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Friday, 06 May 2022 11:50

Proposal to Turn three Medway Grammar Schools Co-Educational is based on falsehood.


You will find my response to the Consultation here

See my follow up article here for more revelations.

Medway Council is now consulting on a proposal to turn three of the five Medway single sex grammar schools into co-educational schools, and increasing the selection rate to reduce the pressure on non-selective school places.   I first considered an early version of this proposal in a previous article, but the consultation document is now published for public comment. It is riddled with false statements. The main falsehood is the claim that there is a shortage of Medway grammar school places for Medway Boys, apparently demonstrated by there being 454 Medway girls in Year 7 of local grammar schools last September and 402 boys. The reasons for the differential  are quite simply:The Medway Test is not fit for purpose and annually allows more girls than boys to pass, 2022 entry being typical with 445 Medway girls and 388 boys being found selective. For 2021 entry, not a single boy who had been unsuccessful in the Medway selection process was offered a Medway grammar school place on appeal. At least 38 girls were offered places. Previous years have a similar pattern.

As a result, because there were insufficient local boys coming forward, Holcombe Grammar topped up with 64 out of county (ooc) boys on allocation this year, mainly from Bexley and Greenwich. The section in the Consultation on ‘How will this impact Medway girls?’, is quite simply a nonsense from beginning to end. Two separate proposals to change Holcombe Grammar to become co-educational have been put to the Schools Adjudicator in recent years. Twice they have been rejected, with myself quoted as the main objector, most recently here. This new proposal presents an even weaker case than these.

The Reality
The bizarre idea of increasing the selection rate by anything up to a fifth is broadly irrelevant to the proposal to make the three grammar schools co-educational. If the increase were just 3%, there would still be enough places at Chatham and Holcombe grammars to absorb this number of additional Medway children without the need to introduce any additional places. If not, then there is ample space to cater for the growing Medway population for years to come.  It really is a twisted logic to increase the grammar selection rate to reduce the number of children in non-selective schools affecting the ability levels in both sectors, as explored further below.
There is an underlying problem in that the Medway Test unfairly discriminates against boys, as I have spelled out many times over the last decade including here. This means that the imbalance of places created by having three girls’ grammars and two for boys (together with the mixed Rainham Mark) is less obvious.  Whilst this year is not typical (the effects of Covid including a fall in the number of Medway boys being tested), the test outcome has 21.5% of Medway boys being found selective, and 24.7% girls. This provides 57 more girls than boys.
Medway Test 2021
Medway children only
  Boys Girls Total
Medway Cohort 1806 1799 3605
Took Medway Test 935 1001 1936
Assessed Grammar 388 445 833
% of Cohort 21.5% 24.7% 23.1%

Currently there is a considerable surplus of places for grammar qualified local boys and girls in the six Medway grammar schools. All will be offered a place in at least one of these schools if they apply to at least Holcombe or Chatham Grammar. So, on allocation for this September, Holcombe filled up with 64 ooc boys, with no shortage whatever for boys’ places. For entry in September this year, it had 61 grammar qualified first choices, by some way the lowest number of any grammar school in Kent or Medway, which is a considerable factor in any consideration of change. The school has made clear since 2018, when its previous Appeal Panel withdrew and the school appointed a more malleable one, that it doesn’t want boys originally non selective being offered places on appeal, apparently preferring qualified London children. This year no appeals at all were upheld. Further, Chatham Grammar, even after offering 47 places to ooc girls, was left with 30 places vacant, which will probably be filled up on with appeals. Altogether offers to 195 children out of the total of 1095,or 18%, this year went to non-local children, mainly from London. And so just 900 of the 1093 places available were offered to Medway children, who will have had priority for nearly all places, these being primarily offered on distance grounds. It makes the previous nonsensical proposal by Medway Council in 2019 to open a new grammar school sound even dafter. One has to seriously question the quality of advice that Medway Council officers give to Councillors on school admission matters, given that they can come out with such horrendous blunders, along with Councillors who apparently swallow it all without question.  

Whilst there are three Medway girls' grammar schools and two for boys (with  Rainham Mark Grammar co-educational), this is not a factor in the imbalance of places offered to Medway children because of the large surplus for both genders. However, if the Thinking Schools Academy Trust which runs Holcombe Grammar is serious about the principle, then it should also put its flagship Rochester Grammar School into the mix!

You will find analysis of each of the sections of the Consultation Document on the next page.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 29 June 2022 19:24


  • Comment Link Tuesday, 17 May 2022 18:23 posted by Another Medway Teacher

    Peter, this is madness. Let us be precise. Medway Council uses lies to justify its proposal and manages to do so without a single educational argument. You demonstrated both points most cogently. Why haven't you told the Medway Messenger or other media about this. PETER: I have alerted both Medway Messenger and BBC South East about this scandal. Neither appears to have any interest in the matter. I can do no more at present as I don't use Social Media, but am happy for others to raise the profile of this disgrace or support any other initiative to do so.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 May 2022 23:06 posted by Parent

    We took our son out of Holcombe last year. The behaviour and the discipline in an attempt to control it had led to his being bullied. He is much happier now. God help any girls who volunteer to go into that atmosphere.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 May 2022 19:09 posted by Ex Gordon Primary

    Isn't the problem that Holcombe Grammar is so unpopular and the Thinking Schools Academy Trust sees this as a solution to its troubles. The leopard won't change its spots and if parents of boys won't send their children to the school, why should parents of girls. The solution to all of this at a stroke is of course to make The Rochester Grammar mixed, but TSAT will never allow this to happen. Rather they will settle to b***** up the rest of the system. TSAT should be banned from running any schools.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 May 2022 18:54 posted by Serving You

    Peter, Surely Medway Council cannot ignore this. You have said that an official Council document contains lies. To me the evidence appears conclusive. What next? PETER: In my experience, like Boris Johnson, the Council will always ignore inconvenient truths.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 May 2022 11:36 posted by Medway taxpayer

    So what happens next? You have accused Medway Council of lying in its Consultation Document. This is a serious allegation. Are they going to deny it? PETER: On their previous record, I expect the Council to ignore the whole thing and carry on regardless. I have written to a number of Councillors to inform them of my charges. Early days so far, but I have had just the one response, not disagreeing with the facts I have published.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 08 May 2022 16:57 posted by Medway Parent

    Can I ask you to speculate further on the law of unintended consequences? PETER: My best guess is that The Math and Rainham Mark will become even more oversubscribed; Fort Pitt will also be oversubscribed with Medway children; Rochester Grammar may take in more Medway girls; Chatham Grammar won't be much worse off; and Holcombe will pick up Hoo children and then depend on Londoners. But only a guess! As to what happens if they try and fill the grammar schools by extending the ability range, that's getting a bit far even for me!

  • Comment Link Saturday, 07 May 2022 22:42 posted by Medway teacher

    Peter, you suggest that the proposal has come about because the Council wants to reduce the pressure on non selective schools., but the damage this will do to them by taking away their brightest children hardly compensates for this. As a grammar school teacher, I am not looking forward to taking less able children onto our fast track curriculum. No one will win. PETER: Your analysis is, I am afraid, correct.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 07 May 2022 22:37 posted by Medway Council Tax Payer

    This is shocking. It even makes Boris look good. What do you suggest can be done about these so called representatives of the people of Medway?. PETER: I have been trying to get the Council to take action on these matters for years, but it appears no one cares. Their Motto is 'Serving You'. Perhaps 'Self-Serving' would be better

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