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Displaying items by tag: grammar school admissions

Published in Downsmail: July 22nd 2021. 

Covid-19 and the Kent Grammar School Selection Process for 2022 Entry

Registration for the Kent Test this year has now closed, with many families wondering what contingency plans will be put in place this year to manage the expected rise in Covid cases amongst young people by 9th September, the date of the test. Sadly, the 2021 selection procedure was set in stone and no allowances were made for the education lost over the previous year, with the inevitable result. The then Education Cabinet Member claimed KCC would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage. The Education Secretary made a similar promise.  These proved completely empty promises and nothing was done, apart from a delay in testing. As a direct result the proportion of children in receipt of Pupil Premium and those in East and Mid Kent who passed the Kent Test plummeted, boys in general underperformed, passes for children from West Kent, private schools and out of county increased.

One of the most startling outcomes was at Maidstone Grammar School which had 14 vacancies on allocation in March, whereas it was previously heavily oversubscribed. Oakwood Park had 32 vacancies. In contrast, 12 first choice girls were turned away from Invicta Grammar after not filling last year whilst Maidstone Girls, saw an improvement but still with 23 vacancies. 13 East and Mid Kent grammar schools had empty places on allocation in March. Appeals have now taken place. MGS will certainly have filled, whilst Maidstone Girls and Oakwood will have been very generous as in most previous years.

So what of entry for 2022? Social mobility, already damaged by tutoring and private cramming schools, will inevitably take another knock in this year’s assessment process unless the Education Department changes its attitudes. Shellina Prendergast, the new Cabinet Member for Education and a County Councillor for Maidstone Rural East, is well aware of the local issues, and Christine Innes, the new Director of Education bring fresh ideas, so the opportunity is there.

To be precise, unless there are changes in the selective assessment procedure we shall see another betrayal of ‘ordinary’ Kent children looking for a grammar school place.

Last year KCC Officers and politicians put forward the argument that there were just two models of selection available to them, the Kent Test followed by Headteacher Assessments in their current form, or assessment by headteachers without a test. I came up with a third without difficulty, requiring no change in regulations, which overcame some of the problems. I am sure there are others, but the refusal to contemplate any alternatives led directly to the present failure.

You will find details of all the data referred to above at: https://www.kentadvice.co.uk/peters-blog/news-a-comments/item/1404-the-kent-test-2021-in-the-face-of-last-years-failures.html

Published in Newspaper Articles

Last summer I wrote a series of articles warning that unless changes were made to the forthcoming Kent grammar school selection process, the pass rate amongst pupil premium children and those from ‘ordinary families’ would fall because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on learning in primary schools. The Education Cabinet Member at the time claimed that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage. This proved a completely empty promise, and nothing was done, apart from a delay in testing. 

As a direct result of the failure to act, the proportion of children in receipt of Pupil Premium and those in East Kent who passed the Kent Test plummeted along with the proportion of Kent state school children taking the Test, boys in general underperformed, passes for children from private schools and out of county increased, and 13 East and Mid Kent grammar schools had empty places on allocation in March. You will find the evidence for all these facts traceable back from a previous article. Social mobility, one of the principles of the selective school system which is already damaged by tutoring and private cramming schools, will inevitably take another knock in next school year’s assessment process unless the Education Department changes its attitudes and approach to selection.  There are now a new Cabinet Member for Education and a new Director of Education in the county, so the opportunity is there for such a change, necessary if there is not to be further inequality entrenched, with this year's cohort suffering nearly two years of serious disruption in school and learning by the time of the Test in September/October. 

To be precise, unless there are changes in the selective assessment procedure we shall see another and increasing betrayal of the more disadvantaged Kent children looking towards a grammar school place for the second year running, despite the valiant efforts of so many teachers to minimise that disadvantage. There is a brief note on the situation in Medway, below

Published in News and Comments
Sunday, 14 June 2020 06:58

Grammar Schools and Pupil Premium Children

The Campaigning website Comprehensive Future has criticised a single phrase in the last section below in a dedicated article here. Whilst hardly groundbreaking, I do not accept the criticism which is based on an inept and complete misreading of their own dodgy data and have responded here.  
There are considerable concerns over the opportunities for disadvantaged pupils in this year’s grammar school selection process, whatever form this takes. Nationally and in Kent and Medway there is remarkable consistency over the statistics for the last four years. The national percentage for Pupil Premium children in Year Seven of grammar schools is 8% of the total in each of January 2017-2019, with Kent being 9% overall(10% in 2019) and Medway 12% falling to 11% in 2019.
 
The four Kent grammar schools with the highest proportion of PP children currently in Year Seven, are those in Dover and Folkestone that offer local tests as an additional route of entry to grammar school. These are Dover Boys (22%); Dover Girls (20%); Folkestone Girls and Harvey both 19%. Lowest are Tonbridge (2%); Judd, Skinners, and Tunbridge Wells Girls, all with 3% PP. Highest in Medway in January 2019 were Chatham, Holcombe, and Fort Pitt, all with 15%. Lowest were Rainham Mark and Rochester (see below) with 8%.  Further details below.
 
There is therefore a huge responsibility on Local Authorities, whatever selection method is finally agreed on, to ensure that these percentages are at least maintained.
Published in News and Comments

Note on Coronavirus: There are various references to school admission appeals in this article, based on normal expectations . At the time of writing there is no information about  the procedure to be adopted this year, except that it has to be very different from normal, as explained here

The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year Seven pupils has risen by 70 places overall since last year, to 5,540, with a total increase of 610 over the past five years.  The main changes are 30 additional places at each of three North West Kent grammars, Gravesend and Wilmington Boys & Girls grammars, together with a reduction of 30 places at Tunbridge Wells Boys (but may well be reversed at appeal time). The number of places offered before appeals is 5,417, up by 195 from 5,212 in 2019. A major cause for this is an increase in the total pass rate for grammar selection from 25.7% in 2019 to 26.6% for 2020 entry. 

Around 400 of the Kent grammar school places offered, or 7% (down from 8% in 2019) of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with 154 Kent pupils (down from 223) going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 150 ooc pupils coming in were offered places at the two Dartford Grammar schools with the pressure on places at these two schools continuing to rise inexorably.  Dartford Grammar School had an astonishing 409 grammar qualified first choices turned down for its 180 places, up from 336 in 2019.  The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar, and Wilmington Boys, in the same order as 2019. The number of vacancies has fallen sharply from 217 in 2019 to 123 this year across six schools.     

Chatham House 2   Dane Court 

Thanet is a surprising black spot for grammar school applications, with Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon turning down 79 grammar qualified first choices between them. At least 47 of these had no alternative local grammar school to meet their needs. This follows a sharp raise in the proportion of Thanet children being assessed selective from 19% in 2018, to 23% this year. 

I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. you will find full details of the 2019 Kent selection process here

Published in News and Comments

Update September 2019: I have belatedly received fuller details about oversubscription from KCC, with which I have replaced a previous measure below, along with 2019 Appeal outcomes

You will find the parallel article looking at Kent Non-selective schools here. Medway Schools to follow. Please note that the two articles on secondary school allocation in Kent had over 27,000 hits last year, being the two longest and most popular I publish. If there are corrections to be made, or you would like any section expanded or clarified, please let me know. 

The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year 7 pupils has risen by just 20 overall since last year, to 5469, with a total increase of 535 over the past five years.  The biggest change is an increase of 30 places at Simon Langton Boys to 150, although its popularity has dropped sharply. There are currently 217 empty spaces for September (up from 184 in 2018), in ten grammar schools including three of the four Maidstone grammars. 

417 of the 5252 Kent grammar school places offered, or 8% (down from 9% in 2018) of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with  223 pupils going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 147 pupils coming in were offered places at the two Dartford Grammar schools. As a result, the pressure on places at these two schools continues to rise inexorably along with the two Wilmington grammars, led by Dartford Grammar School with a record 336 grammar qualified first choices turned down for its 180 places, up from 313 in 2018.  The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, Skimmers and Tonbridge Grammar.

dgs        dggs 2

As far as I am aware there is just one black spot for grammar school applications, North West Kent, especially around Swanscombe and Greenhithe, where a number of grammar qualified children have been offered no grammar school place, although most applied for two or three of the local schools.

I look at the outcomes below in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies together with a look at each school individually. You will find copious data on each individual school here.  

Published in News and Comments

Some children of families who are amongst the many re-locating to Medway,  and local children who are late developers, may be denied  grammar school places this year as there is no facility to sit the Medway Test late, contrary to previous practice.  This is because the Council quietly changed its selection procedures last year so that only children who are registered at the correct time can ever sit the Medway Test, which takes place in September.

Medway

Late applicants are therefore effectively barred from being considered for Medway grammar school places which require a Medway Test outcome for admission (the two Chatham grammars have a secondary route via the Kent Test). Most grammar schools have not made arrangements to put an alternative form of testing in place for admission this September, the combination being contrary to Medway's own co-ordinated scheme for secondary admissions.    

 The consequences of this decision by Medway Council are wide ranging and may well spell the end of the Medway Test as an objective standard for grammar school entry in Medway, with each grammar school defining the standard and setting its own test for entry, as explored further below.  The last time I collected data for late sitters of the Medway Test was for admission in September 2017, when there were 80, 53 from within Medway, 27 from outside, including 16 applicants from the London Boroughs, of whom 47 were successful.  

Also, the Council has also been acting unlawfully for years in putting conditions on late admissions to other Medway schools, although these appear to have been withdrawn from 2020/21.

Published in News and Comments
Revision of Previous Article
Kent County Council has been highly pro-active in promoting grammar school opportunities for pupils on Pupil Premium which has no doubt contributed to the fact that over three quarters of its 32 grammar schools already make provision for this in their Admissions Policies. Kent now appears to have been punished for its success in following government policy!

Medway Council appears not have noticed the shift in priorities and as a result just one out of the six grammar schools currently has a relevant policy. Certainly, there is no evidence that Rochester Grammar, the one local school offered funds for expansion in return for developing a social mobility policy, has ever shown any interest before in such a development. Further, such an expansion when Medway has a large surplus of grammar school places for girls, appears pointless, and could place Chatham Grammar School for Girls at risk through lack of numbers as explained here. It in turn is now chasing London girls and so should survive. 

I look below at issues in Kent and Medway in more detail. 

Published in News and Comments

The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) is proposing a radical change to its admission rules from September 2020. This follows the government decision to award some £3 million to each of 16 grammar schools including RGS, to enable them to expand on  condition that these schools have plans  to improve access for pupils on Pupil Premium  and to undertake effective partnerships with local primary schools and non-selective secondary schools, to contribute to improved educational outcomes across the wider system.

.Rochester Grammar

The school, which is part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), has gone out to Consultation to scrap its current academic super-selective status which sees the great majority of its pupils selected through high scores. It plans to become a school that gives admission priority to girls on Pupil Premium from 2020. Then, after several smaller categories (below) it will prioritise local children who have passed the Medway Test no matter what their scores. Given that the Trust runs two Medway grammar schools and has proposed identical admission criteria for both, except that the other school, Holcombe Grammar, is to give no priority whatever to Pupil Premium, so this does not appear a principled decision,  

I look at wider aspects of local implications of the grammar school expansions in a separate article

Published in News and Comments
Sunday, 22 July 2018 18:45

Kent Test: Out of County Applications

Kent County Council has sent its annual letter to out of county families registered for the Kent Test for admission to grammar schools in September, as many are not familiar with the Kent scheme. This year it warns them that because of ever increasing numbers, the Council is unable to offer all candidates a Test Centre in the West or Centre of the county, as they are having difficulty finding schools willing to host them. As a result, some may have to travel to East Kent (Canterbury or Thanet) to take the test, in order to meet demand. The letter goes on to provide sensible and objective advice to these families, including noting that large numbers never turn up, costing time, money and resources.

This has produced a torrent of negative comment on the 11 Plus Exams Forum website for Kent, predominantly from just one contributor, one of the few who actually lives in Kent. Even though the Forum is dominated by out of county (ooc) families, many acknowledge and support the points being made by KCC, although others pursue the familiar and false lines that are so misleading. 

One of my major concerns about this Forum section is that I am regularly contacted by Kent families who have been misled into thinking that the views expressed are widely held across the county. On the contrary, they predominantly come from a small atypical group wanting to maintain maximum access to Kent grammar schools for children right across London, at the expense of local children.

Published in Peter's Blog

Update: Further updated article here 18th July 

This article looks at the situation where families have gone to appeal for a grammar school place for a child who was initially non-selective, the child has been found of grammar school ability, but then been told by the Independent Appeal Panel that there is no room. In most cases, the family can then ask for the child to be placed on the school waiting list.

After the debacle of the 2018 appeals for places at Holcombe Grammar School (previously Chatham Grammar School) in Medway described previously, the article then considers the ongoing shambles of waiting list mismanagement for places at the school. The cast of this story also includes Medway Council and an Appeal Panel provided by KCC. 

Published in News and Comments
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