Maidstone Grammar School for Girls operated ‘unlawful’ admissions policy for sixth form students
PUBLISHED: 14:17 03 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:33 03 October 2017
A watchdog found the school used a points-based system, not included in its published criteria, for a number of years
A Kent grammar school operated an “unlawful” admissions policy for prospective sixth form students, a watchdog has found.
The Local Government Ombudsman investigated procedures at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls after a complaint was made by a parent, whose son missed out on a place at the sixth form last year, despite meeting the school’s minimum requirements.
The school’s published admission policy states that students require six GCSEs at grade A* to C, including at least four B grades, and B grades in the the subjects they want to study at A-Level.
However, it was also found to an additional points-based system to admit students for a number of years - a system which is not included in its published policy.
Maidstone’s Average Points Score (APS) is calculated by assigning points to each grade (A*=58, A=52, B=46, C=40, D=34, E=28, F=22, G=16, U=0) and taking an average from the applicant’s predicated GCSE grades.
The school then uses the APS to rank all applicants and only makes conditional offers to those who score above a certain level, which in 2016 was set at 48 - an overall average higher than a B grade, therefore targeting students with significantly better predicted grades than the minimum set out in the admission criteria.
The Ombudsman found the school did not make conditional offers to other applicants, even if they met the published requirements; instead placing them on a waiting list.
Maidstone Grammar says it has found using the APS is the best predictor of whether applicants will meet the entry criteria following their GCSE results.
The inspector’s report noted: “The school did not follow its published admission arrangements when making conditional offers to applicants for September 2016 entry.
“It used an additional oversubscription criterion, which was not mentioned in the arrangements and had not been subject to consultation.
“Using an APS to rank applicants based on academic ability contradicted the published oversubscription criteria, which apply to all external applicants with the minimum academic requirements, giving priority to looked after children, siblings, students with health issues and finally those living closest.”
The Ombudsman concluded that the student should have been offered a conditional place by March based on his predicted GCSE grades, however, the school would not have confirmed the place until he had his GCSE results, which ultimately were lower than predicted and therefore did not meet the subject requirements for his original A-Level choices.
The report added: “The school will no longer use the APS to make conditional offers and will follow its published admission arrangements.
“The school must do this; otherwise, its admission process will be unlawful. If it wishes to use an APS as part of its decision-making, it must amend its published arrangements to reflect this and follow the statutory consultation process.”
Kent County Council, which managed the independent panel which first heard the complaint, was also criticised, with the Ombudsman reporting that further training for members was required - a recommendation agreed by County Hall.
Following the investigation, the school agreed to drop the use of the points system, apologise to the family and pay £250 in compensation.
Headteacher Deborah Stanley said: “The Ombudsman specifically said that the pupil’s ‘grades were lower than predicted and he did not meet the subject requirements for his original A Level choices, or the revised choices put forward by Mr A (the father). So, even if the school had made a conditional offer, it would not have followed this with a firm offer.’
“However, we no longer include the average points score in our admissions criteria and also agreed with the Ombudsman’s recommendation of a £250 donation to the family, because of the uncertainty and confusion caused.”
Former Gravesend head teacher and education consultant Peter Read said on his website, KentAdvice.co.uk: “This complete shambles was initially brought about by the school operating unlawful admission criteria for external candidates to the sixth form, which have operated for some years.
“It was then compounded by the headteacher’s reported refusal to admit fault when I demonstrated it very clearly, and the school’s subsequent attempt to deny and cover up the illegality.”
The row comes just weeks after Orpington grammar, St Olave’s, faced the threat of legal action from parents after students were told they could not continue their A-Level studies into Year 13 after failing to achieve B grades in any of their subjects taken in the first year of sixth form.
The school subsequently performed a U-turn and allowed the affected students to return.
Maidstone Grammar School for Girls and Invicta Grammar in the county town have also faced similar complaints in the past but have strongly denied any wrongdoing.