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Wednesday, 05 April 2017 05:58

Medway Test and Grammar School Allocations 2017, including Oversubscription Levels

See article in Kent on Sunday: 1st April 2017 

This article looks at the final outcomes of the Medway Test and its effect on individual grammar school allocations in March.

Last year I wrote an article exposing the failure by Medway Council to set the Medway Test pass mark correctly in 2015, and for some years previously, revealing the fact that some 70 Medway children were deprived of grammar school places by a miscalculation. This produced a success rate after Reviews were taken into account of just 23% for Medway children. Perhaps it was article that produced a change in practice and this year the success rate has risen to 25.1%, almost exactly the target level. However, just 25 Medway pupils were found selective after Review, as against a target of 68. There is yet again serious bias towards girls and older children.

The increase in the success rate has produced an extra 125 pupils eligible for grammar school (an increase in pupil numbers contributing to this) placing enormous pressure on the capacity of all Medway grammar schools, so that there are just 6 vacancies in just one school, in spite of an extra 70 grammar places being added.  

The headline figure for all secondary allocations, including non-selective schools, shows a seriously worsening picture, with a fall of over 5% in the proportion of Medway children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 145 children. According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter in a press release, “This is great news”! See my previous article for initial figures.

Most oversubscribed school is Rochester Grammar, turning away 87 grammar qualified first preferences even after expanding its intake by 25 girls. The pressure for grammar school places from children living in London Boroughs, with 64 being offered, continues as explained below. I also look more closely at individual grammar schools and the Medway Test analysis.

You will find further information on Individual Medway Secondary Schools here, currently being updated.

You will find my preliminary article on allocations published at the beginning of March here, including cut-offs for super-selective grammars, for Medway secondary schools in 2016 here and also a parallel article for Kent selective schools. 

Medway Test  Analysis
Following my analysis last year that showed the Medway Test and Review process identified far fewer children as grammar qualified than the 25% target, there has clearly been a revision of process. As a result, whereas in the 2015 Test just 726 children, or 23.0% of the total attending Medway state or private schools were found selective by Test and Review, for 2016, it shot up to 852, or 25.1% of the total, almost exactly the target figure. The extra 126 grammar qualified children have produced the unprecedented pressure on places.

Even so, the process was again still seriously flawed, with the Medway Test itself producing a pass rate of 24.3%, 827 pupils, well above the target percentage of 23%. This was clearly compensated for by allowing only 25 children through on Review, out of 158 Medway candidates, just 0.7% of the total roll, against a target of 2%, the two figures together producing the exact target outcome of 25%.

Medway Test Data 2017 and 2016   
  2017 Entry 2016 Entry
Number of Pupils in Medway Schools*
 3394 3138
Medway Pupils Assessed Grammar
 851  726
Planned Number of Grammar Places
 942  930
Medway Pupils offered Grammar
 845  721
% Medway Pupils offered Grammar 25.07% 22.98%
OOC** Pupils Offered Grammar
 128  148
Pupils passing Kent Test
offered Chatham Grammars***
 30  Not known
Total Pupils Offered Grammar
 1006  869
Final Number of Grammar Places 
 1012  953
Note * The figure used by Medway Council is the number of Year 6 pupils in state schools, together with the number in Medway private schools taking the Test.
Note ** OOC stands for Out of County
Note *** The two Chatham Grammar Schools operate an alternative route of entry via success in the Kent Test. 15 children at each school were offered places by this route, although I do not know where they lived. No equivalent result available for 2016 entry. 
Bias towards Girls and Older Children in Medway Test
Further, although the number of girls and boys in the Medway Year 6 cohort was almost identical, 467 girls, or 27.5% of the total were successful in the grammar assessment, as against 385 boys or 22.7%, a massive bias towards girls, somewhat eased by the current provision of three girls grammar schools against just two for boys (but see below). Further, 236 children born in the first quarter of the year were successful, against an average of 206 in the other three quarters, once again showing the test is strongly biased towards older children. Medway Council were at one stage proposing to review the content of the Medway selection process, which may have removed this unfairness, but sadly this appears to have been dropped.
Review and Appeal
The number of Medway children successful at Review has been falling every year since 2013, when it was 45. This year, the Panels were clearly working to keep the overall grammar school assessment rate to 25% resulting in fewer than one out of every six Reviews being granted. With this low level of success is it really worth going through this highly stressful process for so many families - 158 this year from Medway, with another 38 (5 successes for oocs).

As a result of the pressure on places, I anticipate that the level of success at appeal is going to be fairly low across the board I am afraid.

Individual Schools
You will find a statistical summary of the data at the foot of the article.  Over a quarter of all first choices of Medway grammar schools were turned down. 

Overall there were just 6 vacancies in one Medway grammar school on allocation. 16 Medway children were offered places at Kent grammar schools, 11 at Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammars in Maidstone.

Chatham Girls' Grammar has increased its PAN by eight places to 150, although it has not quite filled, at 144 offers. This is 57 places up on the 2016 figure and will be a welcome relief to the school which has struggled on low numbers for years and faces the further threat of Holcombe Grammar School becoming co-educational (see below). The CGSG numbers are boosted by 36 girls being awarded places from outside Medway, 21 from Kent, and 15 girls who qualified through the Kent Test. I suspect many of the remainder, all from London Boroughs, will fade away when they discover the school is not near the railway stations, which may create spaces for strong appeals.

Fort Pitt Grammar School keeps its intake tight at 120 girls. As a result there were just two offers to OOCs, both from Kent, probably siblings. Some years back the school was able to admit 180 girls and presumably could again if it wished. 33 first choices oversubscribed, keeps appeals tight with just 4 successes out of 51 in 2016.

Holcombe Grammar School, previously Chatham Grammar School for Boys, increased its PAN from 120 to 128, filling them all, but taking in a large number of second choices, and 40 from outside Medway including 17 from London Boroughs. There are also 15 boys who qualified through the Kent Test. Last year the school had 28 vacancies! I suspect the school’s proposal to go co-educational in 2019 will go through now, although as this year’s data confirms, and as explained here, it will severely reduce opportunities for boys in Medway on a prospectus that is seriously flawed. I forecast that in 2019, if this goes ahead there will be grammar qualified Medway boys without places, but no one seems particularly bothered and Medway Council n ow supports the proposal. Impossible to estimate appeal numbers, as the school has claimed it is able to expand up to an intake of 180  if it becomes mixed, so there is presumably room.

Rainham Mark Grammar School
The number of grammar qualified girls and boys who made the school first choice has soared by 53 to 241, for the 205 places available. Sadly, 43 of these have not been offered places, having failed to achieve the cut off score of 529 (Medway Test pass mark is 513).  The school draws the great majority of its pupils from Medway, with just 22 ooc, 18 of whom come from Kent, probably from the nearby Sittingbourne area. Number of successful appeals is often 5, taking the total number of pupils after 2010. In 2016 there were 33 appeals. It is rare for someone who has not passed the Medway Test to be successful.

RMGS is making a radical change to its oversubscription criteria for September 2016, scrapping its super selective admission rules and replacing them by residential nearness to the school, after a number of exceptions. This will certainly remove the heartbreak of children living very close to the school losing out to children living as far away as London, but with higher scores. I have known many of these over the years and in my view the change, which goes in the opposite direction to league table chasers, is to be heartily applauded.

Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School
The Math, which increased its PAN by 18 places to 186 in 2016, has gone even further this year, making 204 offers. The school is 43 first choices oversubscribed, just up from 42 last year. The school gives priority to those living nearest, with 16 children from Kent being the only oocs, nearly all of whom will live around the Medway border in villages such as Higham and Wouldham. Again, very difficult to estimate how many appeals the Independent Panel will uphold; for 2016 it was 16, so given the increased size it is likely to be smaller this year.
The Rochester Grammar School
The school has again increased to 205 places, after slipping to 180 last year. Places are offered on high scores, the bar rising sharply to 546 this year, 33 points above the Medway pass mark, and much higher than 2016’s 18 points above. Even with the increase in numbers, the number of disappointed grammar qualified first choices has shot up to 87 from 36. The school has offered 76 places to oocs, including 28 from London Boroughs, stretching from Bexley to as far away as Waltham Forest. Going on previous decisions there are unlikely to be more than 5 successful appeals. 
Allocations to Medway Grammar Schools March 2017
Grammar School
1st Choices
Turned Away
Chatham Girls 142 150 144 0 15
Fort Pitt 120 120 120 33 0
Holcombe  120 128 128 0 17
Rainham Mark 205 205 205 62 4
Sir Joseph
180 204 204 42 0
Rochester 175 205 205 87 30
TOTALS 942 1012 1006 261 66






Last modified on Monday, 18 February 2019 15:22

1 comment

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 December 2017 19:31 posted by Pritpal Heer

    I'm trying to understand why Rochester Grammar School for Girls offer so many places to OOC
    students for the London Boroughs at the expense of local children. Is there some overarching education legislation that forces them to do this or is this through choice- if so why. PETER: They have every legal right to select through high grades I am afraid and it is completely their choice, which is a great draw for London children, and a great disservice from those living in Medway.

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