach is also being adopted by the other two major Medway academy chains as I have explained previously, and will have a major REDUCTION in opportunity for Medway children applying to grammar school. Oddly, The Rochester Grammar School sees no reason to be involved. Presumably this proposal is also aimed at improving the popularity of three TSAT primary schools, Cedar Children's Academy, New Horizons Children's Academy, and The Gordon Children's Academy, all of whom struggle to attract pupils amidst the intense pressure on places across urban Medway. The fourth, All Faith's Children's Academy, continues to be oversubscribed.
No mention in the GCSE results claim that Rochester Grammar ought to be the top school in Medway at GCSE by virtue of its super selection by performance at 11 plus. The success of Holcombe in terms performance is underlined by its coming second out of the six grammar schools in terms of the government's new preferred Measure, Progress 8, although by comparison it would come exactly midway in the table of Kent grammar schools (Rochester would be third). Holcombe came 4th out of six in the second measure, Attainment 8. Having said all this, I have spent much of the morning when writing an update with a well-informed Holcombe parent. He has extolled the virtues of the Thinking School concept when compared with another grammar school his elder child attends.
There is a much better way to improve the balance of provision in Medway that appears not to have been considered by TSAT. If The Rochester Grammar School were to become co-educational, there would be two boys’ grammars and two girls’ grammars giving equality of opportunity, set off by two co-educational grammar schools one at each end of Medway offering opportunities for all. Can I propose this for consideration by TSAT as a much better solution to a problem that appears to worry them, but no one else.