A grammar school could start taking in pupils who failed their 11-plus exam if they are deemed to be of a ‘grammar school standard’ by a panel of - potentially untrained - volunteers.
Chatham Grammar School for Boys has been a single-sex school for nearly 200 years but last month announced it needs girls to help fill empty desks.
Now the school is suggesting accepting every child who applies for a place in the school and is seen to be of the appropriate standard - regardless of their test results - by putting forward a panel of governors who will cherry-pick extra pupils.
The changes are currently under a public consultation.
Last month executive principal Stuart Gardner said he wanted to see the school filled, but in 2014 only 55 youngsters made it their first choice so they dropped their admissions number from 150 to 120.
With the addition of girls, and the chance to get pupils in from outside the test standards, Mr Gardner also said they could start taking in as many as 180 pupils.
During a public meeting with parents he said: “No boy in Medway would be denied a grammar school place if deemed selective; with finance from the DfE, new classrooms, new sports hall, etc, rising population then our PAN could rise to 180.”
But it is unclear what being “deemed selective” entails - and both CGSB and sponsor the Thinking Schools Academy Trust have so far failed to respond to the Medway Messenger’s inquiries.
According to their policy outline: “From National Offer Day, any available spaces will be allocated to those children who have provided sufficient evidence to the Admissions Committee of being of grammar school standard.”
The committee, believed to be made up of governors, which includes untrained volunteers, will be able to decide which pupils are allowed into the school - be it by former head teacher recommendation, examples of previous work, or closeness to passing the Kent or Medway tests.
Independent education adviser Peter Read said: “From this is seems they can effectively do whatever they like, they can make up their own rules. They can offer places to children by completely skipping the independent appeals process.
“I imagine schools adjudicator (under the DfE) would stop it.
“It’s definitely going to be open to abuse. Imagine what the local non-selective schools will say, they won’t be happy with some of their brightest students going to the grammar school.
“I’ve never seen a grammar school say they want to be completely full up.”
Most grammar schools never fill all their places because they work on a system whereby not all applicants reach the required standard.
For non-selective schools, having some of the brightest children poached may see their attainment rates also taking a hit.
According to the Department for Education, the current procedure is legal and the school is rightly consulting with its community on these proposals.
The proposals are for the academic year 2017-18 and the public consultation is open until January 5.
It will be the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Education Funding Agency who make the final decision in February.