Supporting Families
Tuesday, 02 April 2019 22:48

Oversubscription & Vacancies in Medway Grammar Schools on Allocation 2019

All Medway boys and girls who are grammar qualified will have been offered a place at Chatham Girls or Holcombe if they did not get one elsewhere and applied to one of these two. An example of  what I am coming to regard as 'Medway Madness' which affects both the Local Authority and some local schools, the Council has unlawfully deprived late applicants including those moving into Medway of their right to be considered at a grammar school, as explained here. This follows the complete breakdown of the Medway Review process, with just 4 Medway pupils having a Review upheld, out of 159. 

Only one grammar school, Chatham Girls, had vacancies. 242 out of Medway candidates have been offered places out of 1042 in total. This amounts to 23%, or nearly a quarter of all the places offered, and is well up on 2018's 185 offers to children from outside Medway. 

An additional 68 new places have been created, 38 at Chatham Girls and 30 at Fort Pitt, although The Rochester Grammar School took away the 30 extra places it has offered for the past two years, probably for reasons outlined below. 

Rochester Grammar      SJWMS1

The Rochester Grammar School was by a long way the most oversubscribed grammar in Medway, turning away 121 grammar school qualified first choices, as a result of seeing its pass mark to soar to its highest ever, the year before it scraps super selection completely.  It is followed by Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (The Math) with 70 first choice boys turned away.  

I look in more detail at the outcomes, including the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

You will find preliminary information on Medway allocations here, and details of the 2018 allocation process hereKent Grammar Schools hereMedway Non-Selective places to come.

The unlawful ban on any child from taking the Medway Test late is an extension of the 2018 policy, also unlawful and discriminatory, of blocking Medway children from taking the Medway Test late, but allowing  out of county children to do so! Does no one at Medway Council care what its officers are doing in its name?

I was responsible for blocking changes to the Admission rules this year for Fort Pitt, Holcombe, Rochester Grammar following successful complaints to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) with The Math withdrawing their proposed changes before my complaint was considered. Medway Council was not interested enough in these proposals which worked against fairness to local children, to express a view in spite of being asked for one, although it is responsible for provision of places. 

Here is the summary picture for applications for each school; you will find further details below and at the Individual Schools Information Section here with  2019 outcomes on allocation, although some updating on text is needed.   

Medway Grammar School Allocations 2019
over 2018
First Prefs
Not Offered
Chatham Girls 180 38 56 0 46 75
Fort Pitt 150 30 118 18 0 5
Holcombe 150 0 67 2 0 67
Rainham Mark 235 0 253 27 0 13
Rochester 175 -30 266 121 0 74
The Math 205 0 266 70 0 15

 Offers across the Medway Boundary 

The 242 ooc places taken up are mainly at Chatham Girls, Holcombe and Rochester grammar schools, offering over 60 ooc places each. 

OOC Allocations to Medway Grammars
  Medway Kent Bexley Bromley Greenwich Other
Chatham Girls 59 25 19 0 24 7
Fort Pitt 148 2 0 0 0 0
Holcombe 83 19 17 8 23 0
Rainham Mark 222 11 0 2 0 0
Rochester 101 38 15 5 8 8
The Math 187 15 0 0 0 0
15 Medway girls were offered places at Invicta Grammar, Maidstone. Fewer than five were offered places at each of: Borden, Dartford, Gravesend, Highsted, Highworth, Judd, Maidstone Girls, Mayfield, and Oakwood Park grammar schools.
Review Process
Just 4 Medway pupils had a Review upheld out of 159 who applied, and none of the 51 from private and out of county (ooc) schools. As a result, a total of just 23.0% of Medway pupils were found selective against a target of 25%, depriving some 66 Medway children of grammar school places.

The Medway secondary transfer procedure for grammar schools follows the School Admissions Code of Practice, stating that if a child is unsuccessful at Review an Appeal Panel cannot uphold an appeal unless the appellant can prove the process is unfair. Actually it is unfair as Medway Council, having stated that up to 2% of Medway children are selected by Review has overseen a process that saw just 4 out of 159 go through, or 0.12% of the total, details here. However this would be for an appeal Panel to decide, as historically those for the two Chatham grammar schools have done. Other schools see their own interpretation of the rules, which can vary year on year. See Individual School Information. 

Kent Test as an Alternative means of entry to the  two Chatham Grammar Schools
Both of the Chatham grammar schools offer a pass in the Kent Test as an alternative qualification, equivalent to a pass in the Medway Test, for entry. If a child has taken to the Kent test but not passed, this is sufficient to qualify the family to submit an appeal.
A recent complaint to the Schools Adjudicator  about Holcombe' Grammar Schools' admission arrangement (see below) produced as an aside that the two qualifications are completely equivalent in deciding if a child is of grammar school ability: 'The school simply accepts that a child so designated under either, as well as under both, is eligible for a place at the school because they are in its view of selective ability'. This confirms  the important consequence that schools which set their own tests (providing this is in the schools Admission Policy) are acting within the Schools Admission Code. 
There was a meeting for parents, held at Chatham Grammar School for Girls on 15th March, to give advice to parents preparing for appeals to grammar schools in general. It was advertised through social media so will have been very hit and miss in terms of those who were able to attend. It appears no one directly involved with appeals was present and so two important pieces of misinformation were given out. Firstly, contrary to the advice given, no school work is considered by Appeal Panels. This is also a common misconception amongst many primary school heads across the county, not just in Medway. The reasons for this are, firstly that Appeal Panel Members are not necessarily educationalists and so not qualified to assess the quality of work supplied. Secondly, there is no proof that it is the child's unaided work (at least one school works on preparing portfolios to impress Panels!). Thirdly even if the panellists were able to assess work, they have no means of comparing it with  that of children who had been found of grammar school standard.
The second was the suggestion that the child could write their own letter expressing their views. Once again the Panel is not able to assess the quality of such a letter, or whether it is unaided or helped by the parent or some other third party (there is a current parallel with university admissions where applicants have been accused of cheating if they seek help in writing their personal statement- although such a statement is objectively worthless, as there is no mechanism to detect it and in any case why shouldn't someone seek help with a difficult task). 
In either case, a courteous Panel may go through the motions of looking at the work or letter, but cannot draw conclusions from it. For the same reasons, there is no point whatever in taking the child to the appeal, although you are allowed to do so.  
Details of Individual Grammar Schools on Next Page

Individual Grammar Schools
The school has had a recent roller coaster ride with admissions, as you can see from the Individual School Data. 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 boomed to 183. This did not materialise for 2018, and so the intake number fell back to 115. It has increased to 134 for 2019 entry, because of  the greater pressure on Rochester Grammar (below) with just 59 Medway girls offered places. The school has kept its intake number at 180, leaving 46 vacancies, a fairly clear signal that it is expecting a high rate of success at appeal, with 26 out of 45 cases being upheld in 2018. Along with Holcombe Grammar, Chatham accepts a pass mark in the Kent Test as of an equivalent standard to a Medway Pass. If late applicants find they are not allowed to take the Medway Test, then apply for a Kent grammar school place, and depending on your mark, you may be offered a place at Chatham Girls or apply for an appeal. 
Last year I wrote that  FP is the only grammar school in Kent or Medway which has resolutely refused to increase its PAN from the 120 it had maintained for many years. It has suddenly decided to increase this to 150 places for 2019, although there is no obvious reason for the change, with just two more first choices than in 2018. The Independent Appeal Panel has never upheld more than four appeals in recent years, all girls who have passed the Medway Test, with the Appeal Panel enforcing the Review rules tightly. 
There is no doubt that in terms of Medway Madness, Holcombe Grammar rises above all others with the number and seriousness of its management failures, set out in various articles on this website, including here, the Sixth Form drop out rate at the end of Year 12 increasing to  a shocking 30%. I thought they were over for the year when I published my article on its proposed unlawful admission arrangements for 2019 admission as ruled and rejected by the Schools Adjudicator . I have now come across a subsequent objection partially upheld by the Schools Adjudicator in January 2019. This is scathing about Holcombe's failure to implement the Adjudicator's instructions upon upholding my complaint. The Adjudicator also upheld a complaint that the school had used 'challenging behaviour' as reported by a previous school to rule an applicant out, with the school following Medway Council's procedures for considering such references, contrary to the Code. He also confirms the equivalence of a pass in the Kent and Medway Tests as a qualification for admission.
Holcombe has kept its intake number at 150 in spite of a further fall in first choices, but has filled on application with out of Medway boys. I have no idea what will happen at appeal following the 2018 debacle, as explained in several articles, most recently here  
This is the second year of the school’s switch away from super-selective to giving priority to local children. The number of first preferences has gone up  again and, pleasingly for school and local families I am sure, the number of disappointed first preferences has reduced again to 27 as ooc applicant numbers have fallen, helped by the school maintaining its intake number at 235 children for a second year, up from 205.  Appeal Panels rarely awarded places to more than six children before the change in priority, almost exclusively those who have passed the Medway Test. In 2018 the 11 appeals upheld again went to children who had succeeded at the Medway Test.
After the Schools Adjudicator scrapped part of Rochester Grammar's proposed new entrance criteria, they were left with the addition of children from named feeder schools, siblings and children of members  of staff who had pass the Medway Tet at any score. The school also reduced its intake of 205 girls for the previous two years, to 175. As a result the required score for most applicants soared to an aggregate of 550, or 58 points above the pass mark for the other five schools, creating a record 121 girls all grammar school qualified who put the school in first place were turned away. 74 of the offers came from outside Medway, including 38 from Kent, 15 from Bexley, 8 from Greenwich and 5 from Bromley. 
There will be a large number of appeals. Could the school indicate tot he Appeal Panel that it would put another form or entry on. In 2018,  eight of the 47 appeals were upheld. 
All will change for 2020 admissions, when the school completely scraps admission through high scores and moves to a pattern of admission by nearness to the school for most girls in order to attract government funding of £3 million for new premises. For details see here. Has the reduction of admission numbers to 175 this year been in order to justify the money being used to expand the PAN back to 205? 
 Has kept the 2018 increase on PAN from 180 to 203, turning away 70 grammar qualified first choices, up from 54 in 2018. It also gives priority to those living nearest, so it is no surprise that it offered to 196 first choices and 5 second. The 2018 appeal pattern of success changed for 2018, with 42 of the 56 who appealed having been assessed Grammar, including all  whose appeals were upheld.  Following poor management, the Williamson Trust comprising The Math, Hundred of Hoo non-selective school and four primary schools was taken over by the Leigh Academy Trust in a heavy blow to this historic and prestigious school. It is too soon to see what difference this will make to The Math, although the Leigh Trust has been historically opposed to selection at eleven. As noted above, The Math withdrew its proposals to change its admission criteria before my filed complaint was considered. However, surprisingly a previous attempt to impose the same rules had already been rejected, so it was unlikely they would prosper a second time. 
Last modified on Thursday, 05 March 2020 19:53

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 08 April 2019 15:19 posted by Angela Smith

    I am trying to find out what dates RGS hold it’s appeals- they have published nothing on their website like you said they will do. I have appealed but heard nothing with regards a date yet and obviously won’t for another two weeks due to Easter. Now wondering if they even got my appeal! (That’s stress for you!) anyone know? PETER: The School Admission Appeals Code, which has the force of law, states in Section 2.2 that Admission Authorities must publish their appeals timetable on their website by 28 February each year. Unfortunately there are no immediate sanctions and by the time you have followed any complaint through to a higher authority, the appeals will be over and it will be irrelevant. Try asking them directly,, although most schools won't respond during the holidays.

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