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Wednesday, 30 December 2015 01:48

KOS: Personal Review of Education Stories of 2015

As part of their Review of 2015, I was asked by Kent On Sunday to write an article about Education in Kent and Medway for the year. 

The article appeared under the following photo, taken at the recent Conference on the Kent Test, headed: "As pressure grows on teachers, is 2016 going to provide any relief? - Probably not according to former headteacher and education adviser Peter Read in his year report". 

KOS WK 44 15 Kent Test 0754 (2)

 

This is my personal choice of education stories affecting Kent and Medway children in 2015, most featured elsewhere on my website where you will find further details of all the items via the links. 

The key themes are the pressure on school places, the inexorable drive for higher examination performance, and  the frightening increase in turnover of teachers and headteachers - all certain to remain amongst the major stories in coming years.....

Pupil numbers are rising sharply, with the recent increase in primary demand now about to hit Kent secondary schools, whilst several in Medway struggle at the end of a sharp fall in numbers. A new six form entry secondary school in Maidstone has been approved for 2017, with many popular schools expanding. Against this are set the sudden closure of Oasis Hextable Academy, the long anticipated demise of Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate, and the consultation about the surely inevitable closure of Pent Valley Technology College in Folkestone, all in 2015.  As with Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury which closed last year, the plan is to mothball the Pent Valley site until demand for places leads to a new school being built in 2018.   

Two new 14-19 university technology schools have opened in the past two years, one in Dartford, the other in Chatham. An increasing proportion of Kent children now transfer to grammar schools, currently running at 30% of the population (29% in Medway), which has a negative impact on the non-selective schools. In addition, Government pressure is forcing these schools to adopt a more academic curriculum, unsuitable for too many children, producing what government regards as an unacceptable fall in their examination performance, with the number of Kent schools failing to reach 30% A-C Grades at GCSE nearly doubling to 15 in the past year. St George’s CofE, Broadstairs, is about to become an all through 4-19 school, joining Folkestone Academy, John Wallis School in Ashford, and Hundred of Hoo School in Medway. Chatham Grammar School for Boys is controversially proposing to go mixed from September and to admit children on assessment by a Governors Committee if it has places vacant after normal allocation.

The biggest pressures in primary schools come in urban areas, with no vacant spaces at all in Reception classes on allocation last April in urban Dartford, Folkestone and Sevenoaks schools and just 2% in Ashford, Gravesham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. 

In terms of quality of education, Kent and Medway are heading in different directions in terms of primary school performance, with Medway Council clearly not fit for purpose, being the worst authority in the country in both OFSTED outcomes and test performance in 2015, underlining a situation that has run for far too many years. Kent, which shared poor performance a few years ago, has now improved following tough action by KCC and is now producing results at the national average, although could still do better, as shown by secondary pupils in both Authorities who continue to perform well above the national average at GCSE.

However, the intense pressure to improve standards has more than its fair share of casualties, with five of the headteachers of Kent’s 18 coastal non-selective schools losing their jobs this year, four in 2014, another three at risk and two schools closing, mainly because of poor results. A high number of primary headteachers have also lost their jobs in the drive for higher standards. Headteachers’ posts advertised are attracting fewer and fewer applicants as it has become a high risk job in many areas. We not only have a serious shortage of good applicants coming forward for all teaching posts, but the turnover of classroom teachers, citing overwork, pressure from above, bullying, and lack of appropriate training and support in some schools, together with lack of respect for the profession, is frightening, with four in ten newly qualified teachers leaving the profession in their first year. In some primary schools as many as half the staff left at the end of the summer, so it was pleasing to see the main leader article in Kent on Sunday earlier this month highlighting these vital issues.

Inevitably, the selective system has featured, the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School annex still waiting, at the time of writing, to see if a legal challenge is forthcoming. For what it is worth, I think the proposal will go ahead, creating up to another 120 girls’ grammar school places in West Kent. This still leaves a growing shortage of boys’ grammar school places over the next few years in West Kent, although many grammar schools have expanded their intake to meet demand. It is good to see Kent’s most selective school, The Judd in Tonbridge, changing its admission rules to give priority for 85% of its places to local boys, the two Wilmington grammars having been down this route for 2015 easing the pressure on places for local children. There are increasing demands to widen social access to grammar school places, and KCC is setting up a Select Committed to explore ways forward.   

The biggest success story in Kent is surely its Special School sector, with nearly half of all schools currently graded ‘Outstanding’ by OFSTED. The only blot on this landscape was KCC’s mismanagement of Furness School, catering for children with High Level Autism, leading to a very public failed attempt to shut down the provision.

Kent and Medway now have eight new Free Schools between them, with two more to come in the next two years and. in contrast to some other parts of the country, these are generally proving to be a success story adding to the level of quality provision.

Government wants all schools converted to academy status by 2020, in spite of the limited evidence that academisation improves standards. Currently, 81% of Kent secondary schools or in process of conversion, with 32% of primaries. For Medway the figures are 88% and 38%. Over half of the 23 Kent primary schools who failed to reach the government floor standard at Key Stage 2 this summer are academies, many of which have had a troubled time since their change in status, with three being forced to change sponsors after failure by their original ones. This is a part of the ‘game’ of Academy Monopoly, as too many Trusts seek to emulate successful businesses in their dealings with schools, effectively engaging in takeovers, mergers and transfers as reported on my website. Three Academies: Astor College in Dover; Chantry Primary in Gravesend, and Oasis Skinner Street Primary in Medway have all received heavy warning letters from government in the last year about their poor performance,  the last two having been threatened with closure if they do not improve.

What is certain is that the education map is changing faster than at any time I can remember in my forty years of working in the county, with government more firmly in the driving seat than ever before. I see no sign of relaxation of this centralised and politicised grip in the near future, so hang on for another bumpy ride in 2016. 

Last modified on Sunday, 26 February 2017 18:00

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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. 
    • As last year, the schools with the highest proportion of Kent successes are drawn from across the county. However, the schools are all different from last year: Bidborough CofE VC (Tunbridge ~Wells) – 69%; Stowting CofE – 67%; Bridge & Patrixbourne CofE (Canterbury) – 66%; Lady Boswell’s CofE VA (Sevenoaks); Ryarsh (Malling) – 62%; and Sheldwich (Faversham) – 62%.
    • There is yet another leap by 600 children in Out of County Passes, but going  on last year’s pattern, only around 15% of whom will apply and be offered places in Kent grammars .
    • 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.
    The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here
    The government Free School programme appears to be in difficulties, with problems for some new schools of financing appropriate sites and finding suitable sponsors. There is a full list of local Free Schools here; and examples of the difficulties 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