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Index

See article in Kent on Sunday, 27 May 2017

2017 has been a very good year for Primary school admissions in Kent with 97.4% of families being awarded a school place of their choice, up from 96.6% in 2016. This has been brought about by a combination of 267 extra places created since the 2016 allocations including 30 in one new school, together with a remarkable fall of 679 children or 3.8% in the total applying for places. Overall there are 11.1% vacant places in the Reception classes, rising sharply from 6.5% in 2016. This article follows on from my first look at the general data, here, and explores the pressure areas looking at oversubscription and vacancies across the county.

There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school but the new Bishop Chavasse Free School will ease matters; 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 with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty in their schools. 

Once again the most popular schools vary considerably from last year, with just Great Chart, Ashford (3rd in 2016) and Fleetdown in Dartford (first last year) occurring in top 10s for both years. Most popular school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart with 41. You will find the full list of high preferences below.

Slade             Great Chart

At the other end of the scale, one unfortunate school with a Good OFSTED, and sound KS2 results had no first choices, and offered just one place (!), whilst another 17 schools have more than half of their places empty, a sharp rise on last year. As financial pressures mount in schools, such low numbers would become critical if repeated.

I look at each district in more detail below, with a brief note on admission to Junior Schools.  The outcomes for Medway primary schools will follow shortly…...

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

Primary School Key Stage Two test performance tables were published yesterday which, along with last week’s Annual OFSTED Report, confirm yet again that Medway Council is responsible for running the worst primary schools in the country. The Local Authority has again come bottom of the National Key Stage 2 League tables, having been in the bottom five every year bar one since 2009, and with a lower proportion of children in Good or Outstanding OFSTED schools than any other of the 153 Local Authorities in the country for the second consecutive year.

Kent has fared much better this year, starting from a very poor base-line four and more years ago, and is now around or above the national average by both measures, having successfully adopted tough actions to improve standards.

 

My Nominations for Best Performances at Key Stage 2, as explained below

   Chattenden1      Ethelbert Road        Temple Ewell   Rodmersham

The article below looks at performance in the two Authorities in greater detail, along with notable performances from local schools, both strong and weak......

Published in News and Comments

Kent primary schools have overall had an excellent first half of the year with regard to OFSTED Inspections, with 5 schools Outstanding, 15 Good, 8 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures. More importantly, of the 28 schools inspected an impressive 13 have improved their rating, with just 3 declining. One school, Warden House Primary in Deal has leapt two grades to Outstanding.

Warden House

Warden House Primary School

Sadly, Medway continues to limp along at the bottom, although with just 6 schools inspected this is too small a sample to draw any hard conclusions. Whilst 4 Good, 1 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures sounds reasonable, and is above the national average, not one of these have improved their assessment and 2 have got worse.....

Published in News and Comments
Sunday, 18 January 2015 00:00

Stansted Primary School to close

KCC informed parents of children at Stansted CofE Primary School, at a meeting on Thursday, that the school was being considered for closure following a series of poor OFSTED Reports, declining numbers as children were withdrawn from the school and sent elsewhere, and consequent financial difficulties. Stansted is in the Malling area of Kent. 

Stansted

This decision has comes as no surprise, as anticipated when I wrote my previous article below just a week ago, following the latest OFSTED Report,  with OFSTED reporting the number of children having fallen to 35 at the time of the Inspection (it is 34 now). Sadly, the decision to consider closure  is the consequence of bad management and governance at the school, with parents losing confidence with a series of temporary headships, turn-over of teachers, poor teaching, seeing other children removed and overall poor reputation.

KCC has now offered each of the remaining children a place in another school, making the decision to close inevitable. Parents have two weeks to accept or decline the offer. ……..

Published in News and Comments

The 2014 National Primary School Achievement tables have now been published showing major improvements for Kent and a slight improvement for Medway over last year.

Kent has continued its steady increase against national norms, with 79% of schools achieving Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in reading, writing and maths, the same as the national average – in 2013 Kent was 1% below, and in 2012 2% below. 19 schools had 100% of their pupils achieving this level up from last year’s twelve, details below, with particular mention for Bodsham CEP School who also came top of the county table for percentage of pupils achieving Level 5.   

Bodsham                    

Kent is also performing above the national norm: by counting Level 5 scores; and with the proportion of pupils achieving Level 4b in each of reading, writing and maths; and also in the average point score. Well done! There are also some very welcome improvements at schools I have previously criticised, such as Tree Tops Academy and Molehill Copse Primary School, details below.  Eight schools are below the government Floor Standard of 45%, a fifty per cent reduction on last year’s 16 schools although, worryingly, all but one one of these has declined in performance on last year. 

Medway, at 75% remains 4% below the national average, the same as 2013, when it was 144th out of 150 Local Authorities, and 6% below in 2012 when it was in last place, although it has now crept up to 140th, so there is improvement. What is pleasing in Medway is that there is just one school, Phoenix Junior Academy, below the Government Floor Standard of  schools achieving 45% at Level 4, whereas last year there were two. Top school is Chattenden Primary, 100% Level 4s and top of the Level 5 Table.

One has to approach the whole Key Stage 2 outcomes with caution, remembering the enormous pressure on schools to deliver, with headteachers’ jobs at stake. I talk to many Year 6 parents in state schools in the summer term each year, and habitually ask if their children have done anything interesting in school. Consistently the answer is “No, they have been practising SATs”. I doubt it’s that bad, but it is a strong indicator. The consequence is that KS2 results may be partially a reflection of the proportion of time and the coaching skills employed, rather than the real quality of the school. Nevertheless, with this caveat, KS2 results are an important indicator, published in time for primary admissions. Sadly, this year two Kent schools have seen their KS2 results suppressed by the Standards and Testing Agency for alleged cheating, such is the pressure to do well.

Further details below………

Published in News and Comments

Most of the cases of “disappearing primary school headteachers” who have been removed by Kent County Council, sometimes in an inappropriate manner, cannot be reported as the headteachers sign agreements not to speak out in exchange for inducements to ease their departure. I have written several previous articles about this situation.

However, one has surfaced this week where Simon Webb, an officer of KCC, is reported to have acknowledged in writing that the Authority did not have the powers of intervention to carry out the initial suspension of a primary headteacher and also his wife, both employed at St Francis Catholic Primary School in Maidstone. The allegations are carried in the Kent Messenger.

st francis

 

Also below, I cover the case of a headteacher who cannot be named because she has signed a termination agreement, whose suspension also appears  to seriously break employment law and procedures; and catch up with the story of St John's CofE Primary in Canterbury.

Kent County Council's justification for the unreasonable way they have treated so many of their primary school headteachers, often appearing to go outside employment law, appears to be that there is no other way of forcing up standards and indeed KCC reports that Key Stage Two standards have risen this year to match national standards. Good news indeed,after so many years of poor overall performance in the county but at what price? Is the removal of around 5% of Kent's primary headteachers leaving many of the schools in a state of disruption really the central factor in  school improvement across the county, with all the other initiatives by Kent to raise standards not playing  a part.......

Published in News and Comments

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

In 2012, Kent County Council, worried about the low performance achieved by our primary schools, laid out its strategy to improve standards in “Delivering Bold Steps for Kent”. This document set as a central policy aim for 2015:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. This article explores some of the unintended consequences of that aim.  

Just a year off the target date, OFSTED outcomes for Kent primary schools have actually fallen, compared both to previous performance and also to national norms over the same period. Since September 2013, 16 Kent primary schools have failed their OFSTEDs  out of a total of 103 inspections, three times the national average. There is a fall in the proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected by OFSTED from last year’s dire figures which placed Kent 133rd out of 151 Local Authorities to a new low up to the end of May. In 2012, 61% of Kent’s Primary schools were classified as Good or Outstanding, a figure that the Document described as “clearly unacceptable”. One wonders therefore how the Authority will describe the current shocking figure of 53%, (down again from last year’s 56%) compared to a national average of 59%. 30 of the schools inspected have even seen the grade assessed declining from last time around, with half a dozen of these declining by two grades.

Published in Newspaper Articles

National Key Stage Two SATs have been published this week, producing predictable overall figures for Kent and Medway. The tables provide a wealth of statistics but of particular important are the number of children in each school with a Key Stage Two Level Four in Reading, Writing and mathematics.

Medway continues with its dreadful pattern of being at the foot of the National Table, a slight improvement (of which they have made much) to sixth from the bottom in the whole country out of 152 Local Authorities from the absolute bottom in 2012. Kent continues to be consistently just below average.  

The paradox is that at KS4 or GCSE, the most recent results show that Medway with 61.2% of its students scoring 5 GCE Grade C’s including English and maths or better, against a national average of 58.8% and Kent at 61.3% are both well above the national averages. These pose the key question: why is it that, in both Kent and Medway, primary school outcomes are so poor overall, compared with very good progress in our secondary schools? This difference is equally strongly emphasised by looking at my previous article on the recent annual OFSTED Schools Report and in a recent article in Kent on Sunday

One key difference....

Published in News and Comments
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  • 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.

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 12 August 2017 10:22 Be the first to comment! Read 155 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.

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 10:26 10 comments Read 973 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 5 comments Read 507 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 323 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 524 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 443 times