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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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  • Holcombe Grammar: Another Plan to Change Character?

    The 2018 Admission Appeals process is a pointer suggesting Thinking Schools Academy Trust has yet another plan to change the character of Holcombe Grammar School. It is to be changed from a school serving its local community well, to one dedicated to attracting high scorers in the Medway or Kent Tests no matter where they are drawn from.

    Currently, Holcombe Grammar has a Planned Admission (PAN) number of 120. For September 2018 entry it offered 148 places topping up the PAN with 28 offers to boys living in London Boroughs as far away as Croydon. It then declared itself full in spite of a previous claim that ‘We have the capacity to provide enough places for every boy and girl who wants one’.

    Chatham Boys

     

    The Case for the School from the Trust to the Appeal Panel is a document  riddled with issues. Most importantly it completely misleads the Appeal Panel by providing a gross misrepresentation of how the Medway Test works, as explained below. It also states that ‘students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School, steering the Panel to select additional boys who have been found selective (probably through the Kent Test), but live too far away to secure a place initially. In the event just four appeals were upheld out of some 65, by a Kent Panel who appeared out of their depth, in sharp contrast to the 30 successes of 2017, typical of previous years.

    The school is rightly proud of its GCSE performance having been second and third of the six Medway grammar schools in terms of both Progress 8 and Achievement 8 in the past two years, demonstrating its great capability to take local Chatham boys with moderate Medway Test scores through to strong performance. All this is now to be thrown away in the pursuit of glory, using pupils imported from London each year, including 10 from Greenwich for September, nearly 30 miles away.

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  • Cedar Federation, Gravesend: Ifield Special and King's Farm Primary Schools Celebrate Excellent Ofsted Outcomes

    Ifield    

    Kings  Farm 2018

    Ifield School celebrates its third successive Outstanding Ofsted assessment and King's Farm, brought to its knees four years ago by a headteacher now banned from the profession, is now Good in every respect, in a very powerful Report.

    The Federation saw a change of Executive Headteacher in September when Pam Jones, OBE, retired after a stellar career, and was succeeded by Abbie Birch, moving from the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector, having previously been a headteacher in Kent.

    If anything, the achievement at King's Farm is the more powerful, having risen like a Phoenix from the train wreck of 2014. Taken over by the Cedar Federation that year, now: ‘All leaders, including governors, are uncompromising in their high aspirations for every pupil. They are relentlessly driving improvement and accept nothing but the best. The executive headteacher and the head of school model the high standards expected. An exceedingly positive and respectful ethos permeates the school’.

    The strength of the transformation can be measured by: ‘In 2017 the school’s results at the expected standard for combined reading, writing and mathematics were the most improved in Kent, with an impressive rise of 34% from results in 2016’.

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    Written on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 13:07 4 comments Read 1927 times
  • Leigh Academies Trust and The Williamson Trust to explore merger

    Update at foot of article

    The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

    Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

    Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

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  • Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018

    There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

    A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

    Brent Outstanding 1

    There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

    East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

    The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

    I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06 2 comments Read 1088 times
  • Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.

    Last Updated 29/05

    One of the Turner School Visions:

    We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,

    which we interpret as being the whole person.

    Turner Schools, an Academy Trust whose leaders have no problem with schools being profit making enterprises, appears to be heading for difficulty with each of its four Folkestone projects. Currently Folkestone Academy is the only non-selective school serving the town. It is to be joined in September by the Turner Free School, to be opened on the site of the old Pent Valley School. The Trust also runs two Folkestone primary schools acquired in January 2017 from the failed and now closed Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and both struggling to attract pupils.

    One problem I, and surely most enquirers, have with the website for the Trust with its sections for  each of the four schools, is that it appears to be aimed at an audience of academics and teachers. This is in contrast with every other school website I have visited which set out to be attractive to parents and potential parents, providing them with much valuable information rather than empty words and aspirations.  

    I look at all four schools in more detail below on separate pages, underneath a broader look at the Trust, with the following links to each school: Turner Free School; Folkestone Academy; Morehall Primary & Martello Primary You can see a fascinating variety of views in the comments at the foot of the page. 

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    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27 27 comments Read 4802 times