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Newspaper Articles

This page offers links to articles penned by me for local newpapers, mainly Kent on Sunday (KOS). Most were printed in full, several were the basis for informing news stories. I shall be adding archive articles as time permits.

I find the criticism of a Labour Member of Parliament living in the selective county of Kent, for sending her children to grammar school when she disagrees with academic selection, quite bizarre especially as no alternatives are offered by her critics (the link is just one of many online articles). 

What follows is not, I believe, a political view but one that is purely pragmatic. In Canterbury, where this issue has arisen, 30% of the state school population go to grammar schools at the age of 11, well over the county standard of 25%. So, even the technically comprehensive church schools will have a limited number of children assessed to be of grammar school ability at that age, even assuming that a school whose philosophy is underpinned by faith is an option. 

Whatever parents’ view on the principle of selective education, they still have a parental responsibility to do their best for their children within the system that operates locally. It would surely be perverse not to send an able child, assessed to be of grammar school ability, to the school best suited for their abilities. Certainly, when I was a grammar school headteacher I had children in my care whose parents disagreed strongly with the selective system, including Labour politicians. This did not present a problem for them or for me, as we all agreed that given this was the system, even though they would have it abolished, mine was the most appropriate school for those children.

It is clear after two general elections in which the only discussion about grammar schools from any party was about the possibility of expanding numbers, that there is no general appetite for a break-up of the selective system where it exists, especially with the greatest divide in education receiving no mention whatever. For it has always been a mystery to me why the Left in politics never refers to the biggest fault line, that between state and private schools, with the country’s private sector demonstrably undermining social mobility without being challenged.  Many academically selective private schools, benefitting from historic and private funding sources along with impressive tax breaks and ‘old boy’ networks, offer future life prospects for those able to afford them, that areas without grammar schools cannot hope to emulate.

The Canterbury Labour M.P. is not the only local parent to be publicly pilloried for expressing opinions on this matter, oddly perhaps in a university City that should create a climate of encouraging tolerance and rational debate. However, she should surely not be criticised, nor her children brought into the public domain, for choosing the most appropriate state education option for her children.  Also, strangely, I doubt given the experience of a number of other Labour MPs that she would have been equally vilified for sending her children to the alternative local option, one of Canterbury’s three private schools! 


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Irrelevant Fact: This is the 1000th item of news and information posted on this website. 

You will find the original article on which this item is based, here

In 2009-10, Kent schools permanently excluded 126 pupils, rising to 210 two years later, but falling every year since then, to a low of 58 in 2015-16. Over the same period Medway school exclusions rose from just three pupils excluded to an appalling and record figure of 81 in 2015-16, up 35% on 2014-15. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

In both Local Authorities, the number of families ‘choosing’ Elective Home Education is astonishingly high, with Medway seeing an incredible rise in families taking their children out of school, soaring from 38 to 377 in two years. For some reason, Medway Council is desperately trying to hide the identities of the schools where the worst problems exist.

This article explores the reasons for the stark contrast in outcomes in the two Local Authorities. Government policy is to reduce the number of children excluded from schools, with permanent exclusion (expulsion) used only as a last resort.


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This newspaper article is based on a more comprehensive one, elsewhere in this website. 

2017 has seen a remarkable fall in the number of children applying for places in Kent primary schools, a drop of 679 or 3.8% of the total. As a result, there are 11.1% vacant places in Reception classes across the county, rising sharply from a figure of 6.5% in 2016.  

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 pressure points with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty across their schools.

The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, with just Great Chart, Ashford and Fleetdown in Dartford in the top ten both years. Most oversubscribed school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart, Ashford, with 41. Then come: Cobham, Gravesham with 35; Cecil Road, Gravesham, East Borough Primary, Maidstone, and St Mildred's Infants, all with 34 disappointed first choices; St John's CofE, Maidstone, 32; St Mary's CofE Primary Academy, Folkestone, 30 (a remarkable turn round from 2016 when the school had six vacancies); and Fleetdown and West Hill Primaries, Dartford, along with Langton Green Primary, Tunbridge Wells, all with 29.

At the other end of the scale, 18 schools have more than half their places empty, a sharp rise on last year.  Seven Kent primary schools have had at least two years being half empty or more.

KCC offered places to 404 children in schools they had not applied to as all their choices were full; known as Local Authority Allocated (LAA) children.


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This article is based on four more comprehensive ones, elsewhere in this website: Kent Grammar Schools; Kent Non-Selective Schools; Medway Grammar Schools; Medway Non-Selective schools. 

The allocation of secondary school places took place at the beginning of March and this article surveys some of the consequences of the decisions taken.

The two biggest pressure areas appear to be in Thanet non-selective schools and North West Kent grammar schools, but there are plenty of others.  

The problems in Thanet are caused both by an influx of pupils and a massive polarisation of popularity with every one of the six non-selective schools full on allocation. Many parents try to avoid two schools, Royal Harbour and Hartsdown Academies and as a consequence these two were allocated 166 children who had no school of their choice, more than a quarter of the total in the county. These will include a large number of Children In Care, dispatched by London Boroughs; others are children from the EC and refugees, all bringing their own challenges to the schools. As a direct consequence, three schools are massively oversubscribed, with St George’s CofE, King Ethelbert and Charles Dickens (last Inspection – Special Measures proving no obstacle!) turning away 186, 126 and 53 first choices respectively. The first two are the first and third most popular non-selective schools in Kent, split by Valley Park in Maidstone, which turned away 179 first choices.

At the other end of the county, the pressure on North West grammar schools is intense, brought about through London families looking to secure grammar school places. The six schools have offered 280 out of county (ooc) places between them, including some from north of the Thames, with a further 62 at four Medway grammars. Dartford Grammar School, has placed a limit of 90 places for local boys, selecting those with the highest scores. It has offered places to 79 ooc boys, with many grammar qualified children being denied places at their local school. Dartford Grammar school has gone down the same route, allocating 100 places to local girls, alongside 55 oocs. 


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NOTE: You will also find a briefer variant of this in my blog

The government’s new Green Paper, headed ‘Schools that Work for Everyone’, does nothing to make sense of the country’s fractured education provision, seen at its most prolific in Kent, but instead seeks to increase the kaleidoscope of school types by adding even more variations.

One of its stated aims is the delivery of a diverse school system to enable all children to achieve their potential. Certainly, one can be sure that these proposals will increase diversity.

I do not propose to examine the Green Paper in depth here, but look with bewilderment at proposals to allow faith schools to proliferate and tighten their grip on school admissions. Church schools already add up to around a third of the country’s schools.

The Green Paper explicitly refers to the current large influx of children from Catholic familiesinto the country and county’s schools, this being one of the driving factors of this aspect of the government proposals. The Catholic church refuses to open new schools unless they are given control of 100 per cent of the intake, as distinct from the current 50 per cent ruling for new schools. As a result, government is now seeking to change the rules to get them on side by allowing ALL faith schools to give priority to their followers over 100% of places.

InPoland where many of the new Catholic children originate, 89 per cent of children attend secular state schools, with just 11 per cent in the private Catholic schools. Why therefore should a desire to offer Catholic schools for all drive English education, extending it to all faith schools? Surely, it makes no sense to allow more religious segregation at a time when racial and religious tensions are at their greatest in this country for many years.

Much has been written on the bizarre plan to allow new types of grammar schools to spring up or convert from non-selective schools apparently without regard to their effect on other schools or on those children left behind, or else to expand using unidentified rules to improve social mobility, so I don’t propose to add to it at present.  UPDATE: See article on Meopham School.


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Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 28 August 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here.

Last year the two Thanet grammar schools, Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon, admitted 124 students from non-selective (NS) schools into their Sixth Forms, whilst the two grammars in Folkestone took in just five between them. Dartford Grammar School recruited 107 new students but just two from NS schools. King Ethelbert's School saw 48 students transfer to grammar school Sixth Forms, although four other NS schools had no such transfers.

On the surface, an average intake of 16 NS students across the county for the Sixth Forms of the 32 grammar schools looks healthy, and I have always argued that the opportunity for a second chance to join a grammar school, in the Sixth Form, is a necessary criterion for a successful Selective System across the county. However, this average hides a massive variation, as too many grammar schools focus on recruiting the very top scorers in their chase for league table places.

Alternatives for taking A Levels, the key route to University and many professions, are shrinking with three of the four Further Education Colleges now having abandoned courses, focusing on vocational pathways.

However, there are 18 non-selective schools who run Sixth Forms with over 50 students who took A Levels in 2015, all but one achieving respectable A Level Grades. Largest were: Bennett Memorial (152 students); Hillview Girls (133); Fulston Manor (108); Homewood (103); and St Simon Stock (92). Compare these with the smallest grammar school, Barton Court, with just 76 A Level students.....


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Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 22 May 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here. 

This year’s increase of 591 in the number of children offered places in Kent primary school Reception Classes has been met with a similar increase in the number of school places available, and the welcome news that the proportion of children gaining a school of their choice has also increased, to a record in recent years of 96.7%. Overall, there are 6% empty places, the same as last year, but these figures hide a growing number of local pressures focused on the towns. The biggest problems this year are in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, no empty spaces at all, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.

The ten most popular schools this year are: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone, and  Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant, Westgate on 34; and Herne Infant on 33.

At the other end of the scale, there are fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies. 

I would encourage parents to apply to go on the waiting list for any of their preferences that have not been offered, as there will be movement over the next four months. This is your best chance of getting a school of your choice, as chances at appeal are generally very low because of Infant Class Legislation which legally restricts class sizes. For 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied, just two were upheld.

Further details of the towns under most pressure follow, a more comprehensive picture being available  here. 


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This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar and non-selective schools,  the latter town by town. Pressure points such as Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, one of the most academically successful schools in the county, followed by St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices turned away, second lowest performing school at GCSE in the county.

For further information on the story visit here for grammar schools and here for non-selective schools.

High vacancy rates, threatening a vicious circle of financial losses, which have led to the closure of four schools in the past three years, need to be tackled by Astor College, Castle Community College, Hayesbrook School, High Weald Academy, New Line Learning, and Swadelands School, all with over a third of their provision empty in Year 7.

Kent has seen an extra 704 places put into its secondary schools above the numbers planned for admission this, to meet rising rolls in several areas. As a result, the number of pupils offered their first choice rose by 363, and the number being offered none of their four choices fell by 213 children to just 428, the lowest figure for some years. However, this made little difference to the pressure on popular schools which has never been greater.'''


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Latest News & Comments

Just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman

    News headlines have reported that there were more complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) against Kent education and social services last year than any other Authority, a total of 89, perhaps unsurprising as KCC is the largest Local Authority in the country. 

    I have been looking at complaints about school admissions, exclusions, transport and Special Needs in Kent and Medway. For KCC and Foundation schools, but excluding academies and Free Schools which are considered elsewhere, there was a total of 35 complaints, most against Independent Appeal Panels and their decisions over school admissions. Injustice was found in just 6 complaints, most for delays in making Special Needs provision, several of which were resolved by a small financial settlement. I am anticipating one further outstanding complaint to be upheld shortly.

    In Medway, one out of three complaints was upheld, again for a Special Needs issue, although no injustice was found.

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    Written on Saturday, 12 August 2017 10:22 Be the first to comment! Read 109 times
  • Tough Love Academies: Ebbsfleet; Hartsdown; Oasis Isle of Sheppey

    I have been looking at Kent schools that have abnormally large numbers of pupils dropping out before completing their statutory education, and trying to work out some of the reasons. Three schools leap to the fore because of their exceptional disciplinary requirements, which are clearly unpopular with families, but I also look at several other schools of note below.

    Each of these three Kent schools have featured in the media in the last year because of controversial and tough disciplinary policies, often on minor uniform issues, designed to raise standards of behaviour and which they claim will make them popular with families.  They also all have large parts of their hinterland which are areas of social deprivation.

    However, they share two other common characteristics which raise serious questions about this approach. Families try to avoid all three when choosing secondary schools; and all three have a large number of children being removed from the school to take up Elective Home Education. I look at the relevant data below, along with a look at the approach of each school individually.

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    Written on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 10:26 10 comments Read 937 times
  • Advice on Sixth Form Non-admission and Exclusions: Maidstone Girls' and Invicta Grammars

    Back in January, the Kent Messenger headlined an article with ‘Maidstone: Headteachers of Invicta Grammar and MGGS rubbish unlawful admissions claims(comments at the foot of the article).

    This was in response to my website article: ‘Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions’ exposing the unlawful practices at both schools . The article attracted an unprecedented 23,717 visitors to date along with enquiries from across the country and local and national media. With GCSE and AS results time coming up shortly, this second article is written to help advise families who find themselves in similar situations.

    invicta        MGGS

    With regard to the Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the Local Government Ombudsman will be publishing a decision in September, which is currently embargoed, but I am able to offer advice below to families placed in a similar situation.

    The Headteacher of Invicta Grammar School  made the ridiculous claim that all 22 girls who left Year 12 from the school last summer did so of their own accord, having failed to achieve the school’s high expectations at AS Levels. This has been powerfully refuted by over twenty testimonies from girls who were forced out in this and previous years, mostly published as comments to be found at the foot of my previous article. Although this practice is not uncommon in other schools, although rarely on this scale, no one has challenged my claim that such permanent exclusions are illegal, including the Department of Education. I explore the rules that confirm this, below. 

    So, hardly rubbish in either case; instead very serious issues for the students concerned, for whom neither school appears to have had any pastoral care or responsibility.

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    Written on Thursday, 03 August 2017 20:24 4 comments Read 391 times
  • 2015-16 School Exclusions and Home Education: Medway has no strategy for dealing with record numbers

    Update: See article in Kent on Sunday. Full version here

     Government statistics for Permanent and Fixed Term Exclusions, published today, show that Medway schools are for the third consecutive year amongst the worst in the country for excluding children. Taken in conjunction with the very large number of children leaving Medway schools for Elective Home Education, it is no surprise that Medway Council is unlawfully trying to hide the relevant data as explained below and in a previous article entitled: Medway Council: Incompetent Again.

    For 2015-16, 81 children were permanently excluded from Medway schools, 78 of them from secondary schools. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions, and up 35% on 2014-15. Compare this with Kent, six times as large as Medway, with permanent exclusions down to 58, including 49 for secondary schools, see below.

    There were 3,295 fixed term exclusions in Medway schools, again the highest rate in the South East, and 9th highest in the country, up 12% on 2014-15. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

    Accompanying all this are the 377 Medway pupils who ‘opted’ for Elective Home Education, many of whom will have left school against the threat of exclusion, and again a very high figure in proportion to other Authorities, and whilst a massive increase on 2014-15's figure of 239 pupils, an astonishing and frightening tenfold increase on 2013-14's 38.  

    In total, this represents a frighteningly high number of Medway children being abandoned by the system, and which will inevitably lead many to troubled lives, and long term cost to society. It clear from my analysis below that Medway Council has no idea what to do about the problem, if indeed it wants to do anything. 

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    Written on Thursday, 20 July 2017 21:37 1 comment Read 307 times
  • Academy and Free School News: July 2017

    There has been plenty of activity on the Academy and Free School scene over the five months since my previous article on this theme. There are eleven new academies in Kent, and seven in Medway, as detailed below. There are also another ten new applications for conversion and approvals for eleven new Free Schools in Kent and Medway.

    Three struggling secondary schools have been taken over to become sponsored academies.

    You will find further details on all these developments below, together with the only up to date comprehensive list of academies, Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and Free Schools including applications for conversion in Kent and Medway which is available on this site through the links below. Much of my data comes from the DofE website and a number of other sources, including the OFSTED website for the latest conversions.

    This article also looks at matters relating to Folkestone Academy, Holcombe Grammar , Meopham School, Rainham Mark Grammar, The Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe, and Spires Academy, together with a closer look at possibly the country's smallest MAT, in Medway. 

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    Written on Friday, 14 July 2017 14:54 1 comment Read 504 times
  • 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…….

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    Written on Sunday, 11 June 2017 13:05 2 comments Read 426 times