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Friday, 03 April 2015 17:14

A selection of Good and Outstanding Kent Non-Selective Schools: Kent On Sunday 22nd March

Once again, we hear cries from certain politicians for more grammar school places across the country, the opposition responding by referring disparagingly to the creation of more ‘secondary moderns’. This of course takes us back to the 1950s, when the ‘sec mod’ only ran up to age 15, and most children took no examinations. Since then the landscape has changed dramatically, and the large majority of Kent’s non-selective (NS) schools are performing well to ensure that overall Kent’s GCSE performance is consistently above average.

This article makes no statement about the virtues or otherwise of the selective system in Kent, but in it I have been asked to look at some of the best of the non-selectives (NS) -itself an ungainly title. This is a personal choice, and I apologise to some very good schools I have been forced to leave out for reasons of space.......

 

Bennett Memorial 2               St Gregory                                                          

Leading the field have to be the two Tunbridge Wells church schools: Bennett Memorial Diocesan and St Gregory’s Catholic, both with Outstanding OFSTEDs and both regularly topping the non selective GCSE tables. Bennett has a strong church requirement that attracts many academically able children, as it became one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county, St Greg’s having a more mixed intake but still performing highly. The third TW non-selective school, Skinners Kent Academy is an example of what can be done with outstanding leadership, more important than the excellent new purpose built buildings it has recently moved into. For most of the past forty years, its predecessors, variously named in attempts to shrug off a poor reputation, struggled to attract students, but in the past four years the academy has become the eighth most over-subscribed NS school in the county, its headteacher, Sian Carr, being variously described as charismatic and inspirational.

skinners kent academy

Otherwise, in no particular order: further north in Dartford is the highest performing academy chain in the county, headed up by the Leigh Academy, until this year the most popular NS school in the county. Its first principal, Frank Green, has gone on to become Schools Commissioner for England. The Academy Trust has taken over two other NW Kent schools, Wilmington Academy which it has taken from Special Measures to Good, at the same time seeing its GCSE results soar to amongst the best NS in the county in 2013, and Longfield Academy, previously an unpopular, struggling school which was one of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent in 2014.  

Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, is the second most popular NS school in the county. Its Good OFSTED rating (it has also been Outstanding) is in no small part due to its headteacher, Alan Brookes, a fiercely loyal servant of the school, who joined as a junior member of staff 33 years ago and has now been head for 18 years.  

John Wallis CofE Academy in Ashford is perhaps a surprising choice, headed up by John McParland, who has the distinction of having also been head of one of Kent’s top performing NS schools, St Simon Stock Catholic School in Maidstone. His move was a surprise to many people as SSS was at the top of the tree, and John Wallis was a struggling school in a difficult part of town. However, SSS continues to maintain its excellent standards under the new(ish) leadership and John Wallis now fills, and has been at the top of Kent’s value added GCSE league table for two years, one of 9 NS schools in the top 20. This measure identifies the progress made by students between the ages of 11 and 16, but is  rarely given prominence, although it is the best indicator of the value added to children by their education, irrespective  of socio-economic standing.

Third highest NS GCSE performer this year is St George’s CofE School, Gravesend, also second highest across the county for Value Added, apparently on its knees just five years ago, having been placed in Special Measures, and lost the confidence of local parents. A new headteacher, Anne Southgate - previously deputy head, took over the reins and in three years raised the school to Good under OFSTED, saw its popularity and exam results soar, but retired in the summer, although the school still appears in good hands, having again appointed its deputy.

St Georges 2

The other six top VA schools are: Bennett; St Gregory’s; St Augustine’s Academy, Maidstone, St Simon Stock, St Anselm's, Canterbury; Hillview, Tonbridge; and Kent Skinners Academy.

The Canterbury Academy is led  by Phil Karnavas  who has been with the school for 25 years. It has totally changed from the previously troubled Canterbury High School, and includes a primary school, and an enormous range of sports facilities open to the public which have become a centre of excellence.  The school is now regularly oversubscribed, and in 2014 took on an extra two classes to cater for all the additional first choices he had unwisely offered places to at the Open Evening that year!  

Valley Park School in Maidstone is another centre of excellence, this time in Performing Arts, regularly in the top three most oversubscribed schools in Kent, historically with the tightest catchment area in the county. It has achieved that rarity for a non-selective school, of two consecutive Outstanding OFSTEDs. For 2015 entry, it changed the straight distance admission criterion to one giving priority to children whose nearest school was Valley Park (think about it!), initially confusing, but it makes sense.

My next choice is well outside the conventional view of a good school, except that OFSTED agrees, having found it Good on two consecutive inspections. This is Hartsdown Academy, Margate, led by an inspirational and outspoken Executive Principal, Andrew Somers. In passing, it has one of the best school websites I have visited. Mr Somers has passionately campaigned for improved premises after competing schools were rebuilt, and was rewarded two weeks ago when the school received government approval for funding  a significant premises development. Like the Marlowe Academy, Hartsdown has more than its fair share of deprivation, children with SEN, and with English as a second language. The difference is that he makes it work, as OFSTED confirms.

One of the rebuilt schools that competes with Hartsdown is King Ethelbert School, Birchington, although both are part of the Coastal Academies Trust which is led by Paul Luxmoore, previously head of Dane Court Grammar school and the inspiration behind another highly successful academy chain, now absorbing the closing Marlowe Academy. King Ethelbert is the fourth most oversubscribed NS school in Kent this year, having become more popular year on year.

A school very much in the news is Knole Academy, Sevenoaks, led by Mary Boyle. She has overseen the amalgamation of two disparate schools, and has worked through the merger with great success. The school sits in the middle of a political controversy, with the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe to be sited just down the road, alongside the new Trinity Free School that has itself established an early reputation. Knole now runs a high profile grammar stream, and Mary Boyle works hard to establish the school as fully comprehensive with no need of extra grammar places in the town.

knole academy

Just two NS schools have consecutive Outstanding OFSTEDs, the second being Westlands School in Sittingbourne, lead school in the Swale Academies Trust, but although it has suffered a fall in popularity for 2015 admission, it remains oversubscribed.

I was given a generous word limit for this article, but it is apparent there are too many good NS schools in Kent to be covered in detail. Others include: Wrotham school, a pastorally strong, friendly achieving, small rural school;  St John’s Catholic Comprehensive in Gravesend –the fifth highest performing NS at GCSE, just behind St George’s CofE, also Gravesend, with every Gravesend NS having a Good OFSTED assessment; Hillview Girls, Tonbridge – always one of the highest performing NS schools – sixth in GCSE this year, and one of the most popular;  Sandwich Technology College, about which I know little, except that families think highly  of it with the recently retired headteacher, Veronica Gomez, receiving rave reports;  Mascalls in Paddock Wood, looked down by some families in West Kent for not being a grammar school, but clearly delivers a first rate education;  Abbey in Faversham which has taken years to throw off its dreadful reputation before the current headteacher, Catrin Woodend led it to two Good OFSTEDs; Herne Bay High, always oversubscribed, sometimes heavily, consistently achieving good Key Stage 2 results and Good OFSTED Inspection results; St Augustine's, Maidstone, has quietly become increasingly popular in Maidstone, is now full and has a recent Good OFSTED; and Dartford Science and Technology College, the only Kent secondary school to have improved by two grades in recent years, to Good in November 2012.

My apologies to those good schools I have overlooked primarily because of limited contact with them through parents or otherwise. In the academic year 2013-14, the 19 Kent NS schools inspected by OFSTED achieved an outstanding 79% Good or Outstanding assessments, way above the national average of 67%. They include seven not even mentioned above: Aylesford; Holmesdale, Snodland; Hugh Christie, Tonbridge;  Maplesdon Noakes, Maidstone; Pent Valley, Folkestone; and Sittingbourne Community. Oddly, the request from KOS to prepare this article is the first time ever I am aware of media attention being paid to the good work in so many of Kent’s non-selective schools. One has to wonder why?

Last modified on Sunday, 09 October 2016 05:12

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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 ......


    Progress 8
    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 0.05, against a National average of -0.03. There is a single floor standard which schools are expected to achieve, of -0.5, and all secondary schools have exceeded this. 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, but grammar schools appear to have been further advantaged.  
     
    Schools are divided into a number of groups: well above average; above average; average; below average; and well below average and below floor level. Schools placed in the last category can expect government intervention.
     
    Grammar Schools
    I am not sure that in Medway, with the grammar schools dominating the top of the table, this proves they necessarily offer better teaching; rather, there is a strong element of – ‘brighter pupils can be stretched further’.

    The table is led by Rochester Grammar, the only Medway school to score 'Well above Average' for progress from Key Stage 2 to GCSE.  Chatham Grammar Girls is only making average progress.

    Grammar School Progress 8
    Scores for 2017
    School Score
    Well Above Average 
     Rochester Grammar 0.89 
    Sir Joseph Williamson's 0.85
    Above Average
     Holcombe Grammar 0.49
    Fort Pitt Grammar

    0.42

    Rainham Mark Grammar 0.24
    Average
    Chatham Grammar Girls 0.02
     
    Non-Selective Schools
    Government classifies  schools into groups, with just Victory Academy achieving 'above average' level, with all schools but Medway UTC achieving the floor standard. It is difficult to asses the UTCs poor performance as this is its first GCSE Year, and recruiting in Year 11, the Progress 8 could be regarded as down in part to the student's previous schools. All are volunteers, with no requirement for technology aptitude or interest. However, it appears that the UTC has not re-vitalised their education. 
     
    Non-Selective Progress 8
    Scores for 2017
     School  Score School  Score 
    Above Average   Robert Napier
    -0.09
     Victory Academy  0.32  Howard School  -0.12
     Average 
    Brompton Academy -0.13 
    Greenacre 0 Below Average  
    Thomas Aveling

    0

    Strood Academy -0.27
     Rainham Girls -0.02 Walderslade Girls  -0.34
    Hundred of Hoo -0.04 Well Below Average 
    and below Floor Level of -0.5
    St John Fisher Catholic  -0.06 Medway UTC -0.9
     
    Attainment  8
    Here, scores come out looking somewhat like a GCSE league table, but flattened at the top, far fewer schools with lower ability children have reached the score of 40 than last year, when I made a working comparison with the floor level of the previous Floor Level of 40% of a school's pupils achieving 5 GCSE A-Cs.
     
    Grammar Schools 
    Not surprisingly, here the grammar schools sweep the table completely. 
     
    Grammar School Attainment 8 Scores for 2016
    School Score
     Rochester Grammar 70.8 
    Sir Joseph Williamson's  69.7
     Rainham Mark Grammar 63.9
    Holcombe Grammar 62.2
    Fort Pitt Grammar 60.5
    Chatham Grammar Girls 57.1
     
    Non-Selective Schools 
    The popularity or otherwise of Non-Selective schools is heavily polarised, with Brompton Academy one of the most oversubscribed in the whole of Kent and Medway. It is followed at some length by Thomas Aveling, Strood Academy and the Howard School. At the other end are three schools with a large number of vacancies, Robert Napier, Victory Academy and St John Fisher. The last two named, as well as having below average progress grades, are below the 40 points mark. However, this data suggests that Robert Napier is at long last on the turn for the good.  Walderslade Girls appears to be struggling, with the headteacher having moved on.  
      
    Non-Selective Attainment 8
    Scores for 2016
     School  Score School  Score 
    Rainham Girls  42.5  St John Fisher 37.9
    Hundred of Hoo 41.3 Brompton Academy 37.4
    Thomas Aveling 40.8 Strood Academy
    37.3
    Greenacre 40.2 Walderslade Girls 35.6
    Howard School 39.6 Robert Napier 35.2
    Victory Academy 38.2 Medway UTC 29.5
     
    English Baccalaureate
    This is a third measure towards which the government was trying to nudge schools, by measuring the percentage of pupils achieving a Grade C or better in five specific subject areas: English, maths, a science, a language, and history or geography. It is designed to encourage schools towards more academic subjects and away from those thought intellectually easier, which government considers is an easy way to score, although Progress 8 and Attainment 8 already go some way towards that.
     
    Rochester Grammar School is unsurprisingly at the top of the lists, with 90% of its pupils passing the required subjects. It is followed by Sir Joseph Williamson with 82% and then Rainham Mark with 53%. All three schools have seen a fall in percentages, although I am not sure what this means, except that perhaps schools are seeing it as less important than when it was introduced. Top non-selective school is Rainham School for Girls with 20%, followed by Hundred of Hoo with 14%. At the bottom are the Robert Napier and Victory Academy with no students meeting this standard. 
    Written on Monday, 16 October 2017 16:29 Be the first to comment! Read 28 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 263 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 1514 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 1 comment Read 399 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 212 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 432 times