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Wednesday, 09 October 2019 12:34

Medway Test 2019: Initial results and analysis

Note: This article contains important advice which may assist those considering requesting a Review.

The pass mark for the Medway Test for 2020 admission is an aggregate score of 490, selecting a total of 23% of Medway children, according to target. You will find an information article on Review and Appeal here. Data for individual Medway schools, including oversubscription levels and appeal outcomes are published here.

Whilst 808 Medway pupils passed the test, 35 more than in 2018, the number of out of county children (OOC) passing has continued its inexorable rise to 980. There will be far fewer girls' places available for OOCs at Rochester Grammar as explained below, but an overall surplus for local girls and probably OOCs across the area. By contrast the intense pressure on places for boys in Medway grammar schools is increasing because of the continued machinations of Holcombe Grammar, as explained below, with just one successful appeal out of 53 in 2019 as the school attempts to raise its academic entry profile by chasing higher performing London boys instead of those from Medway. The farce of the Review process will probably continue, with 2018 seeing 0.12% of the Medway cohort or just 4 out of the 202 applications for Review successful, with none from outside Medway or at private schools, against a target of 2%.  Of course this could change for 2019!   

Shockingly, Medway Council introduced a ban on late Testing last year when it was unlawful. Therefore, children moving into the area who miss the admission deadline cannot qualify for a grammar school place. 

You will find the answer to most questions about whether to apply for a Review in the article on Review and Appeal.....

You will find a full analysis of Medway Test and Review outcomes for 2019 admission here

I have completely retired from my appeals advisory service, and am afraid I am unable to answer individual questions as a result. However, this website offers comprehensive explanation and advice if you trouble to look at the relevant pages, the best start probably being here.  As in previous years, I will also publish articles on Medway Test results and Review in more detail as I receive them. 

Medway Test Results
You will find fuller articles on the 2018 Test results here, and Review hereThe individual mark for a pupil in the Medway Test is calculated by adding together the score on the Verbal Reasoning Test with twice the score on each of the mathematics and extended writing tests. Although this year's pass mark of 490 is the lowest figure for some years it is no indication of the difficulty of the test as it is simply related to the proportion of the Medway Year Group which sat the test. The higher the proportion the lower the pass mark, as a result of what is called Local Standardisation, as explained here.
 
Medway Test Outcomes 2019
  2019 2018   2017
  Medway OOC Medway  OOC Medway OOC
Number in
Cohort
3486
 
3361
 
3281
 
Taking Test
1912 1503 1873 1392 1785 918
Passing Test 808 980 773 914 756 626
% Pass Rate 23%   23.0%   23.0%  

Note: OOC stands for Out of County, i.e. living outside Medway

You will find the source of much of this data here

Revisiting Test Papers
You cannot appeal against a Medway Test result, you can only appeal against the decision not to offer your child a place at a grammar school you have put on your application form for secondary schools. Medway Council states: 'We will not provide the original or a copy of your child's test paper(s) and there is no option for you to view test papers. Examination scripts are exempt from section 7 (right of access to personal data) as stated in Schedule 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998'.

Out of Area Applicants: It is difficult to be precise about the consequences of the continued increase in Out of Medway children passing the Medway Test with the dramatic change in Rochester Grammar admission policy (see below). We don't yet know the gender breakdown, but the table below shows the 2019 allocation breakdown by school. Around half of the OOCs are from Kent children in most cases.

Medway Grammar Allocations
March 2019
  PAN
Total
Offers
Medway OOC
Chatham Girls 180 134 59 75
Fort Pitt 148 150 148 2
Holcombe 120 150 83 67
Rainham Mark 205  235 222 13
Rochester 175 235 101 74
Sir Joseph
Williamson's
180 202 187 15

Note: PAN stands for Published Admission Number. Last year most grammar schools increased their PAN to respond to high demand, although The Rochester Grammar reduced theirs. Details here

One of the consequences of pressure on places is that appeals from children initially found non-selective are more difficult to win. You will find some details in the Individual Schools section and below. 
There are currently six grammar schools in Medway. Rainham Mark Grammar School (RMGS) is co-educational, and there are three girls’ grammars and two for boys as explained below. For 2019 entry, there was a total of 355 places available in the two boys’ schools and 405 for girls in the three single sex girls’ schools.  There were in addition 235 places at RMGS offered primarily according to distance, with gender irrelevant. The next section is followed by items on Review and Appeals.
 
Late Applicants
Medway Council has scrapped completely late Testing for Grammar Schools, effectively stopping children moving into the area looking for places for Year Seven, from applying for these. It also has the effect of stopping  late applications from OOC children who miss out on grammar school places in Dartford and Gravesend up the railway line from London.
 
Individual Schools
 
Oversubscribed, turning 27 first choices away last year. I do not have separate data for boys and girls but children are offered places according to the criteria irrespective of gender. Nine successful appeals out of 43 heard for 2019 admission, eight of whom had passed the Medway Test. Unlikely to be significantly hit if at all by the changes at Rochester Grammar, below. 
 
Selective Places for Girls
Overall there is a surplus of places for girls at Medway Grammar Schools, as explained below. 
 
2020 grammar school allocations will see the greatest shake up for many years, with the decision of RGS to abandon admission by highest scores to give main priority to local girls living nearest to the school. The very complex admissions policy introduces a large number of categories above with distance coming in 11th, but most girls will qualify under this criterion. I have written extensively about the consequences of the change, principally here, with links to other articles. The school will inevitably be oversubscribed with local girls and I anticipate this will not take in girls across the whole of Medway. The number of 74 OOCs offered places for 2019 entry will shrink almost entirely to comprise siblings of girls already at the school and then this figure will fall year on year as these girls work through the system. 121 first choices were turned away last year, but because of the change it is difficult to forecast the figure for 2020 entry. Last year just five out of 48 appeals were upheld, all from girls who had previously been found to be of selective ability, It discounts girls with unsuccessful Reviews, at appeal. 
 
Fort Pitt is geographically in between the other two grammar schools and has kept its size small for many years, but expanded to take in 150 girls in 2019, still turning away 18 first choices. It is not yet clear whether it will keep to this intake figure which may depend on demand, but I believe it likely as it should still be able to attract the numbers. After the usual special cases, the school gives priority to girls living less than two miles away, and then those on the Hoo Peninsula who, under the previous system at RGS could otherwise only access Chatham Grammar, a very difficult journey, unless they had high scores in the Medway Test. It is difficult to estimate what effect the RGS change will have, but the school is seen by many as of equal status but with a different ethos, and I anticipate it will still fill, even with 150 intake. Oversubscribed? Appeal success rate is traditionally low. See here It discounts girls with unsuccessful Reviews, at appeal. 
 
Is going to be badly hit by the RGS decision, coming last in the local pecking order. For 2019 it attracted just 59 Medway girls for its 180 places (PAN being 142 the previous year), and was saved by the 75 OOC girls from Kent and London Boroughs to whom it offered places. The number of local girls will inevitably fall further this year, being made up for by OOCs displaced from RGS, although geographically it is not easy to access from the nearest railway station.
Two years ago, Holcombe Grammar (below) put forward a crazy scheme to go co-educational because it was short of pupils, described most recently here. After the proposal was turned down the school then re-submitted it the following year with equal failure. Holcombe is part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which also runs RGS and, as I pointed out at the time, it would have made much more sense for RGS to go co-ed, to ease the shortage of places for boys and surplus for girls. No chance, given the latter’s prestigious status. Given the current decline in local girls applying for places at Chatham Grammar, I also consider that such a change would see the school having no difficulty in filling with local children. One consequence is that the appeal success rate at appeal is high, and a negative Review outcome has been ignored by Appeal Panels in the past, with 26 out of 45 appeals being successful in 2018 (2019 data being awaited).
 
Selective Places for Boys
The limited number of places for boys at Holcombe and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, and the very low chances of success at Review or Appeal means that boys are severely discriminated against, as explained below. Medway Council’s strange bid for a new grammar school, ignores theses issues.
 
None of what follows is a criticism of the quality of education offered at Holcombe.
 
I have written extensively on the disgraceful and incompetent management of Holcombe over recent years, including several articles on the shambles of the 2018 appeals, which can be followed through from here and here. The placement of six boys who had been offered places at Holcombe, to be taught at the non-selective Victory Academy because ‘there was no room for them’ was just ridiculous. The assumption that girls from Victory Academy could fit in at Holcombe Grammar, a boys selective school, was daft - if they were of selective ability why not RGS? The proposal that Governors could make decisions on selective ability avoiding an appeal decision would have been unlawful. The foolish attempts to ignore (or defy?) the Schools Commissioners Rulings about Holcombe admission policies was just one more set of leadership failure at the school. Leadership turnover is naturally high and the school is currently advertising again for a new Headteacher, after  Mr Lillicrap, head of Holcombe for just one year, having been promoted from Vice Principal departed the Trust in the summer. 
 
One article includes my conclusion that ‘The 2018 Admission Appeals process is a pointer suggesting Thinking Schools Academy Trust has yet another plan to change the character of Holcombe Grammar School. It is to be changed from a school serving its local community well, to one dedicated to attracting high scorers in the Medway or Kent Tests no matter where they are drawn from’. This followed the Presenting Officer for Appeals, who was not the Headteacher, nor the Executive Headteacher of Holcombe and Victory Academy which would have been normal, but by Mr Gwynn Bassan, Director of Secondary Education for the Trust, who made serious mistakes in the process arguing that boys needed to reach a much higher standard than the normal Medway Test pass to be appropriately awarded a place at Holcombe. In the end, just four out of 49 appeals were upheld, with the KCC Appeals Panel failing to challenge Mr Bassan's false case. Last year for the first time it also discounted boys with unsuccessful Reviews, at appeal, having changed its Appeal Panel providers.   
 
2019 allocations saw just 83 places awarded to Medway boys, with another 67 OOC for the 150 places.Whilst not a direct Holcombe issue, there were just two boys in total successful after Review for admission this year. I understand that the Admissions Appeal Panel for Holcombe f applied the regulation that an unsuccessful Review meant an appeal to grammar school could not be upheld unless the appellant could demonstrate the process was flawed, as explained here. Even worse, there was just one successful appeal for a place at Holcombe out of 53 heard. These figures under a KCC Appeals Panel suggests they slavishly accepted the tough Holcombe case against admission. 
 
See here for appeal history
I regret that as a consequence, I have no advice I can offer about whether to go to Review or Appeal, as would not know how to overcome the obstacles. Holcombe has had a proud history of picking up borderzone boys from the socially deprived Chatham area through the Review and appeal processes and seeing them through to success, but it now appears evident that Holcombe in its chase for the top prefers to pick up higher performing students from outside Medway.
Heavily oversubscribed but giving priority to boys living geographically nearer. So the 15 OOC boys this year will have come from Kent, close to the West and South of Medway. There were 15 successful appeals for 2019 admission, out of a total of 45. Just three of these were from boys who had not passed the Medway Test. Nearly all the successful applicants who were grammar qualified will have been from Medway families living too far away (for example in Hoo) to have qualified initially on distance grounds. It generally discounts boys with unsuccessful Reviews, at appeal, but has been known to ignore this where there is a strong case. 
 
Technically Bilateral, but has not recruited via the Medway Test for some years. Follow the link for more details. 
 
 
 
Last modified on Wednesday, 06 November 2019 15:40

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