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Update: See my new article here.
 
The Williamson Trust of six academies currently comprises: one grammar school, Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical school (SJWMS) in Rochester; one All Through School - the Hundred of Hoo Academy (HofH); and four Medway primary schools, All Hallows Primary Academy; Elaine Primary Academy, High Halstow Primary School, and Stoke Community School, three of whom are on the Hoo Peninsula.
                         ElainePA             HundredofHoo               
The Trust is a classic and certainly not unique example of the fallacy that a successful grammar school has the expertise to run other types of school with equal success. The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for the South East formally raised concerns about Elaine Primary in December 2015, following up with a wider Letter of Concern about poor standards at Elaine, All Hallows and Stoke in January 2016. Then in April 2017, the Trust was issued with a Pre-Termination Warning Notice for Elaine Primary threatening to close the school by cutting off its funding.
 
Earlier this week, a Public Relations Company employed by the Trust sent out a Press Release, not mentioning any of this, but explaining in glowing terms how wonderful it is for Elaine Primary to have the opportunity to transfer to a small London Primary Academy Trust. No mention of the appalling education provided for its pupils for the last five years, and indeed further back under Medway Council.
 
This article looks at the issues around this decision in more detail along with a closer look at the Hundred of Hoo Academy and the Williamson Trust.
Published in News and Comments

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…….

Published in News and Comments

Update and Correction Saturday 17th December

There is a sea change in measuring performance in primary schools this year with parents facing a barrage of statistics to assist in school choice and the factors outlined in a BBC article  leading with “Parents are being urged to ignore the latest school league tables, after "chaotic" changes to tests in England.”

Nevertheless, there is important information amongst the mass of data which will enable a high proportion of schools to claim they are performing well by one measure or another and I attempt to point up some of this below, with a strong warning about reliability.

Government has now developed two key measures, firstly about the progress achieved between the age of 7 (Key Stage 1) and 11 (Key Stage 2), measured around a National Average of 0 (zero). Secondly achievement measured by the percentage of pupils in the school reaching a standardised score of 100 in mathematics, English reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG).

The good news in the Kent table is that overall pupils achieved above average progress in each of the three elements, and that 59% of children reached the standardised score across the board, against a National Average of 53%. This is way up on 2015's statistically absolutely average performance

For Medway, the table shows that pupils achieved below national average progress in reading and maths, and average progress in SPAG, leading to a below National Average attainment score of 49% in attainment. It is unclear at this stage whether this is an improvement on last year's bottom place in the country. 

Further details of the county figures below, with some interpretation, together with a look at some individual schools. I conclude with attempting some advice for parents looking for a primary school for their child in September 2017 based on this data.

Published in News and Comments

Several times on the pages of this website, I have written about “the worst ever” OFSTED Report I had read at the time with regard to Kent or Medway schools or academies failing because of incompetent management and leadership. However, the recent Report placing Wayfield Primary School in Chatham in Special Measures leaves the competition standing. In 2013, just before the school was taken over by Griffin, OFSTED had found it a GOOD school.

Wayfield                         Griffin

Whilst the school may indeed have been "Proud to Achieve" in 2013 some excerpts from the current Report describe the shocking fall from grace brought about by the Griffin Trust :

Pupils’ safety and well-being are at risk; Staff manage pupils’ behaviour poorly; Normal discipline has broken down; On occasion, staff lose control of pupils, who are then at risk of being harmed; Too often, pupils become distracted, fool about or are noisy in lessons; Over the past two years, the school’s provision has notably worsened; Pupils’ attainment and progress have fallen catastrophically; Pupils underachieve in all key stages; Pupils are inadequately taught; The leadership and management of the school are weak at all levels; The headteacher is the only senior leader; The Griffin Schools Trust oversees the school unsuccessfully; The governance arrangements, organised by the academy trust, are ineffective”.

Media commentary by Radio Kent and the Medway Messenger on this appalling betrayal of children’s life chances missed my previous story, first reported in the Guardian, that: “in just two years the Trust paid over £700,000 to a company jointly owned by its two chief executives.Three other companies in which trustees of the charity have majority interests received smaller payments that amounted to around £100,000 for “educational consultancy services’”, the trust’s accounts show”. This is a common device by some academy chains to ensure an adequate financial reward for their leaders’ noble endeavours.....

Published in News and Comments

Medway Council has launched its second initiative to improve standards across its schools in three years, this one called “Get Medway Learning” , the previous initiative entitled “Effective Challenge of Underperformance in Schools” having sunk without trace or effect.

The initiative aims to raise the bar in local primary and secondary schools, ensuring children are receiving a quality education and achieving to the very best of their ability, certainly a laudable aim, as for 2013-14, the last year for which results are available, Medway Primary schools came bottom in the country in both Key Stage 2 performance and OFSTED Inspection outcomes.

However, I remain unconvinced it will fare any better than the 2012 attempt, except that perhaps Medway Council is at last realising the seriousness of its situation and the damage being done to Medway children’s education. The only bright sign on the horizon is the continued good performance of Medway secondary schools, producing GCSE results above the national average, and demonstrating they are turning round the underperformance in the primary sector.

The main themes of the initiative are:…..

Published in Peter's Blog

Medway primary schools have come bottom nationally for Key Stage Two results in 2015 for the second time in four years. Medway is surely the worst Local Authority in the country in terms of primary school performance, having been in the bottom five out of 152 Authorities for every year but one since 2009, as shown in the table below. In the most recent figures available for the proportion of children in OFSTED good or Outstanding schools, Medway was also bottom in the country in 2013-14.

According to the Medway Messenger, Mr Mike O'Brien, Cabinet Member for Education, considers that a group of unpaid volunteers, "the Governors are responsible" for this perennial disgrace. He has promised to take appropriate action - and warned governors and teachers to "shape up or ship out". The consistent record of failure is apparently nothing to do with Medway Council or its failing and failed School Improvement Department, an utterly complacent and false position that has been adopted annually and recorded diligently on this website year after year......

Published in News and Comments

OFSTED has published a critical Report into Medway Council's arrangements for supporting school improvement following years of underperformance, declining on an annual basis to last year’s nadir of being bottom Local Authority in the country out of 152 for primary schools in OFSTED assessments, although rising to the dizzy heights of 137th in Key Stage 2 outcomes. By contrast, overall Medway's secondary schools that are all academies and out of Medway Council control perform well on both counts.

The Council has a new school improvement strategy, but the Report records it does not: identify clearly enough what needs to change to drive improvement; show how significant gaps will be closed for underachieving schools; provide sufficient detail of targets for improvement to measure success; identify clearly enough how school improvement staff will be held to account for the impact of their work. Without these vital elements it is difficult to see how significant improvement can be achieved.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Good points include: the work of the early years team; recent school improvement work showing some results, but much of this is too recent to see its full impact; the work of the new interim assistant director for school effectiveness and inclusion, appointed a year ago, noting that her actions are starting to have an impact but limited by available expertise in Medway primary schools; School Leaders and governors who spoke to inspectors report a step change in the local authority's approach.

As a result, Ofsted will continue to monitor the local authority’s arrangements for school improvement. These arrangements are likely to be re-inspected within two years.

I look at the situation in more detail below, including the effect on some individual primary schools........

Published in News and Comments

There has been an effective increase of 50 Reception places in Medway Primary schools for admission in 2015, although with an increase of 144 in the number of pupils admitted there is further pressure on spaces. However, my perception is that there are actually fewer issues this year, as parents have perhaps chosen more realistically and spread their preferences across a wider range of schools. Indeed, I reported earlier this year on the overall picture which saw more Medway children gaining their first choice than in 2014. Of course, none of this helps the 126 children who have been offered none of their choices, over a third of them in Strood.

Pressure is greatest overall in Rainham, with just 6 spaces in its 7 schools.

St Marys catholic Gillingahm       

Most popular school in Medway is St Mary’s Catholic Primary, turning away 32 first choices, followed by: Hilltop (29); Brompton-Westbrook and The Pilgrim both 25; Balfour Infants and St Margaret at Troy Town CofE, both 24, All Faiths Children Community (23); and Cliffe Woods (22).

All Hallows Primary Academy has 67% of its spaces empty, followed by the new Hundred of Hoo Primary Academy with 50%, Twydall Primary 32% and New Horizons Academy in Chatham with 30%.

You will find a picture of the 2014 situation here.

I look more closely at each district below....

Published in News and Comments

 Kent Primary schools have continued to produce a very high pattern of OFSTED outcomes above the national averages since my previous report in February, with 3 more schools ‘Outstanding’, and 12 Assessed ‘Good’ out of the 19 schools inspected, with none failing. Even more pleasing for the families concerned, 10 of these have improved their rating, as against just 4 declining. The three ‘Outstanding’ schools are: Chiddingstone, Sevenoaks; St Martin’s CofE, Folkestone; and Wickhambreux CofE, Canterbury.

             chiddingstone 2       St Martins Folkestone                                                   Wickhambreux    

   

Special mention to St Martin’s, together with Kemsley Primary Academy in Sittingbourne and St Francis Catholic in Maidstone, which have each leapt two categories, Kemsley and St Francis (see below) up from Special Measures to ‘Good.’

In Medway, things also look much better with its first two ‘Outstanding’ schools for two years out of the eight assessed - The Pilgrim Primary in Borstal, and Cliffe Woods Primary, an Academy so independent of Medway Council, both up from "Good"  on their previous assessment. The other six were all assessed as ‘Good’ and, although one has slipped from Outstanding, two others have improved, so overall some improvement on previous results.

      cliffe woods       Pilgrim

At the foot of this article, is a table of the relevant data for both Authorities in 2014/15, compared with the most recent national figures, and you can compare them with 2013/14 via the link here.

Whilst not a primary school, I am also happy to congratulate here Five Acre Wood Special School, Maidstone, on its recent Outstanding OFSTED Report, joining seven other Outstanding Kent Special Schools out of a total of  20, eleven of the others being graded 'Good'.......

Published in News and Comments

 Good news for most Kent and Medway parents as the proportion of children in both Authorities to be offered places later today in a Reception class at a school of their choice, and also in their first choice school, has risen compared with 2014 figures and the against the national trend.

The headline figures are that: 

  1. All overall statistics for Kent and Medway are  an improvement on 2014 figures.
  2. Kent has 85.81% of children awarded their first choice school, up nearly 1% on 2014, Medway 87.08% over 1% higher than 2014.
  3. Number of children placed in Kent is 17,415, up by 318 on 2014, in Medway by 200.
  4. Seven new primary academies are opening in Kent in September, creating 240 additional places.
  5. Sadly, 724 Kent and 126 Medway children have not been offered any school of their choice.
Published in News and Comments
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  • Knole Academy and the Scandal of Exorbitant Headteacher Pay in Kent and Medway

    Update: Shortly after I published this article, the BBC has led with the same issue on its website. 

    The headteacher of The Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, a moderately performing single school academy, was paid £210,000 in 2016-17 making her the highest paid academy head or Chief Executive in Kent and Medway. This is an increase of 35% over the past three years after what can only be described as an irresponsible series of decisions by Governors, bringing the whole process into disrepute, and undermining the credibility of the very real financial crisis in schools, as explained below. By contrast the Principal of Homewood School, the largest secondary school in the county, had a salary of just £110,000 last year, one of majority of secondary heads around or below £100,000.

    knole

    After Knole the next two highest paid heads are the Principals of Leigh Academy and Wilmington Academy, both part of the Leigh Academy Trust, who each received £200,000 in remuneration, including their roles as Directors of the Trust. They were followed by the CEOs of two of Kent’s largest Academy Trusts, both responsible for more than a dozen primary and secondary schools: Swale AT and Leigh AT at £190,000 and £180,000 respectively.

    Grammar School Academy Headteachers are generally paid from around £85,000 to £110,000 annually, with Dartford Grammar School, the largest and most oversubscribed grammar school in the county on the latter sum. Highest paid Grammar School Head is at Rainham Mark Grammar, Medway. with £155,000 (£90,000 for HT salary, £65,000 for Academy Trust CEO), followed by Barton Court, Canterbury, at £125,000 (also a Trust CEO).

    At primary level the previous highest earner, the Head of Meopham Community Academy, has now retired from his £150,000 salary post, his replacement being employed at less than half of that rate. The highest paid heads of schools or multi academy trusts I have found this time round are the same two single standing academies as previously: The Academy of Woodlands in Gillingham, £105,000 in 2015-16, and St Stephen’s Academy, a Junior school in Canterbury on, the same figure for 2016-17.

    I look more closely at the Knole situation, and that of other high paying academies below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 20:29 4 comments Read 305 times
  • Medway Council fails its most vulnerable children

    Medway Council has once again failed its children, this time the most vulnerable, as confirmed by a scathing Ofsted Report on its ‘services’ to children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities, published this week. The report concludes ‘Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice’. I think that is putting it politely. There are strengths identified; it just happens that all these appear to be down to the health service and not education.

    Concerns centre about chaotic management of the ‘Service’, resulting in failure to take necessary action. This can be seen from the following quotes: ’Medway’s education and service leaders do not share one vision and strategy for SEN and/or disabilitiesNo arrangements are in place to ensure effective joint oversight and clear lines of accountabilityLittle progress has been made in addressing several of the pressing priorities for improvement identified as far back as 2012Leaders’ understanding of what has and has not improved in the meantime is limited. I could have chosen many others.

    Medway

    'The collaborative work between professionals and children and their families to plan services and meet individual needs, known as co-production, is weak at both a strategic and individual level' This criticism is underpinned by the heavy criticism of the implementation of Education and Health Care Plans for children with the greatest needs, which are at the heart of Departmental work, and ‘A considerable number of parents shared concerns with inspectors that the needs of their children are not being identified and met sufficiently well’.

    There is of course reference to Medway's record exclusion rates: ‘Although improving, rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusion are still notably higher for pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities in Medway than for similar pupils nationally, as it is for all pupils. Lack of specialist provision has brought serious consequences for pupils with severe SEN or disabilities travelling out of Medway daily on long and very expensive journeys.  

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 10 February 2018 22:33 4 comments Read 284 times
  • Goodwin Academy – SchoolsCompany Trust on the way out?

    Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

    The new Interim Chief Executive of SchoolsCompany Trust has apologised in a letter to parents of pupils at the Goodwin Academy for ‘previous financial failings, which are unacceptable’.

    Sadly, this has come as little surprise to me, as I foresaw issues as early as 2014, when I noted in an article that SchoolsCompany had contributed to the startling decline of the predecessor school Castle Community College (CCC), in Deal from Ofsted Outstanding to Special Measures in three short years. As a reward SchoolsCompany took over as sponsor of the school as recently as July 2016. The school was awkwardly renamed SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, presumably to advertise the name of the Sponsors as a priority, above creating a new school image.     

    The Academy limped on for a period, after 2014, with the 'support' of SchoolsCompany,  unpopular with a third of its places unfilled, and underperforming, although there have recent strong signs of improvement under new school leadership. Unusually, eight of the eleven Company Trustees were paid a salary by the Trust, hardly an inducement for encouraging scrutiny. After the school received a Financial Notice to Improvefrom the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in October, seven of the Trustees resigned including the Executive Principal of the Company This left the school with just four Trustees including the CEO and founder of the company, Elias Achilleos, although he now appears to have been replaced by the new Interim Chief Executive.  The Trust has demonstrably failed some of the Financial Notice's requirements for improvement. 

    Goodwin Academy

    The school will clearly have a future in its new £25 million premises opened four months ago on October 6th, just three weeks before Trustees resigned en masse, but it looks increasingly likely it will not be with Schools Company. Indeed a more than doubling of first preferences to 173 for 2018 admission, shows confidence in the school and its leadership, achieved without obvious input from the few remaining Trust members. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 08 February 2018 10:43 4 comments Read 707 times
  • School Vacancies according to the 2017 School Census for Kent and Medway

    As schools come under tighter financial pressures (never mind official news, but ask your local school how it is managing), pupil numbers become ever more critical as they generate the largest part of the income of each school. This article looks at a number of issues in Kent and Medway highlighted by the October 2017 schools census. 

    Which seven Kent secondary schools have more than 40% of their Year 7 places empty for September 2017? 

    Which four of these were more than half empty in Year 7 for 2016, with two over 40% for all of the past three years?

    Which secondary school lost over a third of its cohort Years 7-11?

    Which two secondary schools, one in Kent one in Medway, lost over a fifth of their cohort Years 9-11,
    a pattern associated with off-rolling.  

    Which six grammar schools lost over 20% of their pupils at the end of Year Eleven?

    What happened after last year’s Year 12 expulsion scandal at Invicta Grammar and elsewhere?

    Which six primary schools (two in Medway) failed to fill half their places for each of the last two years?

    Answers to these questions and more below.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 01 February 2018 08:53 4 comments Read 620 times
  • Kent GCSE Results Final Outcomes

    Medway Outcomes here

    This is the second year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replace the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is slightly below the National Average of -0.03, at -0.11.

    Meopham 2

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent exactly equalling the National score of 46.3 ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case. 

    Headlines: the Grammar School progress table is no longer the sole preserve of West Kent and super-selectives with four girls' schools  invading the top eight. Highworth, Invicta, Folkestone Girls' and Maidstone Girls have joined Tonbridge, TWGGS, and Dartford Girls', leaving Dartford as the only boys school.   

    Top non-selective school is Bennett Memorial, one of six church schools in the top ten, the top three ever present also including St Simon Stock and St Gregory's. For the second consecutive year there are remarkable performances by Meopham School and Orchards Academy, neither of which have the built in advantages of other top performers. Six schools are below the government floor level with well-below average progress, down from eight last year, and so  facing government intervention. 

    Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls'. These are the same schools as in 2016, balanced by five boys and one mixed grammar at the foot.  The Non-selective table is led by three church schools, Bennett Memorial leading the way above two grammar schools. Four non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables.

    Orchards 1

    Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 26 January 2018 12:46 Be the first to comment! Read 472 times
  • Holcombe Grammar loses its bid to go Co-Ed. An excellent decision by the DfE in the interests of Medway children!

    I make no apologies for this being the fourth consecutive news item about Medway on this site but, as my previous articles suggest, the education system in the Authority has become unstable, with self-interest by academy chains driving decisions.

    Chatham Boys 3

    The controversial proposal for Holcombe Grammar School (previously Chatham Grammar School for Boys) to become co-educational has just been turned down for the second time by the DFE. This was no doubt for sound reasons, including those I have identified previously, most recently here.  When the school first proposed the change, it made clear in its paperwork that it did not care about any damage a change would cause to Chatham Grammar School for Girls by increasing the number of girls' school places where there was already a surplus. It would also alter the balance of grammar school provision in Medway to just one heavily oversubscribed boys' grammar and three girls' schools, along with two mixed grammar schools.

    This is one of the worst of a number recent proposals for change by Medway secondary schools, the reality being that neither Chatham grammar school was attracting enough local children to be viable in the long term at that time. 

    BUT: Congratulations to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which runs Holcombe Grammar School and features in most of my recent Medway articles, by being identified in a government analysis as the highest performing Multi-Academy Trust nationally in KS4 (GCSE) Progress 8 Assessment Tables
    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 25 January 2018 15:11 6 comments Read 485 times