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Saturday, 09 January 2016 19:39

Further analysis of Kent test results

I have now had further opportunity to look at data relating to the recent Kent Test outcomes for Admission in September 2016, with a summary of the statistics below.  
Headlines are:
Girls again out-perform boys both on automatic passes and on Headteacher Assessments (HTAs, see below)
The pass mark of 106 in each of English, Maths and Reasoning, for the second year running, means that some children, a third of the way down the ability range, are being given automatic entry to grammar school. New theory below.
The overall Kent pass percentage of 26.1% is above the target of 25%, thanks to high proportion of successful HTAs again, especially in East Kent, notably Canterbury.
Highest proportion of grammar success are both from East Kent primary schools: Challock and Tunstall.
The rise in out of county test passes from 1494 in 2014, to 1974 this year, masks situations such as the primary school in Croydon which had 27 of its 90 children taking the Kent Test. Why?

Kent Grammar School Assessments 2015, for Admission in September 2016*





 % boys    

 % girls    

 Total %    

Year Six Kent Population**


8132 16571 51% 49% 100%

Number who sat test


5226 10153 61% 67% 64%

Automatic Pass


1664 3310 19.5% 20.5% 20.0%

Headteacher Assessment (HTA)


996  1914 11.3%  12.7%  12.0%
HTA Passes  477  530 1007  5.8%  6.8%  6.3% 

Total Kent  Passes


2194  4317  25.2%   27.0% 26.1%

Out of County Tested


1751  3679  52%   48%  100%

Out of County Automatic Pass


894 1889 52%   51%  51%

OOC Headteacher Assessment




 5%  6%  5%


36 49 85  2%  3%  2%
Total OOC Passes 1031 943 1974 53% 54% 54%
Notes to table at foot of article 
This article expands my initial look at the 2015 Kent Test results, written in October, which should be read in conjunction with the article. The figures do not match exactly, as adjustments and late tests have produced changes.
Girls lead again
As with 2014, girls are performing better than boys in both the Test and HTAs, the test outcome being a reversal of the previous model, replaced in 2014. This reversal is primarily because of the introduction of a literacy element in the new Test which, according to the statistics, favours girls. See my previous article on conundrum. Girls have always performed best on HTA, the more significant factor in accounting for the difference in performance by gender, the gap again reducing pressure on boys’ grammar school places, although this has shrunk this year.
Pass Mark
The pass mark requirement of a nationally standardised score of 106 in each of English, Maths and Reasoning (together with an aggregate of 320), is explored in my article last year onConundrum. A mark of 106 or higher in one test will be achieved by a sample of 34% of children across the country taking the test questions separately, far higher than the Kent target of 21%, which should produce a pass score of 113. Given that other evidence makes clear Kent children are not less intelligent that others, my previous article comes up with one explanation for the discrepancy, but I now have another possibility. With English and maths elements being just 25 minutes each to complete 24/25 questions, speed and accuracy become essential, and the chance of making mistakes correspondingly higher. In the old test, the maths paper stood on its own and, as I recall, lasted about 45 minutes with some 60 questions. In such a pressured climate for the new test, it is unsurprising that the pass mark becomes lower as mistakes are more heavily penalised, and the confidence in the test to fulfil its aim is surely correspondingly less. I am told that several grammar schools are already concerned about some Year Seven pupils who have scraped through on minimum pass scores.
The two safety nets of HTA and appeals come into play after the automatic passes are awarded, although chances of success also depend on factors other than demonstration of ability. See below for HTA, and my recent article on Appeals.
School Performance
Overall, the best performing primary schools in terms of percentage pass rate from total pupil numbers are: Challock Primary 72%; Tunstall CofE 70%; Ightham 69.6%; Weald Community (Sevenoaks) 64.7%; Laddingford St Mary’s CofE 64.3%; Amherst (Sevenoaks) 63.5%; Bidborough CofE 61.3% and all at 60% - Hollingbourne, Yalding St Peter & St Paul CofE, and St Nicholas at Wade CofE. There is no way of knowing what proportion of the pass marks are down to high quality teaching in the school (although Tunstall had the tenth highest proportion of Level 5 SATs in 2015), or alternatively private tuition. At the other end of the scale, whilst all Kent primary schools but St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Aylesham (see also Key Stage 2 results article) entered candidates, 15 had no successes, over half in Dover and Shepway (although some of these may have had candidates entered for the Dover or Shepway Local 11 Plus Tests who qualified for grammar school by passing the local test).
District Variation in Passes and Headteacher Assessment (HTA)
Along with the 21% target of automatic passes, a target of an additional 4% of children are found selective by what is known as Head Teacher Assessment (HTA) which looks at children’s work, previous test results, headteacher recommendation and pass mark. Further details here.
Almost exactly 10% of all Kent overall passes have gone to children in the private sector, although a considerable proportion of these will not take up grammar school places, preferring to remain private.
Highest automatic test pass rates for state school pupils unsurprisingly are Sevenoaks with 28.0%, Tunbridge Wells with 26.6% and Tonbridge and Malling with 23.0%. These West Kent figures will be swollen by the extensive private school sector, which is impossible to pin down in geographic terms. Next come Maidstone with 21.8% and Dartford with 21%. At the other end of the scale are Thanet at 11.3% and Swale at 11.6%, but see below. Next come Shepway, 13.9%, Dover 14.1% and Gravesham at 14.5%. 
Most automatic passes follow socio-economic patterns across the county, but the influence of HTAs is very different. There are three Panels of Headteachers which make the awards, with East Kent being generally most generous, followed by Mid-Kent, with West Kent bringing up the rear, reflecting the pressure on grammar school places in each part of the county. Canterbury District, traditionally the most generous district in upholding HTAs, leads the field again by some way with 9.9% of all its children having HTAs upheld, taking it within a whisker of the three West Kent Districts overall. The other two highest proportions are in Thanet and Swale, both at 8.8%, the difference being that these two are at the foot of the automatic pass table, and so decisions could be considered as levelling up the pass rates. Tunbridge Wells at 2.1% has the lowest proportion of successful HTAs, fitting the pattern, with Sevenoaks not far behind with 3.7%. The two Districts that have come off worst appear to be Shepway at 2.8%, second lowest in the county, but part of the otherwise generous East Kent Panel, and Gravesham, at 4.0%, which suffers from being in the tough West Kent Panel.
Adding these two figures together give the overall selective decisions which range from Shepway at 16.7%, Gravesham 18.5%, Dover 19.9%, Thanet 20.1% and Swale at 20.4%, through to 31.7% in Sevenoaks, 28.8% in Tonbridge and Malling, 28.7% in Tonbridge Wells and a remarkable 28.6% in Canterbury.
Out of County Passes
Each year the number of out of county Kent Test passes rises due to what has been called 11 plus tourism, as too many London families apply to grammar schools around the M25 belt, or else the North West Kent grammars easily reached by rail out of SE London. This is usually accompanied by some hysterical media headlines about the consequent shortage of grammar school places for Kent children, which never actually happens, as most of these children never come.  
Changes in admission policy in 2015 and 2016 at the two Wilmington Grammars and the Judd School to favour Kent children may further inhibit supply of places for out of county children, but certainly not demand. For 2015 admissions, of the 1494 ooc Kent Test passes, just 455 were offered places in March, over half at the four Dartford and Wilmington grammars, with this number likely to have fallen further before entry in September.
Kent Test Results 2015 for out of county candidates
Local Authority

Sat Kent


Passed Kent


Offered places in

Kent Grammar 2015

Bexley 937 476 151
Bromley 637 390 99
Greenwich  619 275 43
Medway  344 173 16
Lewisham 314 168 26
East Sussex 154 90 43
Thurrock 160 78 27
Surrey 66 47 15
Croydon 47 40 1
Other London Boroughs 290 165 24
Other Local Authorities 425 72 9
One wonders about the philosophy at Park Hill Junior School in Croydon, a Local Authority that saw just one child offered a place at a Kent grammar last year (usually it is none), but the school still put in 27 of its 90 children for the Kent Test, with 24 passing.
Or Old Bexley CofE Primary school where 64 of the 119 Year 6 children took the Kent Test, with 38 passing, six after successful HTAs. Yes, I can see that it is just two rail stations from Dartford, but the four Dartford grammars only award places to high scorers from out of county. Bexley has its own set of grammar schools selecting to a similar standard to the normal Kent Test pass, so I suspect the children are in mainly for the practice at taking the Test.
Or the John Ball Primary School in Blackheath, half of the 60 children taking the Kent Test, with 20 passing.
Or Alexander McLeod School in Greenwich, with 22 of its 90 children taking the Kent Test, 13 passing.
Or even the four from William Ransom School in Hertfordshire who all passed (no Hertfordshire children offered Kent grammar places in recent years). A long commute this one!
Notes for the first table
* These statistics do not cover the 12 home educated Kent children who took the Kent Test (5 passed); the six who were educated abroad (4 passed); or the 10 whose situation is unclear.
** Year Six Population
The pass mark is set to produce a target of 21% of children for an automatic selective decision from the relevant cohort of children. This cohort comprises all Year Six children attending primary schools in what were called the traditional grammar school areas of Kent. This cohort will be expanded to include all Year Six mainstream state school children in the county, together with all children in Kent private schools taking the Kent Test, for the 2016 Test. In order to simplify the figures I have used the latter cohort, as it comprises the great majority of the children involved and,  whilst comparisons with 2014 outcomes are therefore not direct, the results over the two years appear entirely consistent.  For some reason, in both years, there have been around 300 more boys than girls, out of nearly 16,000 children. 
Last modified on Tuesday, 15 November 2016 21:33

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