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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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  • Oversubscription & Vacancies in Medway Primary schools: Allocation for September 2017

    The proportion of children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen to 97.4%, the highest proportion for at least five years. This is a result of a reduction of 160 in the number of Medway school places taken up by children from the Authority and outside. As a result, there are 432 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 12% of the total available, up from 7% in 2016.

    Most difficult area as usual is Rainham, with just 8 vacancies in two of its schools, a total of 2%. of the total number of places.  At the other end is Rochester with 17% of all places left empty in five schools. Most popular school is Barnsole Primary which turned away 52 first choices, followed by Walderslade and Pilgrim primaries with 29 disappointed first choices for their 30 places. There are ten schools with more than first choices turned away, nine in Chatham and Gillingham, listed in the table below. 

    Barnsole     Pilgrim 3    Walderslade Primary 2  

    Eight schools have over a third of their places empty, up from five in 2016, but headed for the second year running by All Hallows Primary Academy, with 70% of its Reception places empty (up from 60% in 2016). Altogether 31 of the 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 85 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council, well over half in Chatham and Gillingham schools.  

    look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools…….

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 11 June 2017 13:05 Be the first to comment! Read 182 times
  • Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust: Will anyone be held to account?

    BBC South East is running an item on this story, tonight, January 12th at 6.30 p.m.

    The 2016 Accounts for the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT), a charitable company (!), finally lay bare the rottenness behind the Trust.

    The Lilac Sky Schools Trust is carrying a net deficit of £1,329,631 on these funds because: 

    The Trust incurred extortionate and expensive Founder/ substantive CEO consultancy  costs for 232 days at a net cost of £217,500 along with other high cost  support  services,  central  Trust  staffing  costs that were far higher  than average,  the cost of  settlement  agreements  (contractual  and non-contractual) paid to staff who were immediately appointed as consultants by the company and recharged  to  the Trust, minimal  value for money procedures and a lack of competitive  tendering.

    2016 Accounts Page 38

     These accounts are prepared by new Trustees, appointed 8 June 2016 to sort out the mess, described as emergency interim appointments, who do not mince their words with regard to the previous management of the Trust. LSSAT handed over its academies to other Trusts on 31st December 2016, and is currently being wound up, possibly with government financial aid. See below in blue.  

    I am not an accountant but the shocking detail in the Report is plain to see and builds further on my exposure in the 2015 Accounts, of the Trust being run as a Money Tree by those in control. Of course, this is at the expense of the pupils in the seven local primary schools run by the Trust, and other casualties along the way.  

    LSSAT Logo

    For those with a long memory, I first identified the methods used by Lilac Sky in 2013 to siphon off school funds by ripping off Furness School and I faced excoriation from KCC who continued to insist Lilac Sky was wonderful for some years afterwards, the school closing in 2015, with £1.6 million having gone missing, apparently with no one noticing. Since then I have covered the appalling story of Lilac Sky through  a number of articles, accessible through my search engine, most recently here.   

    There are of course many other examples of entrepreneurs taking large sums out of academies, but these normally remain hidden, and it often requires independent Trustees to winkle out the truth, as has happened here.

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 06 June 2017 17:49 1 comment Read 579 times
  • The scandals of Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey

    Update, Thursday: Further information  on Reflection at foot of article, in blue. 

    Between September and April this year, 33 children at Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIS) have ‘left’ the school to take up Elective Home Education (EHE), some having reportedly been encouraged to do so, which would be unlawful. This figure is almost twice that of the next two Kent schools, Cornwallis Academy and Ebbsfleet Academy, which both saw 17 children leave to be ‘Home Educated’.

    Oasis Image

     Other OAIS pupils were sent to the Swale Inclusion Centre, and removed from the school’s Register, the removal having the effect of deleting the pupils GCSE record from school examination performance, as explained in a previous article, here.

    The school also sent some Year 11 pupils home early in May for compulsory ‘Study Leave’ without tuition, whilst the others continued to be prepared for their GCSEs in school. This action amounts to what is often called an ‘informal exclusion’, which is unlawful.

    Some of these children will previously have endured the Reflection punishment, which requires pupils to sit in a room and ‘Reflect’ on their behaviour for a whole day, an utterly unrealistic expectation that a day of boredom will improve matters. Astonishingly, 39% of the whole student body has been subject to this humiliating punishment, many on multiple occasions. The reality is that Reflection is utterly destructive, inevitably producing antagonism towards and alienation from the school, is almost certainly unlawful as the child has been forcibly deprived of education without provision for catching up, and indeed could be regarded as child abuse.

    Reports of bullying are rife.

    As with other out of control academies described in these pages previously, there appears little proper accountability apart from a recent Ofsted Inspection that appears not to have noticed key signals. Meanwhile, children's futures are being blighted.....
    Written on Saturday, 03 June 2017 12:39 10 comments Read 2544 times
  • Medway Test 2017: Late notification of Important Change

    Update: The value of the following item is underlined by the interest shown by browsers. 1500 hits in the first two days makes this the second most popular item on the website this year - in third place is the article Medway Test Scores Blunder - Medway fails families yet againconfirming once again the lack of confidence Medway families have in their Council's education operation. 

    The Council sent a letter to schools last week announcing that it is changing its Test provider from GL Assessment to CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) for the forthcoming Medway Test in September. Unfortunately, the two testing providers have different interpretations of the assessment procedure, as explained here. The CEM Verbal Reasoning Test is far more language based than the GL model (which is used by Kent), including vocabulary and normally comprehension, as can be seen by a glance at the above link together with model answers provided by commercial companies. It will account for 20% of the aggregate Test marks which, together with the 40% for the Free Writing Test, will make this a highly language based selection method. It will therefore discriminate against children from socially deprived areas who are often weaker in language skills, children with English as a second Language, boys, and those who don't hear of or appreciate the change being made. The Council’s letter to schools gives no rationale for this change of approach or warning of the effects of the change, so presumably it is not for educational reasons, but simply a cost cutting exercise. 

    Neither does it do anything whatever to address the other serious problems I have previously identified in the Medway Test process, missing a golden opportunity in its recent review of the procedure, which appears to have reached no conclusions. It also comes close on after last year's debacle of the 2016 Test.   

    In addition, the Council has suddenly dispensed with the services of its highly experienced Free Writing Test setter, and at the time of writing does not appear to have re-employed any of its trained markers, although there is no change in the processes. It is not yet clear who is going to provide these essential skills this year.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 29 May 2017 19:59 3 comments Read 2809 times
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies in Kent Primary schools: Allocation for September 2017

     2017 has been a very good year for Primary school admissions in Kent with 97.4% of families being awarded a school place of their choice, up from 96.6% in 2016. This has been brought about by a combination of 267 extra places created since the 2016 allocations including 30 in one new school, together with a remarkable fall of 679 children or 3.8% in the total applying for places. Overall there are 11.1% vacant places in the Reception classes, rising sharply from 6.5% in 2016. This article follows on from my first look at the general data, here, and explores the pressure areas looking at oversubscription and vacancies across the county.

    There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school; Ashford, two vacancies, apart from 14 in a school on the outskirts; Sevenoaks,  full apart from 18 places in one school on the outskirts of town; and Tunbridge Wells just one school with 24 vacancies. However, overall there is a far better picture than last year. Contrast these with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty in their schools. 

    Once again the most popular schools vary considerably from last year, with just Great Chart, Ashford (3rd in 2016) and Fleetdown in Dartford (first last year) occurring in top 10s for both years. Most popular school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart with 41. You will find the full list of high preferences below.

    Slade             Great Chart

    At the other end of the scale, one unfortunate school with a Good OFSTED, and sound KS2 results had no first choices, and offered just one place (!), whilst another 17 schools have more than half of their places empty, a sharp rise on last year. As financial pressures mount in schools, such low numbers would become critical if repeated.

    I look at each district in more detail below, with a brief note on admission to Junior Schools.  The outcomes for Medway primary schools will follow shortly…...

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 15 May 2017 09:38 5 comments Read 3767 times
  • Kent & Medway OFSTED Reports to Easter

    Kent primary school OFSTED Reports up to Easter show considerable improvement on an already strong position as shown in the summary tables below. Outcomes include 15 schools, a fifth of the 72 inspected, improving their assessment as against just 3 which declined. The proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected is well above the most recent national figure, with seven Outstanding schools.  Four schools improved their grading by two levels; Aylesford Primary; Chantry Community Academy and Tymberwood Academy (both in Gravesham), taking them out of Special Measures to Good; and Cliftonville Primary to Outstanding. Two other schools, Pilgrim’s Way Canterbury, and Copperfields Academy also in Gravesham, were taken out of Special Measures. All the last six are academies. By coincidence two of these, Chantry (Greenacre Academy Trust) and Pilgrim’s Way (Village Academy Trust) are advertisers on this website, both Academy Trusts taking over after previous failed conversions, the other four Trusts inheriting their schools directly from KCC control. 

    Chantry             Pilgrims Way    

     Cliftonville

    You will find a summary of the current position for Kent schools written by Mr Patrick Leeson, Director of Education, here, although it omits the most recent Inspections of schools that have become academies and not been re-inspected, following government practice. The Kent schools affected include 11 who were judged Inadequate in their most recent Inspection.

    In Medway, just 8 primary schools were inspected with a slight decline in performance, and still well below national levels. One Medway Primary school was found Outstanding, Cliffe Woods Primary, for the second time. Gordon Children's Academy Junior School improved by two Grades to Good, matching the Infant School which retained its Good status. 

     
    Of the  22 Kent and Medway secondary schools inspected, 17 were found Good, five Requiring Improvement, with just one change from the schools' previous assessments.
    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 15 April 2017 19:39 Be the first to comment! Read 373 times