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Tuesday, 04 March 2014 00:00

Medway Secondary School Transfer - Initial statistics and comments; & Chatham Grammar OFSTED Monitoring

This article is being updated as fresh information is received. You will find the parallel article on Kent here.

This is a fairly brief article on secondary transfer, as Medway Council is rather grudging in its release of information this year, possibly because the number of Medway children getting their first choice school has fallen sharply from 86.0% in 2013 (similar to previous years) to 81.2% for 2014 entry - claimed by Medway Council to be nearly 82% (more problems with arithmetic!).  For 2013 admission the number of children allocated a school place by Medway Council (i.e. offered none of their choices) more than doubled over previous years to 3.2%; this year it has worsened further, increasing to over 4%.  I also take the opportunity to look at the recently published Chatham Grammar School for Boys OFSTED Monitoring Inspection. The Medway press release in full reads:......

Nearly 96 per cent of primary aged children in Medway have been offered one of their preference places at secondary school, new figures show.

Of the 2,984 Medway children offered places, nearly 82 per cent have been offered their first preference place, more than 10 per cent have been awarded their second place preference and nearly 3 per cent their third preference.

The school admissions process for Medway is a huge task and involves the council’s Student Services (Admissions) Team processing secondary school applications for 3,421 children in total including 437 out of area children this year.

More than 86 per cent of families used the council’s online application process to submit their preferences.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Cllr Mike O'Brien, said: “Finding out which secondary school your child has been allocated is always a major event for families. I am happy that a vast majority of children have been offered one of their preference places. I’d like to wish all the children the very best for their future studies and hope they go on to achieve great things during their time at secondary school.”

Barbara Peacock, the Director of Children and Adult Services, added: "I’m pleased that lots of children have gained places at one of their chosen schools. In Medway there is a great selection of secondary schools and I wish all children the very best for their years of education ahead of them."

I have applied for more data under FOI, along the lines of the Kent information, and will add this in to the following table when I receive it.

Medway Pupils 2014 2013 2012 2011
  Number % Number % % %
Offered a first preference 2423 81.2 2425 86.0% 86.7% 87.2%
Offered a place at one of their top
three choices
approx
2811
approx
94%
2678 95.0% 97.7% 96.9%
Offered a place at one of their six choices 2865 96.0% 2730 96.8% 98.6% 98.1%
Allocated a place by Medway Council > 119 >4% 90 3.2% 1.4% 1.9%
Total number of Medway
children offered places
2984   2820   2949

2905

In one sense this was predictable, as there are 164 more children in the cohort this year, Medway having passed the bottom of its falling secondary school numbers in 2013, and numbers are now on the rise again. There appear to be no additional places in the system over 2013 entry. 

Further, there has been a polarisation in applications to schools, with some of the most popular ones attracting even more applications than i previous years. As a result, more of those applications had to be rejected. 

For the Medway grammar schools it is clear that the problems at Chatham Boys have led to increased numbers of applicants at the other two grammar schools admitting boys. Rainham Mark Grammar School, having stated last year that it could only put on an extra class of entry for one year, has done so again, increasing its Planned Admission Number from 175 to 215. The school recruits on high scores, and the cut off point has risen to 535, seven points above the pass mark, the highest gap for some years. The Rochester Grammar School's lowest offer was to girls (not all) on 529. Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, whose popularity waned last year so that it was only just oversubscribed, has shot up again and, from reports, I suspect that almost no boys have got in from the Hoo Peninsula. Boys from this area now face a difficult journey to Chatham Grammar, whereas Hoo girls are given a priority at Fort Pitt Grammar. In recent years, the Math has fought hard to stop numbers rising above 180 after appeal, which would represent 12 successful appeals, so this may account for a significant proportion of the disappointed applicants.

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Chatham Grammar School for Boys: It is clear that Chatham Grammar is turning the corner, since it was placed in special Measures by OFSTED last summer, the academy now being officially sponsored by the Rochester Grammar School's Thinking Schools Trust. You will find a link to previous articles hereA second Monitoring OFSTED, whilst still identifying some problems, is full of praise about improvements that have been made at the school.  Looking back at the 2013 GCSEs, it found some issues with English results, but identified mathematics as being good. There are still some issues with the variability of teaching standards across subjects.  There are many references to the improved attitudes of students, following discussion, and their greater expectations. Discipline is tighter, there is a calm environment which students value and respect. "Parents with whom inspectors met acknowledged their initial anger at the judgement of special measures and the way in which they first heard of this on the local media. They fully admit that they vented their anger towards the executive headteacher and the headteacher. However, they now feel that change was for the better and that leaders have made every effort to open channels of communication with the parent body. Concerns can now be expressed and addressed through the parent council, which meets on a termly basis. Leaders are fully aware that a small minority of parents and carers remain unconvinced. However, a growing number of parents and carers are evidencing their support". There is still a concern about the overuse of temporary teachers, but most of these posts will be phased out by Easter to be replaced by permanent staff. Parents can surely look forward to the future of the school with confidence. 

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I am not yet clear on the pattern of preferences in non-selective schools, except a sense that polarisation continues; the popular schools becoming more popular, those at the other end are struggling to attract children, but none anywhere near as low as the Kent schools at the bottom end of their popularity. All will become clear when I get the individual school figures through FOI in a week or so. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 September 2014 23:45

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