Issue details

20/00060 - Adjustments to the Kent Test and Secondary Co-ordinated Admissions scheme as a result of COVID-19 restrictions

Proposed decision –

 

Delay the Kent Test assessment until 15 October (17 October for out-county applicants) to allow children additional time to settle once they return to school; and

Increase the number permitted school preferences as part of the Secondary Common Application process from 4 to 6 for this year only.

 

 

Background

 

The Kent Test is an essential element of KCC’s co-ordinated admissions process, assessing children’s eligibility to apply for any of Kent’s Grammar schools. It is defined within all Kent Grammar school admission arrangements as the method for identifying eligible candidates, even where grammar schools also offer their own selection test. KCC therefore has a legal responsibility to provide an assessment method:

 

o   for the Kent Grammar schools for which it is the Admissions Authority (Dover Grammar School for Girls, Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School and Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys), and

o   for Kent’s “own admission authority” grammar schools who also make use of the Kent Test. 

 

The Kent Test is currently timetabled for 10 September 2020.  The latest announcement by the Secretary of State for Education is that Government is no longer expecting all Primary aged pupils to have some time in school before the close of the current academic year.  The wider reopening of schools in England is now being planned for the beginning of September.  There remains the potential for the reintroduction of Covid-19 related restrictions which could further impact on the return to school of pupils and our ability to operate the Kent Test.  KCC must also consider what impact an extended interruption to classroom teaching will have on those learners, ensuring that the assessment process remains as fair as possible within current limitations.

 

 

The proposed delay will allow KCC to take appropriate steps to ensure that the Kent Test can be delivered in the safest way possible, with sufficient social distancing controls in place, but also accounting for the unexpected educational environment that Year 5 pupils will have experienced in the lead up to taking part in the Kent Test.

 

The proposed delay will also provide an opportunity for all students to take part in school-based learning before undertaking the Kent Test, while still ensuring that the wider co-ordinated admissions timeline can be implemented to ensure that school offers are made on 1 March 2021.

 

To account for the fact that, on this occasion, parents would not have their child’s test result by the National Closing Date for admission applications, the proposed increase to the number of permitted school preferences will enable parents who are uncertain of their child’s eligibility for a grammar school to name up to two without reducing the number of non-selective schools on their application. Parents who are not considering a grammar school for their child will also have six preferences to ensure fairness across the co-ordinated process.

 

 

 

 

 

Legal Implications

 

KCC, in accordance with statutory requirements, determined its co-ordinated admissions scheme for 2021 intake into Secondary schools on 22 January 2020, which defined the process for entry into secondary schools including the Kent Test. This includes the dates by which parts of the process will happen, including the Kent Test.  These proposals change relevant aspects of that determined scheme.

 

KCC is obliged to ensure a process remains available to identify children who are eligible for a place in Kent Grammar schools. 

 

The School Admissions Code (2014) requires selective admission authorities to take all reasonable steps to provide applicants with the result of any assessment before National Closing Date for Secondary Admissions applications (31 October 2020). KCC’s original determined scheme provided applicants their results on 15 October 2020. Proposals will result in test outcomes being delayed until late November.  As this proposed decision is developed further, KCC continues to engage with the DfE on relevant considerations for balancing the need to comply with existing legal obligations and statutory requirements with the particular challenges caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, which need to be resolved to deliver an outcome that minimises negative impacts on parents and children.

 

Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;

Decision status: For Determination

Division affected: (All Division);

Notice of proposed decision first published: 19/06/2020

Decision due: Not before 20th Jul 2020 by Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Lead director: Matt Dunkley CBE

Contact: David Adams, Interim Director of Education Email: david.adams@kent.gov.uk Tel: 01233 898559.

Consultees

The ability to consult more widely will be limited as a result of the restricted timescales in which a decision will need to be made, however, stakeholders will be consulted as far as reasonably possible.

 

 

 

Cabinet Committee Members will be consulted remotely as per current non-Executive Member engagement arrangements.

 

Financial implications: It is expected that there will be an increased cost for the Kent Test due to need to provide social distancing within test centres for out-county pupils, which will reduce the number of students who can be tested within a session and increase the number of invigilators required.

Legal implications: See main Description Section

Equalities implications: The Kent Test assessment process remains unchanged and so any consideration of equality implications is limited to those that directly result from a potential change in delivery date. It is likely that most students will benefit from the additional time to settle back into normal school life. In particular, those learners who have had limited access to education options during the lockdown period should benefit.