Plans to do Medway Holcombe, Chatham Grammar and Fort Pitt co-ed grammars lambasted by former leader Peter Read
An education consultant has criticized plans for three single-sex high schools to become co-educational from September 2024.
A consultation on the plans is due to end tomorrow (Sunday) and involves selections Medway Holcombe, for boys, and Chatham Grammar and Fort Pitt – both for girls.
Medway Council insists this would end an inequality in places that currently exists between boys and girls.
Currently, there are more places for girls than the Medway test — the unitary authority’s 11-plus exam to determine high school aptitude — can offer. The result being that 116 girls from outside the council’s borders fill the coveted places.
But Peter Read, a former Gravesend grammar manager who runs popular education website KentAdvice.co.uk, says the plan is flawed.
He insists that Medway’s children’s grammar offer is “comfortably correct” and that there is “no problem finding a place in a high school”. Adding: ‘To say there is a shortage of boys’ places is simply not true.’
The Medway Council is conducting the consultation on behalf of the academies that operate the schools – Beyond Schools operates Fort Pitt Grammar, Thinking Schools Holcombe Grammar and University of Kent Academies Trust Chatham Grammar – to “ensure proper and comprehensive processes are followed and ensure the transparency and fairness of the process”.
Unitary authority does not assign students to schools, with the admissions process handled by the schools themselves.
But Mr Read points out that of the Year 7 students currently attending Medway grammars – all of which give priority to local children – there are still 83 boys from outside Medway.
And he fears that changing the schools’ entry requirements will mean an increase in the percentage of students deemed suitable for grammatical selection after taking the Medway test, which, in turn, will potentially have a negative impact on all selective and non-selective schools in the region. .
In an earlier paper presented to the Medway Council cabinet, he spoke of increasing grammar intake from the current 23% to a “maximum of 28%”. He added that such a move would also “relieve the pressure on non-selective schools” at Medway.
Mr Read explains: “My problem is that I can’t find any educational reason for this consultation paper to move forward.
“It’s a pretty big shake-up. It changes the character of three schools. Not just a little, but a lot.
“The plan is to increase the pick rate of the Medway test.
“If they do it by just 3%, that means the number of kids in each high school would increase in number by 8%. That’s the low end of the capacity range. Now what’s the point of a high school ?
“For grammar, the major problem is having students who may have trouble with what is expected of them.
“The parents of the extra children who go to high school will be happy; the children who go to high school will find that the work inevitably becomes less difficult.
“For the non-selectives, they’re going to lose the top of their range of abilities. This will weaken the non-selectives and weaken the grammars.
He adds: ‘It’s pointless, it’s wasteful and it’s counterproductive – and it’s going to cost money that could be better spent building another non-selective school to ease the pressures.’
But Medway Council, which says the costs of adapting schools “will be carefully considered on an individual basis”, insists with an equal number of places for boys and girls it can then “allocate more places in secondary schools to proposed Medway students day” which, in turn, “will reduce the ability of schools to accommodate students living outside of Medway.”
He added that the proportion of pupils attending Kent and Medway grammar schools varies widely by region, with some parts of Kent he says as high as 40%. He indicates, by contrast, that Medway’s selective cohort at 23-25% is currently relatively small, adding “with the expected increase in student numbers over the next few years (it) will continue to decline if we don’t create this extra capacity in the system.”
He admits that allowing more Medway students to attend grammars will reduce some short-term pressure on non-selectives, but that increasing the number of students at Medway will “undo that”.
Cllr Martin Potter, Medway Council’s portfolio holder for education and schools, said: ‘We want to ensure that in future there will be enough places in secondary schools for children assessed as grammar while providing the best opportunities for children in Medway to attend Medway’s schools.I encourage residents to participate in the consultation.
Mr Read is also a long-term critic of the Medway test – a test he considers ‘unsuitable’ in that it is, he says, biased in favor of girls due to the fact that a section of the document is devoted to a single room. written English – a task at which girls at this age are traditionally better.
“As a result,” he explains, “the Medway test is biased in favor of girls.
“You could say that boys do better in math. But that’s one piece of writing. And for some reason, girls do considerably better.
“The Kent test has a math and English test that is balanced. And the results are standardized to a national standard. Boys do slightly better than girls.
“In Medway (where the Medway test currently consists of English, math and verbal reasoning) they don’t standardize it the same way – just standardize it locally.
“In Kent you have to get a minimum score in each section (currently English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning). In Medway it’s just the total. So if you’re bad at maths but excellent at English, you walk in. So that a piece of English can dominate the whole process.”
The Medway Council says it is currently in consultation with grammar school leaders about adding a non-verbal reasoning test for 2023, adding “this will provide a more comprehensive assessment of grammar ability”.
To participate in the consultation which ends tomorrow, Click here.