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)
Medway Test results are sent out by email after 4 p.m. on Friday 30th September, or by post to arrive the next day.
The Medway Test Pass Score is 513. Please note, as explained in my article 'Admission to Medway Grammar Schools' below, this does not mean the standard is any lower than last year's 521. The standard required is the same. The difference reflects the number of children taking the test And their abilities.
I run a Telephone Consultation Service to support and advise families living in Medway or Kent Local Authority areas, who are considering Review, looking at secondary school options, or thinking about chances of success at appeal, for schools in Kent or Medway Local Authorities.
The pages of this website also contain much free information about each of these issues
You will find details of each of the possibilities via the links below, or to the right of this article. You may wish to start with the page on Can I help you?
Individual Medway Secondary Schools. This contains information on each secondary school and academy. I am currently updating these pages. If the one you wish to consult is not up to date, please let me know and I will attend to it.
These pages also contain links to pages providing comment and data relating to school admissions....
You will find the initial Medway Secondary school allocation figures here, showing that 84.3% of Medway children were offered places at their first choice school, with just 2.6%, or 77 children, offered none of their six choices, these being allocated a local school by Medway Council. I have also prepared parallel articles on oversubscription and vacancies for Kent grammar and non-selective schools. I now have more detailed information showing that the most popular school in Medway by far was Brompton Academy, which turned away 108 first preferences, followed by Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School with 42.
The Victory Academy has most vacancies, 110 on allocation, twice as many as the next school, Chatham Grammar Girls’ with 55.
158 of the 197 children from outside Medway taking up places in local schools at this stage come from Kent, with 113 of these taking up places in Medway Grammar schools, 48 at The Rochester Grammar School. 140 of the 142 Medway children going out county are taking up places at Kent schools, mainly non-selective.
As well as further details below, I look at the implications of these figures on the decision to turn Chatham Grammar School for Boys into a co-educational school from September 2017.
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……
For further information on all these headlines, read on…
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.
The Medway Test pass mark for admission to Medway Grammar Schools in September 2016 is an aggregate of 521, slightly down on last year’s 525, but you can read nothing in to the annual variation of the pass mark as this is arrived at by a local standardisation of marks, as explained below and elsewhere and is a factor of the proportion of Medway children who decide to take the test, not the difficulty. There is further detail about pass rates below.
You will find a comprehensive survey of Medway Test arrangements and issues here, containing advice and information, with links through to Review Information and Advice and other articles.
I am afraid I am recovering from an operation and will not be able to offer any support to parents this autumn. To assist families trying to decide whether to go to Review, I offer what I hope is helpful advice below as an alternative.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the abdication of responsibility for the Bishop of Rochester Academy in Chatham, as the Diocese of Rochester, the previous main sponsor, decided to abandon its attempts to improve the standards and popularity of the school. The Academy has now been passed on to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, headed up by The Rochester Grammar School, incorporating Chatham Grammar School for Boys and several primary schools.
Now comes news of a surprising merger between two more Medway Academy Trusts, an agreement having been reached to merge The Thomas Aveling Academy Trust (TA) with the Fort Pitt Grammar School Academy Trust (FP), under the catchy title of Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Academy Trust.
What is notable in a Local Authority whose academy chains are currently dominated by grammar schools (the third chain being the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Academy Trust), is that this time the non-selective school appears to be at least equal in status.