No, they mean that they will keep him on the list and right up to the end of August he may get a call to start in September. After that, it would be a call to possibly do a resit if someone were to start at Camp Hill, then leave mid-term.
You might wonder who would do this but I remember on my eldest girl's year at Five Ways, two children left in the first term. Both knew they were relocating to another area of the country when they started in September but both kept their grammar school place for the couple of months before they did relocate rather than just sticking it out for a couple of months at their local comp. or being home educated.
I would suggest the parent phones the Foundation Office on a fortnightly basis to see if he is inching up the queue. He probably is, but it tends to stall after about July.
Camp Hill do over-offer, usually by about 30, but I understand they did so less this year, anticipating a greater take up of free places so less dropping out. Thus, say it was 20 this year, then 20 boys have to drop out before you even start eating into the queue.
As to not hearing anyone who has rejected a place, the majority of rejects come from independently educated children and they sometimes sit on both places for as long as they can, and keep their cards quite close to their chest.
Of my pupils, three were sitting on scholarships or AP or combination of both, but only has given up their Camp Hill place in favour of KES; the other two have taken their free places. Another pupil, however, has rejected his Five Ways place for KES. So that's a reject rate of about 13+% but that may be atypical of the general cohort.
I would say that if the boy is of proven high ability and did not make Camp Hill due to nerves or inadequate preparation (which often goes hand in hand with high ability) and they have very strong reasons for wanting it (e.g. they live round the corner), then if the parents want to explore every avenue, they might consider appeal. While the chances of winning are slim, it may not be quite as impossible as statistics suggest and certainly is more likely for someone that is probably 3 or 4 points off the score.
If, however, he made a huge effort and had every advantage and still didn't make the score, he may be better going to Five Ways which has a wider spread of pupils in which he may fit more comfortably.
That said, I am not sure if score on entry really does have a strong correlation with performance when actually attending the school.