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Displaying items by tag: kent grammar schools

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all the relevant articles, but even those still to be tackled can be highly relevant, although they may be up to a year out of date I am afraid.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).

Published in News and Comments

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

The pattern of grammar school allocations reveals chickens coming home to roost – but never mind the children. I have regularly written since last June about the unfairness of the Kent selection procedure that would be created by the coronavirus effects on schools unless changes were made, and so it has proved. My previous article on the Kent Test demonstrated a built-in bias towards children in West Kent and girls as a result, with further discrimination against children attracting Pupil Premium, suggesting that children from ‘ordinary families’ would also suffer.

Now, every West and North West Kent grammar is full, and all but one are oversubscribed with first choices, even though between them they have added on an extra  184 Year Seven places from last year. At the other end of the scale, there are 257 empty spaces in 13 East and Mid Kent schools, up from 123 in six schools in 2020.

The starkest example of the shift is at Maidstone Grammar which turned away 60 grammar qualified first choices last year, but has 14 vacancies for 2021 admission. At the far end of the county, Sir Roger Manwood’s which had 34 first choices rejected in 2020, now has 20 vacancies.

For children attracting pupil premium, 10% of the girls were found selective by the 2020 Kent selection procedure, and 7% of the boys, in total 8.2%, a fall of 17% from the 2019 figure.

There is an increase of 51 children from outside Kent to 466 in total, were offered places in Kent grammar schools, the main rises being at Gravesend, Maidstone, Maidstone Girls, Mayfield and Tunbridge Wells Boys, partly compensated by a sharp fall at Weald. 

I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. You will find full details of the Kent test process for 2021 entry here

Published in News and Comments
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Kent County Council has now released further details to primary schools about the Kent Test taken in local schools on Thursday 15th October. As I feared and explained in a previous article, there are no contingency plans set out in case the pandemic increases in severity over the next three weeks before the test, and the Cabinet Member’s Report to the KCC Children’s Young People and Education Committee on 22nd September completely evaded related issues apart from pinning their hopes on the Test delay. In the Minutes of the previous July meeting he had reassured Committee Members that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage’.  However, in the same meeting, he referred to the delayed Kent Test assessment until 15th October (and) considered (this) to be the most effective change which could be made’, which was certainly not the case and not even sufficient to meet government advice, as I have discussed previously. There is a vague reference to the Headteacher Assessment process in this context, but this would need a total redefinition of the process to have any effect, as I have previously suggested and appears not to be under consideration by KCC. 

Instructions to schools issued this week include what to do if children fall ill during the Test, how to tackle self-isolation including the possibility of testing over half-term and issues relating the scrapping of external monitoring of test procedures in schools as explained below, along with other relevant issues

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 05 August 2020 10:35

The Kent Test 2020: Throwing down the gauntlet

Update: 26th September: To no one's surprise, KCC completely ignored the challenge. In July,  the Cabinet Member for Education reassured Committee Members that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage’, but at the same time, 'hreferred to the delayed Kent Test assessment until 15th October (and) considered (this) to be the most effective change which could be made’. See September article here

I had an extended interview on Radio Kent last week about the unfairness created towards ‘children of ordinary families’ in the Kent Test for this extraordinary year. At the conclusion, Julia George who was interviewing asked me to ‘throw down the gauntlet’ with KCC over my deep concerns, repeated several times over recent months. I did this by simply challenging the Council to respond to the recently published Government Guidance to Admission Authorities, Kent County Council being one of the largest in the country. KCC’s response to the BBC over the challenge wrongly dismisses the guidance because it ‘will cover individual schools and consortia which test far fewer children’. More importantly, it completely ignores the main part of the guidance and my concern, which focused on the unfairness created for lower-income families in Kent, as explained below.

At about the same time, Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education at KCC replied to a letter from Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, which echoed my concerns. This response covers somewhat different territory, but again completely ignores any strategy for promoting fairness for disadvantaged families as laid down by the government advice. Moreover, he dismissed my idea for creating flexibility in these increasingly uncertain times and of supporting ordinary families, or any alternative, having set up a false description of it to dismantle!

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 23 July 2020 06:23

Kent Test Arrangements Confirmed for October

Richard Long, KCC Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, has now decided on the timing and arrangements for the Kent Test this year. A letter to schools sets out as expected that the Kent Test will be delayed by around one month as a result of the impact of Covid-19 on schools and pupils. The test will now take place on 15 October for pupils who attend a Kent school and 17 October for all other students. Kent parents will also be offered two additional preferences on their child’s Secondary school application this year, an increase from four to six, to account for the later release of Kent Test results.

The most interesting part of his letter reads: ‘while the delay in testing will provide an opportunity for children to settle back into a more normal school environment, we appreciate that children will have missed around four months of schooling. Fortunately, the Kent Test process is already designed to ensure that a child’s wider circumstances can be considered before their assessment is finalised.  We will be providing guidance for schools in light of the differing educational opportunities that children will have received over the last few months, and more generally on implementing the approved plans’. This flexibility leaves open alternative approaches to minimising the gross unfairness I have written about previously, which would discriminate against ‘ordinary’ families and those attracting Pupil Premium who have none of the advantages of children attending private schools or whose parents have arranged extensive private tuition for the six months leading up to the Test.

The question remains as to whether Kent County Council has the desire and the commitment to be as fair as possible to all Kent children looking to a grammar school place.

Published in News and Comments
Registration for the Kent Test in October closed on 1st July. Sadly, I have already been contacted by a number of families who omitted to complete the procedure, confused or overwhelmed by Coronavirus. Unfortunately, unless KCC chooses to make an exception in this unique year, you cannot be considered for late Registration and will need to proceed as explained hereI am so sorry.   
 
Kent primary school headteachers are now being consulted by KCC on the nature of assessment for grammar school selection this year. Whilst there are various options, the key element of the consultation is whether to delay the Kent Test until mid-October, with consequent changes to the admission process as outlined in a previous article
 
Medway Council has also announced its decision to delay the Medway Test until October 13th and 14th. See below.  
 
Sadly there is no consideration or mention of the position of disadvantaged and Pupil Premium children, who currently make up 10% of the Kent Year Seven grammar school cohort, and 11% in Medway. It is clear that the nature of any decisions in line with this consultation and the Medway decision to delay will not only strongly disadvantage the chances of these disadvantaged children in the selection process, at the expense of those who have been intensively coached or from private schools. In a previous article I wrote:
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.
Under the Kent proposal and Medway decision, the reverse would be true. Grammar schools would inevitably see a considerable increase in numbers of children from private schools and those heavily tutored, at the expense of those who have suffered from a limited education since March 23rd through no fault of their own. In Medway, this will certainly be the case. 

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education has said:  "We’re going to be looking at working with local authorities who have grammar school systems in their area as to how best we can ensure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not disadvantaged as they look at taking the 11-plus in the future.” There is no sign whatever of any intervention or even awareness of this pledge in the Kent consultation or Medway decision. This is an abject failure by both Authorities to honour this pledge. 

Published in News and Comments
Monday, 15 June 2020 11:12

Proposal for the Kent Test 2020 (Personal)

Registration for the Kent Test in October closed on 1st July. Sadly, I have already been contacted by a number of families who omitted to complete the procedure, confused or overwhelmed by Coronavirus. Unfortunately, unless KCC chooses to make an exception in this unique year, you cannot be considered for late registration and will need to proceed as explained hereI am so sorry.   

Kent County Education Officers have still not yet released details of the Kent Test arrangements for 2020, but I have a proposal that appears to cover the key issues. Quite simply:

1) The Kent Test goes ahead as normal on September 10th for Kent Primary School Pupils and September 12th for those attending Out of County schools, or alternatively delayed. I am confident that even if there is a second wave of Coronavirus, a high proportion of those registered for the Kent Test will wish and be able to take part under the prevailing safety regulations with schools making every effort to facilitate this. However, instead of the pass scores set to select the normal 20% of pupils in the cohort, my proposal is to reduce this, possibly to as low as 12.5%.  

2) Expand the procedure for Headteacher Assessment to identify a further 12.5% of the cohort, who registered for the test, whether or not they took it, bringing the selective pass rate back to its normal 25%. Place greater responsibility on primary school headteachers. For example, as I have suggested previously, give them an indicative figure for their school, based on the average number of pupils found selective by both routes over the previous three years. The HTA Panel should then rely strongly on these recommendations in the light of the limited evidence that will be available in most cases to support a case. It is possible that they could simply be contained in a ranking order.

This procedure has the strong advantage that it broadly follows the current regulations and so could be introduced without too much difficulty. It also caters for the up to 5,000 out of county children who usually take the Kent Test. They can qualify via the direct route, or else, and less likely, also use the HTA procedure with the support of their headteachers.

Published in Peter's Blog
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
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