Kendrick School have been awarded funding under the Selective School Expansion Fund (SSEF) predicated on them having realistic and ambitious plans to admit more disadvantaged girls. They also want to give priority to ‘local’ applicants.
Parents will want to know exactly how the proposed changes to admissions will affect them. They’re going to be disappointed.
The “local Reading area”
Kendrick have promised, “… the additional 32 (25%) students will be admitted from the local (Reading) area as first priority.” They’ve defined a new inner catchment area they call the ‘Priority 1 area’, defining the rest of the catchment as called ‘Priority 2’ but rather than a map, these are defined as a list of postcodes. This makes it hard to know exactly what is being proposed, so I’ve plotted the home locations of those attending the school in 2015 and colour coded them by which area they fall into. (The data, provided by the DfE, provides pupils’ home postal districts. Each district contains about 2,600 addresses so cannot be used to pinpoint home addresses but still show where Kendrick’s cohort typically travel in from as well as the proposed catchments.)
Residents of Lower Earley with postcodes starting RG6 3 or RG6 4 and Woodley might wonder why they aren’t considered as local when those living twice as far away in Chazey Heath and Theale are.
Benefits to disadvantaged and local girls
Quantifying how disadvantaged and local girls will benefit from the proposed changes is not possible because these both depend upon a value the school refer to as the Qualifying Score – which they have not defined. Their proposed arrangement are unlikely to comply with sections 14 and 15a of admissions law because they fail to set out, clearly and unambiguously, how places will be allocated.
Historically the Qualifying Score was of no real consequence because the school admitted the highest scoring applicants. All it did was keep the waiting list to a reasonable length. Any parent who’s applied to Kendrick before can attest the only value of any real consequence was the de-facto Qualifying Score – that of the 96th highest scoring applicant for 96 places. (This is a slight simplification because Slough grammars sit the same test and so about 1/3 of those ranked are not competing for places.)
Here’s a plot of the 2017 test results (source Durham University) with three key values defined and marked on it:
- The de facto Qualifying Score (dfQS), the lowest mark resulting in a place, excluding any disadvantaged applicants. For 2017 this was 114.38 (Kendrick FAQ)
- The Qualifying Score (QS) of 110
- A Pupil Premium Qualifying Score (ppQS) of 105
It goes without saying that lowering the score for any group of applicants affords them some advantage but if we assume the scores for each group are evenly spread throughout the distribution then this can be quantified by looking at the shaded areas (quantiles) which reflect the number of applicants in each band of scores.
How much preference?
Local girls, for example, get preference when their score falls in the green band. The lower the Qualifying Score, the wider the band, the greater its area and the greater the number of local girls afforded this preference. The width of the bands depends on the Qualifying Scores, but Kendrick have not explained how these will be defined. It might have been possible to glean some insight into how Kendrick plan to use £3m of public funding for disadvantaged children from the targets they agreed with the DfE but the school have point blank refused to be open and transparent.
Despite Kendrick’s refusal to provide the information needed for an informed public debate it is still possible to model the outcomes for a range of different Qualifying Scores. The DfE data used for the ‘catchment map’ provides the geographic segmentation, whilst the test results provide a typical distribution to estimate quantiles. This is easier, and probably more reliable, than the usual approach of defining a probability density function based on theoretical values. For anyone interested, the full model is described here.
The following table shows the estimated additional places which would go to local girls for Qualifying Scores (QS) ranging from 111 down to 106. Kendrick are proposing that the Pupil Premium Qualifying Score (ppQS) for disadvantaged girls is, “up to 5 points lower”. A vague definition based on a completely undefined value but for each value of QS the table shows ppQS reduced by a further 1, 3 or 5 marks.
‘Local’ girls already make up 40% of the cohort. These figures relate to the additional places they can expect due to the ‘priority’ being afforded them over and above what they’d otherwise get. Setting the Qualifying Score five marks below the de-facto QS, at 106, results in an additional 8 places for local girls. Kendrick School promised, “The additional 32 (25%) students will be admitted from the local (Reading) area as first priority.” I’ll leave it to others to decide whether their choice of words was misleading or not.
Any disadvantaged places will come from the ‘original’ 96 places (75%) because these are allocated first and it’s inconceivable that the school would admit more than 75%, given this is normally about 2% of the cohort. Reducing the QS for disadvantaged to a full 10 marks below the de-facto Qualifying Score only results in three additional disadvantaged pupils being admitted. This graph plots the modelled outcomes.
The Selective Schools Expansion Fund is to enable grammar schools to admit more disadvantaged pupils. Announcing the recipients, Damian Hinds said, “I have always been clear that selective schools will only be able to expand if they meet the high bar we have set for increasing access for disadvantaged children, and all of these schools have done that.” Either Mr Hinds’ staff failed to properly evaluate Kendrick’s proposal (it does require a degree in statistical maths to properly understand) or his definition of a high bar differs to the rest of us who inhabit this planet.
Kendrick promised, “The additional 32 (25%) students will be admitted from the local (Reading) area as first priority.” a bizarre approach to admitting more disadvantaged girls. They’ve not defined the Qualifying Score but if it was set as low as 106 only 8 local girls would specifically benefit from this ‘priority’. The other 16 places would be allocated as per the existing 60:40 split.
Wokingham Borough residents living in parts of Earley and Woodley might question whether Kendrick’s definition of the “local Reading area” contravenes the 1989 Greenwich ruling which holds that admissions may not discriminate against families living in another local authority.
Consultation entails asking others for their views on your plans. That simply isn’t possible without first explaining what is being proposed. Kendrick should have
- Clearly laid out their objectives
- Explain how they intended to achieve them
- Highlight any potential impacts on interested parties
- Model the outcomes and explain how they arrived at their conclusions.
The proposed arrangements are unlikely to comply with admissions law because the school have not defined exactly how the Qualifying Scores will be set. This, and the lack of meaningful consultation by the school is something the Schools Adjudicator will need to rule on when it is referred to her in May.
This page on Kendrick’s website has their s conclusions from the consultation carried out earlier. It makes no reference to the petition asking them to set aside places for disadvantaged girls, even though it received more responses than the school did. Education Minister Lord Agnew explained the earlier consultation did not relate to changes to admissions and therefore the petition was not relevant. The petition will therefore be (re)presented to Kendrick School as part of this consultation just in case they forgot about it. If anyone believes that public money specifically aimed at helping disadvantaged children get into grammar schools should actually go to helping disadvantaged children then please sign the petition.
Kendrick’s choice of timing is very regrettable as it coincided with the holidays when many people were unavailable. The school’s website explains, “All comments regarding the proposed changes or any aspect of the Admissions Policies, should be sent to Ms Amanda Emberson, Admissions Officer, (email@example.com) by Tuesday 22nd January 2019 at 5.00pm.” Anyone wishing to comment on any of the conclusions above needs to do so by this deadline.
Finally, any comments are welcome, particularly if anything isn’t clear. These are moderated and I have a full time job so they will not be moderated quickly. WordPress insists on wanting your email addresses. I don’t, so please use something fictious and ideally amusing like firstname.lastname@example.org. All points of view are welcomed and will be published unless they’re rude or abusive, which has only happened once. Full disclosure; my youngest child is very happy at a comprehensive secondary school but I passionately believe that those engaging with the admissions process should be fully informed.