- You must list any school you wish to appeal for on your SCAF. This year the first appeals were heard in the last week of March the final ones not being heard until the end of June. In each Local Authority (LA), an admissions booklet will be issued at the beginning of September (online in Kent). There is now a national closing date for applications although grammar school registration process and dates and testing dates differ. Each LA has some differences in procedure, for example Kent parents have four choices, and Medway parents have six choices. These booklets contain details of the all important oversubscription rules, which determine if you will be offered a place if too many people apply. Do not try and take part in the process without the relevant admissions booklet to guide you.
If the school is described as “Community” or “Voluntary Controlled”, oversubscription rules are laid down by the LA. Each Academy, “Voluntary Aided”, “Foundation” school or "Academy" makes its own rules and you need to check these out to find if you are likely to be offered a place.
- If your child has not passed the Kent Test you have no right of appeal against this decision. Along with all other appeals, you must wait until National Offer day on 1 March before you can appeal. On that date the grammar school you have applied for technically rejects your application and only then can you appeal. See Kent Grammar School Appeals.
It is difficult to give general guidance on placing schools in order, as circumstances change enormously from town to town depending on popularity of individual schools and their oversubscription rules. Above all, make sure that you and your child visit the schools you are considering. You can of course use my telephone consultation service, cost just £55 to talk through individual circumstances.
For all oversubscribed schools find out if you would have been accepted last year. Ask for the furthest distance from school those pupils lived, who were accepted. Medway publishes this information in its admission booklets. Many church schools admit children according to their level of church support. Find out which category of religious support was the lowest accepted.
Check the rules about free school transport, which only apply if you live more than three miles from your nearest school (priority for the school to be a grammar or church school has been abolished, except for children on Free School Meals). These rules are detailed in the School Admission Booklet for your LA. See the page on School Transport and Appeals.
Try and make sure that you will be eligible for at least one school on your list, otherwise you will be allocated the nearest one with vacancies, which may not be to your liking.
In Kent, most non-selective schools formally cater for pupils of all abilities. Most Kent secondary schools are now academies and make their own rules for choosing children if they are oversubscribed. Eleven church schools are scattered round the county. Several of these are highly selective on religious criteria (one reason they regularly appear at the top of performance tables). Their oversubscription rules also vary from school to school and you should plan at least a year ahead (in some cases three years) to meet these if you do not currently fit.
Most of Kent's secondary schools are academies. These are all independent of Kent County Council, but are required to use the same admission system and appeal process. Further details are at Academies.
- Application forms ask you to list reasons for preference. Ignore this unless you wish to make a case on grounds of medical or social need to attend that school. In Medway that information is seen on appeal, for all schools you have applied to. Be warned!
Parents applying for secondary school places may be given a supplementary form “only where the additional information is required for the governing body to apply their oversubscription criteria to the application”. You are under no obligation to provide information which is not required for this purpose. No form should ask parents to state what preferences they have named on their SCAF, or the order in which they have stated their preferences, as no school requires this to apply its oversubscription criteria. KCC advise you to delete any such question and mark it “N/A” or “not applicable”.
For both Catholic and CofE schools, make sure you read the oversubscription rules well in advance to ocheck on the school requirements with regard to church membership and attendance. Some schools require evidence of this dating back two or three years.
for 2016 entry, 81% of Kent families were offered their first choice school in March, the third consecutive fall since 2013s 85%. You will find fuller statistics here.
Both Kent and Medway have an online application system on which parents can change choices up to the closing date. One concern for primary heads is that because they do not see these forms, they are unable to check if parents have made sensible decisions. Conversely, parents can hide decisions from the school, – valuable where certain primary schools strongly encourage certain applications. Online applicants will be able to access decisions after 4p.m. on 1st March 2017. Paper applicants will receive decisions by post on 2nd March.
Most schools now have specialist status, specialising in areas such as: mathematics & ICT, humanities, or sport. Some select up to 10% of pupils on aptitude. A few Kent schools select a proportion of children by tests of academic ability, including Homewood (20%) and Archbishop’s (15%). Find out what the tests are so that your child is prepared. A number of schools now band children by ability, and set tests to select the correct proportion for each band. There is limited purpose in preparing for these tests, except that non-selective schools have fewer children in the top band, so it may be easier for able children to secure places in the top band. Don't take that as gospel!
For some parents, choice of school is determined by the desire to avoid being offered an unpopular school. I think the best news is the improvement in some of Kent’s weakest schools over the past few years. If all schools are satisfactory, then the pressure on families is greatly reduced.
All Kent schools allow late applications after April 28th, but there is no harm in applying earlier. Medway schools now also allow late applications. In Kent you will need to apply directly to each school using the Post Reallocation Common Application Form. You can make as many applications as you wish, confidential to each school.
After appeals, if the school is oversubscribed, no child will be admitted to the school off the waiting list until the number of children falls back to the Planned Admission Number (PAN). For example: if the PAN is 175 and there are five successful appeals bringing the total to 180, no further children will be admitted off the waiting list until the number falls back to 174. It will not then rise again above 175 unless there are further successful late appeals. This all assumes that schools follow the rules - an increasing number don't!
I remain unhappy at the number of secondary schools still advising parents they need to put the school in first place on the SCAF, if they are to receive an offer. This is not only completely untrue as schools are not told where you have put them on the form, it would be illegal. Put schools in the order in which you want them, it is as simple as that; you will not be the loser for it. If you want a second opinion on this make a call to Kent County Council Admisssions on 03000412121. I find them very helpful, but they are not allowed to go into certain areas relating to individual school policy where I can assist. Medway Council Admissions also offer advice and information.