The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), which sponsors Holcombe Grammar School (previously Chatham Grammar School for Boys) is again consulting on making the school co-educational from September 2018.
To my great astonishment, and I am sure of many others, this proposal is taking place less than six months after the Department for Education turned down the previous highly controversial application for the school to become co-educational. It is perplexing to say the least, why this proposal is being wheeled out again so soon after the previous rejection as, on the surface, nothing has changed.
You will find the Letter informing Parents here, much thinner than the previous version, as it clearly struggles to find a rationale for the peculiarly and obliquely phrased proposal that:
There is a change of gender composition and consequential changes to admission arrangements from September 2018.
(Translation – the school wants to change from being just for boys to become co-educational for September 2018 admission)
Update: The application was rejected by Government in August 2016, details here.
I have covered the apparently unstoppable move by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) to turn Chatham Grammar School for Boys into a co-educational school in previous articles. One thing above many others puzzled me; the decision by Medway Council (Slogan: "Serving You") not to disclose to the people of Medway if it had made objections to a proposal which inevitably will have a serious negative impact on grammar school provision and admissions in Medway. Indeed, the Council turned down my Freedom of Information request on the amazing grounds that it was not in the Public Interest to disclose their objections.
"Our country can't afford a two tier education system with London streaking ahead and areas like Knowsley and Medway lagging behind. It’s morally wrong and economically self-defeating"
Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, in her speech to justify all schools be academised, using Medway Education Department to make the case.
Following an Internal Review (complaint) I have now obtained the Medway Council submission, which turns out to be a strong, if overly polite, attack on the proposal. This begs the question of why were they ashamed of critical arguments revealing the problems this proposal will now cause, that should have influenced other respondents to the ‘Consultation'? Given the strength of these objections was there not a case for marshalling the opposition? You can still only read the full objections here at present, although Medway Council may wish to explain why they are not otherwise available.
I have covered most of the following issues in previous places, but not being aware of other proposals by the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Trust, had not realised full the impact of giving priority for grammar school places to children in primary schools of the two Trusts, which is likely to deprive children in some other Medway primary schools, especially in the Hoo Peninsula and Rainham, of grammar school places in the future. Surely this aspect must now be halted somehow for both Trusts. Medway Council has once again let its residents down appallingly in failing to raise this issue publicly at the right time.
Further Update: Application Turned Down by Government in August 2016, here.
Update: Medway Council's objections published in full here.
Chatham Grammar School for Boys is to admit a co-educational intake for September 2017, subject to approval from the Regional Schools Commissioner (advised by the Regional Headteacher Board of six headteachers, of which Ms Shepherd is a member, but who would not be involved in the decision), following a decision by the Directors of the Thinking School Academy Trust. This decision represents a reduction in opportunity for boys, leaving Medway with one very oversubscribed boys’ grammar, inaccessible to those in most of the Council’s area, as opposed to three girls’ grammars.
The school is to change its name to Holcombe Grammar School.
The Trust has scrapped its controversial proposal to admit children through a decision of the Admission Committee without testing, following my previous article pointing out that it was illegal. This article also covers some of the main issues and provides links to other items.
Medway Council refused my FOI Request for their response to the Consultation “in the public interest!” leaving one to wonder yet again, which public's interests they serve.
The issues surrounding Chatham Grammar School for Boys’ proposals to go co-educational and also to redefine the way “grammar school ability” is determined are obviously of considerable importance to all secondary schools and the families affected in Medway. You will find my most recent article on the controversy here.
Medway Council’s view is clearly central to the situation as they have legal responsibility for the provision of education, if not the power since the introduction of academies.
According to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, owners of Chatham Grammar, Medway Council is supportive of the proposal to go co-educational: “In Medway the Council can see the benefit of a co-educational school to absorb both boys and girls” and “Medway LEA were happy for the school to increase its published admission number to accommodate all those that applied for a place”.
Unfortunately, whether this is true or not is currently a secret, as Medway Council is refusing to make its representations to the consultation public at this time……
You will find a more recent article here.
Last month I reported on the controversial proposal by Chatham Grammar School for Boys to become co-educational. This article looks at an even more controversial aspect whereby, with the school to be capable of expansion up to 180 children, a committee of governors would be able to fill any vacancies after school allocation each March with children they choose, using their own interpretation of ‘grammar school ability’.
To enable this to take place, the proposed new school Admission Policy states: “From National Offer Day, any available spaces will be allocated to those children who have provided sufficient evidence to the Admissions Committee of being of grammar school standard”.
Another factor emerging is the low proportion of boys being assessed suitable for grammar school in recent years, being 19% of the total number from Medway primary schools in 2015 (target is 25% of girls and boys), which may itself have precipitated the proposal if the school is desperate to make up numbers.
At a Parental Consultation meeting on the proposal it was implied that Medway Council supported the proposal. It would be useful to know if this is true, as I cannot see why any secondary schools other than those in the Thinking Schools Academy Trust would support this proposal......
See Further Controversy, in a new article here.
Chatham Grammar School for Boys has published a proposal to become a mixed grammar school from September 2017, and to change its name, possibly to Holcombe Grammar School, reflecting the name of the school site.
This proposal to increase the number of potential students at the school by admitting girls is mainly driven by the considerable number of current vacancies at the school, described in the proposal as “under-used capacity”. With the population of eleven year old Medway children having fallen to its lowest point before a slow and steady increase over the next few years, the problem is exacerbated by what for me is the unacceptable and annual bias in the Medway Test towards girls, with 371 Medway girls and just 325 boys assessed as of grammar school ability in the Test this year. The imbalance will have been increased further by this year’s Medway Review results, which also always favour girls.
As a result of these two factors, just 81 of the school’s 120 places were awarded in March for admission in September, the school having already reduced its capacity from 146 a few years ago. Further places will have been taken up after appeals.
OFSTED has provided Chatham Grammar School for Boys with some excellent news just a week before the closing date for secondary school applications, by classifying the school as "Good" just fifteen months after failing it by placing the school into Special Measures. The school is the only secondary school in Kent or Medway over at least the past two years to achieve an improvement of two categories. You can read the full Report here, and my most recent previous article on the school here.
This remarkable turn around will be a great relief to all those students and families who have shown faith in the school, and a matter of congratulation to all those staff and leaders who have contributed to this exceptional performance. The school was a good school and is now again one in which families can have confidence.
I am writing this article in response to a large number of enquiries from parents of boys, and to a lesser extent of girls, looking for places at the Dartford, Wilmington and Gravesend Grammar Schools, who have just missed the selective standard and are looking to appeal.
Last year, between them, there were 183 appeals lodged at Dartford and Wilmington Boys Grammar Schools, of which just 14 were successful, nearly all of these being made up of boys who had already passed but were initially excluded on distance grounds in the case of Wilmington, and not high enough scores in the Kent Test in Dartford.
The problem is created predominantly through pressure from children in London Boroughs, notably those on the railway lines from London Bridge through Bexley and Bromley, looking for grammar school places in Kent. Boys who live in Dartford itself who passed the Kent Test, whatever their school, are able to access either grammar school without difficulty. Other indications of the pressure on these two schools is that upon allocation back in March the two schools between them turned away 174 grammar qualified first preferences from the total of 1358 preferences expressed for the two schools. 419 of these applications were second preferences, although just 48 of these boys received offers. 110 of the 300 places available at the two schools were taken up by out of county boys on allocation in March although, as with the other figures, these proportions will have changed slightly by the time of admission in September, and I am not able to track the direction of any change.
The article explores the issues in more detail, and also looks at the growing problems in Gravesend and in the local grammar schools for girls.
In summary the difficulty of winning an appeal at one of these two schools for a boy who missed the pass mark, for whatever reason, was and will remain immense. As a result most parents will need to consider alternatives, several of which are spelled out below. .......
Since my previous article on the fate of Chatham Grammar following its failed OFSTED back in June, only the second grammar school in England to be placed in Special Measures, there have been dramatic and controversial changes at the school. A monitoring Inspection by OFSTED in October clearly approved of developments, one Facebook page run by parents tells a very different story, but a second one apparently run by responsible students tells another. Newsletters published by the school describe some of the factual changes, and I have also been kept informed by worried parents and prospective parents providing me with information and seeking advice.
The OFSTED Report and school information show that the governance of the school has passed to the RGS/AFS Thinking Schools Trust.
This item should be read in conjunction with the article outlining the Ofsted failure of Chatham Grammar School for Boys
The new leadership of Chatham Grammar School for Boys held a parents’ forum last Thursday, to explain their way forward from the failed Ofsted Inspection and to answer questions. I have had a number of reports back about the meeting as there are many concerned parents about, and this article attempts to summarise these. If you think I have misread the situation, please let me know.
What is clear is that the main effect on families is the feeling of loss of pride and self-esteem that came from being members of what most saw as a happy and successful school. I have repeatedly heard statements such as: “my son was so proud to be a student at Chatham Grammar School for Boys. That pride has been destroyed by the Ofsted Report”.
What is also evident is that the Report came as a totally unexpected bombshell to so many parents, hence the sense of bewilderment and anger......