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I have written the following letter to the candidates for the Conservative and Labour Parties for the forthcoming By-election in Gravesham East this Thursday for a seat on the County Council, following reception of their Election literature, but feel the important issues raised deserve a wider circulation. Unfortunately, at the time of publication of this article, I cannot send the letter directly to the Labour candidate, as neither of the official email addresses provided appears to function.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I write as a constituent of the Gravesham East Constituency, and one who has been involved in education politics in Gravesham (such as exist) over the past thirty years.

I am delighted that both of you in your election literature for the County Council by-election for the constituency, following the sad death of the excellent Member Jane Cribbon, identify one of your key priorities as the shortage in provision of school places in Gravesham, although with no indication of how you would wish to progress this. As a result, I would like to know how you intend to tackle the crisis in both primary and secondary provision in the Borough which has now slipped out of KCC control because of policies implemented by both Labour and Conservative governments. I have been reporting and attempting to get action on the growing pressures in Gravesham Primary Schools for nearly ten years, predating the 2010 peak first identified by KCC, caused by the shortage of places, the desperate unpopularity of some local schools, especially in Gravesham East, and the poor primary standards in too many schools in the Borough which aggravates the issue.  I have been raising these matters with local leaders and senior Councillors in both parties over this time and have been amazed at the lack of interest shown in educational matters......

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

mayfield

I live in Gravesend and am regularly asked why Mayfield Grammar School has vacancies this year, a situation hardly improved when there were just 17 successful appeals  out of 39, although the school had 35 spaces going.

Actually there is no mystery as the explanation is quite straightforward and arises because of a gender difference in the town greater than anywhere else in Kent this year. In the current Year 6, Gravesham has 610 boys in local state schools but only 536 girls. The discrepancy was exacerbated by the children’s performance in the Kent Test where 23% of boys passed but only 21% of girls. This gave a total of 144 selective boys but only 115 girls.....

Published in Peter's Blog

UPDATE Feb 13: Dover Road Primary has just failed another Monitoring Inspection. Inadequate progress. Quote from "Context": "Since the previous monitoring visit the headteacher has left the school. An interim headteacher joined the school in January and is due to remain until August 2013. The Early Years Foundation Stage leader has left the school. Two part-time teachers are covering a vacancy and a maternity leave in the Nursery class. Two further classes are being covered by fixed-term supply teachers because of vacancies. One of the deputy headteachers is covering a further vacancy in a Year 6 class, created when a teacher recruited in December 2012 left the school in January 2013.Classes in Years 5 and 6 have recently been reorganised into ability groups for literacy and numeracy lessons. The school is pursuing conversion to academy status, which is planned to take place at the beginning of September 2013". How could it have come to this????

dover road 7

PREVIOUSLY: I have just come across a story in the Gravesend Messenger, stating that the headteacher of Dover Road Community Primary School in Northfleet left the school over Christmas. It reports that she has signed a "compromise agreement" with Kent County Council ending her employment and settling any disputes. Presumably there would be a confidentiality clause. A notice in the staffroom apparently warns teachers not to comment on this outside the school at risk of disciplinary action. Of course such agreements are not unusual in themselves, and usually cover a financial agreement for the headteacher to go without a fuss. Dover Road  is in Special Measures, and the tenure of headteachers of failing schools increasingly look like that of Football Managers, but in this case, Mrs Smith had been placed in an intolerable situation by previous Kent County Council decisions, described elsewhere in this website.However, in summary,......

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

To be updated. My previous article gives general figures on primary school admissions. 

Thurnham_2

I am fielding many enquiries about infant class appeals and, sadly, having to explain that because of Infant Class Legislation, there is little or no prospect  of success for  most appeals, apart from the following five reasons:.......

Published in News Archive

In 2009, a senior KCC officer produced a confidential paper for the then Director of Education, forecasting there would be an 8% shortfall in primary reception class places in Tunbridge Wells in 2011. This wasn't actually difficult to foresee, as these children had been born two years previously, and so the issue should have been raised earlier. No action was taken at a time when finance may well have been available to tackle the impending crisis.  

In 2010, there were considerable problems in finding primary school placements in Tunbridge Wells.  I wrote a newspaper article publicly outlining the issues, expanding it later in the year. No action was taken, but KCC explained that there wasn't actually a problem. I am not saying that KCC should have responded to my articles, but they had prior access to the same data I had subsequently unearthed. 

In 2011, the expected forecast shortfall of 8% shortage of places in Tunbridge Wells  proved exactly correct........

Published in News Archive

The desperate shortage of primary school places in Gravesham is starkly illustrated this year when, after allocation of Primary Reception class places in March, there were no vacancies in any school in Northfleet, with many children being offered places out of the Borough at a school in Swanscombe. Only three schools had vacancies in urban Gravesend (North of the A2), between them taking in 40 children who did not apply for any of them but were turned away from all three of their preferred schools. Of course the situation will have changed since then with continued movement of families, but my impression from enquiries and information I receive, is that there is still movement into the area so the problems may be even worse.

I warned KCC in December 2008 of the coming problems in both primary and secondary schools in Gravesham, but the written reply from the KCC Cabinet Member at the time dismissed my concerns. They were however very real and an internal KCC Report the following July forecast an 11% shortfall in Infant Reception class places in Gravesham for September 2011, the largest deficit of the only three Districts in Kent with a shortage of places (Dartford is next with 8%).  This enormous shortfall is further masked by the distribution of places, with a considerable surplus of empty spaces in rural Gravesham.

Kent’s response so far has just been to reinstate places at two Gravesend schools that had previously shrunk in size because of their limited popularity with families, but there appear no plans to increase numbers at any of those schools that are oversubscribed. The county believes this is just a temporary blip with numbers beginning to fall again in a couple of years, but data I have from KCC itself for preschool children from birth age upwards shows no such decline. I appreciate that the influx of Eastern European children into the town could be temporary, but the forecast appears to assume that there will be no net movement into the town, in contrast to the pattern of recent years which has also seen considerable immigration from London. Now is the time to face up to this problem and look to expand some of the more popular schools permanently before disaster strikes.

I do appreciate it is difficult to forecast school numbers, and government places Local Authorities under intense pressure to keep vacant spaces to a minimum. However, Kent is a large county and Gravesham children are suffering because of the large number of vacancies in schools in other parts of the county, which inhibits any expansion. However in Tunbridge Wells, the third oversubscribed District (also 8% shortfall), an additional 50 places were created this summer in very popular schools. Our local representatives must respond to the urgent need to create new primary school places where they are needed before additional housing is agreed, otherwise we really shall have a crisis.

Published in Newspaper Articles

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  • 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......

    Read more...
    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……

    Read more...
    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….

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