Superselective grammars - how defined?

(24 Posts)
Tillory Sun 10-Nov-13 20:20:30

I am curious and wondered what this term means as I have seen it used a lot and just watched someone describing a selective grammar school vs a superselective one ...is it based on taking top 5% or 10% academically as opposed to top 25% or based on sheer number of applications to places (which could be skewed if very wide catchment area)?

Are the ones that do a competitive 11+ (as opposed to a qualifying 11+ pass) encompassing a large catchment area so described?

Is it only the top ten or top five grammar schools in the country based on grades or Oxbridge entry or much wider than that?

I think officially it's simply that super-selectives have no catchment (or possibly a very wide one), and no sibling rule, so naturally the bar to get in can get very high indeed, especially if the school is deemed good enough for people to travel some distance.

More colloquially though, round here it's the one that's the only one in town, very well-regarded and very competitive, that gets referred to as super-selective, rather than the ones in the next town.

SanityClause Sun 10-Nov-13 21:08:14

For a grammar, you just pass the test, then places are given in a similar way to a comprehensive - siblings, proximity and so on.

For a superselective, the scores are ranked and places offered to the highest scoring candidates, first, down the list, until there are no places left.

Clavinova Sun 10-Nov-13 22:04:44

Where I live the super-selective grammars have over 1,500 children sitting the exams as literally any child can gain a place if they score highly enough whether they live 3 miles away or 300!

Lemonsole Sun 10-Nov-13 22:09:59

It's the grammars that have no effective catchment, and for which coming in the top 120/150/180 candidates is the only criteria for entry.

Sometimes you see the priciest private schools referred to as "superselectives", although it should always be remembered that they are only superselective within that tiny subset of people who can afford at least £20 grand a year on school fees. Which isn't quite the case for state grammars... wink

IndiansOnTheRailroad Sun 10-Nov-13 22:37:08

It's all about having no catchment. So, you can live anywhere, do the test, and if you are in the top however many places there are, you're in. There are grammars in bucks and possibly kent that describe themselves as superselective but they still operate some kind of catchment so they aren't really. I think the Tiffin schools get 1500-2000 kids sitting their tests (although one of them - can't remember which one - has now implemented a catchment area so can't describe itself as superselective now. Although I bet it still will). Obviously the posh schools describing themselves as superselective aren't. Except in terms of finances.

senua Sun 10-Nov-13 22:40:44

It's the grammars that have no effective catchment, and for which coming in the top 120/150/180 candidates is the only criteria for entry.

Agreed, and what applies round here. They have about ten applicants for each place which - considering that applicants are self-selecting, thus weaker pupils do not even apply - is a ridiculously huge number. The selection tool is a very blunt instrument; it doesn't need to be that good when you are dealing with those sorts of numbers.
Their Oxbridge tally, and even their A Level results, aren't that impressive. They take on extra pupils at sixth form and obviously aren't very expert at spotting the good 'uns.

tiggytape Sun 10-Nov-13 22:46:24

Yes it is all about having no catchment with the knock on effect that many children who pass the exam still won't get a place.

As many as 2000 children may sit the test. Perhaps 400-700 of these will be deemed to be of selective ability. But only the children with the top scores will actually get an offer regardless of where they live. A child scoring 245 living 400 miles away would get preference over a child scoring 244 who lived nextdoor to the school.

In other areas a catchment policy exists to favour local candidates who pass the test above non-local children who also pass but with a slightly higher score.

IndiansOnTheRailroad Sun 10-Nov-13 22:47:45

Some superselectives have decent results and Oxbridge tallies.

tiggytape Sun 10-Nov-13 22:50:17

And as senua says - the reason that upto 700 may pass the test for some superselectives isn't because the test is easy - far from it. It is because it is an opt-in system and generally only top group children from miles around tend to opt to enter these tests.
Basically the competition is incredible - high numbers of children entering, most of whom are way above average for their age and only relatively few places to be awarded.

IndiansOnTheRailroad Sun 10-Nov-13 22:55:51

Our superselective has as the 'pass mark' for each paper the score of the 120th candidate (after adjustment for age where applicable - that doesn't apply to English, and maybe not even maths). Then they rank everyone in order. And the top 120 overall get in. It is possible to come in the top 120 on two papers and still not get in. It is entirely possible that some, maybe even many, of the kids who don't get in the top 120 for at least two of the papers would be deemed 'of selective ability' if testing for other schools. Because it's all about the ranking, not the mark.

ISAmum1 Mon 11-Nov-13 13:34:34

A few superselectives have catchments. Our local girls grammar has a catchment area which is 9 miles in a straight line from its front door. The top 160 scorers in the catchment are offered a place - if they put it down. The local boys grammar has no catchment though - you can live anywhere in the country and gain a place on score.

I would still consider the girls grammar to be superselective. Around 800-900 take the test for 160 places.

ChunkyPickle Mon 11-Nov-13 13:37:24

Hold on.. sibling rules for grammar schools? I've never heard of that before (and I went to one)

How on earth does that make sense?

tiggytape Mon 11-Nov-13 14:14:07

Some grammar schools take top scores only (super selectives)

TThe other ttpe of grammars still require a pupil to take a test but they have a pass mark. Once this mark is reached, it doesn't matter how much you exceed it by.

For example all children who get 220 are deemed to have passed. A lot of candidates who enter for the exam will reach this magic number but the school doesn't have room for all of them. So to decide who to give the spaces to, they give priority to children scoring 220 or above with siblings and then those living closer/

So a child with 221 and a sibling could get a place above a child with 235 and no sibling. But a child with 198 wouldn't get a place at all even if they lived nextdoor and had a sibling there already.

ChunkyPickle Mon 11-Nov-13 14:14:55

Aaaahhhh - OK, that makes more sense. Thanks Tiggy

IslaValargeone Mon 11-Nov-13 14:18:21

Sibling rules, really?
I've never seen anything that would suggest that.

JuliaScurr Mon 11-Nov-13 14:22:42

yes, Medway is like Tiggy 's example
but some kids with super selective scores go to regular grammars

tiggytape Mon 11-Nov-13 14:32:28

Isla - There are several regions that have grammar schools. Some of them have distance and sibling criteria and some definitely don't.

Most people understandably assume the 11+ system is standard across all regions that retain it but in fact it varies hugely. The content of the exam, the standard required to pass, the number of places available and the oversubscription criteria all differ from place to place.

Kent is a good example - there are grammars in Kent (West Kent) that select by score only but the others set a passmark and then choose by sibling and distance considerations so the actual score after the child has passed matters less than whether they have a sibling there.

IslaValargeone Mon 11-Nov-13 14:38:48

I know there are several regions with grammar schools.
My dc is in one.
I'm astonished that some have sibling rules. I thought the whole point was it was decided on ability, like you say, understandably one would presume that was the case across the board .

A sibling that doesn't pass wouldn't (usually ) qualify to get in- its a second thing, like pass then distance, pass then sibling, pass then children from certain areas, type rhing.

tiggytape Mon 11-Nov-13 15:02:22

It is based on the assumption that most grammar schools get more children who pass the test than there are places

So they will have to turn away children who are of selective ability. In some areas they choose the ones who get rejected based on score. In other areas they base the decision on siblings and distance. Nobody gets a place who hasn't passed the test though.

The Admissions Code covers rules for these 2 types of grammar school.
It says a grammar school can choose which oversubscription option it applies but it cannot mix and match.
So a school that takes siblings into account cannot also use 'highest score wins principles' to whittle them down (it just has a pass / fail mark).
And a grammar school that chooses to use 'top score wins' can't for example add 10 marks for having a sibling to try to get more siblings a place. It has to be one or the other.

IndiansOnTheRailroad Mon 11-Nov-13 20:48:19

ISAMum - our grammar is the only grammar school in a 50 mile radius. But obviously in a less densely populated area than London.

IndiansOnTheRailroad Mon 11-Nov-13 20:53:41

Tiggy And the minute a school introduces criteria other than top score wins is the moment it stops being a superselective. Not that it matters, obviously. Especially to the cohort and the parents - who probably love the sibling or distance criteria (once they have got one child in or if they love really close).

tiggytape Mon 11-Nov-13 22:30:00

Yes - that is true Indians. There is no half way option (there isn't allowed to be under the code).
If the school wants to include any selection based on distance and siblings (once the passmark has been met) then it is still a grammar but not a superselective.
Superselectives select blind - they literally take the top scores and that is the only factor they consider (with a tiebreaker for the last few places usually - since if over 2000 take the test, there are normally clusters of children that share the exact same score and they need to be able to sort out allocation for the last few places)

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