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Wednesday, 26 July 2017 22:35

Kent on Sunday 29th June: Exclusion and Home Education (?) figures for Kent and Medway, the latter shocking

Irrelevant Fact: This is the 1000th item of news and information posted on this website. 

You will find the original article on which this item is based, here

In 2009-10, Kent schools permanently excluded 126 pupils, rising to 210 two years later, but falling every year since then, to a low of 58 in 2015-16. Over the same period Medway school exclusions rose from just three pupils excluded to an appalling and record figure of 81 in 2015-16, up 35% on 2014-15. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

In both Local Authorities, the number of families ‘choosing’ Elective Home Education is astonishingly high, with Medway seeing an incredible rise in families taking their children out of school, soaring from 38 to 377 in two years. For some reason, Medway Council is desperately trying to hide the identities of the schools where the worst problems exist.

This article explores the reasons for the stark contrast in outcomes in the two Local Authorities. Government policy is to reduce the number of children excluded from schools, with permanent exclusion (expulsion) used only as a last resort.

Back in 2011, I launched a campaign in conjunction with Kent on Sunday to see the number of Kent permanent exclusions reduced from its place at the top of the national figures, including 41 SEN statemented pupils permanently excluded, 20% of the total, 19 of whom were from primary schools. Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, pitched in with a particular interest in SEN statemented children. Under his leadership KCC set a target of reducing permanent exclusions to less than 50, with a proportional reduction in exclusions of statemented children, by developing strategies to work with all schools.

Since then the county has introduced its Inclusion and Attendance Advisory service which monitors school exclusions and provides challenge, advice and support to schools to reduce exclusions, coming close to meeting both targets, with 14 statemented pupils excluded in 2015-16. Just six schools permanently excluded five or more pupils in one of the two years up to July 2016: Ebbsfleet Academy (8); Folkestone Academy (7); High Weald Academy, Knole Academy, New Line Learning Academy, and Salmestone Primary Academy all with five.

However, it is fair to say that not all academies are in tune with the county strategy, and some use other strategies to ‘lose’ unwanted pupils. Earlier this year, the National Schools Chief Inspector identified that some schools were putting pressure on parents to ‘choose’ Elective Home Education (EHE) to get their children off their books before GCSEs. Although government does not collect figures for EHE, in 2013-14 Kent had by far the highest national figure for children going down this route, at 1112, nearly twice the next largest figure of 593 in Essex. For 2015-16, the Kent figure was still extremely high at 987 new cases.

EHE is popular amongst a number of educated families, who are confident they can offer a better education than school, or the particular school they have been offered. This does not explain the loss of 10 or more pupils from 13 Kent secondary schools in the year leading up to GCSE registration, many serving socially deprived areas. This list is headed up by Orchards Academy that saw 16 pupils leave in the year before GCSEs, followed by Ebbsfleet and Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academies, two of what I call the three Kent ‘Tough Love’ schools, all extremely unpopular with families. I have seen a considerable number of reports about Isle of Sheppey, describing the pressures children were put under to leave (which is unlawful), although the Island situation means that for most there is no alternative school. There is now a thriving Island private tuition industry springing up to cater for some of these children as an alternative to school! Surely this cannot be considered as an appropriate state of affairs, and an investigation is long overdue.

Because Kent follows the rules on Freedom of Information requests, I am able to identify the movement of pupils caused by exclusion or threat of exclusion. However, the situation in Medway is very different, as the Authority is refusing to provide  details, although there has been no problem in previous years. However, the Medway SEND and Inclusion Strategy document for 2016 -2020 records that: ‘In the year 2013-14, 70 children and young people were permanently excluded from a Medway school. This exclusion rate, 0.16% of the state-funded school age population, is the highest percentage bar one other authority. …The average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.37 days: the highest in England’.  Unfortunately, although this is described as a strategy document it contains NO RECOMMENDATIONS WHATEVER as to how to improve matters and the figures have only got worse.

What we do know is the data in the introduction above, making Medway one of the worst Local Authorities in the country for exclusions, with more pupils permanently excluded than in Kent, which has six times as many children. This is a problem that has been building for some years as demonstrated by the 2013-14 figures. Medway had 377 children transferring to EHE in 2015-16, again proportionally far higher than Kent, a truly astonishing tenfold increase over the two years since 2013-14 when there were just 38. As to which schools are losing the most children by one or both of the above strategies, whilst I can make guesses, Medway Council refuses to provide the answers – what is it trying to hide?

Of course, some may argue that these young people get what they deserve and should be flung out on the streets or subject to punitive regimes. Many will have troubled backgrounds or medical conditions (the proportion of young people with autism who are excluded is far too high), but other children in the class have a right to be able to learn without interruption, and the main cause for exclusion in both Kent and Medway (over a third in Medway schools), is persistent disruptive behaviour.  Local Authorities become responsible for educating these pupils, to try and avoid them become a long-term cost to society but every one who drops out of school with no genuine provision made is at risk of becoming a far greater cost to society through their later behaviour. What this data shows is a very different approach to handling pupils at risk of exclusion in Kent and Medway. KCC has worked out a range of strategies including early intervention to reduce that risk, working with maintained schools and academies, although some individual schools are still happy simply to pass the problem onto someone else. Medway’s strategy document, having identified it has one of the worst problems in the country then offers no way forward, so it is no surprise it has deteriorated further, although in response to these figures the Council says it will continue to hold schools to account (although this has clearly had no effect so far!).

I have publicly identified Kent schools with high exclusion rates in the past, and been gratified to see numbers fall, possibly as a consequence. Surely Medway schools failing their communities should be equally placed in the spotlight!

Last modified on Monday, 07 August 2017 17:56

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  • Provisional GCSE Results for Medway 2017

    Last year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths was scrapped, being replaced by two new assessments, Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. Government has made amendments to further reflect policy, which has the unintended effect in Kent and Medway of further rewarding the top performing grammar schools and diminishing those with a higher proportion with lower abilities.  

    These Provisional results are issued at this time to enable families to be better informed when making secondary school choices. Last year a number of schools saw a small improvement in results in the final version to be published  in January.Unfortunately, once again, there has been such little publicity given to them that most families are not even aware of their existence. 

    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Medway above average at 0.04, against a National average of -0.03. Victory Academy is the only non-selective school to split the six grammars at the top, with Greenacre next.   

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Medway just below the National average of  46 at 45.5, although there is a variety of other statistics to choose from to suit your case. 

    Further information below, including the performance of individual schools, and a look at another measure, the English Baccalaureate ......

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 16 October 2017 16:29 Be the first to comment! Read 213 times
  • Provisional GCSE Results for Kent 2017

    Update on Simon Langton  Boys below

    Medway Outcomes here

    This is the second year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replace the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. 

    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is slightly below the National Average of -0.03, at -0.11.

    Meopham 2

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent exactly equalling the National score of 46 ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case. Both measures have had their methodology changed to suit government priorities and the new grading system for English and maths. As a result, numbers are not directly comparable.  

    Headlines: the Grammar School progress table is no longer the sole preserve of West Kent and super-selectives with four girls' schools  invading the top eight. Highworth, Invicta, Folkestone Girls' and Maidstone Girls have joined Tonbridge, TWGGS, and Dartford Girls', leaving Dartford as the only boys school. Both Oakwood Park and Chatham and Clarendon come below the national average, along with one provisional result for a school which failed for technical reasons, as explained below.   

    Top non-selective school is Bennett Memorial, one of six church schools in the top ten, the top three ever present also including St Simon Stock and St Gregory's. All these three are wholly selective on religious grounds, and at the top also in attainment. For the second consecutive year there are remarkable performances by Meopham School and Orchards Academy, neither of which have the built in advantages of other top performers. As last year eight schools were below the government floor level with well-below average progress  facing government intervention, five the same as last year. 

    Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls'. These are the same schools as in 2016, balanced by five boys and one mixed grammar at the foot.  The Non-selective table is led by three church schools, Bennett Memorial leading the way above two grammar schools. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables.

    Orchards 1

    Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 18:11 2 comments Read 369 times
  • Kent Test Results 2017: Initial outcomes

    I now have initial information regarding the Medway Test, happily provided promptly, posted here.

    Kent Test results have now been published with the pass mark the same as last year. An automatic pass has again been awarded to candidates scoring 106 on each of the three sections - English; maths and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 320. This total will again be around 21% of the total age cohort across the county, with further details to follow as I receive them.

    An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, usually around 6% of the total. You will find full details of the whole Kent Test process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 26% of Kent children in the age cohort.  

    One important and welcome change is that KCC are now making individual test scores available to parents who registered online from 5 p.m., so there will no longer be the anxious wait or chasing up of primary schools for results of previous years.

    As last year, I  shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC. 

    You will find initial figures released by KCC below, together with further information and ways I can support you. I find that the information articles on the website (RHS of this and every page) with links below, answer the majority of questions I receive. 

    As usual there are hysterical and grossly misleading headlines in some online newspapers about the shortage of grammar school places, which have whipped up a torrent of unnecessary fears on some of the more neurotic online forums (often driven by out of county families). Although KCC cannot guarantee every Kent child who has passed, a place in a Kent grammar school (not necessarily of their choice), there have been no reported cases in recent years of Kent children not getting in who are looking for a place, although a few have had to go to appeal. Further thoughts below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:23 4 comments Read 1716 times
  • Medway Test Results 2017

     I am rarely caught out completely by admission matters, but events at the two Chatham grammar schools for entry in September 2017 have completely amazed me. These are compounded by the Medway Test results this year, when the built in bias towards girls’ success has completely vanished, as explained below.

    The Medway Test outcomes, in summary, have seen 23% of the Medway cohort this year found suitable for grammar school before Reviews take place, which is exactly on target as in 2016. However, the annual gender differential stretching back for years, which saw 25% of girls passing the test as against 21% of boys in 2016, has disappeared, with 23% of both boys and girls passing for admission in 2018.

    Both Chatham grammar schools have been suffering from a shortage of pupils in recent years: in 2015, Chatham Girls admitted just 93 pupils with a planned admission number of 142; and Holcombe Grammar (previously Chatham Boys) 106, PAN 120. This September Chatham Girls has admitted over 180 pupils, Holcombe over 150.

    The main reason for this dramatic surge in numbers is the influx of London children who, uniquely in Medway are grammar qualified for the two Chatham’s by virtue of success in the Kent Test. For September 2018 entry, there were 659 out of county passes, including 263 from London Boroughs (the largest number as always were the 381 from Kent).

    So, what do these remarkable outcomes offer for 2018 entry? Some thoughts below, together with further analysis of Medway Test results. You will find further information on the Review process and its implications for appeals, here, which will answer most queries.

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 19:36 2 comments Read 493 times
  • Unlawful Grammar School Admissions: Holcombe (Medway); Maidstone Girls; and Invicta

    The DfE has now ruled, as I forecast in my article entitled ‘Shame on Holcombe Grammar School and Medway Council’, that actions such as those of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) in placing pupils registered with Holcombe Grammar School at another school for their education are unlawful.  This illegality has been supported by Medway Council in yet another failure by them.

    As a result, the pupils are now being placed back at Holcombe, but not until Term Two, although they have known of the decision for over a week already and could surely have been moved much earlier if the pupils’ interests were any sort of priority.

    Chatham Boys 3

     

    This is the third such case relating to school admissions locally in less than a year, where the DFE, and in one case the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), has ruled the schools’ practices unlawful; but sadly the arrogance of these institutions has seen no semblance of apology from any. It is clear that the extent of accountability only covers ensuring that wrongdoing no longer happens to other children, and damages confidence in the large majority of reputable schools.

    This article focuses primarily on events at Holcombe/Invicta Academy, but also looks at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls’ response to the LGO finding of their unlawful actions, and consequences of the Invicta/St Olave’s scandal. 

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:38 Be the first to comment! Read 257 times
  • Medway Council Fails the Medway Test Yet Again

    Update: From around 10 p.m. Monday, emails from Simon Harrington (Student Services Manager, Medway Council), informing parents whether child (no name) has passed the Medway Test or not, but no scores. Closing date for Review is next Monday, 19th October, so day lost in short time scale. At least he is trying!

    Following the 2016 Medway Test debacle, when wrong scores were sent out to some families whose children had taken the Medway Test, there is tremendous frustration this year, as the online system is failing to work at the time of writing (9 p.m., 9th October), results supposed to be available from 4 p.m.

    The Medway Council Twitter account offered a typically useless response, at 4.14 p.m, after which everyone appears to have gone home:

    “We're experiencing technical difficulties with our telephone lines. Apologies for any inconvenience caused”

     

    Naturally no mention of the online service not working. Who do they think they will fool!

    Update, 8 p.m from Medway Council:  

    We know that sometimes there is a delay through service providers but please be assured they have all been sent.

     

    How unfortunate that all the service providers in the system had a delay of at least two hours!

    At present the Council appears to have provided no further information, although I understand that the pass mark this year is 495, and that results have been sent in the post, hopefully to arrive tomorrow, Tuesday. You may find that your child’s headteacher is willing to divulge the score earlier tomorrow.

    As with last year’s failure, I would have thought it worthwhile deploying an officer after 5 p.m. to solve the problem, but ‘Serving You’ clearly does not extend to this.

    Medway Council Logo 

    Those not caught up in this situation may be unable to comprehend the angst caused to families who have been waiting anxiously for outcomes that may decide their children’s future education path, but I can assure them it is very real, and unfortunately typical of Medway Council’s incompetence.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 09 October 2017 21:09 1 comment Read 437 times