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Wednesday, 19 August 2020 10:41

Coronavirus: 2020 GCSE Fiasco outcomes and Kent and Medway Sixth Form Courses

Update 24th August: I am hearing of various schools and at least one FE College which is trying to bounce qualified students off sixth form and vocational courses. One device is to place them on a 'reserve' list. For schools, there should be clear oversubscription rules to decide how places are allocated. If these are broken, then an appeal will have to be upheld, but you will need to work out how to challenge them. I am having difficulty working out the rules for colleges which are not my normal area of interest. Can anyone please advise me?

Update evening of 20th August: Cancellation of those BTec results which have been published and those which haven't even been released. See below in blue. 

First of all, my congratulations to all young people who have achieved the GCSE outcomes they desired and have worked for in this most difficult of years. 

The GCSE results for 2020, out on Thursday, were based on the same formula as the A-Level outcomes finally agreed after several U-Turns. The official GCSE grade is now the highest of the algorithm calculation and the teacher grade estimate for each pupil, but with outcomes now far too dependent on the inevitable variation in the reliability of that teacher estimate. Schools that have worked hard to ensure their estimates are as fair and rigorous as possible will have seen their pupils penalised, as against those which were generous, perhaps acting for the best for their pupils, or else influenced by the nature of their intake. Once again, I fear that when we see the statistical outcome of the new process, disadvantaged pupils will have been penalised and many from the private sector will have benefited as schools responded to the expectations of their paying customers. 

A major consequence of all this is that the considerable improvement in GCSE and BTec grade levels will lead to extra pressure on school sixth form places, and I explore the consequences of this below, including options for students and the pattern of A-Level entry in Kent’s non-selective schools.  

We have now had the inevitable cancellation of the BTec results. Level Three results needed to be lifted so that results are again compatible with A-Level grades. See the previous article for consequences. In the same way, BTec Level Two results will now count as before to be equivalent to GCSE grades for admission to the A-Level Sixth Forms of many schools, producing more students qualified for them. All the places at some schools will already have been awarded first time round and cannot be removed, so there is a big capacity issue here, as explained below, whilst for other schools they simply add to the pressure on existing places. This is surely all now spiralling out of control and one can only speculate what happens next. See the next sentence for one outcome that should happen without delay. 

I believe that in any decent society Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, and Nick Gibbs the Schools Minster,  would and should have resigned without delay. Have they no shame?

You will find my 'Information and Advice' article on school Sixth Forms here, containing considerable additional material. Several years ago I wrote an article entitled Transfer to Grammar Schools in the Sixth Form which surveyed the considerable movement from non-selective schools to Kent grammar school Sixth Forms. I have no reason to think the situation was any different last year, but with the inflated GCSE grades of 2020, the pressure on places will now be considerably greater. I have also carried out a Review of Kent and Medway school 2019 A-Level performance which may be of guidance to students exploring options. 

I still believe the results algorithm should have been the least worst outcome for the vast majority of pupils, but it failed then and will have done so again at GCSE because it was not properly tested in advance as should happen with all such processes. If this had happened the anomalies in the system would have been found out in the months before publication and could have been resolved. 

All students achieving the set entrance grades for their home school Sixth Form should be offered places as they are given admission priority. However, many other students look to change schools at this point in Kent and Medway, often from non-selective to grammar schools. The key problem is that the size of school sixth forms is capped, and unlike universities is unlikely to be able to increase because of staffing and accommodation issues. 

A basic rule is that the sixth form entry criteria for internal and external applicants have to be the same. However, these will always include a set maximum number and give priority to internal students who reach the set academic standard.  In many cases the number of internal pupils qualified and taking up places in the sixth form of popular schools will be larger this year and I therefore anticipate the number of external places will decrease for most schools and the pressure on places will increase, in some cases sharply. 

Sadly, three of the four Further Education Colleges in Kent have closed their A-Level courses in recent years, probably for financial reasons, as the funding for 16-19 pupils has been cut. This leaves only West Kent College at Tonbridge, which last year had just 32 students taking three A Levels. This article is focused solely on A-Level courses, but each of these colleges and most of the non-selective schools also offer a range of vocational courses, some of which, such as the BTec Level 3, offer an alternative route into Higher Education.

The Sixth Form criteria for a typical grammar school, if such a thing exists, are as follows:

Highworth Grammar School
Sixth Form Admissions Priority will be given to existing students transferring from Year 11 who meet the entrance criteria.
Admission to the Sixth Form will be as a result of applicants obtaining a minimum of:
• At least 6 GCSE subjects at Grade 6 or above
• At least a Grade 5 in English • At least a Grade 5 in Mathematics
• The specific entry requirements for each A Level subject. The admission number for external candidates will be 50, but this figure may be exceeded in the event that this and the number of internal pupils transferring into Year 12 is less than the overall figure for the year group, which is 186

 Note that the criteria for Super-Selective Schools will be much more severe. 

I remain concerned as I have for years about the use of conditional offers, which unlawfully cuts out candidates. I successfully established the illegality in a complaint about Maidstone Grammar School for Girls in 2017, but which I consider although altered to be still unlawful fro 2020 entry! I fear that for admissions in September this year, these will be used to the full by some schools to select the most desirable students, rather than the objective admission criteria laid down in the binding School Admissions Code.

 Non-Selective Rainham School for Girls, Medway:

Rainham School for Girls
There will be 30 places available for external applicants, both girls and boys, applying the same entry criteria. The minimum entry requirements for sixth form courses are published in the school sixth form prospectus. The entry requirements for Level 3 courses (A-Level and BTec) is 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 including English or Maths.
All level 2 BTec awards at pass and above will count as 1 GCSE equivalent regardless of the number of guided learning hours studied or the number of separate qualifications achieved. A total of two BTec qualifications will be counted in the 5 GCSEs.
There are also subject-specific requirements which are published in the sixth form prospectus. Students failing to meet the specific entry criteria for their preferred course choice will be offered alternative courses if available.

Note: the range of academic requirements for non-selective school sixth forms ranges widely, partly reflecting their popularity

Although I was once a Careers teacher and subsequently Chairman of Kent Careers Services, I no longer claim specific skills in advising on options for individuals. There is a successor organisation, CXK,  which offers independent advice. Otherwise, your current school may be willing to assist. However, some simply do not have the knowledge of alternatives to their own institution. What I have tried to offer in this article and in my Information and Advice article on school Sixth Forms is a framework to assist school pupils.   

If you have not been offered a place at the school of your choice, then I am afraid I believe alternatives will be in short supply, for the reasons above. Some students will look at vocational subjects at a non-selective school or college as an alternative. However, the government requires that:
All young people must remain in some form of education or training until their 18th birthday. The alternatives are:
  • stay in full-time education, at a school sixth form or college
  • learn whilst you work, in programmes such as apprenticeships and training.
  • get a job with specified training
  • volunteer for more than 20 hours a week in combination with accredited learning.

I think that, for some young people, this will be a particular challenge in 2020, with opportunities so limited because of the pandemic. 

I have been extensively quoted in Mail Online here

A-Level Performance 2019
You will find a comprehensive analysis of key 2019 A Level outcomes for Kent and Medway schools via the links, and a complete table of outcomes for non-selective schools below to amplify this. What the extensive data shows is that, if you have a choice, you should look carefully at outcomes rather than just looking at the presentations by the schools.  In the case of non-selective schools, the number of candidates is also an indication of the range of subjects the school will be able to offer.
Kent Non-Selective Schools A Level Performance 2019     
Number taking
at least 1
 Number taking
at least
3 A Levels
3 A Level
Average Grade 
Well Above Average Progress
Valley Park 108 38 0.7 C+
Herne Bay  92 45 0.46 D
Above Average Progress
Homewood 131 44 0.24 C-
St Simon Stock 124 83 0.24 C
St Anselm's 78 39 0.19 C'
Knole 72 20 0.18 C
Hillview Girls 108 81 0.13 C+
Average Progress
Marsh 23 15 0.19 C-
St George's (G'send) 76 44 0.15 C
Hayesbrook 30 10 0.14 C
Wrotham  52 11 0..12  C-
Towers  18  8  0.12  C
Mascalls  98  59  0.07  C
Bennett  155  134  0.06  B-
Northfleet Girls  42  19 0.05   C
Duke of  York's   35  23 0.02   C
St John's  86 42 -0.03 C-
Longfield 64 20 -0.09 C
Cornwallis 98 33 -0.13 D+
Below Average Progress
St Gregory's 111 69 -0.21 C
John Wallis 59 23 -0.24 C-
Sandwich 67 17 -0.26 C-
Astor 54 34 -0.31 D-
Folkestone 62 19 -0.33 D
Dartford 30 8 -0.33 C-
Fulston Manor 125 49 -0.34 C-
Canterbury 114 58 -0.34 D
Maplesdon Noakes 104 60 -0.37 D+
Leigh  100 23 -0.41 D-
Brockhill 70 19 -0.43 D
Oasis 29 14 -0.52 D
Well Below Average Progress
Hugh Christie 31 9 -0.59 D
Archbishops 48 21 -0.66 D
North 42 16 -0.79 D
Ursuline College 60 26 -0.96 E

 The difference between data in columns two and three reflects in many cases students who have taken a mixture of A Level and BTec courses. 

Please note that these outcomes are in order of the Progress made by students at the school from GCSE to A Level, I could have used one of several alternative measures which give very different orders.  

Medway Non-Selective Schools A Level Performance 2019     
Number taking
at least 1
 Number taking
at least
3 A Levels
3 A Level
Average Grade 
 Average Progress
Brompton  47 10 -0.05 C-
St John Fisher 37 27 -0.05 D-
Rainham Girls 123 56 -0.06 C-
Walderslade Girls 37 6 -0.12 D
Below Average
Thomas Aveling 78 36 -0.19 C
Howard 95 27 -0.28 C-
Robert Napier 41 10 -0.3 C-
Hundred of Hoo 48 22 -0.32 C-
Greenacre/Walderslade  61  1  -0.43 D
Strood  54 16  -0.44  D+ 
 Victory   36  29 -0.53  D+


Last modified on Monday, 22 November 2021 06:41

1 comment

  • Comment Link Thursday, 20 August 2020 05:55 posted by Gary Peters

    Although you claim to be no longer an expert in this area, you have provided plenty of solid and reliable information and advice for young people.

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