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Wednesday, 11 October 2017 19:36

Medway Test Results 2017

 I am rarely caught out completely by admission matters, but events at the two Chatham grammar schools for entry in September 2017 have completely amazed me. These are compounded by the Medway Test results this year, when the built in bias towards girls’ success has completely vanished, as explained below.

The Medway Test outcomes, in summary, have seen 23% of the Medway cohort this year found suitable for grammar school before Reviews take place, which is exactly on target as in 2016. However, the annual gender differential stretching back for years, which saw 25% of girls passing the test as against 21% of boys in 2016, has disappeared, with 23% of both boys and girls passing for admission in 2018. The pass mark was an aggregate 495 across the three papers, well down on last year's 521, although the standard is the same. The discrepancy will have risen because of a larger number of lower performing children  taking the test than in 2016. 

Both Chatham grammar schools have been suffering from a shortage of pupils in recent years: in 2015, Chatham Girls admitted just 93 pupils with a planned admission number of 142; and Holcombe Grammar (previously Chatham Boys) 106, PAN 120. This September Chatham Girls has admitted over 180 pupils, Holcombe over 150.

The main reason for this dramatic surge in numbers is the influx of London children who, uniquely in Medway are grammar qualified for the two Chatham’s by virtue of success in the Kent Test. For September 2018 entry, there were 659 out of county passes, including 263 from London Boroughs (the largest number as always were the 381 from Kent).

So, what do these remarkable outcomes offer for 2018 entry? Some thoughts below, together with further analysis of Medway Test results. You will find further information on the Review process and its implications for appeals, here, which will answer most queries.

The Medway Test
I am very grateful to Medway Council for their prompt and comprehensive response to my FOI on Test results which enables me to describe them through the tables below. The Medway cohort is at last defined unambiguously as comprising those pupils attending Medway maintained schools. In addition, there were 71 pupils attending Medway private schools who were found selective, most of whom will be Medway residents.

 

Medway Test Outcomes 2017
  Boys Girls Total
Medway
Pupils
 1649  1632  3281
Entered
Test
857 928 1785
Passed
Test
 381  375  756
% Pass
Rate
 23.1%  23.0%  23.0%
% Pass
Rate 2016
(before Review)
21.0% 25.2% 23.1%

 It is apparent that the historical reason for the bias towards girls in the Medway Test is through the English component, a single piece of Free Writing, which is not age standardised in the same way as the VR and maths, which both produce little gender bias. The only solution I can see is that a new type of marking scheme, set this year after the previous marking team was dismissed somehow reverses the bias.

Another issue that has arisen with the Free Writing Assessment is the standardisation system that is applied. To quote the NFER,  the country’s leading research institute Standardised scores from most educational tests cover the same range from 70 to 140’. The occasional pupil dips a point below or above this range, but I have never come across one in the Medway Test. This year for some reason at least two boys without a bad record scored 65 & 67, way adrift, of the base line, and at least one girl scored 146, way above the normal cut off.

Just one school, Phoenix Junior Academy, had no one taking the test, and one small school had no successes.   

Out of County
Medway Test Outcomes   
 
Number
Entered
Number
Passed
Kent  624  381
Greenwich  150  91
Bexley  146  86
Bromley  36  28
Lewisham   33  17
Southwark
 11  6
Newham
 10  9
Thurrock
 8  5
Other London
Boroughs
29 21
Other 16 14
TOTAL 1063 659
Total 2016 918 626
Out of County (ooc)
The above table shows the breakdown of Medway Test entries and passes, by Local Authority. It is impossible to determine a pass rate as the total roll in each relevant school is not known.

The number of ooc candidates for Medway grammar schools continues to rise far faster than the local population. It is down to two main factors, primarily the caravan rolling down from London Boroughs, where there is an inexhaustible supply of families seeking grammar school places for their children. First stop are the four Dartford grammar schools, nearest the county boundary and easily accessible by rail. With a combined 600 children failing to gain access in spite of placing one of the schools as first preference, many will have put the Gravesend grammars on as a back up. As these are mainly second preferences, it is impossible to identify the pressure on them, but again many are thwarted. Gravesend Grammar, admitting over a quarter of its pupils from London, when it aspires to be a school serving the local community, has reduced its PAN from 180 to 150 for 2018 entry. That just leaves Medway grammars, and social media sites reveal that many put the schools down without even having visited them (as also can happen in Gravesend) and know nothing about them.

The issue is exacerbated by an additional considerable number of children who don’t feature in this table, who qualify for the two Chatham grammar schools by virtue of success in the Kent Test, without needing to take the Medway Test.

Rainham Mark Grammar School, up to now super-selective, happily is turning against the tide of chasing every higher grades by selecting and retaining only the highest performers, as described elsewhere on this site. From September 2018, the school has abandoned high scores and is giving priority to those children who live nearest, which means the few London families who will be offered places will be siblings of current pupils. 

The second issue is of course wider awareness of opportunities with an ever increasing proportion of Kent children living in towns such as Gravesend and Sittingbourne taking the Medway Test as a backup.

Chatham Girls and Holcombe Grammar Schools
Both schools are going through dramatic changes in their nature and ethos, which will have been exacerbated by the tide of ooc children expanding them in a way they cannot have anticipated this time last year. On allocation day in March 2017, both just filled (Holcombe expanding to 128, from its PAN of 120), although every other Medway grammar was heavily oversubscribed (exacerbated by ooc pressure). Both schools are going through large scale changes of staff, to meet current demands. Both schools have also seen a high proportion of appeals on academic grounds succeed in recent years.
 
Chatham Girls
This school was described to me last year by the Executive Principal, exploring marketing approaches as ‘a little gem’, conjuring up a picture which has been shattered by the massive influx of pupils. The school has been taken over by the University of Kent, with overall management by the non-selective Brompton Academy, having been in severe financial difficulties last year, as helpfully publicised (!?) by Holcombe Grammar to aid its co-education bid. What is certain is that this sudden explosion in size, aided by an appeal success rate of 76%, will be a solution to those financial difficulties.
 
Holcombe Grammar  
Holcombe is still in the grip of its controversial bid to become co-educational, and reduce the number of boy’s places, because of historic undersubscription. These results and the high take up for September 2017, remove yet another of the weak arguments put forward. With the gestation period now lasting over nine months, this is clearly and rightly causing the Regional Schools Commissioner some concerns, no doubt exacerbated by the inept handling of the ‘Victory Academy Six’, see below. These were students, taking and passing the Medway Test late, who were used by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust which runs Holcombe Grammar School, to form the basis of a grammar school stream at Victory Academy, a scheme hatched up over the summer holidays. It was then suggested, and finally promised they would be allowed back into the physical Holcombe Grammar after one year, although they could play in Holcombe sports teams in the meantime! I understand that last week, those still on the course at Victory were told they could transfer at the beginning of Term Two, in November. I was one who considered the whole process illegal and set a dangerous precedent for other Multi Academy Trust. I therefore suspect the Trust has been ordered to do this but, is not acting in the interests of the boys when this could have been done at short notice, thus reducing the time lost.

I suspect none of this will affect decision making this year, and anticipate the ever increasing ooc effect will ensure another year of high oversubscription.  

Last modified on Thursday, 07 December 2017 12:04

2 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 19 October 2017 07:51 posted by Satnaha

    Do you think Holcombe will offer a place to literally any out of county boy that passed the Medway or kent test and lists them on the CAF? PETER. Certainly not, there were plenty missed out this year, and I suspect 2018 will be tighter

  • Comment Link Monday, 16 October 2017 22:38 posted by Debbie

    Have Medway council released the highest score achieved by any pupil taking the test? PETER: It is on its way

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