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Tuesday, 08 December 2020 06:23

Sixth Form Courses in Kent and Medway Schools


Medway Schools

Probably the most newsworthy of all Kent and Medway grammar schools this year is The Rochester Grammar which has seen a self-inflicted massive decline in its Sixth Form fortunes this September. This was caused by its switch from an offering of a mixed diet of A-Level and IB, to provide the latter for all students. The staying on rate of its own Year 11 girls fell sharply to 46%, lower than one in two, and greater only than Dover Grammar Boys with its very different type of catchment. I wrote an article on the first part of the debacle last year when the school changed its intake dramatically from being super selective to giving priority to local girls and those with Pupil Premium (although the latter fell in number!), in exchange for millions of pounds from government. Then, two months ago I followed through with another article exploring the dire consequences of the two experiments.

It is worth bearing in mind that the total Year 12 roll of the school in  October 2019 was 87% of the same cohort in Year 11, whereas in October 2020 it had fallen to 53% as 92 girls left the school, many to avoid the introduction of the IB which, according to reports from the families of several of these girls, had been appallingly handled by the school. Others may have missed the Sixth Form entry requirements of ‘5+ GCSEs at grades 6-9’, together with individual subject grades (unpublished, although required). These girls fled to a variety of other schools including 34 to neighbouring Sir Joseph Williamson’s (known locally as The Math), 22 to Holcombe, even 15 to Dartford Grammar although this also offered only the IB; 6 to Rainham Mark; and 5 to Fort Pitt. Normally only 12 external places are offered, with an overall maximum of 210 places, achieved in most years, although for 2020 it has fallen to half of this total. The school’s below average A-Level Progress Grade for 2019, based on the 104 students taking three A-Levels that year out of 144 in total, shows both the massive shift from just 40 students taking the IB that year, and how this highly selective school was not attending to the basics. There are massive questions to be asked of the leadership of this once fine school and of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust that runs both it and Holcombe Grammar School, below. The word I keep hearing to describe that leadership is 'arrogant'. 

Just over the road from RGS is The Math, the big winner in Medway. The staying on rate of 80% is the highest in the Authority, taking in 59 external students, most from Rochester. This takes the Year group to 207 students, well above the Sixth Form PAN of 190. At the age of eleven, the school simply prioritises local boys who have passed the Medway Test, and its Sixth Form entry requirements of ‘Five GCSE grades at 5 or higher, including a 5 for Mathematics and English, together with an average GCSE points score of 5.5, or better’, and Levels 6 or 7 in most subjects to be studied, are low compared to many other grammar schools, although A Level performance is strong. 

Holcombe Grammar above, as well as the general Sixth Form requirement of 'at least five grades at Level 9-5 including English and Mathematics’  grudgingly published only after my pressure, expects mainly grades 5 and 6 for specific subjects, including several vocational qualifications. So it may well be that it is offering places for students not qualified for acceptance elsewhere, which may contribute to the high drop out rate at the end of Year 12 in most past years. 

Medway Grammar Schools Sixth Form Patterns
Staying on
Sir Joseph
80% 207 59 29%
Holcombe  76% 168 78 46%
Rainham Mark 72% 194 43 22%
Fort Pitt  69% 199 43 35%
Chatham  58% 70 21 30%
Rochester 46% 105 14 13%

 Rainham Mark Grammar has one of the lowest Sixth Form entry requirement of any Kent or Medway grammar I have noticed, at with 'Admission to the sixth form will depend on: (i) Examination results at GCSE which confirm an adequate base level: At least 8 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English Language and Mathematics and a grade 5 or above in either Mathematics or English (Language or Literature) and a total point score of 46, based on the applicant’s best 8 subject grades; (ii) Subject choice: most subjects have entry requirements; for most subjects students will be expected to have achieved at least grade 6 in those subjects at GCSE'. although the sting may come in the average point score of 46. 

Somehow Chatham Grammar continues to limp along, even its £2.3 million new Sixth Form block failing to attract pupils into Year 12, which started the year with just 70, down even on last year’s 84. This misses its trumpeted target of 200 by a considerable amount. Presumably, the school's joint Sixth Form with Brompton Academy will keep it afloat for a while. However, you will look in vain on the Brompton website for any information on courses offered or requirements for entry. Not even the Admissions -UKAT Sixth Form website page give any clues and indeed describes (completely out of date) the situation in 2018-19, recording that ‘The admission number for Year 12 is 5’, although to be fair it does explain capacity is 200 students in Year 12. In the event, there were 113 students in Year 12 this year, including 32 from other schools, the largest group of any Medway N/S school, making it the dominant part of the amalgamation of the two Sixth Forms. As with the Thinking Schools Academy Trust and its two grammar schools, the leadership of Chatham Grammar and the University of Kent Academies Trust has much to answer for although, in their defence, Chatham has a tough job given the surplus of grammar school places for girls in Medway and the aggressive expansion of Rochester Grammar. 

The largest single N/S school Sixth form in Medway is at Rainham Girls, with a Year 12 of 164 students, 30 from other schools, including 11 from Rainham Mark Grammar and nine from the Howard, the other two Rainham secondary schools. It also has the highest staying on rate into the Sixth Form of any N/S school in Kent or Medway. At A-Level in 2019, it performed better than Chatham Grammar on every single published measure, including the number of students taking three subjects at 56, so one can see the attraction. Greenacre and Walderslade Girls run a joint 6th Form, known as PGW - Partnership of Greenacre and Walderslade, which has some 300 students, Greenacre also having the next highest staying on rate this year with 59% going into Year 12.

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Last modified on Saturday, 20 November 2021 20:16


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