‘…selective and grammar schools are often hugely over-subscribed, so consulting on how we respond to that demand from parents and pupils is exactly what we should be doing…’
Education Secretary Justine Greening, 22 November 2016
Leave aside the dubious consultation which was biased, supported by a dodgy tweet and allowed responses from Scrooge and Marley, Greening’s comment about grammars being ‘hugely over-subscribed’ doesn’t seem to apply to Lincolnshire, a fully selective county.
Eight of Lincolnshire’s fifteen grammars still have vacancies for September 2017, figures from Lincolnshire County Council* show. One, Skegness Grammar, has more vacancies (75) for the September 2017 intake than places offered (57). Other Lincolnshire grammars with vacancies are:
Alford Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar (PAN 84) Vacancies 19
Boston Grammar, Boys (PAN 120) Vacancies 23
Boston High, Girls (PAN 108) Vacancies 35
Sleaford Carre’s Grammar (PAN 120) Vacancies 43
Kesteven and Sleaford High School (PAN 128) Vacancies 4
Spalding Grammar, Boys (PAN 150) Vacancies 33
Spalding High, Girls (PAN 150) Vacancies 19
Were the seven remaining Lincolnshire grammar schools oversubscribed? Were offers only made to first preference applicants which would suggest they had more first choice applications than places?
Only one Lincolnshire grammar, Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, has filled its 2017 intake with first preference applications. This suggests there weren’t enough first choice applications to reach the Pupil Admission Number (PAN) in the remaining six selective schools.
It appears that in Kent, too, there are grammars which don’t fill their PAN on allocation. Ten Kent grammar schools had Y7 vacancies in 2016.
Where, then, do claims of oversubscription come from?
Oversubscription’ could be being measured by the total number of preferences given to a school irrespective of whether the preference was first or last. But calculating oversubscription by the total number of preferences is misleading. A last choice can’t really be claimed to be positive. The popularity of a school can only reliably be determined by looking at the number of first choice preferences and whether they exceed a school’s PAN.
It could also be that ‘oversubscription’ for grammar schools is calculated by the number of pupils who enter the 11+ rather than the number of actual applications. A 2011 National Grammar Schools Association (NGSA) survey of 56 grammars found there were just under 30,000 11+ entries. 13,800 passed. That means 16,200 failed, although the NGSA didn’t labour that point. But if demand for grammars is calculated on the number of 11+ entries then it’s misleading. Parents of 11+ failures can’t apply for grammar places. Parents of 11+ failures can’t ‘choose’ a grammar school. Talk of choice in respect of grammars is disingenuous – grammars choose the pupils, not parents.