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Friday, 03 April 2015 11:03

Kent and Medway Secondary Allocations: Kent on Sunday, March 2015

This article was written for Kent on Sunday March 7th, but inadvertently not published here until later. My apologies

Kent and Medway secondary allocation figures have been published today, both Kent and Medway figures showing a worrying fall in the proportion of children being awarded any of the four schools (six in Medway) on their secondary school application form, with 641 Kent children and 155 Medway children not getting any school they have chosen. This is a rise of 237 children in Kent, the highest proportion in recent years, totalling 4% of the total being allocated places by KCC. In Medway, there has been an increase in Local Authority allocations in each of the past four years, taking the LA allocation figure to a record 5%. 

The four key factors are likely to be:.........

a further increase of 227 in the number of Kent pupils needed to be found places in our schools, with Medway increasing by 111 having come out of a sharp fall up to 2013; ; the increasing polarisation of choices, as families chase the more popular and successful schools, at the expense of some non-selective schools that are seeing numbers shrink as families seek to avoid them; an alarming surge in out of county applicants being offered places in Kent secondary schools, rising by 155 to 757;  and the removal of 300 places in Kent following the closure of the Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury and the recently announced closure of Oasis Hextable Academy.

Overall, 81% of both Kent and Medway children were awarded their first choice school, down on 2014. 296 fewer Kent pupils were awarded their first preference this year than in 2014, whereas in Medway it increased by 76, although at a slower rate than the overall increase in numbers. These falls in proportion of first choices awarded probably accounted for by the above factors. 

Kent Allocations

Nationally, there is concern about the number of school places being created, and in Kent we should certainly have seen at least a further 250 places (equivalent to one large new school) being provided this year and every year to keep pace with the increase in the school population. Some schools have expanded to meet demand, but this appears to be happening mainly in the grammar school sector, with Queen Elizabeth's in Faversham being the first to break the glass ceiling and add a form of entry in the face of assertions that grammars could not legally be expanded. It has now been followed by Dartford, Dartford Girls, Judd, Sir Roger Manwood’s, Skinners, and Wilmington Boys, and the possibility of the Sevenoaks Annexe. An alternative is to see the mantra "every school should be a good school" turned into reality, for some of those 641 children allocated places by KCC will have the nightmare of being offered schools that are unacceptable to them for quite understandable reasons. In total, there are around a thousand empty spaces across Kent's secondary schools. Other families will now look more closely at schools they have not or would not initially consider and find they are not so bad after all. 

This year, the schools with the highest number of first choices, over and above the capacity of the school: are Dartford Grammar (179); St George's, Broadstairs (129); Valley Park, Maidstone (118); Dartford Girls (106); Skinners, Tunbridge Wells (100); Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne (95); and King Ethelbert, Birchington (80). 

So what next? If you are not awarded the school of your choice, then certainly go on the waiting list for every school you have applied for and wish to consider. You have the right to appeal to any and every school for which you have been turned down although these figures suggest that appeal numbers will rise, whereas the number of successes will not. Grammar school appeals will rise sharply in numbers as the new Kent Test has produced outcomes with a much larger proportion of children appearing to have missed the pass mark narrowly, although there are unlikely to be more successes because of pressure on space. You also have the option of making a late application for a fresh school after April 24th. You can apply for as many schools as you wish through this process.  Every year we see a considerable ‘churning’ effect as children take up places off the waiting lists, as children win appeals at higher preferences, and some unhappy families remove themselves from the state system, so don't lose hope. 

Kent Secondary   School Allocations: March 2015
Kent pupils 2015 2014 2013 2012

No. of











Offered a first preference 12,796  80.5% 13,092 83.6 12,754 84.2% 12,613 82.8%
Offered a second preference  1,612  10.1% 1,512 9.6% 1,456 9.6% 1,481 9.7%
Offered a third preference  478  3.1% 478 3.1% 448 3.0% 505 3.3%
Offered a fourth preference  181  1.1% 181 1.2% 129 0.9% 183 1.2%
Allocated by Local Authority  641  4.03% 404 2.6% 357 2.3% 443 2.9%
Total number of Kent pupils offered  15894   15,667   15144   15,225  

Medway Allocations

Medway’s position is tighter than Kent with regard to empty spaces, with just 192 being vacant in spite of 100 additional spaces being added into schools.

The increase of 111 in the number of Medway children offered places confirms the sharp decline in numbers to 2013 is well and truly over. 

However, the proportion of first preferences met continues its steady decline every year since 2012. Last year Brompton Academy was the most oversubscribed school in Kent and Medway, but this year it accounted for 159 of the 614 rejected first preferences, in spite of adding on an additional class of 30 children and it is apparent that the polarisation of choices, as described above, is playing a considerable role here, as families try and avoid the most unpopular schools.  

Medway Secondary School Allocations   March 2015
Medway Pupils 2015 2014 2013 2012
  Number  % Number % Number % %
Offered a first preference 2499 80.7% 2423 81.2% 2425 86.0% 86.7%
Offered a place at one of their six choices 2940 95% 2865 96.0% 2730 96.8% 98.6%
Allocated a place by Medway Council 155 5.0% 120 4.0% 90 3.2% 1.4%

Total number of Medway

children offered places

3095   2984   2820   2949
Last modified on Friday, 03 April 2015 11:09

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  • Brook Learning Trust Schools in Trouble: Ebbsfleet Academy; Hayesbrook School; High Weald Academy

     The Brook Learning Trust runs three schools, Ebbsfleet Academy, Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and appears to be in serious trouble, both financially and in terms of the standing of all of its three schools. 

    Ebbsfleet 1       High Weald 1    Hayesbrook 2
    I monitor a number of factors that indicate how a school supports its students and how it stands in its locality. These include: pupil vacancy rates in year Seven; popularity of schools expressed through first preferences when making applications; percentage drop out rates from the school for all reasons; and proportion of pupils leaving for Elective Home Education; together with academic performance. These three schools are each amongst the worst in the county on four in the case of Hayesbrook or all five of the first five measures for the other two schools. I consider that they can therefore be regarded as generally, if not academically, failing. These common themes across the Trust’s schools suggest the problem starts with the ethos and standards set by the Trust.

    The situation at High Weald Academy is especially dire, as government is proposing a multi-million pound premises investment into this school which appears to have no future under the Trust.

    I look below at the factors affecting each school and the Trust as a whole. I now have data showing a further fall in first choice applications for each school for Year Seven admission in September 2018, which will surely see the Trust heading for insolvency and for each school immense financial difficulty in providing an acceptable level of education. 

    Written on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 06:21 Be the first to comment! Read 522 times
  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    Table for allocations below has been completed, with more recent information provided.

    You will find a parallel Kent article here

    The Medway Council Press Release for secondary transfer is the thinnest yet I have seen from the Council on this, or any other subject I can recall. It contains just four facts: 3259 Medway children applied for and were offered places in secondary schools; 91% have been offered a first or second preference school; over 95.5%  were offered one of their preferences; there were 630 applications for Medway school places from children outside Medway. That is it! UPDATE: I have now obtained the full data through an FOI request and inserted it below. I can see no reason why the Council has chosen to hide it.  

    However, there is also a bizarre footnote on a completely different matter, considered below. 

    The table below compares my extrapolation of these numbers with outcomes in previous years. There is also initial advice on what to do if you have not received the school of your choice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    Both of the quoted percentages in the Press Release were identical to those in 2017, both a significant fall on 2016, at 93.7% and 97.4% respectively.For 2017 offers, first and second preferences allocated were separated, so one can guess the proportion of first preferences has fallen this year as Medway Council typically tries to fudge its figures. No mention of, or regret about, the unfortunate 147 children with no school of their choice. 

    The cohort size has increased by just 85 children, with the 4.5% who have been given no school of their choice, at approximately 147, five up on 2017.

    Why is the Council so afraid of providing information to its residents?

    Written on Friday, 02 March 2018 12:25 1 comment Read 695 times
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    You will find a parallel Medway article here.

    Several updates below, including grammar issues for boys in Longfield, Hartley, NAG, etc. Also look at my response to comment, below. Grammar places for boys in Whitstable, Herne Bay also looking an issue. 

    Kent secondary school allocations have been sent out today for those registered to receive by email and should arrive tomorrow by post for all (weather permitting).

    17,442 Kent children applied for places in schools, 745 more than in 2017, with 79.6% of them being offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least five years, but just 0.8% down on last year. 765 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.4% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least five years, and well up on last year’s 633. I know that a number of additional school places have been created at pinch points across the county, notably Tunbridge Wells, but I am already hearing of some very difficult situations for some of the children with no school of their choice.

    In spite of another large increase in out of county applications to Kent schools, up 545 to 3,289, just 818 were offered places, only eight more than in 2017. This will have been partially balanced by around 500 going to schools outside Kent.

    You will find more information, including a look at some of the pressure points, together with the tables of outcomes below. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools as these are confirmed (all information welcomed), and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    There is also a link to the limited advice service I now offer. 

    Written on Thursday, 01 March 2018 12:03 12 comments Read 2747 times
  • Knole Academy and the Scandal of Exorbitant Headteacher Pay in Kent and Medway

    Update: Shortly after I published this article, the national BBC led with the same issue on its website, although amazingly there has been no local media interest at all. Is it that this is not of interest as it is what people expect? 

    The headteacher of The Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, a moderately performing single school academy, was paid £210,000 in 2016-17 making her the highest paid academy head or Chief Executive in Kent and Medway. This is an increase of 35% over the past three years after what can only be described as an irresponsible series of decisions by Governors, bringing the whole process into disrepute, and undermining the credibility of the very real financial crisis in schools, as explained below. By contrast the Principal of Homewood School, the largest secondary school in the county, had a salary of just £110,000 last year, one of majority of secondary heads around or below £100,000.


    After Knole the next two highest paid heads are the Principals of Leigh Academy and Wilmington Academy, both part of the Leigh Academy Trust, who each received £200,000 in remuneration, including their roles as Directors of the Trust. They were followed by the CEOs of two of Kent’s largest Academy Trusts, both responsible for more than a dozen primary and secondary schools: Swale AT and Leigh AT at £190,000 and £180,000 respectively.

    Grammar School Academy Headteachers are generally paid from around £85,000 to £110,000 annually, with Dartford Grammar School, the largest and most oversubscribed grammar school in the county on the latter sum. Highest paid Grammar School Head is at Rainham Mark Grammar, Medway. with £155,000 (£90,000 for HT salary, £65,000 for Academy Trust CEO), followed by Barton Court, Canterbury, at £125,000 (also a Trust CEO).

    At primary level the previous highest earner, the Head of Meopham Community Academy, has now retired from his £150,000 salary post, his replacement being employed at less than half of that rate. The highest paid heads of schools or multi academy trusts I have found this time round are the same two single standing academies as previously: The Academy of Woodlands in Gillingham, £105,000 in 2015-16, and St Stephen’s Academy, a Junior school in Canterbury on, the same figure for 2016-17.

    I look more closely at the Knole situation, and that of other high paying academies below. 

    Written on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 20:29 5 comments Read 1502 times
  • Medway Council fails its most vulnerable children

    Medway Council has once again failed its children, this time the most vulnerable, as confirmed by a scathing Ofsted Report on its ‘services’ to children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities, published this week. The report concludes ‘Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice’. I think that is putting it politely. There are strengths identified; it just happens that all these appear to be down to the health service and not education.

    Concerns centre about chaotic management of the ‘Service’, resulting in failure to take necessary action. This can be seen from the following quotes: ’Medway’s education and service leaders do not share one vision and strategy for SEN and/or disabilitiesNo arrangements are in place to ensure effective joint oversight and clear lines of accountabilityLittle progress has been made in addressing several of the pressing priorities for improvement identified as far back as 2012Leaders’ understanding of what has and has not improved in the meantime is limited. I could have chosen many others.


    'The collaborative work between professionals and children and their families to plan services and meet individual needs, known as co-production, is weak at both a strategic and individual level' This criticism is underpinned by the heavy criticism of the implementation of Education and Health Care Plans for children with the greatest needs, which are at the heart of Departmental work, and ‘A considerable number of parents shared concerns with inspectors that the needs of their children are not being identified and met sufficiently well’.

    There is of course reference to Medway's record exclusion rates: ‘Although improving, rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusion are still notably higher for pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities in Medway than for similar pupils nationally, as it is for all pupils. Lack of specialist provision has brought serious consequences for pupils with severe SEN or disabilities travelling out of Medway daily on long and very expensive journeys.  

    Written on Saturday, 10 February 2018 22:33 4 comments Read 446 times
  • Goodwin Academy – SchoolsCompany Trust on the way out?

    Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

    KM Online 16th February shows details of the job losses at this previously recovering school, expected because of the failures of SchoolsCompany. 

    The new Interim Chief Executive of SchoolsCompany Trust has apologised in a letter to parents of pupils at the Goodwin Academy for ‘previous financial failings, which are unacceptable’.

    Sadly, this has come as little surprise to me, as I foresaw issues as early as 2014, when I noted in an article that SchoolsCompany had contributed to the startling decline of the predecessor school Castle Community College (CCC), in Deal from Ofsted Outstanding to Special Measures in three short years. As a reward SchoolsCompany took over as sponsor of the school as recently as July 2016. The school was awkwardly renamed SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, presumably to advertise the name of the Sponsors as a priority, above creating a new school image.     

    The Academy limped on for a period, after 2014, with the 'support' of SchoolsCompany,  unpopular with a third of its places unfilled, and underperforming, although there have recent strong signs of improvement under new school leadership. Unusually, eight of the eleven Company Trustees were paid a salary by the Trust, hardly an inducement for encouraging scrutiny. After the school received a Financial Notice to Improvefrom the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in October, seven of the Trustees resigned including the Executive Principal of the Company This left the school with just four Trustees including the CEO and founder of the company, Elias Achilleos, although he now appears to have been replaced by the new Interim Chief Executive.  The Trust has demonstrably failed some of the Financial Notice's requirements for improvement. 

    Goodwin Academy

    The school will clearly have a future in its new £25 million premises opened four months ago on October 6th, just three weeks before Trustees resigned en masse, but it looks increasingly likely it will not be with Schools Company. Indeed a more than doubling of first preferences to 173 for 2018 admission, shows confidence in the school and its leadership, achieved without obvious input from the few remaining Trust members. 

    Written on Thursday, 08 February 2018 10:43 4 comments Read 1041 times