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Displaying items by tag: Medway Grammar Schools

This is the fourth episode in my saga about incompetence, dishonesty, and flights of fancy as Medway Council attempts to prop up its proposal for supporting three local grammar schools to become co-educational. Each time the Council attempts to respond to issues raised in my coverage it scores more own goals!  A recent item published in Kent Online about my analysis produced a response which is no exception. The biggest falsehood this time comes in a sentence that ends with the ridiculous new reported claim that 'with the expected increase in pupil numbers over the next few years it (the Medway Test pass rate) will continue to decline if we do not create this extra capacity in the system'. There are just three problems with this very brief statement. I look at these and further examples of ineptitude below, together with a very surprising and sudden response to my fifteen year campaign to have the makeup of the current Medway Test changed, as it is not fit for purpose.

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Update exposing further dishonesties by Medway Council Officers here.  You will find my response to the Consultation here

This is my third article regarding the consultation being carried out by Medway Council to inform parents and others about a proposal to change three single sex grammar schools into co-educational schools, and to invite comments. Unfortunately, the proposal is so full of misinformation that it becomes valueless, and any conclusions should be discarded. Once again, as so often before, the Council chooses to ignore the fact that the Medway Test and Review are not fit for purpose, creating outcomes which are themselves part of the issue, and where any change ought to begin.

In an effort to tie down some of the issues to inform my response to the consultation, I wrote to the Council asking various questions. The reply completely ignored my key question about the false claim by the Council of a shortage of boys’ grammar school places, which underpins the proposal. Indeed, for admission this September, Holcombe Grammar was only able to find 85 Medway boys for its 150 places, filling up with 47 more from Bexley and Greenwich amongst others from Kent and London. However, in an attempt to justify this major, expensive and unnecessary reshuffle of grammar school provision for spurious reasons, the Council introduced in its reply to me a completely new but nonsensical justification for the scheme, which I demolish below. Quite simply, the ragbag of reasons now put forward in an effort to shore up this proposal are a complete nonsense, as I have proved in my previous article Proposal to Turn three Medway Grammar Schools Co-Educational is based on falsehood, and below. Couple this with the fact that Medway Council has still not put forward a single educational reason to justify the change, and so any outcomes from the Consultation should be ignored.

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Tagged under
I sent a copy of this article through to the Medway Messenger, as I consider there are important messages in it, along with unique information valuable to Medway residents. So far no interest. 
There are six grammar schools in Medway all now offering most places on distance. The headlines are that: two girls’ grammars have vacancies on allocation with none for boys, overall 18% of grammar places go to children living outside Medway, and Rainham Mark Grammar is the most oversubscribed of the six for the first time, turning away 50 grammar qualified first choices.

It is no secret that I believe the Medway grammar school selection process is not fit for purpose. The Medway Test itself is unfair, and is biased towards girls, followed by a shocking Review process that identified fewer than nine additional children against a target of 72 this year. This contributed to a surplus of places on allocation allowing 18% of offers to be made to children from outside Medway. Boys are discriminated against further if they do not pass the Test, last year being typical with not one being successful at appeal. Meanwhile, 38 girls had appeals upheld at Chatham Grammar. Elsewhere there were just two other successful appeals last year for children who had not been found selective by the Medway Test out of a total of 99. Both were girls. Overall there are 505 places in girls’ grammar schools, with just 385 for the boys, a massive discrepancy surely inviting a legal challenge on grounds of discrimination. But, as I observe regularly, no one seems to care about all of this!  

Parents have a legal right to make a late application to any school, but Medway Council sets out unlawfully to make this very difficult especially for grammar school applicants. You will find the situation described and my advice here as to a way through. 

After the next section, I look at each of the six grammar schools in more detail: Chatham Grammar, Fort Pitt Grammar, Holcombe Grammar, Rainham Mark Grammar, Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, and The Rochester Grammar School (including the strange case of the £3 million grant awarded for an expansion that never happened). 

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Update July 2022: Medway Grammar Co-Ed Plans Update: Mainly More False Claims. 

One of the great disappointments of my 15 years of campaigning about the many deficiencies and incompetences of Medway Council is that I have completely failed to achieve any progress in seeing the Medway grammar school selection process made fit for purpose. This was the subject of one of my earliest articles in 2009 and continued through to the latest on 2022 admissions. I did however stop a wholly unnecessary increase in girls’ grammar school places by the Thinking Schools Academies Trust at the expense of the shrinking further the limited number of boys’ places (ironically considering the latest proposal). I also blocked several attempts by local Academy Trusts to change their admission criteria to suit themselves rather than Medway children and won a number of complaints to the Information Commissioner about the incompetence of the Council and its Councillors. 

Medway

You will find below a quick gallop through some of the 60 plus items I have written about Medway schools, focusing on Council and academy trust matters, to complement my earlier Review of Seventeen Years of Support for Families.

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Article on School Appeal Outcomes for 2021 to be posted shortly. 

This news item is essentially a guide to a host of information and advice articles for local families looking to make applications for secondary school places in state schools in Kent and Medway next September, together with 2021 appeal outcomes. You will find Kent County Council's Admission Guide for Secondary School Admissions here, although it is difficult to find one for Medway (although required by law), so parents appear to have to settle for here. Across the country, families will be making use of their own Local Authority co-ordinated admissions schemes and make applications by the national closing date of Sunday 31st October, although Kent extends this to Monday 1st November. The co-ordination then spreads across county boundaries to take in cross-border applications, in a gigantic data handling mechanism.

The most important news is that last year, whilst just 70% of Kent families were awarded their first choice school, this was an exceptionally low figure, caused by a one-off change in the application procedure because of Covid, the norm is nearer 80% and I would expect something similar for 2022 entry. Unfortunately, Medway does not issue this information, but I believe it will be higher.  

Around half of all K & M families will apply for grammar school places, with the results of the Kent Test due out next Thursday 21st October. The Medway Test results have already been sent to parents, with the outcomes of the Review process to be posted on 22nd October.

I am currently updating all the relevant articles, but even those still to be tackled can be highly relevant, although they may be up to a year out of date I am afraid. I am also preparing my article surveying 2021 appeals outcomes, although you will already find the data for every school that held appeals this year in my Individual Schools sections for Kent and Medway.

There is also a list of all the key sections, with a link to them, on the right-hand side of this page, followed immediately afterwards by a link to become a subscriber to my news and blog items as they are published (no charges, no unwanted advertising).

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To no one’s surprise, the Medway Review process has once again failed the children of Medway for 2021 grammar school admissions. Instead of selecting the target figure of 70 Medway state school children, or 2% of the total cohort, who should have been successful at Review, there were just 12 children picked, which is 0.34% of the cohort. The rules for the procedure make absolutely no concessions for children whose education has suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic raging over the previous eight months, underlined by this being by the second-lowest percentage for many years. The additional penalty for many of the 127 Medway children who were unsuccessful at review is that, apart from at Chatham Grammar, the rules do not allow grammar school Appeal Panels to uphold their cases unless there is a fault in process, which there almost never is. Very few (less than five) of the 33 Review requests for children from outside Medway were successful.

I have little new to say about this situation as I have been writing about the reasons why the Medway Test and Review process are unfit for the purpose for many years, most recently here. Sadly, I have not generated any response whatsoever from Medway politicians about why they are content to let this travesty continue unreformed. However, I do explore further details of outcomes below and examine the sharp rise in Out of County passes.

This article follows on from my initial analysis of Medway Test results here, which also highlights the scandal of the gross imbalance between opportunities for girls and boys at Medway grammar schools once again.  

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A few years ago, The Rochester Grammar School was one of the most oversubscribed grammar schools across Kent and Medway, with a strong sixth form and proud of its Thinking Schools philosophy. It has been the only Medway or Kent grammar school to be awarded generous government funds of some £3 million in the past two years through the Grammar School Expansion Fund in spite of a large number of other local applicants. In order to secure this funding, used primarily to expand its numbers, the school completely changed its entry requirements to give priority to girls attracting Pupil Premium and local girls. You will find here a full analysis of the scheme I wrote two years ago, but which is still valid today, as the school appears not to have addressed the issues I identified. The school has scrapped A-levels completely in favour of the International Baccalaureate this year. 

RGS

Outcomes
The proportion of girls joining the school in Year Seven in the first year of the scheme, who attract Pupil Premium for the school, has fallen by over a third from 9.2% to 5.9%. This is completely contrary to the aim of the funding. Even though priority is now given to local girls, only 165 of the 253 places offered for September went to Medway girls, so the school is NOT oversubscribed, except for out of county pupils who take up the spare places.   
 
An even bigger shock is that only 46%, fewer than half of the school’s Year 11 girls in 2019-20, have stayed on into the Sixth Form this year, the second-lowest percentage of any grammar school in Kent and Medway. Even adding in students attracted from other schools, numbers have still plummeted from 87% in 2019 to 53%, with over 100 girls leaving to join the Sixth Forms of other local grammar schools.
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Tuesday, 19 May 2020 18:55

The Kent 11 Plus and Coronavirus: Part Two

Aspects of the current situation with regard to the Kent Test are that:
  • The date for the Kent Test is still currently set for September. To change it would require government approval. KCC is in discussion with government about an aspect of the Kent Test, presumably about a possible postponement.
  • There is no guarantee that any change of date would see the county free of Coronavirus, or schools operating normally.
  • There are no arrangements in place for children who are: unable to take the Kent Test because their schools are not open, or cannot provide facilities; or whose parents or schools judge it is unsafe to participate; or who are ill in large numbers. 
  • The School Admissions Code of Practice requires Admission Authorities to ‘take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications on 2nd November so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school’.
  • The five thousand out of county children who normally take the Kent Test each year still need somewhere to sit it where it can be independently invigilated. In the past this has taken place in obliging Kent schools.   
As of today (19th May), Kent County County Council has provided no further information about the date of Testing. This is not a criticism as I don't see how they can with the current uncertainties. Registration for the Kent Test remains for a month from 1st June.
Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 05 March 2020 17:40

Allocations to Medway Grammar Schools 2020

Only one grammar school has vacancies on allocation - Chatham Grammar (previously Chatham Grammar School for Girls). 206 children living outside Medway have been offered local grammar school places out of 1071 in total. This amounts to 19%, or nearly a fifth of all the places offered. An additional 60 new places have been created, all at The Rochester Grammar School.

There were an additional 44 grammar qualified Medway children after the Medway selection process this year: boys up from 374 to 381; girls up from 405 to 438, continuing the annual bias towards girls being found selective. In total there are 565 places for girls but only 355 for boys available in the five single sex schools. This is on top of the 235 at Rainham Mark Grammar, a co-educational school. There are places for every Medway grammar qualified pupil who applied to appropriate grammar schools, but, as last year, chances at appeal for boys are  likely to be very low.

The Rochester Grammar School’s transformation from super-selective to a school giving local children priority, is looked at in more detail below.  The combination of this change and the increase in the grammar cohort size has resulted in another 68 Medway first preferences being accommodated in local grammar schools. It leaves Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (The Math) by a long way the most oversubscribed grammar school in Medway, with 105 grammar qualified first choice boys turned away. 

I look in more detail at the outcomes, including problems with grammar school process and applications, together with  the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

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Saturday, 02 November 2019 09:50

Medway Review 2019 and the Medway Test.

I have now received more data relating to the Medway Test with its pass level of an aggregation of 495 marks across the three tests, following on from my initial article here.

It is clear that the Review process has once again failed Medway children with a total of 0.43% of children having Reviews upheld, against a target of 2.0% of the cohort. As a result, 45 children missed out  of being found of grammar school ability this year because of failure by the Medway process. The rules then state that such children cannot be considered at appeal unless they can show the process to be flawed! Of the 15 successful reviews for Medway children out of 147 submitted, 11 were from girls, over half of these being born in the first quarter of the year. Some might argue that the underlying reason for the very low success rate at Review is poor work produced by Medway primary schools, although it could of course be simply the annual  failure of Review Panels to follow the procedure! 

22.2% of boys and 24.1 % of girls in Year Six of Medway schools passed the Medway Test, meeting the overall target of 23.0%. Whilst this confirms the annual bias in favour of girls as demonstrated below, the gap is slightly lower since the introduction of the CEM selection Test in 2017. The Council has attempted to save money by banning late testing since 2018, which is unlawful as explained here, Year Six children moving into Medway late are therfore denied the opportunity to go to grammar school. 

There were 921 Out of County (OOC) successes in the Medway Test. Nearly half of these came from Kent. Many will be looking for places at Holcombe and Chatham Girls grammar schools as second or lower choices to schools nearer their homes. Last year just 246 OOCs were allocated Medway places out of 844 grammar qualified, many of whom would have subsequently dropped out after gaining more suitable places nearer home. 

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