Agenda item

David Anderson, Headteacher - Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Faversham and Andy Williamson, Headteacher - Wilmington Grammar School for Boys


1.    Interview with David Anderson, Headteacher, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham & Andy Williamson Headteacher, Wilmington Boys Grammar School.


2.    The Chairman welcomed David Anderson & Andy Williams to the meeting.


3.    David introduced himself and gave an outline of the responsibilities of his post. He explained that he had been Head at QE since 2008, he had studied D & T at the University of London, Goldsmiths College and worked at 4 Kent Grammar Schools. He explained that QE had been a tremendous experience with a very mixed intake. As part of his responsibilities he had a national role in giving policy and advice, supporting teachers and Government Committee’s etc.


4.    Andy introduced himself and explained that he was Headteacher at WGSB which was a small village on the Kent border with a mixed catchment area. He had previously been Deputy Head at Hartsdown in Margate and previously at an inner city school in London. What are your FSM intake levels?


5.    Andy replied that it was 2.3% in 2010 and now 9.1% overall intake; this had increased incrementally.


6.    David advised that across the main school it was 6% but in years 7 and 8 it was approaching 10%.


7.    Andy explained that there were other Grammar Schools in the area and they were super selective and had re-written their admission criteria so that entrance was dependent on pass mark of the Kent Test


8.    David advised that the figures would continue to rise; he explained that eligibility for free school meals was top of their admission criteria. He explained that they had received 500 applications for 140 places. Priority was free school meals (over location) and a number of students had confirmed that they were choosing QE because of this.


9.    Andy went on to advise that parents who were claiming free school meals at Primary school sometimes didn’t claim at grammar school as there is some stigma attached to this.


10.Would anyone be aware of FSM status?


He replied that in fact they wouldn’t. He advised that a liaison officer would speak to the families concerned to ally such fears but went on to advise that parents dropping off children in Range Rovers will often come to the school gates but those in the older vehicles will drop off around the corner. He explained that this image is often reinforced in the school with perhaps Latin on a board in the Reception area. Some parents find this off putting and it is a massive part of perception of what a Grammar School is like.


David explained that he tried to make his school more accessible and carried out a lot of functions in school with Primary Schools, particularly around literature, drama and Science, trying to break down the perception that Grammar schools are too elitist.


What is the involvement like with Primary Schools? Mr Hotson stated that some schools appear to have been good and some just started in terms of outreach, he asked the two Heads how long they had been involved with Primary schools?


David advised 7/8 years and Andy replied that he had been involved for 10 years but there was always the issue of funding.


Mr Hotson asked whether this meant that they would have to cut down?


David replied that he relied on good will and a small amount from budgets for materials etc.


Andy explained that there was a huge amount of pressure and accountability and that funding needed to be prioritised. Although the use of budgets in this way is very important in terms of social inclusivity it is not measured in league tables. He went onto advise that with the focus on mandatory subjects it was often difficult to find the time for practical subjects which reduced choice. Often Pupil Premium students would chose practical subjects over foreign languages for example.


11.Were FSM student’s aspirations lower? How do you use pastoral care to maintain aspirations?


David advised that it was a case of silently monitoring and knowing every student. Also, there was a Committee set up to look at aspirations and run a host of activities, competitions, visits and art exhibitions. He worked to ensure that all pupils had access to this. Recently one PP students had been to the Sahara Desert and this had been subsidised. Through the curriculum the school sought to ensure the students were performing. He advised that the school had a fantastic track record with 85% of students going onto University, a high proportion of them being the first in their families to do so and one FSM student had gone on to study at Oxford.


12.Was there an equal % Year 7 -11 going on to years 12 and 13?


David confirmed that there was and all students had a high potential, 6/7 going on a visit to Oxford University tomorrow including PP students.


Andy agreed regarding aspirations and felt that resilience is probably higher than the average for those on PP. He gave an example of a parent falling out with his office staff and withdrawing both of his son’s from WGSB . He advised that he went round to the home and persuaded the parent not to take the boys from the school. He explained that he didn’t know how many other Headteacher’ s  would  have actually done this but because he had worked in this type of community he felt that it was necessary in order to break down the social barriers.


13.Engagement is more and more common, do you find it works the other way too with senior pupils interacting with Primary Schools?


David explained that his pupils worked with local schools on a Wednesday afternoon, some primary schools worked more closely with the grammar than others. Twenty students in years 11, 12 and 13 went into Primary Schools to help with sports, teaching maths, literacy and reading.


14.Do all primary schools engage?


David explained that there were two local schools from one he would get 1 student a year and the other with a PAN of 25 he would get 18 students. There needs to be proactive relationships between Heads of Grammars and Heads of Primary Schools. He went on to say that man power in Grammar Schools is cheap (i.e. working with pupils for their mutual benefit). Grammar school students going out has also helped them to develop confidence.


15.Was there anything that the Committee could do to help network schools?


David advised that with the deregulation of schools to Academies there were fewer opportunities to come together.


Andy explained that it was different in Dartford with the DAFSCO (?) every Primary was signed up and most Grammar Schools although two had dropped out (super selectives). He advised that they met every 6 weeks and also attended conferences so therefore he was in contact with 20/30 Headteachers and learnt from them. It was self-generated in the Dartford Area.  He went on to explain that there were problems within Trust Arrangements, often pupils were directed to a High School especially if there was not a Grammar School within that arrangement.  .


16.They were asked about Pastoral care?


David advised that it is possible that a student may have a difficult environment at home therefore the school ran a homework club every day until 6.00p.m.


Andy advised that often many students’ parents had high flying careers and didn’t give their children that much time and parents of PP often give more.

Does the MAT structure, particularly where a grammar school is not included, reduce the chances of pupils (particularly FSM) to access grammar school education? Andy replied that he didn’t think there was anything that could be done.


David said that some managed relatively intelligently but others don’t.

Mr Bowles raised the issue of home to school transport and the fact that if a pupil wasn’t attending the nearest available school then they wouldn’t be eligible for transport and consequently may not attend the Grammar School.  David agreed it does discourage parents.


Andy was asked if he managed to sustain the tradition of a technical college within his curriculum now that some of the other Grammar schools in Dartford were super selective? Was the specialism likely to attract some parents?

Andy replied Dartford Boys Grammar took students with a DA1 Postcode so therefore if they hadn’t met the requirement of super selective then they would appeal for places in WGSB.  A lot of parents just wanted a Grammar School.  Lot of students travelled from Essex and London Boroughs too.


17.How much engineering is there in the curriculum?

Currently a whole day for GCSE and A level but Andy explained that he wasn’t sure how long he could maintain that. 90% of students now studying ‘The International Baccalaureate.’


David explained that he maintained choices as much as possible and pushed creativities.


Andy explained that because Ebacc was now the focus it didn’t leave much time for other activities ie engineering


18.Have Super Selective Grammar’s raised the bar and FSM figures lowered? Could FSM children who have passed the Kent Test be prioritised in super selective schools?


Andy felt that whoever you are there should be equal entitlement. In West Kent you have to be within a catchment and in EK there is availability in the schools. Unfortunately this type of selection has been going on for decades.

Do you find a large discrepancy in ability and politics in the Primary sector? You touched on inbuilt resistance and disinterest.


David advised that there were exceptions, he was struggling to form a relationship with one school close by to him and there had been some hostility.


Andy advised that some were good and some were bad but catholic schools usually kept children within the Catholic system. .

We have met with the Open Doors Project in Birmingham; they carry out 4x 2 hour sessions and then a mock test on the 5th week. Is this anything that can be done in Kent?


David and Andy considered that it was something that could be looked at and could be interesting. Some schools tutored and some didn’t. If more were involved work could be carried out on social mobility.


19.They were asked about the Kent Test Format?

David said it wasn’t 100% reliable but was convenient and now shorter.

Andy felt that the new version was better.


Was it fairer?

Andy agreed it was


Andy went on to complain to the Committee about the injustice of those children taking the test from outside of the County. They carry out the test on a Saturday morning in his school. He receives a list of 250 boys names but there is no identification process. He is aware that cheating is taking place and the only way of proving it is to check handwriting against the creative writing test. This needs to change.


20.Governors have a role to play. Your views?

David confirmed that there was a good sharing of expertise and a definite benefit.   Andy confirmed that the Governors were the driving force behind the school.  If there was one thing that you could do to keep FSM inclusive what would it be?


David said raising aspirations in all primary schools.

Andy said to make Grammars more welcome places and not to be put off by social stereo type.


The Chairman thanked both Head Teachers for attending.

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