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Monday, 04 February 2019 12:11

Medway Test Analysis for 2019 Admission: Review fails Medway children again

The problems with the Medway grammar school selection process just keep recurring, with the Medway Review procedure proving yet again to be not fit for purpose. You will find an analysis of outcomes below. 

The headline is once again the failure of the Review procedure, with  the Council announcing as always that up to 2% of the cohort of Medway children would be successful at Review, in addition to the 23% who passed the Medway Test directly. In the event, just four children from 159 hopeful Medway families that went to Review were successful for 2019 admission, just 0.12% of the cohort. What a farce, being short of the target by 63 children, but a very sad one for all those who falsely thought they were in with a chance. Not one of the 43 candidates from local private schools or outside of Medway was successful at Review.  

It is also an indictment of the work of Medway Primary schools according to the Review Panels which are made up of local secondary headteachers, who found work submitted by local primary schools to be so poor that almost no further children were found worthy of a grammar school place through the process from the 159 considered. 

Sadly, it gets even worse for those families. The School Admission Code of Practice rules that children who are unsuccessful at a Review process cannot have an appeal upheld unless there has been unfairness in the process (rarely proven). There are a few exceptions as explained below, but for the majority of the 155 families unsuccessful at Review, there is now no chance of winning an Appeal.

The two areas of bias in the Medway Test remain: older pupils do much better than those born towards the end of the school year; and girls do better than boys.

 Please note that nothing in this article is relevant to admission to Kent grammar schools. 

 Medway Grammar Selection Outcomes
2018 for 2019 Admission (Medway State Schools)
  2018 2017
Medway Number % Number %
Pupils in Year 6 3361 100% 3286 100%
Took Test 1870 55.63% 1785 54.32%
Passed Test 774 23.0% 756 23.01%
Went for Review 159 4.75% 161 4.90%
Review Upheld 4 0.12% 12 0.37%
Total Selective 778 23.1% 768 23.37%

The Review procedure is explained in full hereYou will find additional information in the relevant article for 2018 entry here and below, information about appeals and the practices of individual schools. You will find success rates at appeal for previous years here.  

The 202 families who went to Review started by filling in a form requiring them to set out their reasons why their child was of grammar school ability, often at great length and creating considerable emotional stress. However, although these forms were presented to the Review Panel of headteachers, they  completely ignored all submissions under instruction from the Council which rules it is no part of what is called an 'academic process'. Instead decisions were made on an assessment of work submitted by the schools, usually chosen by them with great care to put the child in the best light. This work apparently proved so poor that almost no further children were considered worthy of a grammar school place, even though the Panel was charged with finding up to 67 from Medway alone who met the standard! 

The Medway Council website clearly outlines the consequences of an unsuccessful Review for a subsequent Independent Appeal Panel to apply : If your child's test has been reviewed: Where a local review has taken place, the panel must only consider whether the child’s review was carried out in a fair, consistent and objective way. If there's evidence that this isn't the case, the panel must follow the process above. So, only if the Review is demonstrably unfair, inconsistent or subjective can an Appeal Panel consider other matters.  As can be seen below, the policy of each school’s Independent Appeal Panel, guided by the school, varies and could change again for 2019, often influenced by demand for places. You will find the pattern and level of demand for 2018 admissions and appeal outcomes here.  

 Medway Grammar Selection Outcomes
2018 for 2019 Admission (Private, OOC & EHE )
  2018 Number 2017 Number
Took  Test 1395 1171
Total Passed Test 921 730
Went for Review 43 54
Review Upheld 0 0
Review Panel Outcomes
Review Panels, theoretically made up from headteachers at Medway secondary schools, were able to find the work of just four children out of 202 applicants to be of a grammar school standard, although charged with a target of 67 from Medway alone.  This is either a massive indictment by local secondary headteachers of the work of Medway primary schools (and local private schools and those outside Medway), or else the result of a determination to keep down numbers being admitted to grammar school (or both). As in previous years, several families are reported to have received identical reports on their children's work, showing an amazing coincidence or shoddy work by the Panel.
You will find a full explanation of the Review process, its constraints and its outcomes in recent years here. The success rate at Review has been falling annually since 2014 and 
Medway Test and Review 2014-2018
2014 20.56% 1.07% 21.63%
2015 20.75% 0.95% 21.70%
2016 23.12% 0.73% 23.85%
2017 23.01% 0.37% 23.37%
2018 22.66% 0.12% 22.78%
Admission Appeal Panel Practices with Regard to Review at Individual Schools  
The following Appeal Panel outcomes applied for 2018 admission, relating to the rule that appeals for children who have had an unsuccessful Review cannot be found successful at appeal unless the parents can prove the process was unfair. It is for each Independent Appeal Panel to decide how they will apply the Code with regard to the Medway Review in 2019, but each will be advised by the school during the process.  
Chatham Grammar Girls – Ignores the rule.
Fort Pitt Grammar – Has consistently applied the Rule.
Holcombe Grammar  – Impossible to know following the 2018 shambles, but I suspect the Panel will be encouraged to follow the Rule (see below).
Rainham Mark Grammar - Has consistently applied the Rule.
Sir Joseph Williamson’s – Has usually applied the rule, except for some years with strong cases.
The Rochester Grammar - Has consistently applied the Rule but, given its Damascene conversion to support disadvantaged children, could possibly change for 2019 (I think this unlikely).
Holcombe Grammar School
The chaos of the 2018 appeals is typified by the written defence statement, signed and prepared by the Presenting Officer, Director of Secondary Education for the Thinking Schools Academy Trust. This confused the Kent and Medway selection processes, the Trust then denying a false version had been presented as the Presenting Officer knew the facts, then accepting it was true as the paperwork proved it, then falsely claiming that a verbal correction had been made at each appeal. Needless to say, there has been no acknowledgement of fault or apology. 

For the first time in fourteen years advising families, I have no idea whatsoever what policy a school will follow with regard to unsuccessful Review matters or indeed any other matter relating to school appeals in 2019. There is no mention of the issue on the school’s Appeals Guidance, although the subject of Review is referred in several places and it states falsely that: This process will identify (equivalent of 2% of the Medway cohort) students who will then be assessed as suitable for a Medway Grammar school’. 

Bias in Favour of Girls and Older Children
The bias in favour of older children looks very similar to the outcomes of the 2017 Test, with older children being disproportionately found selective at the expense of those born in the last quarter of the school year. The proportion of girls passing the Medway Test is once again higher than that for boys at 23.6% against 22.4%, although has narrowed over the past two years, possibly because of a change of Test provider. Both are  issues I have repeatedly raised over the years, seemingly without anyone at Medway Council, or local headteachers caring.
Selective Places by Gender and Birth Year Quarter
Boys Girls Total
Overall % Found Selective 22.5% 23.7% 23.4%
1st Quarter Selective 24.3% 27.7% 25.9%
2nd Quarter Selective 21.5% 24.9% 23.2%
3rd Quarter Selective 20.6% 25.2% 23.0%
4th Quarter Selective 21.1% 20.2% 20.6%

I have also monitored outcomes from the Kent Test over the same period, but there is no similar pattern in either factor – unsurprising as Multiple Choice Tests are designed to remove the latter bias through the age standardisation process. However, what the Kent test shows is that girls tend to perform better in English and boys in mathematics, which cancel each other out.    

If all three tests were properly age standardised then there should be little variation in outcomes through the year. However, the English Test is not a multiple choice assessment, instead being designed by local schoolteachers removing the facility to be able to standardise in the same way.  This is likely to be one reason for the irregularities, with older children more mature and able to respond to literacy questions. The other is that the Medway Test is locally standardised taking the children from Medway alone to set the standard. The Kent Test takes a much wider national sample to compare performance against. The statistical theory of these shows the wider sample to be much more reliable. 



Last modified on Wednesday, 26 February 2020 12:13


  • Comment Link Thursday, 21 February 2019 12:06 posted by Jack

    I am almost too angry to write this. How dare Medway Council inflict such pressure on families by luring them into false hopes, believing there is a chance for success, only to discover it was never there and we have now been ruled out of winning an appeal.
    We only know this because we came across your website Peter. This article should be sent to all parents and councillors to show what an appalling Authority is Medway Council. Still nothing will be done so what is the point.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 20 February 2019 15:17 posted by Angry Parent

    I was one of those whose son was turned down as we had failed at Review, following 'the rule'. My friend's son was found of grammar school ability after failing at Review, but not offered a place as he was put on the waiting list. The waiting list was cancelled and he had no place. Peter, after your publicity, it was put back but he was still not given a place and is also now at secondary school. We think I was the more fortunate with none of the grief that followed. What a disgrace. It is obvious that no one will touch TSAT schools, looking at all the scandals you have exposed there.

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