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Tuesday, 21 April 2020 23:18

Coronavirus: Kent Test, Grammar School Admission and Appeals 2020

This article looks at three communications from Kent County Council to headteachers, addressing issues about  grammar school admissions and appeals at this time of Coronavirus.

The first is a letter sent to schools regarding the timing of the 2020 Kent Test for grammar school suitability in 2021, currently planned for September. 

I also look at two separate items relating to grammar school places for this September for some children. The first of these is about problems at appeal regarding unsuccessful Headteacher Assessments caused through the crisis; the second looks at late applications and testing.

Two important articles:  Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Grammar Schools 2020 
                                       Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Non-Selective Secondary Schools 2020
Excerpt from letter sent to all Kent Headteachers from Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director, Children, Young People and Education, dated 20 April 2020.
Whilst the letter covers various matters for headteachers relating to Coronavirus, one excerpt is specifically about this year's Kent Test and is of great relevance for parents.
There are already plenty of unfounded rumours and theories about possible new arrangements for the forthcoming Kent Test for entrance to grammar school  September 2021. At present, children need to be registered for September’s Kent Test between 1st June and 1st July 2020. The Test is set for Thursday 10th September for Kent school children and Saturday 12th September for those living outside Kent and at some Kent private schools.

Quite rightly, the letter states: ‘it is too early to confirm anything other than that provision will be made for children to be assessed so that Kent’s grammar schools can determine which of their applicants can be admitted’. It goes on to explain that nothing can be settled until further advice from government is received. I can’t see that any of the rumours have a basis in fact if they try and take the situation further than this, or assume a specific end to the pandemic. The key date is Monday 2nd November, when applications for secondary school places need to be submitted, producing two alternative scenarios.

  • The Kent Test takes place either on the set dates above, or else at some later date early enough to enable parents to know the outcome before choosing schools by the National Closing Date on 2nd November. At present assessment decisions are scheduled to be sent to parents on Thursday 15 October. National Closing Date is not going to change to suit the small number of grammar schools nationally that are in this situation.

 If the date of the Test is moved forward, it still needs to allow the whole assessment process to be worked through, including Head Teacher Assessments, before publication of the results. At present, there is a gap of just 18 days between the two dates, so there is little flexibility to move the Test dates further into September.

My own view is that if the current set dates cannot be adhered to, then KCC will move onto scenario Two.

  • If it is the case that decisions cannot be worked through in time for National Closing Day, then KCC will revert to a previous system where families choose schools before knowing the Test outcome. Unfortunately, this has considerable drawbacks for many who then have to hedge their bets by choosing their four schools to take into account the two possible test outcomes (or three if they are considering a super-selective school).

In this case the Test can be set as late as December. The last paragraph of the excerpt addresses the learning consequences of such a decision.

Appeals for Grammar School Entrance September 2020
Headteacher Assessments (HTA)
The enclosed document outlines another problem caused by Coronavirus, with KCC officers unable in many cases to access the key HTA document from their files. Headteacher Assessments are an additional step in the grammar school selection process for some candidates who are unsuccessful in the Test, but whose primary Headteachers believe they should be given further consideration. This year there were 2,199 children considered for HTAs, of whom 985 were unsuccessful. The document provides the evidence from the school to justify putting the child forward, the decision of the HTA Panel of Headteachers, and the reasons for it. In normal years a copy of this document is provided at all grammar school appeals where the child was unsuccessful in their HTA and Appeal Panellists usually set considerable store by the evidence contained therein. This year for most unsuccessful HTA candidates, only the decision will be reported. 

Whilst there is nothing that families can do directly about this, it becomes more critical that, if an HTA was carried out, your appeal documents include the information normally carried on this document, to assist the Panel. The best way of doing this is to see if your primary school will give you a copy of the form it submitted to the HTA Panel (not necessarily possible as the school is closed), and submit this with the data it contains. All that will then be missing is the reason for turning down the HTA (which is rarely to your advantage anyway), which completes the HTA process.  

The HTA Form asks for the child’s primary Headteacher to provide:
  • Reasons for HTA
  • Evidence
  • Y4 Teacher NC Assessments  in Maths, Reading and Writing
  • Y5 Teacher NC Assessments  in Maths, Reading and Writing
  • CAT (or similar) Standardised Scores (all subtests)
  • Latest Reading Age/Standardised Score.

If you can’t get hold of the form, try and obtain as much of this information as possible from the school (and I know this can be impossible because of Coronavirus), but only use it if it shows your child in a good light.

The letter contains advice to headteachers of Community Primary schools, leaving them free as to how they use any forms they have received. Presumably headteachers from academies and voluntary aided schools are in the same position. When you get your paperwork before the appeal you will see if the HTA form is included.

Appeal Guidance for Appellants and Late Applicants who require testing.
In normal years, if you have applied for a grammar school when your child has not taken the Kent Test, or you have made a late application, the child would be able to take the Test late. This option is not available for entry in 2020.
Instead, there are two possible options spelled out in the second part of the document.
  • Delay any appeal until late testing using the Kent Test becomes an option; unlikely this term. 
  • Proceed with the appeal, without an assessment decision, just based on academic evidence. If the appeal is not upheld, it would still be possible for the child to be tested at a later date. If the child then passes the Test late, they will be eligible for a second appeal due to changed circumstances if the school is then full. This would be allowable under the Appeals Code of Practice at the school's discretion. I am afraid I believe that few Appeal Panels will uphold a case without the Test evidence, unless there is an exceptional case to explain the situation and very strong academic evidence to justify a positive decision.
Last modified on Sunday, 14 June 2020 06:58


  • Comment Link Tuesday, 05 May 2020 06:22 posted by Sorrel

    If families have to choose schools before the results are known perhaps they could be allowed more choices? All the London boroughs allow you to list six schools for secondary transfer. Might be tight to change the online system - and redo paper forms - but if they can it might be beneficial after Covid too? PETER: From all i have seen in normal times four works well enough in Kent. Medway with similar issues (except that being mainly urban there are more schools within travelling distance) and options five and six are rarely followed through. The Kent Co-ordinated Admissions Scheme has now been agreed, so technically that is the final word. However, these are uncertain times so there may well be a way through to delay it if it is thought wise (I certainly believe so). Changing the structure from four to six for all pupils in line with the national timetable is probably unreasonable. Six in normal years is a matter of opinion. Mine is no!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 23 April 2020 12:07 posted by Jerry Hill

    Thanks as always for providing the facts. In this case also disproving the fake news.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 22 April 2020 13:37 posted by Natalie Owens

    If I have read the above correctly KCC may provide HTA documents for some appeal candidates and not others? Surely this would be unfair to those where it is not provided?l by them? If they cannot produce for all, surely they should then only produce the decision for all appeal candidates and no HTA documents at all for any candidates? PETER: There are two sides to this. On the one hand if there is a HTA, then the Panel is able to make a better decision, not necessarily a more favourable one. Some people won;t have an HTA anyway which is not to be taken as a sign that they are acadmically weaker as there can be lots of valid reasons - Catholic School, private school that doesn't want to lose its pupils, HT opposed to selection etc. so Panels are asked not to read anything into its absence. On the other hand, when only some of those with an HTA see it published it will be seen as unfair by those without it. KCC clearly have passed the responsibility over to schools! Personally, in my opinion the best of all worlds is if you can get hold of the school version of the HTA before it was sent off to the Panels - so all the positives, one would hope, without it being spoiled by the negative of the reason for the HTA being turned down being seen by the Panel. I feel sorry for the school being placed into this position. I still can't quite see why it is impossible to recover the documents.

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