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Friday, 28 February 2014 23:00

School Places and vacancies in 2013: Kent on Sunday 2 Feb 2014

The announcement of the closure of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury at the end of the summer should come as no great surprise, given the dramatically falling number of students entering the school over the past few years, and the huge financial deficit allowed to develop. You will find a fuller analysis of the issues here. However, this article looks at the wider pattern of take up of secondary school places across Kent, identifying other schools that may be at risk. The schools with the highest proportion of vacant places have remained the same over the past few years, leading one to ask how others in the group can also remain viable, given that school incomes depend on the number of pupils they attract. Chaucer is the second closure in twelve months, with Walmer Science College being absorbed into Castle Community College last September, because of the falling number of children in the Deal District. I do not anticipate they will be the last.

Concerns have been expressed about the number of young people coming to Kent from other European countries, causing pressure on school places, and also migrating from London for economic reasons, mainly to East Kent. To  my complete astonishment, I was told through a Freedom of Information request that Kent does not collect figures on the immigration of children into our schools or the national backgrounds of such children. However, Thanet’s seven non-selective schools increased by just 47 students in total during the year, suggesting the problems are not as great as feared. 

The schools with the highest proportion of vacant spaces in Year Seven, all with over 60% of their desks empty, are the same as last year except for Walmer.........

Oasis Academy Hextable is in the most worrying situation, with just 37 of its 150 places filled, the neighbouring Orchards Academy in Swanley appearing to be winning the battle for a shrinking pool of students. Like most of the other schools at the bottom of the table, Hextable has failed an OFSTED and paid the price, families voting with their feet; however, one has to ask if the District can support both schools or, if like Deal, a merger would produce one stronger establishment even though this is unlikely, as they are run by two different academy chains.

Next comes The Marlowe Academy with 70% vacancies, only a third the intake of five years ago, and surely another non-viable school saved from closure by virtue of its being an academy out of KCC control. The problems of the school were featured by KCC in its evidence to Parliament for an enquiry about academies.

High Weald Academy, the former failed Angley School in Cranbrook, continues to limp along. It has been further hit this year along with a number of Tonbridge schools, by the opening of the new Hadlow Rural Community School, a Free School focusing on rural issues, which had a projected intake of just 30 children in Year Seven, but settled for 52.

Next up was Pent Valley School in Folkestone with 63% vacancies which, in contrast, has a current ‘Good’ OFSTED. It has suffered in numbers for years from competition with the neighbouring Folkestone Academy, but also loses out because of the remarkable success of school appeals at Folkestone School for Girls, taking around 70 previously non-selective girls, a figure nearly twice as large as any other Kent school. A closer look shows that numbers have been nearly as high previously, the defence for the high number of appeals surely being that this is one of the best performing grammar schools in the county at GCSE, so whatever it does, works. However, many of these girls will have otherwise been destined for Pent Valley or, where they took from the other two local non-selective schools, these in their turn filled up from Pent Valley, a pattern that repeats elsewhere in Kent for the local school at the bottom of the heap.

Not surprisingly, Chaucer Technology School comes next, its intake having fallen from 235 in 2008, to 57 this school year, and a projected 30 or so for entry in September. No way could it continue.

After Meopham School, another with a failed OFSTED, comes the Towers School in Ashford which has seen its intake fall by 51 children, the largest drop in Kent. This will be predominantly because of losses to the new Wye Free School, although all three Ashford non-selective schools have been hit.

Along with Hextable and Chaucer, the other biggest loser in intake for September 2013, is Ebbsfleet Academy, which has had a very controversial year surrounding its change of status, as detailed here.

The popularity of the third new Free School, Trinity in Sevenoaks, explains the lowest intake at the nearby Knole Academy since it converted, with 41 vacancies.  Not surprisingly, KCC in its evidence to the Education Select Committee (see previous article in KOS) wrote: “All are in areas of socio-economic advantage, rather than growing diversity and choice in disadvantaged areas of need.  There appears to be ‘middle class capture’ of the Free Schools process, in order to create new capacity in areas that do not necessarily need school places”.

This article has inevitably featured on problems in Kent, but the majority of Kent’s secondary schools are sending out positive signals, such as this year’s secondary OFSTED outcomes with 10 out of 12 Reports being ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ so far. The school with the greatest increase in numbers in Kent, with a 46% rise in admissions in the past year, is St George’s CofE Comprehensive in Gravesend, placed in Special Measures five years ago, but now fully recovered under new leadership and ‘Good’ OFSTED, showing that schools can and are being turned round, with the right measures being taken. Next highest is the Community College, Whitstable, with its largest intake in five years, showing one does not need to be an academy to turn the corner!

Last modified on Saturday, 01 March 2014 08:42

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  • Kent & Medway Primary School Performance: 2017 Key Stage 2 Results

    Key Stage Two school performance for 2017 tables were published on Thursday, with 65% of Kent pupils meeting the expected standard for the second year running, well above the national average which was 61%. Medway was once again below average at 58%.

    Government’s key measure is progress from Key Stage One (end of Infant stage at age seven) through to Key Stage Two, in Reading Writing and Mathematics. The best overall progress performances in Kent were by: Kingsdown & Ringwould CofE, Dover, and Bredhurst CofE, 16.1; Temple Ewell CofE, Dover, 15.0; Castle Hill Community, with 15.4, and Christ Church CEP Academy, 14.7, both from Folkestone; Canterbury Road, Faversham, with 14.6. Apart from Bredhurst, every one of these schools is in East Kent, showing that Progress is not a function of West Kent prosperity. Just one Medway school reached and also surpassed these levels, Barnsole Primary, with three outstanding progress scores, to total 19.1 (explanation of numbers attempted below).

    In Kent, five schools saw every pupil achieve the expected achievement standard set by government: Rodmersham, near Sittingbourne, for the second year running; Ethelbert Road, Faversham: and Temple Ewell CofE in Dover, all three schools amongst the highest performers for each of the previous two years, and all three again in East Kent; together with Seal CofE, and Crockham Hill CofE, both in Sevenoaks District.

    Ethelbert Road    Rodmersham   Temple Ewell 2

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    Barnsole

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    I look more closely at all of the main categories below; you can see my 2016 report for  comparison hereThe article concludes with some advice to parents trying to select a primary school for their children.....

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  • Further analysis of Kent test results for Admission September 2018

    I have now had further opportunity to look at data relating to the recent Kent Test outcomes for Admission in September 2018, with a summary of the statistics below. This article expands my initial look at the 2017 Kent Test results, written in October, which should be read in conjunction with this article. The figures do not match exactly, as adjustments and late tests have produced changes.

    Bidborough CofE

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    • The proportion of passes for Kent school children has fallen slightly from 25.7% to 25.4%, made up of 19.1% automatic passes with a further 6.4% Head Teacher Assessment.
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  • Help Needed: Families of children excluded from a Multi Academy Trust school.

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  • Academy and Free School News: September-November 2017
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  • Kent and Medway Primary School OFSTED Outcomes 2016-17
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    A previous article reported on Ofsted Reports up to Easter, this one completes outcomes for the school year 2016-17.

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    Adisham               Bobbing                                                             

     Jubilee                  Newington

    By contrast Medway has fallen from its best performance of last year at 75% of schools found Good or Outstanding, down to 64% out of the 16 inspected in 2016-17, well below the national average. Six of these schools had still improved their assessment compared to two which declined, underlining the low standards set in previous years. Warren Wood deserves special mention, whose children suffered over ten consecutive years of failure under Medway Council, but is at last out of Special Measures.  

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    Written on Saturday, 11 November 2017 19:47 Be the first to comment! Read 326 times
  • Kent and Medway Secondary & Special School OFSTED Outcomes 2016-17

    This article describes a highly successful set of Kent secondary school OFSTED outcomes for the School Year 2016-17, along with Medway secondary and Special School results.

    80% of the 20 non-selective schools inspected in Kent were assessed as Good, with over twice as many secondary schools inspected as last year. This is running well above the national average of 59% Good or Outstanding assessed up until March 2017, the latest period for which national figures are available, and the 57% of 2015-16. All three grammar schools inspected were found Good.

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    Looking forward into the 2017-18 Inspection cycle, I also outline the recent powerful report on Canterbury Academy here, whose previous Inspection I described as ‘OFSTED putting the boot in’ . This is not for the first time in a Kent non-selective school, as Inspectors attempt to place them in a one size fits all model, which makes the above assessments even more remarkable……

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