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The Leigh Academy Trust is proposing to extend the age range of the Leigh UTC (University Technical College) to cover the age range of 11-14 with the support of KCC, to increase the number of secondary school places available in Dartford. One must applaud any sensible opportunity to ease the pressure on Dartford places, however the proposal raises a number of important questions.

Leigh UTC 1 

The plan is to build an 11-14 ‘school’ on vacant land opposite the current premises, called ‘The Inspiration Centre’ to cater for an intake of 120 children from September 2017, also working with Dartford Council to create an adjacent outdoor sports complex for all students (it is not clear if this is exclusively for Leigh Trust students).  The students will follow a normal curriculum before going on the UTC offering with its increased focus on engineering and computer science from Year 10 onward, being joined by up to 30 students from other schools. 

Published in Peter's Blog

This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.

There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester. 

 The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........

Published in Newspaper Articles

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator has ruled on a number of complaints about decisions made by Dartford Grammar School (DGS) and Dartford Grammar School for Girls (DGSG) to award more of their places to high scoring pupils in the Kent Test at the possible expense of local children. He also considered complaints about sixth form admission policies and also about failures in consultation about the proposals. The complaints were submitted submitted by parents and governors of neighbouring grammar schools in Bexley. You will find the determination (decision) here. 

DGGS                       DGS

In the biggest area of complaint, the Adjudicator does not find fault in the changes in priority at the expense of local children.  

With regard to the sixth forms, the main faults in the admission process and criteria at the two schools are also applicable to many other secondary schools in the county, a regular issue raised with me by parents whose children have been denied entry, further details here.   

Both schools failed to consult properly on their changes, although the Adjudicator oddly argues that as there were few responses (not surprising if few knew about them), there appears to be no need to find a remedy.

A key and surely controversial section not directly related to the complaints arises from the provision of the ‘unique’ International Baccalaureate Curriculum beginning in year 7 at DGS. The Adjudicator notes that the nature of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum is seen by both the school and the Local Authority as not being suitable for all qualified applicantsand for this reason the school has “ …attracted pupils from a wider reaching catchment area, as a result of this niche which they have created in the education market”, to quote the LA”. To me this is a remarkable statement, for surely, if the IB is not suitable for some local children then the admission arrangements should be changed to reflect this rather than allowing them to enter and struggle. Alternatively, and highly preferable for me, would be to amend the curriculum arrangements so that all children admitted could access the curriculum.  

I expand on all these issues below:........

Published in News and Comments

Recent correspondence between Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks and Michael Gove, Secretary of State, appears to suggest that any decision on the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks is far from clear cut.

Meanwhile, grammar school provision at Dartford Grammar looks set to increase, targeted at the ablest pupils from South East London.

Proposed Satellite Grammar School in Sevenoaks

The letter from Michael Fallon, dated 7th October, once more makes the case for the satellite, but finishes “I urge you to make a speedy decision”. Quite rightly, as time is passing, and the target date of opening in September 2015 relies on the building being mainly completed within the next 19 months. Planning permission may be working through, but not a brick can be laid until the decision is made, and any legal challenges resolved.

Mr Gove replied on 24th October: “Thank you for your letter of 7 October, about the provision of school places. I understand the difficulty pupils and families face in securing a suitable school place, and the distance many have to travel. Primary legislation prohibits the introduction of new selective schools and we must judge the proposals carefully to test whether they represent new schools or expansions.The Education Funding Agency (EFA) is assessing the proposals and will present its findings to ministers shortly. We will notify each school in writing as soon as a decision has been reached. In reaching our decision, we will consider all the evidence that has been presented through the process, and in correspondence with each academy trust. Thank you for writing to me on this important matter”.

Clearly, the central issue holding up proceedings is the one picked out by Mr Gove’s underlining: is the proposal for a new school or an expansion? ........

Published in News Archive

I now have detailed information on Kent and Medway primary school admission offers for September 2012. On the surface, all looks well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, with rising rolls the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a worrying rise of 45%.

You will find more general information in a separate article below.  I have started to provide more detailed information on difficult areas, via the links below. 

Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for (you will find an earlier article on part of the problem here) and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include:........

Published in News Archive

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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.

  • 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:
    • 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.
    • 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:
    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 17 November 2017 22:19 Be the first to comment! Read 167 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.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 16 November 2017 18:33 Be the first to comment! Read 357 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.…
    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 15 November 2017 21:39 Be the first to comment! Read 384 times
  • 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 313 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 324 times
  • Free School Policy failures create secondary school places crisis in both Thanet and Tunbridge Wells
    Update 7 November
    This article triggered a wider and more general look at pressures on school places across Kent and Medway on BBC SE this evening 

    The problems in both areas have been caused by the failure of appropriate sponsors to come forward to adopt planned new schools. This is happening because of the seriously flawed government Free Schools process, which is now required to deliver all new schools.

    Large temporary or permanent expansions of other local schools in these two Districts are now necessary to meet the shortfalls, which will inevitably cause a change of character in them, if indeed they give approval. The independence of academies means that KCC has no power to force them to take additional children, although it is legally responsible for the provision of sufficient places!  

    Neither District had a single vacancy on allocation of places last March, in spite of Thanet schools managing to creating an additional 71 places to meet requirements, with a further estimated 183 places needed for 2018. New plans for a proposed Free School include a possible temporary base in Deal, 16 miles along the coast from 2019, if other places cannot be found locally for that year.  

    In Tunbridge Wells, 190 temporary places have been proposed for 2018 if agreed by the schools concerned, with ongoing discussions for subsequent years. Unfortunately, the site for a proposed new Free School in TW has now been lost, and a replacement cannot be delivered until at least 2021, so the future looks very unclear.  

    I expand on the proposals for the two Districts below….

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    Written on Monday, 23 October 2017 22:51 1 comment Read 1205 times