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Wednesday, 21 March 2018 04:21

Oversubscription and Review in Medway Grammar Schools for Admission in September 2018

Update: I at last have the data for the significant number of places offered to pupils from outside Medway, and have incorporated this below.  

Kent Grammar Schools hereMedway Non-Selective places here.

157 new places have created in Medway grammar schools for entry in 2018 over and above original 2017 figure of 942, and 15% of the total. However, the 993 places allocated to children at the six grammars has fallen slightly from the 1003 of 2017, as explained below. Meanwhile the proportion and number of Medway children eligible for grammar school dipped sharply to 23.4% against a target of 25%, the gap totally explained by the failure of the Medway Review process. Just one school, Chatham Grammar Girls, has vacancies, with the number of offers for the school at this stage nearly halved whilst four other schools, headed by The Rochester Grammar School and Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, are heavily oversubscribed with first choices. I look at the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

Chatham Girls

Slightly fewer out of County(ooc) children were offered places at Medway grammar schools than in 2017, at 993, or 19% of the total. The majority of these were for Chatham Girls, Holcombe and Rochester Grammar, mainly coming from Kent, Greenwich and Bexley.  

Just 12 children attending Medway state schools were successful at Review out of the 161 who applied. This amounts to a total of 0.37% of the cohort against a target of 2% being added to the original 23% who passed directly, with none from private or out of Medway schools. This means that the this highly stressful and flawed process of Review is now becoming almost meaningless, and 52 Medway children have been deprived of grammar school places at this stage, the empty spaces being filled by out of county children. 

Rochester Grammar        SJWMS1
        

Strangely, Medway Council is unlawfully blocking Medway children who did not apply for grammar school places initially, from making late applications or taking the Medway Test. This shows clear discrimination against its own children, as it allows out of county children to do so, with a large amount of late testing currently taking place. Surely Medway Councillors must sometime take responsibility for the operation of the education department for which they are accountable, with so many failures documented on this site.

You will find preliminary information on Medway allocations here, and last year's article here

Medway Council Policy on Late Entry to Grammar Schools
Medway Council has a policy that Medway children who did not apply for grammar school during the normal admission time are not allowed subsequently to take the test, and so cannot apply late. This is unlawful as the Schools Code of Admission states: 'Any parent can apply for a place for their child at any time to any school outside the normal admissions round'. The Admissions Code rule is applied in Medway to out of county (ooc) children however, with a large number of candidates shortly to take the Medway Test. Of course, this means serious and unlawful discrimination against Medway children. Each year I am approached by families caught up in such muddles created by Medway Council. Bizarrely, I wrote last year of seven boys, mostly from Medway, who applied late to Holcombe Grammar and were allowed to take the Test late, which appears to contradict this year's interpretation!.  
 
Kent Test
The two Chatham grammar schools chose to accept a pass in the Kent Test as an alternative admission criterion some years ago, with just five being offered places at Chatham Girls and 16 at Holcombe Grammar. Again one has to ask if this is a worthwhile exercise especially as many if not most of these children will be ooc. 
 
Medway Numbers and Review
A previous item established that 756 children who attended Medway state schools, or exactly 23.0%, passed the Medway Test, another 34 coming from local private schools. The stressful and flawed Medway Review process, explained here added another 12 children from Medway schools (eight girls and four boys), with none from private schools or outside Medway.  Not for the first time  I have been shown two Review sheets containing identical written comments, prepared for children from different schools, presumably in the hope they would not be caught out. 
 
 Medway Test and Review Outcomes 2018
  Cohort
Passed
Test
Passed
Test %
Entered
Review
Passed
Review
Passed
Review %
Overall
Pass Rate
Medway  3286  756  23.01  161  12  0.37 23.38%
Medway Private  71  
 10  0
 0  
Outside Medway  659  44  0  0  
 
The target success rate is 25%, so 53 Medway children were deprived of grammar school places by the failure of the Review process. 
 
 
Offers across the Medway Boundary
The take up of places in the six Medway grammar schools from outside the District is very similar to 2017, at 185, or 19% of the total uptake. It is focused on three schools, Chatham Girls, Holcombe Grammar and Rochester Grammar, as explained below. As one would expect, the majority come from Kent, 109 pupils and, I suspect, most will take up those places in September. The next highest cohort of 34 children comes from Greenwich and, as far as the two two Chatham grammars are concerned, I believe are there because they have failed to gain entrance to the nearer grammar schools in Gravesend or Dartford. This is also probably true of the 21 from Bexley. Rochester Grammar may be different as it carries a cachet for some families, willing to see their daughters travel long distances daily from the age of eleven to take advantage of what is on offer. But what about the: three from Croydon; three from Newham; and three from Thurrock. 
 
15 Medway children have been offered places at nine grammar schools across the boundary, the largest number of five being to Invicta Grammar in Maidstone. 
 
Individual Grammar Schools
Chatham Grammar School for Girls
The school has had a recent roller coaster ride with admissions. Three years ago, they admitted just 93 girls into Year 7 although it had an intake figure of 142, after a disastrous decision to limit the school to three forms of entry, placing a cap on appeals. That cohort number has now fallen to 85. In 2016, the intake rose to 114, then for 2017 admission the school was adopted by London families as a stop gap grammar school who found nothing nearer, and its Year 7 roll is currently standing at 183 girls. The school has now made just 83 offers for 2018 entry, its lowest figure for three years, and now utterly dependent on the 26 ooc girls allocated places, with 13 coming from Kent, seven from Greenwich and four from Bexley. The school had raised its Planned Admission Number (PAN) to 180 this year to cater for the large final number expected from outside Medway as in 2017, but they have not come.  Fewer than half of the total offers were for first choices, so some may well fade away. I am guessing that a larger number than usual may be successful at appeal! Meanwhile, the school, having given responsibility for admissions to Medway Council, is unable to accept much needed late applications from Medway girls although this decision is unlawful - what a mess! It is now essentially run by the non-selective Brompton Academy as part of the University of Kent Academy Trust.
 
Fort Pitt
I think FP is the only grammar school in Kent or Medway which has resolutely refused to increase its PAN from the 120 it has maintained for many years. The school should certainly have space to expand so if it wished, having reduced its PAN from 192, around ten years ago. It has been steadily losing popularity recently, but still turned away 17 grammar qualified first choices this year, down from 33 in 2017. The Independent Appeal Panel has never upheld more than four appeals in recent years.
 
Holcombe
Raised its PAN from 120 in 2017 to 150 this summer, following last year’s influx of out of county boys. It has just filled the 150 places, but with only 79 first choices, tailing away to 20 boys who placed it in 4th-6th place. These will include some of the 51 ooc boys, mainly from: Kent- 22: Bexley -13; and Greenwich- 10. It will inevitably lose some of these ooc places to schools nearer London, and others to Sir Joseph Williamson’s on appeal (see below). Has been mired in controversy over three issues in the past year. Given the numbers at Chatham Girls, this shows the failed proposal to become co-educational rejected by government last year was certainly not viable in the context of events elsewhere in Medway. Looking at new staffing arrangements, it appears the school is being taken over by the non-selective Victory Academy, also in the Thinking Schools Academy Trust.
 
Rainham Mark
This is the first year of the school’s switch away from super-selective to giving priority to local children. The number of first preferences has gone up and, pleasingly for school and local families I am sure, the number of disappointed first preferences has halved to 33, helped by the school increasing its intake from 205 to 235 children. With 226 first choices offered places and nine second, this is certainly a different pattern form previous years, which saw considerable numbers of ooc children gaining places. Appeal Panels have rarely awarded places to more than six children, almost exclusively those who have passed the Medway Test. Will they come up with a different approach with the new admission priorities?
 
Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School
Maintained last year’s increase on PAN from 180 to 203, turning away 54 grammar qualified first choices. It also gives priority to those living nearest, so it is no surprise that it offered to 192 first choices and 11 second. There is a usual pattern at appeals of around 20 boys being offered places and, with an admission pattern close to 2017, although the number of first choices has risen, I would anticipate a similar outcome. 
 
The Rochester Grammar School
Has kept its intake at 205 girls, as in 2017, 30 places above its PAN, and normally allowing a neat maximum of five places for appeal. Perhaps there is a growing sense of realism around as the level of first choice oversubscription has fallen from 87, to 55, but still the highest of the Medway grammars. The tail off of offers to the lower preferences up to number five, after the 186 first choices accepted is perhaps expected with 40% of them, or 81 girls coming from outside Medway. This includes 47 from Kent and 17 from Greenwich.
 
 
 
 
 
Last modified on Thursday, 21 June 2018 18:41

2 comments

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 27 March 2018 14:41 posted by Tina

    My daughter took the late Medway test for the 2017 intake and passed. She has been denied a grammar school place as they are all full and there is a long wait-list. The comprehensive she is attending in Medway does not meet her education needs and she is bullied for being bright. Medway Council have not been helpful and we have been left to our own devices to sort out. As a tax payer this makes me very angry. PETER: She are in the most unfortunate situation of being in the current Year 7, the only age group for many years in which every school is oversubscribed, with Chatham Girls having over 180 pupils in that Year Group. See my 1st February article: "School Vacancies according to the 2017 School Census for Kent and Medway". For 2018 they have only made 83 offers this month, so she would be welcomed in with open arms. Yes, Medway Council is too often unhelpful, but on this case the only advice they can give you is to apply (which is your legal right) and when turned down, to appeal. Chatham Girls is probably the least worst chance. Unfortunately, I cannot be optimistic about your chances. Sorry

  • Comment Link Thursday, 22 March 2018 17:18 posted by Kay

    Peter, would it not make sense for Chatham Grammar School for Girls to adopt the same position as Fort Pitt and restrict their PAN to around 120? They appear to struggle to meet their PAN every year, which in turn probably has a negative impact on their reputation making it harder to get the number of pupils they would like. PETER: But last year, the school admitted 183 girls, and presumably expected similar for 2018 entry!

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