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Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:52

Medway Non-Selective Schools Allocation 2019

Pressure on places in Medway Non-Selective schools continues to be intense, with 80% of pupils being awarded their first choice school. Another 204 children, or 9.3% of the total, received no school of their choice, well up on last year's 136. The situation was exacerbated by a fall of 35 in the number of places available. As a result, there were only 34 vacancies in three schools, just 1.4% of the total. The most oversubscribed school is Brompton Academy, as it has been for many years, turning away 218 first choices.

Brompton Academy

It is followed by Thomas Aveling with 72 children rejected. Some places will be freed up and re-allocated by successful grammar school appeals, but there are unlikely to be many successful appeals at Brompton, with just five appeals upheld out of 65 in 2018, in a typical year. You will find the full table of appeal outcomes below.

Probably the biggest Medway story is that of St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, whose popularity has declined every year since 2014, with just 46 children placing it first choice, with 101 being allocated there by Medway Council, having been offered no school of their choice, presumably few if any having a Catholic background. Its very Catholic ethos proves very difficult for many of those without a Catholic faith to cope with.

Overall, as in Kent, there is considerable polarisation with each of the oversubscribed schools becoming more popular this year, hence the soaring number of Local Authority Allocations (LAAs).

Two new academies are supposedly in the pipeline. The Maritime Academy, for all ages, sponsored by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, was planned to open in September 2019, but the last mention of it was on the Trust website in April 2017. The Medway Academy (secondary) was also approved by government in 2017 for opening in 2019, but I can find no further trace of it, including the website of sponsors Leigh Academies Trust. Good news for St John Fisher!

You will find the parallel article on Medway grammar schools here, and on Kent non-selective schools here

Please note that there will be some 'churning' as successful appeals for grammar school places remove some children from the non-selective schools. There were 66 successful appeals at Medway grammars last year (down from 93 in 2018); as well as 34 at four Medway non-selective schools (up from 25), 25% of those heard.

Out of Medway pupils
41 pupils from outside Medway took up places in Medway non-selective schools, the large majority at Greenacre and Walderslade Girls. The large majority of the 135 Medway pupils going out of school are travelling to non-selective schools, with 21 going to the underperforming Aylesford School and 23 to the failing Holmesdale School. Another 27, most of the rest, are heading to the two Catholic schools, St Johns’s in Gravesend and St Simon Stock in Maidstone, presumably to avoid Medway’s unpopular Catholic school, St John Fisher.
 
Allocations
The following table provides most of the relevant information, with notes about some individual schools below.
Medway Secondary Non Selective Allocations March 2019
 
Places
Available
1st Prefs
 
LAA 
Total
Offers 
1st Prefs
not
Offered 
Vacancies 
Brompton Academy* 230
426 0 230 193  0
Greenacre Academy 200 128 21 183   0 16
Howard School 265 247 0 250 21 0
Hundred of Hoo 275 212  18  260 0 0
Rainham Girls 
270
293
0 
270 
63 
0
Robert Napier 180 79 22  190  0  0 
St John Fisher Catholic 180 46  101  153  0  3 
Strood Academy*  240  253  0  250  48  0 
Thomas Aveling 190 240  0  195  72  0 
Victory Academy 240 152  18  236  2** 0 
Walderslade Girls 180 108  24  157 0  15 

Notes: * Refers to schools that apply a Fair Banding Test, see below for details. 

               **  Which shouldn't happen with declared preferences taking up places before LAAs are allocated, but this is according to Medway Council data.

Fair Banding Test
Brompton and Strood Academies set the Fair Banding Test for all applicants. If your child has not taken this, they will be the last children to be considered for places. at the schools. It is explained by Medway Council here. It is not a pass/fail test, but designed to give each school a fair spread of abilities in its intake. The test places children in an ability band, numbers in each band to be admitted allocated according to a ‘normal’ distribution. Children are then prioritised in each band by distance. Because some 25% of children are taken out for grammar school places, this leaves fewer candidates for the highest bands.
 
Non-Selective Appeals
 
Medway Non-Selective Appeals 2018
  Appeals Upheld
Brompton Academy 63 5
Rainham Girls 18 18
Strood Academy 19 2
Thomas Aveling 34 9
 
Individual Schools
Consistently Medway’s most popular school, turning away 193 first preferences. Although it has a Planned Admission Number (PAN) of 210, it managed to find space for 250 pupils in 2017, falling to 230 in 2018 and 2019, presumably because of lack of room. This also impinges on chances of success at appeal which are again likely to be low. Along with most Medway grammar schools it proposed priority for Trust siblings irrespective of residence but cancelled this at my first challenge, a minor case of Medway Madness compared to many others. Still gives priority for school siblings. Lost 9% of its pupils since the beginning of Year 10, suggestive of off-rolling.
 
With Walderslade Girls’, the two Walderslade schools are the furthest south in Medway, without the building development taking place across the rest of the Authority producing pressure on places. Surprisingly, therefore, both schools appear to be losing pupils to the struggling Aylesford School down Bluebell Hill into Kent. Expanded by 40 places in 2015, but has only filled these once since.
 
Solid, performs well. Popular School. Has just taken  over the failed Riverside (Previously Medway) UTC. 
 
Has had a troublesome history, but seems to be settling down, reflected in a Good Ofsted in September. Pressure on places across Medway saw the school increase its PAN by five, to admit the LAAs, possibly local families wary of the school’s history, trying to avoid it.
 
Always popular and as usual, third most oversubscribed school in Medway this year. Usually holds an initially group session for appeals then finds it has room for all. Will this happen for 2019 entry, with a record 63 first choices turned away, although some will be creamed off by Chatham Girls Grammar appeals? Has scrapped its bizarre plan to be the first non-secular school in England to introduce a single sex primary section in the 20th and 21st centuries. More Medway madness?
 
Surprising fall in first choices 2019, with ‘Good’ Ofsted in January likely to comfort some of the 22 LAAs. Ofsted monitoring record shows the school has been improving consistently since the appointment of the current headteacher in 2015.
 
A disaster area, with families shunning the school. This is the lowest number of first choices that I can find for any Medway school, in my records dating back ten years. 101 Local Authority Allocations swamp the number of vacancies at 34 in all other Medway schools, so small chance of finding an alternative, nearly double the record figure of 58 last year.
The school is also unable to hold its natural recruiting area amongst Catholics and Catholic Primary schools (the latter according to families I have advised), with the two closest Kent Catholic schools offering places to 27 children from Medway. The prospectus quote: 'we have a proud history of providing a world-class education for students from faiths and none' hardly fits the facts!
The school’s Catholic ethos is unequivocal: “The Catholic School is not just an environment providing a series of lessons. It aims to meet the needs of the young people today in the light of the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ. This means that a school’s Catholic character is witnessed to in all facets of its life. For the school to be truly Catholic this vision must be shared by all concerned with its work.”
 
Five years ago, one of my clients took Medway Council to the High Court  and won a case  with what has been described as an esoteric conclusion but is certainly of exceeding complexity (I defy any lay person to understand it). The commentary quoted above states: 'The judgement repays consideration for its analysis of the law governing the teaching of, and curriculum-setting for, religious education in schools and academies. This was about religious teaching in state schools'. One side effect was that  it forced Medway Council to find an alternative non-religious school for the family's son to attend, on the grounds that he should not be forced to attend a faith school with a strong religious ethos. If this is upheld again, families could win cases to one of the two Walderslade schools in the South of Medway with the Council being required to pay transport costs. 
 
A very popular school, run by the Leigh Academy Trust, attracting pupils off the Hoo Peninsula, with 48 first choices turned away. Very difficult to win an appeal with just two out of 19 appeals upheld last year.
 
As usual, second most oversubscribed school in Medway, attracting applicants from the neighbourhoods of less popular schools nearby. It turned away 72 first choices this year. Success rate at appeal is average for a non-selective school.
 
Victory has really established itself in the last two years, aided by a strong 'Good' Ofsted Report in 2017. Last year, although it filled by virtue of 41 LAAs, it has kept them all, or attracted replacements, so it was still full for its 240 places at the January 2017 school census. The number of LAAs to fill the school has fallen to 18 for 2019 entry, so once again it should remain full. Highest number of first preferences ever confirms its acceptability.
 
Popularity continues to fall with problems in leadership, reflected in a Requires Improvement Ofsted in September 2017. Paid the price and is now part of the Greenacre Academy Trust.
 
Last modified on Tuesday, 23 April 2019 23:07

2 comments

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 August 2019 22:42 posted by Nicola Webb

    Do you know if there any truth that St John Fisher will be moving just off of City Way Rochester? New build to go on their sports field which is between city way and boundary road? Positive news on their Ofsted now rated good in all areas - any thoughts? PETER: I don;t know the details yet, so thanks for this. The school desperately needed a Good Ofsted, given its previous record which has led to low numbers

  • Comment Link Thursday, 18 April 2019 08:31 posted by Janet Downs

    Re unopened free schools: Maritime Academy still appears on the DfE free school pipeline list (updated April 2019).

    Leigh Academies Trust has three free schools in the pipeline. Two are in Kent: Rearsted Primary Academy and Snowfields Academy, a secondary special school. One is in Medway, Leigh Academy, Rainham, a secondary mainstream school.

    No dates for expected opening are given. The pipeline spreadsheet can be downloaded here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/free-schools-successful-applications. Thanks as always Janet, although this moves us no further forward with out dates. At least one of these (Hope Community in Northfleet) has bitten the dust, in spite of great demand in the area.

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