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Wednesday, 24 February 2021 05:25

School Admission Appeals and late Applications to Secondary School for September 2021 entry

Update 25th February: I have added some 'secret' information regarding late applications to  Medway grammar schools here

The government has extended last year’s temporary and amended arrangements for school admission appeals again, to run until 30th September 2021.

My sense is that these arrangements worked well in 2020, with all sides appearing happy with the new procedures in the great majority of cases. There was a total of 3424 appeals heard for admission to Kent and Medway primary and secondary schools last year, of which just 751, or 22% were upheld, compared to 26% in 2019 for a similar number of appeals. You will find that my extensive report on the 2020 appeals process and outcomes looks closely at the way the new arrangements worked.

As well as looking at appeals for admission to secondary schools in 2021, I also look below at late applications, both for families moving into the area and for those changing their direction, including for grammar schools.

I will be reporting on the initial allocation of secondary school places in Kent and Medway, as usual, in a week's time. This will be followed within the next couple of weeks on a detailed breakdown of allocations, in what is regularly a group of the most visited articles on the site and which will provide a further indication on the chances of a successful appeal or late application.   

You will find an up to date profile for every Kent and Medway secondary school via the links, which record which of the three types of appeal – paper-based, video conference, or occasionally telephone conference was used in 2020, along with outcomes of the appeals for each school and considerable other information. I anticipate that the great majority of appeal panels will use the same procedure again for each school, including the four largest providers, Kent County Council, Education Appeals dotcom, Clerks Associates and another team that operates in North Kent and Medway.

The pattern of appeals for each school over the past five years would normally be a fairly good guide to outcomes, although there are always some surprising variations, the most striking being at Westlands, where the number of successful appeals was none in 2018, 51  in 2019, and back to four in 2020. However this has been an extraordinary year and I anticipate that success rates will be down overall, as many schools seek to avoid large classes, and appellants for grammar school appeal will be short of evidence.

If you are making an appeal to a Panel that is likely to consider cases on a paper-based approach, remember that your written statement requesting the appeal will be the only evidence you provide.  One specific problem this year is the important issue that all panellists will wish to consider. What is the reason for an appeal to this particular school? Sadly, a high proportion of appellants will never even have visited the school in question because of Covid restrictions, so think carefully about how you answer this question, in your written statement if it is to be a paper-based appeal, and in addition be prepared for questioning if it is a conferencing approach.    

A series of information articles elsewhere on this website provide further information on appeals as follows: General Information for Secondary School Appeals; Appeals to Kent Grammar SchoolsMedway Grammar Review and Appeal; Oversubscription Appeals; and  Primary School Appeals, or follow the links via the information section on the right-hand side of this page.  

Grammar School Appeals
These are especially difficult to prepare for this year, as the government’s School Admissions Appeals Code requires ‘that there is evidence to demonstrate that the child is of the required academic standards, for example, school reports giving Year 5/Year 6 SAT results or a letter of support from their current or previous school clearly indicating why the child is considered to be of grammar school ability’.  In practice, nearly all appeal panels expect considerably more evidence, and you will find considerable advice set out here. Appeal Panel Administrators will also set out some of their expectations in the documentation they provide.

With a year of lockdowns and remote teaching, most families will struggle to provide the level of evidence of previous years. I am sure that primary schools will do their best to provide evidence. Some will have little to offer and I fear that once again those from socially deprived areas will be discriminated against when compared, for example, with children from private schools who may have far more to offer.  This is of course doubling up on the discrimination, as it is clear that, despite promises to the contrary, the Kent and Medway assessment procedures were both unnecessarily unfair to children from ‘ordinary families’.

The success rate at appeal for last year, at the start of the pandemic, fell sharply for Kent grammar schools from the norm of around 30% success to 22%, showing the challenges to be met. I anticipate this year will be even more difficult for the majority of families faced with providing evidence of grammar school ability. If Appeal Panels are going to uphold cases for such families, then they will need to rely even more on the judgement of primary school headteachers.

Late Applications
You will find a fuller information article here but in summary: In Kent you are free to apply directly to any school after Wednesday 21st April (but I advise putting in the form before that date). If these include one or more grammar schools and your child did not sit the Kent Test, then they will be turned down automatically for the grammar schools, but still offered the opportunity to make an appeal and put forward what evidence to support it they can.

In Medway, you can apply to go on a waiting list for any non-selective school (or grammar school if your child is qualified under the Medway Test) up until March 31st.  After that period, as long as you submitted a common application form in the first place, you are able to submit a fresh waiting list form. This can include or comprise exclusively of new schools at any time up until 31st December. This second piece of information relating to the period post March 31st is not published on the Medway website or elsewhere to the best of my knowledge.

Late Applications to Grammar Schools
Medway Council has not offered late testing for grammar school places for some years, and KCC was not able to offer this last summer because of coronavirus issues, and presumably will not again this year. For candidates who have not passed or taken the Medway Test, there is also a mechanism for making legitimate late applications to Medway grammar schools that I have unearthed, although the Council makes no reference to it in any of its literature, and it is not in the legally binding Medway Council Co-ordinated Scheme for Secondary Admissions Academic Year 2021/22. You simply put the school's name on the waiting list, ignoring the instruction that 'a child can only be placed on a waiting list for a Medway grammar school if they’ve been assessed as suitable for grammar in the Medway Test'. Although not eligible to be on the waiting list itself, Medway Council informs me the child's name will then be placed on the application form, which will entitle parents to make an appeal! Chatham Grammar (girls) is the likeliest to uphold such an appeal, but the other five are also obliged to hear your case. My 2019 article here, reports on this along with other material relevant to late applications.

In the case of Kent grammar schools, there is no parallel problem. Quite simply you submit an In-Year Application Form, and if your child has not taken the Kent Test you will be turned down and offered an appeal. Go to here for advice on this. 

Last modified on Sunday, 28 February 2021 08:22

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