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Saturday, 26 March 2016 07:50

Medway Secondary Allocations 2016: Oversubscription and Vacancies

You will find the initial Medway Secondary school allocation figures here, showing that 84.3% of Medway children were offered places at their first choice school, with just 2.6%, or 77 children, offered none of their six choices, these being allocated a local school by Medway Council. I have also prepared parallel articles on oversubscription and vacancies for Kent grammar and non-selective schools.  I now have more detailed information showing that the most popular school in Medway by far was Brompton Academy, which turned away 108 first preferences, followed by Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School with 42.

     Brompton Academy              SJWMS1              

 The Victory Academy has most vacancies, 110 on allocation, twice as many as the next school, Chatham Grammar Girls’ with 55.

158 of the 197 children from outside Medway taking up places in local schools at this stage come from Kent, with 113 of these taking up places in Medway Grammar schools, 48 at The Rochester Grammar School. 140 of the 142 Medway children going out county are taking up places at Kent schools, mainly non-selective. 

As well as further details below, I look at the implications of these figures on the decision to turn Chatham Grammar School for Boys into a co-educational school from September 2017.

Non-Selective Schools
Brompton Academy has responded on the pressure to secure places at the school by a late increase of 40 places in its intake this year to 250, and yet still turned away 108 disappointed first choices, as a consequence slipping slightly from its position over the past two years as most oversubscribed school across Kent and Medway. Some places will be freed up off waiting lists following appeals to grammar schools (see below), but otherwise, winning an appeal at Brompton is very difficult, 2015 being typical with just 7 appeals upheld out of 68. The only other oversubscribed school by this measure is Thomas Aveling, turning away just 17 first choices, it also proving difficult to win an appeal here, last year only 7 were successful out of 47. Also Rainham Girls, Strood Academy and The Howard School all filled, taking second or lower choices into account.  

The above figures still understate the pressures on the oversubscribed schools, as a further 190 families put a grammar school in first choice although their children had not passed the Medway Test. Many of these would otherwise have put one of these five schools first on their list. There is of course no advantage in putting a grammar school first in this case, as it makes no difference to a subsequent appeal panel, but neither is there a disadvantage (apart of course from muddying my figures!) as it doesn’t give you any advantage (or disadvantage) when making allocations to non-selective schools.

The Victory Academy (run by TSAT, see below) does not appear to have thrown off the difficult reputation of its predecessor Bishop of Rochester Academy yet, with 110 vacancies which, if one adds in the 6 children allocated by Medway Council who did not apply to the school, adds up to nearly half the total places available. This must be a really worrying figure as at this level financial pressures really bite, money being closely connected to the number of students on roll. When waiting lists and appeals for other more popular schools and grammar schools take their toll, the final intake figure is likely to be even less than last year's 123 children which had seen 46 gain places lost to other more popular schools between allocation and admission in September. Most of the remaining 61 Medway Allocations go to The Robert Napier School and St John Fisher Catholic School, which would otherwise have had 55 and 53 vacancies respectively for their 180 places. The decision not to place more allocations at Victory Academy is an interesting one, especially as two years ago Medway Council was criticised for allocating children to the faith St John Fisher Catholic School, which then sent parents a questionnaire asking them to declare their commitment to the Catholic church!

Non-selective schools across the border into Kent draw 124 Medway children away from local schools,most for geographical reasons, with 39 heading for Holmesdale Technology College, 24 to The Malling School, 22 to Aylesford School or, presumably for religious reasons, 11 to St Simon Stock Catholic School. Just 53 are coming the other way, not surprisingly mainly to the five schools around the Kent/Medway border, the deficit increasing the pressure on the more vulnerable schools.

Grammar Schools
By far the most popular grammar school in Medway is Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, with 42 first choices turned away, this even after the school admitted a further 18 boys above its Planned Admission Number. Exceptionally in my experience, all but one of the 186 places offered went to first choices, showing the enormous popularity of the school to boys in the radius of seven and a half kilometres, the cut-off distance this year. Last year the school happily admitted 23 boys on appeal (20 of whom had passed the Medway Test), taking numbers up to 189, six large forms of entry, all but one of whom started in September.  It has been suggested the school will be prepared to take in up to another form on appeal for 2016 entry.

The Rochester Grammar School is 18 first choices oversubscribed, having increased its PAN by 5 girls to 180. Even so, this is quite a fall in popularity from 2015, when it increased the PAN to 205, and was still 22 girls oversubscribed. However, the cut-off of this super selective school has risen to 18 points above the Medway pass mark of 521. Unless the school is able to increase to seven forms of entry this year which looks unlikely on these numbers, then appeal prospects look low – last year there were just 6 successes, all of whom had passed the Medway Test (another 12 who had passed were turned down).

Fort Pitt Grammar School is well oversubscribed this year, by 17 first choices, having had vacancies for the past two years, but in recent years, appeal chances have been very low, for 2015 entry it was three upheld out of 39. Rainham Mark’s PAN has now settled at 205, 30 places up on a few years ago, leaving it just oversubscribed, but still with a cut-off of 528. Last year there were seven successful appeals.

The increased numbers at The Math, Rainham Mark and Rochester Grammar, have taken a heavy toll on the two Chatham Grammar Schools. Chatham Boys reduced its Pan a few years ago to 120, but has still only recruited 91 boys at this stage, although this is 10 up on the disastrous 2015. If the Math admits an extra form on appeal again most of whom had already passed last year, it will be badly hit again. Chatham Girls has kept its PAN at an unrealistic 142, in spite of a decision last year to restrict final numbers after appeal to three forms of entry. Even so, it has increased its allocation figure by 21 girls to 87, most of whom will stick, so may well encourage appeals for 2016 and go for four forms of entry. 

Children from Outside Medway in Grammar Schools
In January I wrote an article entitled The Medway Test: Definitely Not fit for Purpose, which oddly appears to have coincided with a decision by Medway Council to drop its proposed review of the operation of the Test. I hope there was no connection. The two key points were that around 70 Medway children were deprived of grammar school places because of failures in the Test and Review process, and also the continued sharp bias towards girls, with 21% more girls than boys passing the Test.

The first of these factors ensures there are 81 vacancies in Medway Grammar schools, all at the two Chathams’, but the true figure is hidden by the large number of Kent children, 113 coming over the border, taking up 13% of the total grammar school places allocated. Another 33 come from elsewhere, mainly the London Boroughs, but I suspect very few of these actually arrive.

Rochester Grammar is taking 48 Kent children and 11 from London. Sir Joseph Williamson’s is taking 20 from Kent, some of whom will be siblings, the rest mainly from the villages bordering the West of Medway. Most of the remainder are going to the two Chatham Grammars, who both accept a Kent Test pass as an alternative means of entry, and Rainham Mark Grammar.

Chatham Grammar School for Boys to go Co-Educational
UPDATE: This decision has sensibly been blocked by government, So I am confident that the future of the two girls' grammar schools, discussed below, is now secure. 
This controversial decision, strongly opposed by Medway Council and most Medway secondary schools outside the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) that runs Chatham Grammar, is now almost certain to go ahead, leaving just one boys’ grammar and three girls’ grammars in Medway along with two mixed grammar schools. TSAT has already stated that if there are insufficient boys’ places in the new school because of an influx of girls it will expand to meet demand, so the future for Chatham Girls and Fort Pitt depends on their keeping up this year’s increased demand, and retaining the inequity favouring girls in the system, which now looks likely. Of course, if the Medway Test process operated according to the rules, most of the problem of overall numbers would go away. The approach of the three stronger schools, by expanding to soak up much of the demand is clearly damaging their competitors, and if parents vote for co-education at Chatham Boys, then at least one of Chatham Girls and Fort Pitt will become vulnerable. Anecdotal evidence (no more) suggests that families of girls prefer single sex schools; we shall see. 
Last modified on Tuesday, 27 September 2016 21:43

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 28 March 2016 18:36 posted by Sarah

    Not the best advert for the Thinking Schools Academy Trust. Popularity of Rochester Grammar down, at the expense of the two schools they are determined to put down. Chatham Grammar embroiled in controversy. Victory Academy struggling (PETER: Personal comments edited out).

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