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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….

Published in News and Comments

East Kent College is opening a Technical School at its Broadstairs campus in September 2015, in just eight months time, catering for students aged 14-19. 

There is a copy of its full press release lower down this page, released today. 

The press release describes an unusual situation, where a new school, run by a high attaining college, can be set up apparently without permissions unlike the current University Technical College (UTC) in Dartford and the proposed one in Medway that have had to jump through very public hoops to get approval. Neither can i find details of any consultation with the local community.

Class sizes will be limited to 20, and the curriculum will focus on English, mathematics and science along with 'one of two vocational pathways - either Catering and Hospitality or Early Years and Childcare', aiming for 9 GCSEs or equivalent. 

It is surely not a coincidence that the press release has been produced on the same day as GCSE results have been published, which has placed the Thanet non-selectives in the spotlight for disappointing results, as explained in my article below. Clearly the College is looking to benefit from their difficulties and will certainly look an attractive option to many young people in underperforming schools. For example, those in the Marlowe Academy, which prides itself on its vocational provision, will be very tempted to jump ship from a school which is already struggling badly with numbers, as also explained below.  I can't see how the academy will survive this latest blow.....

Published in Peter's Blog
Update 24th January (original article below): Over two weeks on from my article, below, and eight weeks on from publication of its latest damning OFSTED Report, The Marlowe Academy has neither published the Report on its website, as it is required to do by the Department of Education, nor has it given any indication what action it is taking about the Report, preferring to take comfort in the following statement, released to KentonlineIt is the case the Marlowe Academy faces challenges, and as Ofsted’s letter states, governors are in discussion with the DfE about ways to address the issues that have been highlighted. It is not appropriate or helpful at this stage to speculate about what measures may be taken.
Marlowe Academy
Neither has the academy published its final 2013 GCSE results as required by the Department for Education, nor its English Baccalaureate results, nor the link to Government Performance Tables, enabling parents to compare results with other schools, also required. There are also other publication requirements omitted. According to the letters home section on the website, parents have not even been informed of the OFSTED outcome. Instead the following news item was posted on the website on 16th January, tucked away under the utterly misleading headline "Parents may have been concerned to read an unfortunate article in the local press, criticising the Marlowe Academy. We are pleased to say that the Marlowe Academy can report some very good news". It continues: Applications for September 2015 have increased significantly; Our current Year 7 students are making excellent progress; Year 11 students are highly motivated to succeed this year following promising Mock results; We anticipate another excellent year for our sixth form; ‘It is a fabulous school’ said one of our parents in our November parent survey". It really is difficult to know how to respond to this vacuous response to a Kent Messenger article revealing the appalling OFSTED Inspection Report to parents who would otherwise not know the school had even been inspected. Instead,......
Published in Peter's Blog

Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, just three years after being found “Good”. This follows the even sharper decline of Castle Community College  in Deal, from “Outstanding” to Special Measures in March, but is all the more surprising as there appeared few signs of decline to the outsider, with very good GCSE results in previous years, a well established headteacher with a good reputation and parents queuing up to send their children to the school.

Charles Dickens

 However, as I warned in a previous article, the new GCSE regime, along with a new Inspection regime, is going to provide Kent’s non-selective schools with a strong challenge.

Academically, the school steadily improved its confirmed 5 GCSE A-C including English and maths to a sound 53% in 2013, and the Report notes that the school has reached the government’s current floor standard of 40%, which sets minimum standards for attainment and progress. However, along with the large majority of Kent’s non-selective schools, there has been a strong dip for the unconfirmed 2014 results to 34%, connected with the changes in GCSE result calculation. This will have played its part in influencing the decision.  

The problem I have with this Report is that whilst it reads as the most critical I have ever read of a Kent secondary school (worse even than Castle), it almost appears to have lost objectivity and to be deliberately vindictive: “boys’ shirts are often hanging out untidily”! hardly the stuff of serious reporting. This sense is compounded by the fact that the Inspection Team invited the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, to join them on the second day of the Inspection, or was it that the findings of the team were so awful, they needed him to see them for himself?

So what are the key issues? The reality is that this is a damning Report, with copious evidence cited to back it up:.....

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

Drapers Mills Primary Academy in Ramsgate has just joined two other Thanet Primary Academies in trouble, all three run by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), who have been failed by OFSTED, becoming yet another academy to decline in category since conversion. Today, OFSTED has published an equally scathing Report on TKAT itself, confirming that conversion to become a Sponsored Academy is no panacea for success (parents at Twydall Primary and Kings Farm Primary, Gravesend, take note!)........

Drapers Mills

 School motto: Dream it! Believe it! Achieve it!

Published in News and Comments

Dame Janet Primary Academy in Ramsgate, created on 1st December 2012 from the two predecessor schools, Dame Janet Infant & Junior Schools, has recently been the subject of a withering OFSTED Report. Last July I wrote in an article entitled “KCC hands over low performing schools to Academy Trusts”: “A classic example is Dame Janet Community Infant School in Ramsgate, placed in Special Measures by OFSTED in January. A recent follow up OFSTED inspection is highly critical describing progress as inadequate.  KCC ought to have poured in resources to bring it back on track; instead OFSTED considers that KCC’s "Statement of Action has not had an impact on bringing about improvement". Never mind, the Report states that KCC is developing plans to change the status of the school, and it will become an academy sponsored  by Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT)”. KCC therefore absolved themselves of responsibility for the failing school, along with four other Thanet primaries all handed over to TKAT. Sadly this abdication has, initially at least, only sent the school spiralling further downwards, showing that the academy movement is not a panacea for all Local Authority failings.....

Published in News and Comments
Sunday, 20 January 2013 07:22

Marlowe Academy - Does it have a future?

The Marlowe Academy failed its OFSTED for the second time, in November 2011, and it was obvious from the Report and letters to parents that Governors and Trustees were still failing to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. You will find my comments on the first monitoring inspection in March which did nothing to dispel that theory. The third monitoring Inspection report has now been published, and this, together with student numbers and comments made to me,  lead me to seriously ask the question - does the Marlowe Academy have a future? On numbers alone, it is difficult to see how the school is financially viable, with the intake falling year on year to the disastrous September 2012 figure of 62, filling just over a third of the 180 places available. This is a further drop of 19 children from the 81 places offered in  March, although this figure was disputed by a senior member of the Academy who either didn't understand the seriousness of the problem, or was misled into believing the take up was much higher. 

Unsurprisingly, the link to OFSTED Reports on the Academy website is non-functioning (its been fixed since this item was fist published!), and there is no mention of the recent Monitoring Inspection. This Inspection underlines the problem of viability, revealing that .......

Published in Peter's Blog

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

In a shocking indictment of the governance and management of the Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate, it has failed its second consecutive OFSTED. In October 2010 the academy was given Notice to Improve. This verdict is failure, with a stark warning that the school must change. The Marlowe Academy was inspected a second time on November 17th and 18th November 2011, and I covered some some of the issues in a previous article in December, antipating the report's publication following leaks that the trustees were to be criticised. This is indeed the case, and one can only speculate what pressure there has been to soften the harsh criticisms which strike at the heart of the academy principle before a very delayed publication today, after more than four months (the norm between inspection and publication is about a month, Meopham, the last failed school was six weeks). 


OFSTED's verdict is the lowest possible, the headline being:......

Published in News Archive
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Latest News & Comments

Just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Brook Learning Trust Schools in Trouble: Ebbsfleet Academy; Hayesbrook School; High Weald Academy

     The Brook Learning Trust runs three schools, Ebbsfleet Academy, Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and appears to be in serious trouble, both financially and in terms of the standing of all of its three schools. 

    Ebbsfleet 1       High Weald 1    Hayesbrook 2
    I monitor a number of factors that indicate how a school supports its students and how it stands in its locality. These include: pupil vacancy rates in year Seven; popularity of schools expressed through first preferences when making applications; percentage drop out rates from the school for all reasons; and proportion of pupils leaving for Elective Home Education; together with academic performance. These three schools are each amongst the worst in the county on four in the case of Hayesbrook or all five of the first five measures for the other two schools. I consider that they can therefore be regarded as generally, if not academically, failing. These common themes across the Trust’s schools suggest the problem starts with the ethos and standards set by the Trust.

    The situation at High Weald Academy is especially dire, as government is proposing a multi-million pound premises investment into this school which appears to have no future under the Trust.

    I look below at the factors affecting each school and the Trust as a whole. I now have data showing a further fall in first choice applications for each school for Year Seven admission in September 2018, which will surely see the Trust heading for insolvency and for each school immense financial difficulty in providing an acceptable level of education. 

    Written on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 06:21 Be the first to comment! Read 522 times
  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    Table for allocations below has been completed, with more recent information provided.

    You will find a parallel Kent article here

    The Medway Council Press Release for secondary transfer is the thinnest yet I have seen from the Council on this, or any other subject I can recall. It contains just four facts: 3259 Medway children applied for and were offered places in secondary schools; 91% have been offered a first or second preference school; over 95.5%  were offered one of their preferences; there were 630 applications for Medway school places from children outside Medway. That is it! UPDATE: I have now obtained the full data through an FOI request and inserted it below. I can see no reason why the Council has chosen to hide it.  

    However, there is also a bizarre footnote on a completely different matter, considered below. 

    The table below compares my extrapolation of these numbers with outcomes in previous years. There is also initial advice on what to do if you have not received the school of your choice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    Both of the quoted percentages in the Press Release were identical to those in 2017, both a significant fall on 2016, at 93.7% and 97.4% respectively.For 2017 offers, first and second preferences allocated were separated, so one can guess the proportion of first preferences has fallen this year as Medway Council typically tries to fudge its figures. No mention of, or regret about, the unfortunate 147 children with no school of their choice. 

    The cohort size has increased by just 85 children, with the 4.5% who have been given no school of their choice, at approximately 147, five up on 2017.

    Why is the Council so afraid of providing information to its residents?

    Written on Friday, 02 March 2018 12:25 1 comment Read 695 times
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2018: Initial Information and Advice

    You will find a parallel Medway article here.

    Several updates below, including grammar issues for boys in Longfield, Hartley, NAG, etc. Also look at my response to comment, below. Grammar places for boys in Whitstable, Herne Bay also looking an issue. 

    Kent secondary school allocations have been sent out today for those registered to receive by email and should arrive tomorrow by post for all (weather permitting).

    17,442 Kent children applied for places in schools, 745 more than in 2017, with 79.6% of them being offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least five years, but just 0.8% down on last year. 765 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.4% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least five years, and well up on last year’s 633. I know that a number of additional school places have been created at pinch points across the county, notably Tunbridge Wells, but I am already hearing of some very difficult situations for some of the children with no school of their choice.

    In spite of another large increase in out of county applications to Kent schools, up 545 to 3,289, just 818 were offered places, only eight more than in 2017. This will have been partially balanced by around 500 going to schools outside Kent.

    You will find more information, including a look at some of the pressure points, together with the tables of outcomes below. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools as these are confirmed (all information welcomed), and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    There is also a link to the limited advice service I now offer. 

    Written on Thursday, 01 March 2018 12:03 12 comments Read 2747 times
  • Knole Academy and the Scandal of Exorbitant Headteacher Pay in Kent and Medway

    Update: Shortly after I published this article, the national BBC led with the same issue on its website, although amazingly there has been no local media interest at all. Is it that this is not of interest as it is what people expect? 

    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.


    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. 

    Written on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 20:29 5 comments Read 1503 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.


    '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.  

    Written on Saturday, 10 February 2018 22:33 4 comments Read 446 times
  • Goodwin Academy – SchoolsCompany Trust on the way out?

    Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

    KM Online 16th February shows details of the job losses at this previously recovering school, expected because of the failures of SchoolsCompany. 

    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. 

    Written on Thursday, 08 February 2018 10:43 4 comments Read 1041 times