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Thursday, 25 August 2016 10:04

Transfer to Grammar Schools in the Sixth Form

Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 28 August 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here.

Last year the two Thanet grammar schools, Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon, admitted 124 students from non-selective (NS) schools into their Sixth Forms, whilst the two grammars in Folkestone took in just five between them. Dartford Grammar School recruited 107 new students but just two from NS schools. King Ethelbert's School saw 48 students transfer to grammar school Sixth Forms, although four other NS schools had no such transfers.

On the surface, an average intake of 16 NS students across the county for the Sixth Forms of the 32 grammar schools looks healthy, and I have always argued that the opportunity for a second chance to join a grammar school, in the Sixth Form, is a necessary criterion for a successful Selective System across the county. However, this average hides a massive variation, as too many grammar schools focus on recruiting the very top scorers in their chase for league table places.

Alternatives for taking A Levels, the key route to University and many professions, are shrinking with three of the four Further Education Colleges now having abandoned courses, focusing on vocational pathways.

However, there are 18 non-selective schools who run Sixth Forms with over 50 students who took A Levels in 2015, all but one achieving respectable A Level Grades. Largest were: Bennett Memorial (152 students); Hillview Girls (133); Fulston Manor (108); Homewood (103); and St Simon Stock (92). Compare these with the smallest grammar school, Barton Court, with just 76 A Level students.....

The three top scoring NS schools on average point score per A Level entry are in order: Mascalls; Westlands; and Bennett Memorial, all scoring better than five of the grammar schools. Many of the NS schools offer a mixed menu of A Level and vocational courses to their students allowing them to keep their options open.

One other school that stands out is the non-selective Canterbury Academy, which had the largest Sixth Form in Kent, with 589 students last September. Astonishingly it had the third largest increase in numbers of any Kent school from Year 11 to Year 12, up by 91, the only NS school in the county to show any increase. Most of these students are following its wide range of highly successful vocational courses,

A number of these NS schools are clearly taking in students from others where there may not be the same range of opportunities.  Currently financial pressures on Sixth Forms have seen many others reduce the number of courses on offer, also the reason why three out of four Further Education Colleges have abandoned A Level.

One major problem is that Kent, with its wide geographical spread, sees each locality offering a different range of options at post 16. Under new government legislation all young people are required to stay in learning or training until the age of 18, but this can include full time study in school or college, part time education or training with work or volunteering, or taking up an apprenticeship or training. Kent County Council is required to enforce this but has no power to ensure the courses are provided.

So in Thanet, with the East Kent College having abandoned its A Level offering, and just two of the five NS selective schools offering small A Level groups, there is little alternative to the grammar schools for A Level courses, although they have welcomed the opportunity with open arms.

In Dartford, the four grammar schools admit just 28 non-selective students between them, the two Dartford Grammars chasing high grades and the two Wilmingtons having little room to expand. Perhaps as a result, most of the NS schools have thriving A Level provision. However, Ebbsfleet Academy which has no Sixth Form saw just four students transfer to grammar school, probably in Gravesend.

However, the most interesting District has to be Canterbury, with the two Langton Grammars taking in 43 NS students between them, whilst Barton Court Grammar admitted just four. Altogether Simon Langton Boys saw the second largest increase in numbers in the country, rising from Year 11, by 92 students to a total of 222 in Year 12. Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School saw its roll slip sharply from 152 in Year 11 last year, to 122 in Year 12, in spite of an influx of 16 girls from non-selective schools. Barton Court Grammar, also in Canterbury, saw its Year 12 wither to 93 students, from 126 in Year 11, although it only attracted (or wanted?) just four students from NS schools. It certainly appears that as well as its positive attitude to NS students, there is a considerable transfer of grammar school students to the Boys’ school, a phenomenon that is repeated in some other towns.

One would assume that the overwhelming majority of children entering grammar school at age 11 would anticipate completing a seven year course to A Level there. However, this is not always the case, with some remarkable fall out rates including the examples above. However, the biggest fall was at Folkestone School for Girls, which rightly prides itself on its table topping A Level Grades. It managed to lose an overall 37 students, attracting just 4 NS girls to compensate. Why and where did so many girls choose to leave the school after their GCSEs?

So what does all this mean for those receiving their GCSE results this week? For those with a statistical bent, there is plenty of data out there to indicate which the best schools are in terms of academic progress from GCSE to A Level. But where does everyone else turn for objective advice? I recall when I was Chairman of what was then an Independent Kent Careers Service, we had independent staff based in various centres throughout Kent, and providing advice in each school so able to put flesh on some of the questions I hope this article has posed. The Careers Service has long since gone, and much of the advice in Kent is now provided by the school itself, theoretically required to be independent, but many schools will always have an interest in guiding the outcome. The Kent County Council website offers some basic advice at Kent Choices, although it covers none of the local situations discussed above. You will find some further advice on my website at, but I am afraid you are basically on your own, unless your child’s school does offer independent advice (to be fair, many do). Also on my website you will find an expanded version of this article, looking at each District separately and providing further data. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 18:46

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  • Brook Learning Trust Schools in Trouble: Ebbsfleet Academy; Hayesbrook School; High Weald Academy

     The Brook Learning Trust runs three schools, Ebbsfleet Academy, Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and appears to be in serious trouble, both financially and in terms of the standing of all of its three schools. 

    Ebbsfleet 1       High Weald 1    Hayesbrook 2
    I monitor a number of factors that indicate how a school supports its students and how it stands in its locality. These include: pupil vacancy rates in year Seven; popularity of schools expressed through first preferences when making applications; percentage drop out rates from the school for all reasons; and proportion of pupils leaving for Elective Home Education; together with academic performance. These three schools are each amongst the worst in the county on four in the case of Hayesbrook or all five of the first five measures for the other two schools. I consider that they can therefore be regarded as generally, if not academically, failing. These common themes across the Trust’s schools suggest the problem starts with the ethos and standards set by the Trust.

    The situation at High Weald Academy is especially dire, as government is proposing a multi-million pound premises investment into this school which appears to have no future under the Trust.

    I look below at the factors affecting each school and the Trust as a whole. I now have data showing a further fall in first choice applications for each school for Year Seven admission in September 2018, which will surely see the Trust heading for insolvency and for each school immense financial difficulty in providing an acceptable level of education. 

    Written on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 06:21 Be the first to comment! Read 522 times
  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    Table for allocations below has been completed, with more recent information provided.

    You will find a parallel Kent article here

    The Medway Council Press Release for secondary transfer is the thinnest yet I have seen from the Council on this, or any other subject I can recall. It contains just four facts: 3259 Medway children applied for and were offered places in secondary schools; 91% have been offered a first or second preference school; over 95.5%  were offered one of their preferences; there were 630 applications for Medway school places from children outside Medway. That is it! UPDATE: I have now obtained the full data through an FOI request and inserted it below. I can see no reason why the Council has chosen to hide it.  

    However, there is also a bizarre footnote on a completely different matter, considered below. 

    The table below compares my extrapolation of these numbers with outcomes in previous years. There is also initial advice on what to do if you have not received the school of your choice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    Both of the quoted percentages in the Press Release were identical to those in 2017, both a significant fall on 2016, at 93.7% and 97.4% respectively.For 2017 offers, first and second preferences allocated were separated, so one can guess the proportion of first preferences has fallen this year as Medway Council typically tries to fudge its figures. No mention of, or regret about, the unfortunate 147 children with no school of their choice. 

    The cohort size has increased by just 85 children, with the 4.5% who have been given no school of their choice, at approximately 147, five up on 2017.

    Why is the Council so afraid of providing information to its residents?

    Written on Friday, 02 March 2018 12:25 1 comment Read 695 times
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    You will find a parallel Medway article here.

    Several updates below, including grammar issues for boys in Longfield, Hartley, NAG, etc. Also look at my response to comment, below. Grammar places for boys in Whitstable, Herne Bay also looking an issue. 

    Kent secondary school allocations have been sent out today for those registered to receive by email and should arrive tomorrow by post for all (weather permitting).

    17,442 Kent children applied for places in schools, 745 more than in 2017, with 79.6% of them being offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least five years, but just 0.8% down on last year. 765 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.4% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least five years, and well up on last year’s 633. I know that a number of additional school places have been created at pinch points across the county, notably Tunbridge Wells, but I am already hearing of some very difficult situations for some of the children with no school of their choice.

    In spite of another large increase in out of county applications to Kent schools, up 545 to 3,289, just 818 were offered places, only eight more than in 2017. This will have been partially balanced by around 500 going to schools outside Kent.

    You will find more information, including a look at some of the pressure points, together with the tables of outcomes below. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools as these are confirmed (all information welcomed), and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    There is also a link to the limited advice service I now offer. 

    Written on Thursday, 01 March 2018 12:03 12 comments Read 2747 times
  • Knole Academy and the Scandal of Exorbitant Headteacher Pay in Kent and Medway

    Update: Shortly after I published this article, the national BBC led with the same issue on its website, although amazingly there has been no local media interest at all. Is it that this is not of interest as it is what people expect? 

    The headteacher of The Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, a moderately performing single school academy, was paid £210,000 in 2016-17 making her the highest paid academy head or Chief Executive in Kent and Medway. This is an increase of 35% over the past three years after what can only be described as an irresponsible series of decisions by Governors, bringing the whole process into disrepute, and undermining the credibility of the very real financial crisis in schools, as explained below. By contrast the Principal of Homewood School, the largest secondary school in the county, had a salary of just £110,000 last year, one of majority of secondary heads around or below £100,000.


    After Knole the next two highest paid heads are the Principals of Leigh Academy and Wilmington Academy, both part of the Leigh Academy Trust, who each received £200,000 in remuneration, including their roles as Directors of the Trust. They were followed by the CEOs of two of Kent’s largest Academy Trusts, both responsible for more than a dozen primary and secondary schools: Swale AT and Leigh AT at £190,000 and £180,000 respectively.

    Grammar School Academy Headteachers are generally paid from around £85,000 to £110,000 annually, with Dartford Grammar School, the largest and most oversubscribed grammar school in the county on the latter sum. Highest paid Grammar School Head is at Rainham Mark Grammar, Medway. with £155,000 (£90,000 for HT salary, £65,000 for Academy Trust CEO), followed by Barton Court, Canterbury, at £125,000 (also a Trust CEO).

    At primary level the previous highest earner, the Head of Meopham Community Academy, has now retired from his £150,000 salary post, his replacement being employed at less than half of that rate. The highest paid heads of schools or multi academy trusts I have found this time round are the same two single standing academies as previously: The Academy of Woodlands in Gillingham, £105,000 in 2015-16, and St Stephen’s Academy, a Junior school in Canterbury on, the same figure for 2016-17.

    I look more closely at the Knole situation, and that of other high paying academies below. 

    Written on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 20:29 5 comments Read 1502 times
  • Medway Council fails its most vulnerable children

    Medway Council has once again failed its children, this time the most vulnerable, as confirmed by a scathing Ofsted Report on its ‘services’ to children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities, published this week. The report concludes ‘Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice’. I think that is putting it politely. There are strengths identified; it just happens that all these appear to be down to the health service and not education.

    Concerns centre about chaotic management of the ‘Service’, resulting in failure to take necessary action. This can be seen from the following quotes: ’Medway’s education and service leaders do not share one vision and strategy for SEN and/or disabilitiesNo arrangements are in place to ensure effective joint oversight and clear lines of accountabilityLittle progress has been made in addressing several of the pressing priorities for improvement identified as far back as 2012Leaders’ understanding of what has and has not improved in the meantime is limited. I could have chosen many others.


    'The collaborative work between professionals and children and their families to plan services and meet individual needs, known as co-production, is weak at both a strategic and individual level' This criticism is underpinned by the heavy criticism of the implementation of Education and Health Care Plans for children with the greatest needs, which are at the heart of Departmental work, and ‘A considerable number of parents shared concerns with inspectors that the needs of their children are not being identified and met sufficiently well’.

    There is of course reference to Medway's record exclusion rates: ‘Although improving, rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusion are still notably higher for pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities in Medway than for similar pupils nationally, as it is for all pupils. Lack of specialist provision has brought serious consequences for pupils with severe SEN or disabilities travelling out of Medway daily on long and very expensive journeys.  

    Written on Saturday, 10 February 2018 22:33 4 comments Read 446 times
  • Goodwin Academy – SchoolsCompany Trust on the way out?

    Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

    KM Online 16th February shows details of the job losses at this previously recovering school, expected because of the failures of SchoolsCompany. 

    The new Interim Chief Executive of SchoolsCompany Trust has apologised in a letter to parents of pupils at the Goodwin Academy for ‘previous financial failings, which are unacceptable’.

    Sadly, this has come as little surprise to me, as I foresaw issues as early as 2014, when I noted in an article that SchoolsCompany had contributed to the startling decline of the predecessor school Castle Community College (CCC), in Deal from Ofsted Outstanding to Special Measures in three short years. As a reward SchoolsCompany took over as sponsor of the school as recently as July 2016. The school was awkwardly renamed SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, presumably to advertise the name of the Sponsors as a priority, above creating a new school image.     

    The Academy limped on for a period, after 2014, with the 'support' of SchoolsCompany,  unpopular with a third of its places unfilled, and underperforming, although there have recent strong signs of improvement under new school leadership. Unusually, eight of the eleven Company Trustees were paid a salary by the Trust, hardly an inducement for encouraging scrutiny. After the school received a Financial Notice to Improvefrom the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in October, seven of the Trustees resigned including the Executive Principal of the Company This left the school with just four Trustees including the CEO and founder of the company, Elias Achilleos, although he now appears to have been replaced by the new Interim Chief Executive.  The Trust has demonstrably failed some of the Financial Notice's requirements for improvement. 

    Goodwin Academy

    The school will clearly have a future in its new £25 million premises opened four months ago on October 6th, just three weeks before Trustees resigned en masse, but it looks increasingly likely it will not be with Schools Company. Indeed a more than doubling of first preferences to 173 for 2018 admission, shows confidence in the school and its leadership, achieved without obvious input from the few remaining Trust members. 

    Written on Thursday, 08 February 2018 10:43 4 comments Read 1041 times