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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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  • 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

    In Medway, Barnsole was again the highest performer with 89% of pupils achieving the expected standard. 

    Barnsole

    Government also sets a Floor Target for all schools to reach, in either Progress in all of Reading, Writing and Maths, or Achievement. In Kent, 20 out of 414 schools failed to achieve either standard, with Richmond Academy, in Sheppey failing on all four counts. Medway had five schools out of 62 below the floor target.

    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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    Written on Thursday, 14 December 2017 21:05 Be the first to comment! Read 50 times
  • 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

    Headlines are:
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    • Girls are still ahead on both automatic test passes since the Test was changed in 2014, and also in HTAs, with the differentials widening to 26.6% girls passing to 24.3% of boys.  
    • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in East Kent, nearly twice the lowest in West Kent.
    • 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.
    • Girls are still ahead on both automatic test passes since the Test was changed in 2014, and also in HTAs, with the differentials widening to 26.6% girls passing to 24.3% of boys. 
    • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in East Kent, nearly twice the lowest in West Kent.
    • There is a further increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium found selective to 9.8% of the Kent state school total passes. This increase is brought about through headteachers recognising ability in the HTA, where coaching is irrelevant, with 37% of all PP passes being through this route. 
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    • StowtingFor more detail on each of these items, see below:
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    Written on Friday, 17 November 2017 22:19 Be the first to comment! Read 214 times
  • Help Needed: Families of children excluded from a Multi Academy Trust school.

    A representative of a responsible national news organisation has approached me looking for a family whose child has been excluded from a Multi Academy Trust school, they consider unfairly. They are looking to understand the events and use the case, anonymously if necessary, to illustrate and article being prepared.

    If you are interested and have a child excluded from a Kent or Medway Multi Academy Trust school,  please email me the background at peter@kentadvice.co.uk together with your contact details and I will forward them.

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    Written on Thursday, 16 November 2017 18:33 Be the first to comment! Read 374 times
  • Academy and Free School News: September-November 2017
    Update on Aggressive MATs and illegal Sixth Forms below
    Another eleven schools have become academies in the past few months, bringing the Kent total to 84% of 100 secondary schools, and 33% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 58 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest changes below, along with new applications to become academies. There is a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.
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  • Kent and Medway Primary School OFSTED Outcomes 2016-17
    Update: Luton Junior School, Chatham
    OFSTED September 2017: Outstanding
    "The school serves a community with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils from many different backgrounds and cultures. The school is a haven of care, respect, friendship and learning, situated in the very centre of the diverse community it serves. The inspirational headteacher has led a remarkable improvement in all aspects of the school so that pupils now receive an outstanding education". 

    A previous article reported on Ofsted Reports up to Easter, this one completes outcomes for the school year 2016-17.

    It shows Kent Primary schools soaring to dizzy Ofsted heights, with 85% of Inspections for the year being Good or Outstanding, well up from last year’s 79% and well above the national average, the latest official figure for which is 77% to March. 22% of the 114 schools inspected improved their grading. Four more schools, Adisham CofE Primary, near Canterbury, Bobbing Village, Sittingbourne, Jubilee Free School, Maidstone, and Newington Community Primary, Ramsgate, were Outstanding to add to the seven in the previous part of the year. As explained below, Newington deserves special mention.

    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.  

    You will find further details below, along with a look at some notable outcomes for individual schools. In nearly every case good or bad, the key issue is leadership, rather than whether a school is an academy or Local Authority maintained. Every individual primary school assessment over recent years is recorded in the Information pages for Kent and Medway, I reported on the 2015-16 Ofsted performance  for primary schools here......

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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.

    In Medway, three of the five schools inspected were Good. No schools failed their OFSTED in either Authority, as against 14% across the country.  

    Special Schools have regularly been the highest performing sector in the county but this year just two out of four were assessed as Good, the other two Requiring Improvement.  Just one in Special School in Medway was assessed, Bradfields Academy, which was found to be Outstanding.

    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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    Written on Thursday, 02 November 2017 21:01 Be the first to comment! Read 360 times