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Sunday, 17 March 2019 20:33

Medway Council Scraps Testing for Late Applications to Grammar Schools

Some children of families who are amongst the many re-locating to Medway,  and local children who are late developers, may be denied  grammar school places this year as there is no facility to sit the Medway Test late, contrary to previous practice.  This is because the Council quietly changed its selection procedures last year so that only children who are registered at the correct time can ever sit the Medway Test, which takes place in September.

Medway

Late applicants are therefore effectively barred from being considered for Medway grammar school places which require a Medway Test outcome for admission (the two Chatham grammars have a secondary route via the Kent Test). Most grammar schools have not made arrangements to put an alternative form of testing in place for admission this September, the combination being contrary to Medway's own co-ordinated scheme for secondary admissions.    

 The consequences of this decision by Medway Council are wide ranging and may well spell the end of the Medway Test as an objective standard for grammar school entry in Medway, with each grammar school defining the standard and setting its own test for entry, as explored further below.  The last time I collected data for late sitters of the Medway Test was for admission in September 2017, when there were 80, 53 from within Medway, 27 from outside, including 16 applicants from the London Boroughs, of whom 47 were successful.  

Also, the Council has also been acting unlawfully for years in putting conditions on late admissions to other Medway schools, although these appear to have been withdrawn from 2020/21.

History Repeating Itself
Back in 2009, I wrote on this site:

Following my campaign to persuade Medway Council to open up opportunities for children to take the Medway test late, in order to qualify for nearly 100 vacant spaces at Chatham Grammar School for Boys, Chatham Grammar School for Girls and Fort Pitt Grammar School the Council confirmed that:

If parents wish their child to be considered for a place at a Medway Grammar school with places available, for example Chatham Grammar for Boys and Chatham Grammar for Girls, then they must have passed the Medway test. Any children due to start in year 7 this September, who have not yet taken the Medway test, can apply to our admissions team to sit the test at any point between now and early August. The last testing will take place in mid August for admission in September. 


Grammar School Testing

The relevant rule, according to the Council Digital Guide for Secondary Admissions 2019 states: ‘If you don't register for the test on time, your child will not be able to sit the test. You can't register at a later date and they won't be able to sit the test at a later date’, and which has been confirmed by the Council to me. 
This sanction  is surely unlawful as it cannot lawfully be enforced, being contrary to the statement in the legally binding Medway Council Co-ordinated Scheme for Secondary Admissions, Academic Year 2019/20’ which states: Any late registrations received after 13 July 2018 will not normally be able to be tested until after the allocation of places on 1 March 2019’. i.e. Late Testing CAN take place..
 
The School Admissions Code 2014 states at Para 2.21: ‘Any parent can apply for a place for their child at any time to any school outside the normal admissions round’. However, without testing any application for a grammar school place cannot be completed, according to the Admission Policies of all Medway grammar schools. 
 
The Council’s Co-ordinated Scheme for 2020/21 does give authority to this decision: Late registrations for exceptional circumstances and for families who have just moved into the area will be accepted up until the deadline date of late registrations shown in the Key scheme dates table’ (July 12th). Unfortunately, this only underlines the illegality of the procedure being introduced for 2019 entry.

The Council’s view is that they are acting lawfully, as parents can make late applications to grammar schools which then apply their own Testing procedures. However, schools that have not introduced this cannot set up such a scheme until 2021/22 entrance as they would have to change their admission policies. These need to go through a process which includes consultation before they can be applied,  For a variety of reasons they may choose not to in any case, thus removing the possibility of a late entry which would of course again be unlawful.

The main problem arises for Chatham Grammar School for Girls, Fort Pitt Grammar School and Rainham Mark Grammar which don't appear aware of the issue.The looseness of the arrangements for Holcombe Grammar, Rochester Grammar  and Sir Joseph Williamson's may allow them to set their own testing. As testing is currently a requirement to complete the application, Appeal Panels will not be able to  consider pupils who have not taken an admission Test
 
Currently none of  the three grammar schools above have a facility to offer their own testing scheme or other method of identifying a pupil, and wouldn't until at least 2021, the first year of entry for which they can change their admission criteria to accommodate this, unless directed otherwise by the Schools Adjudicator.
 
Chatham Grammar School for Girls and Holcombe Grammar School
These two schools already have an alternative entrance qualification, with admission allowed via a pass in the Kent Test. This does offer a way through the impasse. Late applicants who have not taken the Kent Test should apply to any Kent grammar school, when they will be required to take the Test, which can then be used to gain entrance to the  two Medway schools. However, I doubt that Kent County Council or the schools used for this route will be very thrilled although they cannot stop it! How silly it is all becoming.    
  
All Late Applications
In any case, Medway Council appears to be acting unlawfully with regard to all late school admissions as they require good reason before they will consider the application, contrary to the above!

The published requirement states:

If you apply for a school place after the closing date, your application will only be considered if you can provide a good reason, for example:

  • serious illness
  • bereavement
  • late move to the Medway area.

If you miss the closing date you can still submit an application up to 5pm on Friday 9 November 2018 with a covering letter explaining your reasons for being late.

We'll decide if late applications received by 9 November 2018 can be accepted. Any applications not accepted or received after 9 November 2018 will be held pending until after the offer of school places on 1 March 2019.

What is not stated is what happens to these pending applications. Every year I am approached by parents who inform me that Medway Council Admissions Team interpret this as meaning such applications are to be rejected because there are not exceptional circumstances. The Council has usually given in if parents are prepared to push hard enough as I have advised, but the advice appears to vary day by day and adviser by adviser. The coordinated admission procedure for 2019 states that such applications should only be processed after ‘consultation with the relevant admission authority for the named schools/academies’ which certainly gives them flexibility, but is not allowable, unless the child has been previously twice permanently excluded. The relevant phrase has been withdrawn for the 2020/21 coordinated scheme, underlining the illegality this year.

Last modified on Monday, 15 April 2019 03:58

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