First come, first served for selective sixth form applicants as grade hike causes record places demand

A London selective sixth form expects to turn away offer holders for the first time after record demand for places following soaring numbers of top GCSE grades being awarded yesterday.

With 30 per cent more grade 7s and above issued in England this year, compared to 2019, pressure for places at sixth forms has reportedly increased with sixth forms calling for more money from the government yesterday.

The London Academy of Excellence Stratford, in Newham, urged students with offers to enrol as soon as possible via a first-come-first-served online form on Thursday.

Headteacher Scott Baker said the school, which opened in 2012, would ordinarily enrol pupils in the order that they arrived on results day, but could top up the roll with pupils who did not have offers but did well.

However this year they’ve filled their 240 roll with offer students. None of the 830 speculative applications from students on Thursday were enrolled, which Baker said was nearly double compared to previous years.

Like universities, selective sixth forms tend to over offer places with the anticipation that some may not meet the grades or they will choose another provider.

Baker believes it’s the first time they are going to have to tell some offer holders who met the grades there is not enough space for them.

“We will have to say no to some of the students to whom we’ve made offers, it’s not clear how many, we are still working our way through that process but that’s an inevitable outcome and corollary of the decision that was taken in terms of centre assessed grades and the grade inflation that has resulted,” he said.

While he said they welcomed the U-turn on students receiving centre assessed grades, it has “inevitably increased competition for sixth form places and meant for the first time, some students have been disappointed”.

“We are very constrained in terms of space,” said Baker, whose school is in a converted office block. “We have to say to students that a conditional offer is not a guarantee of a space because there is a finite amount of space at the school, we can only safely enrol a certain number.”

Among their entry requirements, LAE asks pupils to show they are likely to achieve at least five 9-7 GCSE grades and a 6 or above in both maths and English Language.

On the process of giving preference to pupils who turned up first, he said: “We’ve honoured as many of the offers we’ve made as we possibly could. I want to stress that the process we put in place I think is as fair as it considerably could be.”

He said he was confident any students that miss out will “secure good places and continue to the next stage of their education.”

Meanwhile at Michaela Sixth in Brent, which according to its admissions policy requires students to secure in average grade 7 in 7 GCSEs including English and Maths, students who held a formal offer had their place guaranteed irrespective of their CAGs. The website also says that students without a formal offer who met the grades requirements were also welcome to enrol.

Head teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, told The Times: “We will go ahead and take the children who we’ve made offers to, and there may be three or four children externally on top of that. But we’re talking small numbers.

“What we are most concerned about actually is just how well the children will cope, so we’ve got some internal exams laid out for all the children joining us in September.”

The Times reported that the exam would not lead to offers being rescinded but could result in a conversation about whether they are taking the right course.

At Brampton Manor Academy, in East Ham, a notice on their website said they are “heavily oversubscribed” and it is “highly unlikely” they would be able to admit students who did not submit an application by the deadline, but asked them to email anyway.