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New admissions policy for Calderdale selective grammar

(28 Posts)
Starof3 Mon 30-Nov-15 22:58:30

If you are a parent whose child may take the 11 Plus in the next seven years, then please read this.
Calderdale 11 Plus Consultation

If you are a parent whose child may take the 11 Plus in the next seven years, then please read this.
The changes proposed by North Halifax Grammar School (NHGS) and The Crossley Heath School Academy Trust (CHSAT) to their admission policy will have huge implications for your child’s chance of securing a place at one of the schools, even if they score highly on the entrance exam.
Both NHGS and CHSAT have published their proposed policies on their websites. The schools have to allow a six-week consultation period on any changes to their policies. The consultation period runs from 23rd November 2015 to the 3rd January 2016. The schools must consult a number of groups and this includes parents with children between the ages of 2–18.
There are a number of changes proposed, including the changes to the entrance exam itself, which were expected. However, my concern lies with the changes to the oversubscription criteria. I am aware that some of you will have a lot of knowledge about the previous policy and others will not know anything. I will therefore attempt to summarise the changes.
Previous Oversubscription Policy

Both schools have one test and children are ranked according to their performance from 1–1000 (approximately 1000 children take the exam). This is referred to as the order of merit.
There is an increase this year in the number of places, also known as the Published Admissions Number (PAN). Each school has 180 places; therefore there are a total of 360 places available for the 2017 admission. If your child is ranked between 1–360 then they would have been offered a place at one of the schools. The higher they rank the more chance you would have of securing your preferred choice. Children who ranked a bit lower may still be offered a place as some children, who have been accepted, may not want to take up their place.
If there were a number of children who obtained the same score for the last place/s then the school will consider the following criteria in deciding who will be offered the place:-
a) Children looked after and children previously looked after,
b) Proximity of child’s home to school,
c) Last place to pupils with siblings.

Proposed Oversubscription Criteria for 2017 Admission

For the first time, NHGS and CHSAT have slightly different policies.
Both schools still have one test and children are ranked according to their performance from 1–1000 (approximately 1000 children take the exam).

North Halifax Grammar School

In order to reach the required standard, your child will need to be in the top 500, although historically a child who ranked over 400 would be unlikely to obtain a place.
The policy then states that if more children reach the required standard in the test then there are places at the school (as there are approximately 1000 children that take the test and there are only 360 places, this situation will occur).
The places will then be offered according to the following criteria:-
a) Children looked after and children previously looked after.
b) Children attracting the Pupil Premium (this includes anyone registered for free school meals any time over the last six years). This does not take into account any change of circumstances for the family.
c) Twins, multiple births or two or more siblings within the same school year. This means that if a child falls into this category they will be offered a place as long as they are in the top 500 over a child who ranks first. This, in my view, discriminates against children who are not twins, etc. This also does not define what the term ‘siblings’ in the same year will include, ie does it include step-siblings? What safeguards are there to prevent two parents moving in together with children in the same year to obtain priority?
d) Siblings (to include step-siblings, foster siblings, and adopted siblings living permanently at the same address) of children presently attending the school. This is the most concerning part of the policy and will severely impact upon a child, who does not have sibling at the school securing a place. The policy does not specify at what point the sibling has to be on the roll, ie at the time of registration for the exam or at the time the child would attend the school. Potentially if there were a high number of siblings in a certain year group taking the entrance exam, then a child ranking first may still not secure a place at the school. I also think that this will impact upon children trying to secure a place at CHSAT as it will have a knock on effect.

Furthermore, I consider that this is unlawful as it breaches the Section 1.9( j) of the Schools Admissions Code 2014, which states :-

It is for admission authorities to formulate their admission arrangements, but they must not in designated grammar schools that rank all children according to a pre-determined pass mark and then allocate places to those who score highest, give priority to siblings of current or former pupils.

The policy then states that once these places have been offered, the remaining places will be offered according to the order of merit until the school reaches its PAN. Therefore, if your child is in the top 360 and does not fall into the categories a to d above, then they will not be considered until this point.

Crossley Heath School Academy Trust

This policy is similar to the above, however, CHSAT have not included section d so will not consider siblings before the order of merit. They will only consider the siblings and proximity to school if it is the last place and children have the same score. However, as stated above, NHGS policy will still impact upon your child’s ability to secure a place at CHSAT. CHSAT will also give priority to twins, etc so although these are likely to be fewer in number, I still consider it significant.
Other Legal Points

Section 1.8 of the Schools Admission Code states oversubscription criteria must be reasonable, clear, objective, procedurally fair and comply with all relevant legislation including equalities legislation.
Section 1.32(c) states that admission authorities must take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of the selection tests before the closing date for secondary school applications on 31 October so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school – while making clear that this does not equate to a guarantee of a selective place. Previously, the order of merit gave a fairly good indication if a child was ranked between 1–360 that they would successfully obtain a place. However, technically even if your child ranked first that is no indication that they will secure a place. It will depend on how many children in the top 500 fall into categories a–d above for NHGS and a–c for CHSAT. Unless the schools are able to provide the numbers that fall into the above categories, I would argue that parents will not be able to make an informed choice of school.
What Can You Do?

The consultation runs until the 3rd January and if you oppose the policy you can write to the schools before the deadline. I would suggest that you write to each school as the policies do differ.
You can pass this on to whoever you know that will be affected. Please note that if this policy comes into force, then it will be more difficult to oppose it in future years, as schools only have to consult every seven years where the admission arrangements have not changed from the previous year.
The consultation includes all parents who have a child between the ages of 2–18, so each parent can object separately. The more objections they receive the more likely we are to succeed in stopping the changes coming in.
I would also suggest you keep a record of your email.

Contact Details for Sending Comments on the Proposed Policies

NHGS – Paula Wright – Principal’s PA at principalspa@nhgs.co.uk
CHSAT – Lynne Sharples – Head Teacher’s PA at lynne.sharples@crossleyheath.org.uk
DEADLINE 03/01/16

Where Can You Get Further Information?

www.nhgs.co.uk
www.crossleyheath.org.uk
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-admissions-code--2

Starof3 Mon 30-Nov-15 22:59:57

If you would like more info please let me know.

Thanks

tiggytape Tue 01-Dec-15 08:16:57

I think you are mixing up unlawful or unfair with unwelcome in many points you have raised.

It isn't "discrimination" to give priority to siblings just because it makes it far harder for non siblings to get a place. Sibling priority is a perfectly legal and valid method of prioritising school places (but also a controversial one for popular schools especially at secondary schools).

The school would have to define "siblings" in its admissions arrangements if they were included but yes, of course step siblings would count and children living as a family under the same roof.
So yes, people could move in together and form a fake-blended family just for school admissions (as they could in theory for any popular school that gives priority for siblings). However, they would have to physically live together for well over a year to make this viable. They would both need all their details and their children's details changed to that address as well as live together daily. If anyone is willing to put their children, spouses, partners and lives through that sort of upheaval then yes, in theory they could end up winning a sibling priority. Generally though, people don't. Of all the objections to sibling priority, it is the one that really never on the radar. People are usually more concerned about a genuine sibling getting in from 7 miles away (because their family moved after the older one got a place) when a local family cannot get a place

Pupil Premium qualification is also a perfectly legal basis to give some pupils priority and, whilst you're right that it doesn't always reflect changes in circumstances, that's nothing you can object to the school about. Pupil Premium definition is set by law and in fact schools are expressly forbidden from making their own financial judgments about a family beyond a simple yes or no tick in the Pupil Premium box. Again in theory whilst one lottery winning Pupil Premium qualifier may exist, the reality is that to qualify children must have experienced an incredibly low income family and unfortunately things don't tend to get spectacularly better from that position to cancel out the disadvantages they have already had.

That doesn't stop you objecting against these changes. If you feel they will have a negative impact on local children but it does mean that you need to consider carefully the basis of your objection and be cautious not to claim things are unlawful or discrimination when in fact they are not.

Starof3 Tue 01-Dec-15 08:50:24

I see where you are coming fromand I am not in any way discriminating against those on pupil premium, my concern is that there is no catchment and we live close to the school, it is a selective school based on merit yet all the other factors make it unlikely for my first child to even get a look at simply because first borns are ignored. So with 1000 applications recieved by the school and only 180 places, even gaining the merit means he won't get a place simply because he doesn't qualify for fsm or diesnt have a sibling at the school. This to me is unfair as he will have worked hard to do the test and may have ranked quite high but not get a place.

HamNJam Tue 01-Dec-15 09:02:40

Non selective schools often have looked after and pupil premium kids as their highest category for admissions - would you then argue that your child is disadvantaged because they've not been adopted for example? Or that you're too wealthy?

Grammar schools are under increasing pressure (socially and financially) to widen their demographic.

Frankly the proposed admission policy regarding multiple birth children is refreshing - at last a school that acknowledges the stress of selection for twins and multiples!

Starof3 Tue 01-Dec-15 09:14:26

I don't have an issue with looked after or fsm children but there shouldn't be a selective test if places are just going to go to siblings. It should be fair for all including the first child in a family and priority should be also based on catchment.

HamNJam Tue 01-Dec-15 09:25:13

Selection is never fair, that's the nature of it. The lines are drawn and someone will always feel they're disadvantaged by the rules, especially when the rules change.

I know it must feel hard for you OP flowers (we have gone through similar when our local outstanding comp changed their admissions policy, effectively removing any chance of us getting in).

If you take a look at the grammar's stats, what is the FSM percentage? In our local grammars, for whatever reasons, FSM is practically non-existent and has little impact on admissions. Awful but true.

Starof3 Tue 01-Dec-15 09:34:02

Thanks, I'm not so concerned about the fsm being high priority... I fully support that, my worry is just that my child may sit the exam, rank high and live close yet will not get a place because there are more siblings. In which case they should not have an exam.

MrsGradyOldLady Tue 01-Dec-15 09:44:26

Thanks for posting this. My daughter is 8 and although it's a long way off we were hoping she'd get in to Crossleys.

I just want to make it clear to others who don't live on the area that these 2 schools cover a large area. There are no state selective schools in Huddersfield so if you want your child to go to grammar this us where you'd look to apply. There is also Heckmondwike but that's further away and it's not somewhere I would consider. Because of this it's super selective. Every single child I know who attends is incredibly bright AND was tutored. In fact a lot of incredibly bright tutored children still don't get in. My eldest son didn't and he's in the top sets for everything and has been fast tracked for maths and science in his non selective school.

This really does change things for us as we live quite far away.

tiggytape Tue 01-Dec-15 09:49:34

I don't have an issue with looked after or fsm children but there shouldn't be a selective test if places are just going to go to siblings.
But only if they pass the test. Not all siblings would get priority. Only siblings of grammar school ability.

The trend at many grammars now is to work towards a combination of staying selective and being community-minded. Many grammar schools that once employed a "winner-takes-all-so-score-is-all-that-matters" policy have now added some extra considerations.

Selective schools need children who are of a high academic ability so anyone who gets a place must pass the test but, with 1000 applying and only 300 spaces, there may be far more very academic children than there are places.
How do they then decide who to reject?:

- Do they reject someone with a sibling already at the school who easily passed the test but got maybe 2 marks lower than someone else?

- Do they reject one twin who got 10 marks less than the other twin even though both twins passed the test and are deemed to be of selective ability.

- Do they give priority to people living closest to the school whose children pass the test or to families 45 miles away whose children passed with 20 points more than anyone else?

These are the sorts of questions selective schools have to ask and unsurprisingly the answers they get vary depending on whether you ask a local parent, a twin parent or the parents of an absolute genius living 45 miles away who thinks catchments are a terrible idea and score is the only factor.

In all cases, they are not saying all siblings or all twins or all Pupil premium families will get priority. Only the ones who pass the 11+ Only the ones who prove they are of selective ability.

MrsGradyOldLady Tue 01-Dec-15 09:52:32

Actually I misread (there were a lot of words and I've only had one coffee!). It will be the sibling policy I think that will make things difficult for us.

Starof3 Tue 01-Dec-15 09:55:50

Mrsgradyoldlady, I would suggest you also email the school as it has not been finalised and they are taking opinions on board. Although crossley a are not prioritising based on siblings it will have a huge knock on effect as more people with first born will put down crossley as first choice than NHGS and ranking will need to be sky high to get a place.

MrsGradyOldLady Tue 01-Dec-15 10:00:55

Yes that's what I was thinking. NHGS isn't really as good for us. Crossleys has a bus service that picks up from the end of our road so my daughter would still have school friends locally. I think she'd be a lot more isolated at NHS and as she's quite shy I just wouldn't consider it.

Starof3 Tue 01-Dec-15 10:05:16

Please also pass this out to others you may know that may be affected. I don't have many other schools near me and nhgs being the closest. I would be quite upset if my child made the grade but didn't get the place. I think it's also unfair to take the test and go through all of that if chances are minimal.

admission Tue 01-Dec-15 15:26:44

I will make my comments from an experienced Chair of Admissions point of view. I will use the NHGS admission proposals as in effect comments apply to both in most instances and of course they are my own comments, not definitive in any way.

Firstly it is quite appropriate for the two schools to have the same entrance exam. What the two schools are doing is then saying circa 1000 take the test and then you are put in merit order. Realistically only 360 can be offered places between the two schools and therefore saying only the top 500 reach the required standard is perfectly sensible. This is a mistake in my view. They are making an assumption that parents will apply to both schools and therefore each school will generate a list of circa 500 applicants that meet the required standard. But it does not follow that this is what will happen. What if one school suddenly has a major issue - say a major safeguarding problem. In that circumstance it is quite possible that the first 500 on the merit order will have only put down one of the schools. What does the other school then do, as none of their applicants have met the required standard. Admit no pupils that year? I believe that each school has to accept that there is no required minimum standard - there is just a list in merit order. That allows each school to fill to 180 with those candidates who best meet the required admission criteria.

There then is a bit of confusion as to exactly how the lists are drawn up. Whilst they can have a joint merit list, there is no question in my mind that the two schools, as separate schools, will have their own admission criteria order admission list of presumably those in the 500 who met the minimum standard and put down the school as a preference

The law requires that the first admission criteria is that of looked after children, so that is perfectly legal as is giving priority to those attracting PP. (at a personal level I think that could take out a good few places of the 180 available).

Under normal circumstances the next two criteria would also be perfectly legal, though under the wording of criteria d, it would still apply to siblings who were in years 11 and 13 and would not be attending the school at the time of entry of the younger siblings. It should be changed to saying "presently attending the school and expected to continue to attend the school in the next school year."

However you make a good point about para 1.9J in the admission code. As the admission criteria stands with the schools deciding to have a cut off point of the top 500 scoring pupils in the merit table. 1.9J applies and you cannot have a sibling criteria, where the pupils are ranked. Slightly bizarrely where i feel they have made a mistake above, my solution in not having a pre-determined pass mark only an order of merit probably means that they can have a sibling criteria legally.

The school will put the pupils into admission criteria order, so at the moment this is those of the 500 who met the minimum requirement. It is quite possible based on the priority order that it could be as an example 3 looked after children, 25 pupil premium children, 2 twins and then 100 siblings (who could have occupied the 400 to 500 positions on the merit table). That would leave 50 places to be filled by the top 50 pupils on the merit table.

OP you are obviously looking at this that the top performing pupils should be offered the 180 places, no matter their circumstances. However I wonder whether that was the intention of the school or was it to have 180 pupils who have a cross-section of abilities but still capable of passing the test, thus broadening the diversity of the pupil intake. If the intention was to have an admission criteria which was all about admitting the best 180 attaining pupils, they have not got it right. The only people who know the answer to that are the school.

Starof3 Tue 01-Dec-15 16:44:46

I am looking at their wording and it doesn't clarify certain points such as siblings on roll or former, also if it is selective then siblings should not be in the criteria. I think I am mainly worried and it may be biased but this just reduces the chance of my daughter getting a place unless she scores super high, as we don't fit any of the a-d criteria. I have expressed my concerns to the school and I'm waiting to hear from them.

WildStallions Tue 01-Dec-15 16:55:42

Having a sibling priority is certainly a good idea for traffic etc. and to give the school more of a community feel.

MrsGradyOldLady Tue 01-Dec-15 17:06:27

We'd be on the same position as you starof3

admission I don't know how the applications are split between the two schools but I do know that where I live (in the next town) I know of no one who applied to NHGS. I would guess that Crossleys has higher applications based on applications from my (significantly larger) town. I am speculating though.

Maybe they are trying to encourage a broader intake but I really can't see why they would do this. There are plenty of very good non selective schools in both Calderdale and Kirklees. My elder 2 both go to our local non selective and I'm very happy with it.

Crossley Heath is undoubtedly better though. The only adults I know who went to Oxford or Cambridge went from these 2 schools (or private). I feel by changing the admissions criteria in the way they are it will eventually be just like any other school around here. Which only widens the gap between those who can afford to pay private fees and those who can't. Although, I do realise the hypocrisy of that comment given the current situation of it only really being an option for those who can afford private tuition...

tiggytape Tue 01-Dec-15 17:10:52

also if it is selective then siblings should not be in the criteria
Selective schools are allowed to give sibling priority.
What they aren't allowed to do is say "we will take the top 180 scores unless number 188 is a sibling and then we'll take that child instead"

What they can do is say "anyone with a score over 350 is in the running for a place. From those people, we will take siblings with a score of 351 before we take a non sibling with a score of 389"

So if the school uses ranking, it cannot also give sibling priority but it can give priority to siblings if it uses a cut-off score to decide who is of selective ability. I agree though siblings on roll would need to be clarified.
It is legal for schools to give priority to former siblings who do not currently attend or will have left before a Year 7 sibling starts but it is very unusual for them to choose to do this even though they can. As such, you would want to know which siblings might be making up the numbers.

Selective doesn't have to mean "score only." Plenty of selective schools have a catchment for example excluding people who'd happily travel there from getting a place no matter how well they score. Some have a priority area where the score inside the area to get a place is a lot lower than the score required form outside the area to get a place. And some have a sibling policy so that all siblings who pass the test will get a place even if one passes with a massively better score than the other.

MrsGradyOldLady Tue 01-Dec-15 17:11:17

wildstallions I work near one of the schools and a lot of the kids are bussed in. I wouldn't say traffic is any worse than the other non selective schools in the area.

pixZie78 Wed 02-Dec-15 13:15:30

I'm not directly affected by this but fundamentally disagree with the proposed NHGS sibling policy.

I'm at a loss to see how it is not discriminatory to select children with a lower score than others by virtue of the fact that they have a sibling already in the school. It certainly prejudices against those children who are first-borns, or only children, or kids with older siblings in other schools - who through no fault of their own have no brother or sister already attending the school. Yes other schools prioritise siblings but this is a selective school selecting on merit we are talking about - it is an oxymoron. Personally I question the sibling policy for secondaries anyway (I can understand it for primaries). I don't think it should get mixed up with the twins policy, which has another kind of logic and would affect very few children each year - whereas the general sibling policy would in my view severely impact on admissions.

I can't see how, as other have suggested, it increases diversity - it maintains the status quo of families of children who already attend. How does it develop a community feeling either? It's important that the children feel they are there on merit, not on their birth position.

I can't understand the reason for the proposition, other than that parents of pupils already attending the school (who have younger children) are selfishly pushing for it. These parents will no doubt be writing in with their support for the policy so it really is vital for anyone who disagrees with the policy to object. Thanks Starof3 for bringing this to our attention.

tiggytape Wed 02-Dec-15 13:38:04

pixZie78 - I have no direct connection either (just an interest in admissions generally) and the argument in favour of sibling priority at selective schools is similar to the argument in favour of distance priority at selective schools:

- selective schools only want academic pupils - siblings or not.
- they set an exam to decide who demonstrates, over one or two tests, a high enough academic ability to benefit from selective education
- there are usually far more children who are deemed to be of selective ability than there are places.
- so who of the academic children is it best / fairest to reject?

Some say score is everything.
Some think an extra level of common sense or fairness can be used to share out places.

Would a child scoring 98% (I know the scores aren't given as percentages but for comparison sake) living 45 miles from a grammar school benefit more or be more deserving of a place than a child living 0.14 miles away scoring 93% or even 87% (where anything over 80% is deemed more than enough to be at grammar school)?

It is the same with siblings. Nobody is saying siblings should get into selective schools without passing the test. They would still be there on merit and still have to get above 80% or whatever the cut-off is. This something many schools do in order to keep up the selective element but also improve the community element. A lot of parents want their children to go tot the same school if possible and if both of their children pass the test would want both to go.

namechangedtoday15 Wed 02-Dec-15 14:49:15

I don't know the area or the schools but having just been through the turmoil of Year 5 with twins, the entrance exams and the results, I agree that it is refreshing to have a twin-specific reference. Whilst I agree that any differentiation will impact negatively on one class of entrants, splitting twins up on the basis that one is ranked number 179 (of 180 places) and the other is 182 is (imo) unreasonable, particularly given the implications that has long term of one seemingly "passing" and the other not doing quite well enough.

I think you need to be realistic about the impact a sibling policy will have. In my area, those with older brothers and sisters who have already gone through the test are at an advantage anyway because their parents have booked the best tutors well ahead of everyone else who didn't realise what a scrum it is, they know the exam format (or at least what is expected), they usually start the preparation much earlier than people going through it for the first time. Those younger siblings will probably do very well in the tests anyway. So in reality, is it going to make much of a difference if they're given priority (on the basis that they would probably have been in the top 360 anyway)?

Starof3 Wed 02-Dec-15 20:26:40

Thanks for all the support, it's crazy because there are two amazing schools and no catchment. In previous years children have sat the exam coming in from as far as Lancashire and then parents have moved. It's such a shame that all the criteria is against my children and we live round the corner... Being first born, within the catchment, ability, hard working parents does not come into it all of a sudden and for me I know and have heard the hardest thing is to put a child through an exam and not passing it... Worse still, they are within the top scorers yet those with lower ability make the school because they have a sibling there even though they travel from Rochdale (18miles) away!!!

MrsGradyOldLady Wed 02-Dec-15 21:33:09

I've spoken to a couple of my friends that were considering Crossleys and they are also going to email an objection. One parent will have a child that would be sitting the next exam and is currently being tutored.

For me and the other parent it's all a long way off (my friends child is only 6 but incredibly bright - way more than my own daughter ). I've being tutoring my daughter from the age of 3. I know that sounds shocking but both me and my eldest daughter have dyslexia so that's where that came from. She didn't even realise are was being "tutored" until this year when it took a more formal approach.

To be honest I would actually prefer my daughter to go to the local school with all her friends as I feel that would be better for her. It's more her father wanting her to go to Grammar. However, I feel strongly that the option should he open to her as a lot can happen between now and when she applies.

I know you must feel pissed off living so close but the reason for all the out of town applications is that OUR towns have no selectives at all. Unless you pay private fees. Not helpful to you at all I know. .

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