Kent County Council has never divulged its marking structure in advance, as it waits until it sees outcomes before making this decision, in order to identify the best fit for selecting the top 21% of candidates from “the selective parts” of Kent. (This defines the marking structure for all candidates, so there is no advantage in living in the areas!). The “selective parts” are an historical partition of the county, around the grammar schools, but have no other relevance today. In practice, for many years KCC has asked for an aggregate score across the three papers, together with a minimum standard in each.
Although there are now just two papers, I would be very surprised to see this pattern applied directly as it would provide one mark in English and maths added together, with no minimum in either. I therefore anticipate minimum marks in both subjects, together with one or more marks for the second paper depending on how many sections are taken into account separately.
However, I cannot see how an understanding of the marking structure benefits any candidate, the strategy is quite simply to perform to the best standard in all sections of all papers, so there is no point in speculating in the hope of getting your child to achieve higher marks!
What is apparent is that the attempt to reduce coachability has certainly not reduced the amount of coaching, as parents become even more committed to seeing their children achieve high marks. I have already recorded my thoughts on coaching in a previous article, which still apply today.
I have also received concerns from several parents who feel they have let their children down through failing to provide coaching. Whilst we have no way of gaining statistical information on the number of successful candidates with or without coaching, there are many and I have met many who have been successful at gaining the basic pass mark and a grammar school place without having to pay out.
What I am seeing increasingly is an East/West divide, with children in many parts of the East of the county, having increased chances through alternative tests for grammar school admission in Dover, Shepway and for girls in Gravesham, and a higher chance of success through appeal. But the misinformation sown by too many people who ought to know better, that there is a severe shortage of grammar school places for Kent children in Kent grammar schools (including the leader of a National Grammar School movement on radio last week) is untrue. Yes, each year some boys in North Sevenoaks and children in one or two other hot spots have an anxious time until the system settles down, often through the appeal structure, but year on year I was aware of no grammar qualified Kent or Medway grammar children who really wants a place deprived of one by September. This year there is an exception at Weald of Kent where the Appeal Panel found an astonishing 48 out of 62 appeals of grammar school ability. A few years ago I forced KCC via the Ombudsman to acknowledge that if there was no room for such children they should be placed on the waiting list rather than be turned down out of hand. This gives them a chance but, as the comment below confirms, it does not always work out.
All that remains is for me to wish for all the children who have worked so hard to do well in the Kent Test (and of course those in Medway) that they achieve to the best of their ability, without any of the pitfalls that inevitably bring down a few candidates. Remember, even if every child performs to a high standard, only 21% of the cohort will be awarded a grammar school place through the test, another 4% through Headteacher assessment and probably another 5% through appeals.