Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical school is a selective boys school in Rochester. It became an Academy in 2011.

Section 1: Year 6 to 7 Secondary Transfer Admission

The school has, since 2019, had a PAN (admissions number) of 203 for each year group from Year 7 to Year 11. This is chosen by the school and is the maximum number of pupils in each year the school believes it can accommodate given the resources it has. This works out at seven forms of entry each containing 29 pupils.

203, organised into seven classes of 29, represents the optimum class size based on our facilities and our views on how education is best delivered.

The current year groups at the school (as at March 2022) are as follows:

  • Anticipated Year 7 – 203 (Admission for September 2023)
  • Year 7 – 217 (admitted September 2022, PAN 203)
  • Year 8 – 217 (admitted September 2021, one-off PAN 203)
  • Year 9 – 214 (admitted September 2020, one-off PAN 203)
  • Year 10 – 204 (admitted September 2019, one-off PAN 203)
  • Year 11 – 203 (admitted September 2018, one-off PAN 186)

Current sub-total =1055

  • Year 12 – 220 (admitted September 2017)
  • Year 13 – 203 (admitted September 2016)
  • Total on roll 1478
  • Net capacity 1392
  • Indicated Admission Number (IAN) – 196
  • Year 7 203
  • Year 8 217
  • Year 9 217
  • Year 10  214
  • Year 11 204

Year 7-11 Total = 1055

  • Year 12  220 (approx)
  • Year 13 220 (approx) = 420

TOTAL: 1475

The figures here show that the school is over PAN in 4 year groups (different procedures apply to the Sixth Form). 

This has arisen because the school has been directed to admit more than the admission number of pupils in those year groups by the admissions appeals process that took place in the relevant years. 

203 students will be organised into seven House form groups, each of 29. The school has become a seven-form entry school, with six well-established Houses and one newer one.

Due to the age and layout of the school, a number of classrooms are too small to accommodate a class of pupils.

From September 2019, following building works, we have 72 classrooms. 2 English rooms cannot hold more than 30.  3 Music Rooms cannot hold more than 28.  5 ICT suits cannot take over 28. Our ‘language laboratory’ has room only for 29.

Additional pupils over 203 will therefore mean that some classes will be unable to be timetabled in these rooms, or if they are, sharing of desk space and equipment will be required. We suggest that this causes prejudice/disadvantage to existing pupils.  

For example, a cohort of 210 (7 classes of 30) would mean that, for their music lessons, 4 students per class (28 in total) would have to share composing software equipment, to the detriment of their learning and progress.

Following an expansion scheme, in September 2019 the Lunch Hall has seating for around 340 pupils at lunchtime, only 1/3 of our Year 7-11 pupils. Already many children eat their lunch on picnic tables because the dining hall is too crowded. Queues are long and some pupils obtain food with only minutes left to eat it. From September 2023 we have chosen to operate a staggered lunch hour – with KS3 having break and lunchtimes at different times compared to KS4 and KS5 groups. Despite this, there are still over 640 students having break and lunch time at one time.

Additional pupils over 203 would therefore squeeze already limited lunch capacity, to the detriment of existing pupils.

The ‘Churn’ rate for the school is very low with very few students from years 7-11 leaving once joined, giving a stability rate well above the national average. In addition, the attendance rate is high with an average of 96% attendance in years 7-11.  

The effect of this is that any additional pupils over 203 will not be absorbed by absence or moving on. 

The playground space is fully used and occupied during break and lunchtime, with little scope for putting additional youngsters in this limited space.

Many pupils have a SEN, the majority of whom are physically disabled (PD) or have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).  

  • Anticipated Year 7 – 2 EHCP, others unknown (Admission for September 2023)
  • Year 7 – 23 SEN
  • Year 8 – 18 SEN 
  • Year 9 – 13 SEN 
  • Year 10 – 19 SEN 
  • Year 11 – 21 SEN (including a wheelchair user)

More pupils in school create busy corridor areas which impede mobility and affect the visibility of a PD pupil travelling on a scooter or with a frame. Many SEN pupils have LSA support in the classroom. 

Additional equipment and an extra adult in the room currently leave little space for further pupils in the class. 

Additional pupils that increase class size reduce the attention that can be paid to individuals. We have set our PAN at 203 because we believe that a class of 29 is the optimum size. 

A typical piece of Year 7 classwork or homework may take a teacher 6 minutes per pupil to properly assess. A class of 29 books will therefore take 2.9 hours to mark. An extra 4 pupils in the class will add 24 minutes to the marking time. This will either result in the teacher setting and marking work less frequently, or allocating less time per pupil, both to the detriment of existing pupils.   

If you can create a seventh teaching set, why not an eighth?

We cannot create an eighth teaching class because:

  • An eighth class will cost £53,000 directly in staffing, equipment and resources. This is only partly offset by the additional money received for each pupil, which comes a year in arrears in any case. In a time of large reductions in education funding to schools, we do not have this money. 
  • We will need to find additional teachers in 12 out of 18 subjects, including Mathematics and Science. This is incredibly difficult at this stage, especially as we would only need a few periods of each subject.    
  • We would need to employ additional pastoral staff to help manage the welfare of this larger year group. 
  • As the year group is taught Games during the same period during the day, and we have six PE staff, would need to employ another qualified PE teacher to teach the set. As with the other teaching appointments, we wouldn’t require full-time staff, which creates additional problems.  
  • We have seven Houses and our House system is a fundamental part of the culture and ethos of the school. We are seeking to retain this by introducing a 7th House. We cannot divide eight teaching groups into seven Houses, so this would see the death of our House system.  
  • The lack of playground space and dining space would be more acute.  

It is our extremely strong assertion that an eighth class would have a significant effect on the finances, pupil progress, ethos and pastoral care that allows the school to perform as it does. An additional class, on top of what we have planned for, would not allow the school to achieve to the standard that it currently performs at.

Frequently Asked Questions

Because classes of 30 cannot be properly taught some of our specialist subjects like computing, music and languages.

It’s not an equipment issue but a space one.

We have seven teaching classes of 31 in Year 7. While they are well accommodated in general classrooms, this is not so for specialist subjects, where capacity constraints exist. 

Appeals Panels each year have decided that, for a number of families, the case for admission outweighs the school’s case for being full.

Even if additional pupils can be accommodated physically in classrooms, we hold the view that larger classes get a less good experience than smaller ones. Pupils in larger classes get less teacher time in a lesson, their work is marked more hastily or less frequently, they get less opportunity to contribute in a lesson, and in some subjects they share space or equipment, all to the detriment of the educational experience. We judge the optimum size to be 29.  Each additional pupil reduces this optimization.

Year 9 in 2018/19 provides a good comparison. 194 pupils taught in 6 House groups of 32 or 33. At the end of Term 3, the average grade per pupil per subject was a 4- (4.39). In the previous year, with a cohort of 186 and classes of 31, it was 5. With a broadly similar ability level, the smaller cohort with smaller class sizes did better. A cohort with just 8 more pupils and classes of 1 or 2 more children did less well academically.


It is our contention that the school is full and that admitting pupils in year groups already above their PAN would prejudice the education, safety and well-being of all pupils both now and in the future.

Section 2: In-Year Casual Admissions 

There are more students in each year group than the relevant PAN. Therefore, admission to these cohorts is via an appeal panel. 

In September 2019, the school became a 7-form entry institution following the introduction of Tower House. This new House was also added to Years 8-13. 

In Years 7-9 (Key Stage 3) students are taught in 7 classes.

In Years 10-11 (Key Stage 4) students are registered in 7 classes but taught in a number of GCSE class groups. 

The school regards itself as full in each year group 7-11 for the following reasons:

  • The problem of classroom sizes mentioned earlier is also relevant here. Where we have teaching classes of 29 or more (mostly in Years 7-9), they cannot be accommodated in specialist rooms (music, ICT, languages) which creates timetabling limitations or the sharing of equipment, to the detriment of existing pupils.
  • An extra 4 pupils in a class of 29 will generally add 24 minutes to the marking time for a class of books. This will either result in the teacher setting and marking work less frequently, or allocating less time per pupil, both to the detriment of existing pupils.
  • We have set our PAN at 203 because we believe classes of 29 are optimal. See FAQ questions 5 and 6 above. 
  • Lunch time and leisure space are at a premium. The Hall can only seat 1/3 of our pupils at lunchtime. Additional pupils will exacerbate this problem for existing youngsters.
  • A relatively high proportion of students have a SEN, a few in each teaching class. Room for an LSA is required, making classroom size more acute. 

Section 3: Year 6 to 7 Admission Appeals Review Process

Where a child has been deemed non-grammar standard from the Medway Test then they are entitled to a Review process. 

A review process is carried out by Medway Council and is a process which decides whether or not the child that failed the entry test ought to be deemed grammar school standard.

The review is completed before the allocation of places so that children who are consequently deemed to be of grammar school standard can be considered at the same time as others.

The local review process does not replace a parent’s right of appeal against the refusal of a place at a school for which they have applied.

The school asserts that the review process is:

  • Fair – the review process is carried out by independent educationalists from primary and secondary phases who are impartial. They scrutinise work samples provided by the school (usually in liaison with parents) from the end of Year 5 or the start of Year 6, which corresponds to the time the Medway Test is carried out. The work samples consist of 3 pieces of work for each of Mathematics, English & science.  
  • Consistent – the review panel pairings cannot change throughout the process. A moderator is used to check the decisions made by each panel.  All review panels use the same guidance criteria and all have received the same training. 
  • Objective – the review panels are provided with objective guidance criteria for each subject to help them determine the quality of the work, to avoid subjective judgements. Panels must write a commentary for each decision. They are not given sight of the Medway Test score achieved, and must disregard information about individual circumstances. 

Section 4: Sixth Form Admissions Appeals

In order to gain entry to the Sixth Form the minimum academic requirements are:

5 GCSE grades of at least grade 5, including English Language and Mathematics, grade 6 in the subject to be studied at A level (other specific course requirements exist) and an average point score of 5.5.

The Planned Admission Number for Year 12 is 190.

Priority will be given to existing students transferring from Year 11.

Following the admission of internal students who have transferred from Year 11, all remaining places will be allocated to students who have met the entry requirements for the sixth form and for their particular courses of study.

The number of additional places available for students being admitted to the school for the first time is 30. This may be exceeded if the number of internal applicants and Year 13 numbers allow. 

Where there are more learners seeking places than the number of places available, the over-subscription criteria will be applied in the order set out below to rank pupils until the overall figure for the year group is reached.

Children whose statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan names the school will be admitted.

  • Looked after children (children in public care) and previously looked after children and children previously in Care outside of England – Children who appear to Medway Council to have been in state care outside of England and ceased to be in state care as a result of being adopted. A child is regarded as having been in state care in a place outside of England if they were accommodated by a public authority, a religious organisation or any other provider of care whose sole purpose is to benefit society.
  • Children who at the time of application have a brother or sister (including children living as siblings in the same family unit) on the roll of the school at the time of the sibling’s admission.
  • Children who at the time of application have a parent who is a member of staff at the school (where the member of staff has been employed for three years or more at the time at which the application for admission is made and/or where the member of staff is recruited to fill a vacant post for which there is a demonstrable skill shortage).
  • Nearness of children’s homes.

Why do we have academic admission criteria?

The School Admission Code para 6.2 allows schools/admission authorities to set academic admission criteria for sixth forms, which we have done. These criteria help ensure students enrol on the most appropriate courses, and have a realistic chance of completing them. These criteria are well known and widely publicised. 

Why does the school consider itself to be full in Year 12 at 202 students?

Our nominal PAN for Year 12 is 190 but we have voluntarily exceeded this. The oversubscription criteria was applied to determine which students could be admitted. 

We are unable to admit additional students to Year 12 due to fullness in A level courses of study.