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A Freedom of Information Request to the Department for Education has discovered that three grammar schools have made enquiries about opening possible annexes in the past year, one of which is the mixed Barton Court Grammar in Canterbury.

Barton Court

With the new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds signalling his ‘enthusiastic’ support for grammar and faith school expansion, this now looks very much on the agenda.

I have followed the Barton Court proposals closely and commented on them for some years,  proposals which date back to the 1980’s when KCC planned to move the whole school to the coast. A satellite provision in Herne Bay was proposed in 2013, followed by a proposal to shift the whole school, which was dropped in the face of opposition by parents.

In the case of Faith Schools, the proposition is to remove the current requirement to remove the 50% maximum bar on faith children being removed. The Roman Catholic Church is currently refusing to sponsor new Free Schools whilst it is in place and it may be that Mr Hinds, a Catholic himself, has a different take on the consequent issues. 

Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 07:24

Grammar School numbers increase: BBC News Item

BBC Grammar Parent Power 

The BBC has published an analysis of grammar school pupil numbers, that seeks to show the proportion of pupils in grammar schools rising whilst overall secondary numbers in areas with grammar schools have fallen, linking this to ‘parental power’.

This may be true nationally, but a closer analysis of Kent figures shows a different picture, with the number of Year 7 children admitted to all Kent mainstream schools rising by 7.5% between 2012 and 2017, with the number of grammar places increasing by a little over that rate at 8.7%. Over the same period the proportion of children of compulsory school age in Kent grammar schools has increased by just 1.5%.

Whilst there are 31.8% of Year 7 children in Kent grammar schools, against a target of 25%, this has little to do with the operation of the Kent selection process, that delivered 25.4% of the cohort as explained in my analysis of Kent Test results. 

There are four specific reasons for this increase as explained below, and I am sure there are rational local circumstances behind many of the other expansions featured in the BBC article. 

Published in Peter's Blog

UPDATE: Whilst this article draws on a number of previous articles on the issue, the most recent contains an important clarification by government of the law, leaving no room whatever for ambiguity, not available when the following was written.

You will find the original article in the Kent on Sunday Education Supplement here.  

Back in January I wrote an article for Kent on Sunday, about the illegal actions of Invicta Grammar School in permanently excluding up to 22 Year Twelve students for not achieving high grades in their AS Exams last summer. The parallel article on my website has attracted a record 24,722 hits to date, and a flood of comments from students affected. The school dismissed my concerns out of hand, the headteacher commenting: “This is an ‘interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate".  

In the last few weeks, a parallel case has arisen at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington where 16 girls were thrown out as covered in KOS last week. Several parents took legal action and the Department for Education, which refused to offer a view earlier in the year, issued the following statement: ‘Our regulations make clear that schools are not allowed to remove pupils from a sixth form because of academic attainment once they are enrolled. Excluding pupils temporarily or permanently for non-disciplinary reasons is unlawful’. As a result, the school relented and all the students were reinstated, if they wished to return.

Whilst this is no consolation for last year’s students from Invicta and some other local schools, many of whom saw their career plans ruined, it is a green light for the many students in similar positions this summer to challenge any exclusion. As one parent wrote to me this week: ‘What happened to our daughter has had a massive impact on her; she is still limping along. To be honest her confidence was so damaged we don't know if she will ever believe in herself in the same way again’. What an indictment of the practice, but certainly not alone, as career dreams are shattered.

Published in Newspaper Articles

UPDATE 3, 2nd September: A Government Ministerial statement has said the action by St Olave's is unlawful. The school has withdrawn its decision to  expel the boys, and offered them places back in Year 13 to resume their studies. You will find the update here.   

UPDATE 2, 30th August: This scandal is unravelling fast. The Guardian followed up with a second story today, with more to come, and I am commenting on Radio Five in an item at 5.20 this evening. Question, will St Olave's and other schools operating this Unlawful action, or seek to drag it out?

UPDATE 29th August: At last this story has been picked up by the National media with an article in The Guardian reporting on the scandal of the unlawful expulsion of about 16 students from St Olave's Grammar School in Bromley for failing to get high enough grades at the end of Year 12. Several of these families had already asked my advice, which you will find below, but it is now confirmed by lawyers engaged by the families. It remains a hard road, as schools can introduce delaying tactics into the new term, so that families are forced to make alternative arrangements. However, if case law is established as I have encouraged in my initial article, this unlawful practice can be stamped out. Certainly, at Invicta Grammar, as a direct result of my campaign, Invicta has removed any reference to conditional admission to Year 13, and I have heard from no victims this year. Presumably this all leaves the school open to legal action from students unlawfully expelled last year.


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 localunlawful  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.

Published in News and Comments

A story on the BBC website features a Report that offers misleading and irrelevant data relating the Kent grammar school selection process, issued by Education DataLab (EDL). EDL has built this on information collected by the nebulous Kent Education Network (KEN), the link underlining the misuse of statistics by KEN in its passionate opposition to the existence of grammar schools in the county, so hardly an objective source of data. The title of the Report, ‘The 11-plus is a loaded dice - Analysis of Kent 11-plus data’, is itself highly pejorative based on the false claim in the document that there is an arbitrariness in who passes the Kent Test, although no doubt designed to capture headlines.

Education Datalab describes itself as a research organisation that produces independent, cutting-edge analysis of education policy and practice. Employing Joanne Bartley from Kent Education Network as one of the authors of the Report completely destroys any claim to independence or objectivity in this case.  

Published in News and Comments
Further Update on Maidstone Grammar School for Girls
A subsequent article, entitled: Ombudsman confirms Maidstone Girls' Grammar has operated unlawful Sixth Form Admission rules for years, published in September 2017, sets out the truth.
 
Further Update on Invicta 
You will find further advice prepared in August for anyone who finds themselves in this position here; and another in August 2017, confirming the illegality here

 Update: I have been asked by a number of Year 12 families about any advice I can offer to current students who fear for their chances in Year 13. See new heading towards foot of the article. 

You will find a feature length article in Kent on Sunday here, widening the debate. It includes a quotation by Julie Derrick, headteacher of Invicta Grammar School: "This is an 'interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate". The host of testimonies at the foot of this table, and in the media, suggests she is out of touch with reality. 

Please visit comments at the foot of this page, from twenty young people or their parents, who come across as thoughtful, full of commonsense, concerned for other victims, and well educated by their school. All support the facts denied by Invicta Grammar. Please note that whilst some have chosen to write under a nom de plume, nearly all have identified themselves to me and appear to be genuine. This webpage has been unprecedented in its popularity with 9239 visitors on its first day of publication, indicating the importance of the issues raised,  having subsequently soared to a total of 18676 at the time of the latest update (Saturday). 

The pressure to achieve results has resulted in the two girls’ grammar schools in Maidstone both adopting apparently unlawful tactics to secure top A Level grade performance, at the expense of the future of some students. OFSTED considers both high performing schools are Outstanding, so there is no doubt about the excellent quality of education offered for those young people who stay the course.  

However, at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the school suddenly introduced a new and unlawful provision for selecting external students for admission to the Sixth Form in September 2016, illegally picking those predicted to achieve highest GCSE Grades by a process not in the school’s admission rules.

At Invicta Grammar School, 22 students ‘voluntarily’ left the school half way through their A Level course, refused permission to carry on into Year 13, a total of 26 through the year, the highest number and the second highest proportion of any Kent grammar school. This was because their grades at AS level were insufficient to be confident of the high A Level performance of which the school is so proud, Given no alternative to stay on, this amounts to expulsion although there is no lawful provision for students to be removed mid-course by schools in this way.

Further details on the situation at both schools below, along with other grammar schools which have a high departure rate. There appears a particular problem in Medway, where four of the six grammar schools saw a loss of more than 10% of their cohort between Years 12 and 13 this year. 

Each year, I am contacted by a number of young people, mainly but not exclusively in grammar schools, who are not admitted to Sixth Forms although fully qualified according to the school admission criteria, or who are forced out at the end of Year 12 because the school only wants the highest performing students for the sake of their league table position.  However, these two cases are the most extreme I have come across.

Too many students, capable of fulfilling their potential by achieving A Level success, albeit sometimes at a lower level than schools wish to see, therefore see their career chances thwarted...

Published in News and Comments
Tuesday, 18 October 2016 20:41

Radio Kent's Big Grammar School Debate

The Big Grammar School Debate organised by the BBC took place last night at St Stephen’s Junior School. I was invited and described somewhat to my surprise as ‘our Educational Expert and Official Adviser’ (unpaid!).  There is currently a video of the whole debate here (when I played it through there were unfortunately several periods when sound was lost). An excellent Panel with diverse views led the discussion comprising: Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council; Vince Maple, Labour Leader on Medway Council; Alison Colwell, Principal of Ebbsfleet Academy; Jim Skinner, leader of the Grammar Schools Association; Jo Bartley, founder of Kent Education Network and parent of school aged children; and Peter Hitchens, the wild card, from Mail on Sunday. The debate was chaired by Julia George form Radio Kent. 

The audience also included a number of invited representatives from education and business organisations who formed part of the 80 strong audience, but what follows below is very much my personal take and comment on the evening's discussion, which included strong audience participation, especially from the Hackney contingent.  

The discussion was very wide ranging and, apart from one contributor, was conducted with courtesy and respect for listening to speakers with different views.

Published in Peter's Blog
Sunday, 09 October 2016 20:06

Kent Education Network and 11+ Truth


The owner of the Kent Education Network (KEN) website has recently provided sites for two other small campaigns against academic selection at Local Equal Excellent (LEE) for residents of Buckinghamshire  and 11+ Truth, which involves KEN, LEE, Transform Reading and Kendrick, andExcellent Education for Everyone  from Maidenhead”, both registered in September. The last named apparently represents campaign groups as:  “A joint effort by groups in selective areas around the UK”, although I am not sure that four meets the description of 'many', and looking at their output it is clear there is a long way to go.

The focus in 11+ Truth on its trashing of Kent schooling is appalling, with many false allegations, wrong data and misleading conclusions as illustrated below. 

Parts of this article have been rewritten as a result of comments by the three organisations, which have enabled me to focus on the more important features. Whilst I have cut out some other valid illustrations of my theme, this is because of their limited relevance to Kent. 

Below I look at some of the false claims on 11+ Truth, and a closer look at the Kent Education Network and its claims...

Published in Peter's Blog

Meopham School in Gravesham, a non-selective mixed academy that has achieved excellent GCSE results this year, is proposing to change its status to become a mixed grammar school from September 2018.

Meopham

This school, with a current intake of 160 students and run by the Swale Academies Trust, has published a Consultation document about the plan.  This outlines the proposal if the recommendations of the recently published government Green Paper allowing non-selective schools to convert to grammar schools are approved. Current students at the school would be able to continue on their present courses.  

I can see there would be strong demand for such a school if it came into being, as outlined below, but there are also massive problems for non-selective children in an area where there is already enormous pressure on non-selective places.

This is just the first proposal nationally to become public, and gives rise to speculation about several other possibilities of a similar nature across the county. 

Please note: What follows are my initial reactions to breaking news today, but I will return to it, with a more measured response and updates as they arise.

Published in News and Comments
Sunday, 11 September 2016 22:57

Sevenoaks Annexe

There has been considerable press coverage, following the claim in the Sunday Times that there will be a new school on the Sevenoaks annexe site for boys.

It is of course not that simple. Quite simply, there are no regulations at present in place to allow any such development, not even a boys’ annexe.

Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has driven the project from its beginning and now appears to have his vision fully vindicated, appears quite clear that buildings will be constructed over and above those for the girls' annexe. There is a fall-back position in that it is reported that if no school or annexe is allowed, alternative short term use is being planned.

Sevenoaks

It has been clear for years that Mrs May, even as Home Secretary was in favour of expansion of grammar schools, possibly by creation of annexes, as I wrote in November 2014. Her current ideas are clearly proving very controversial, and I see no point in adding to the debate.

However, as I also wrote in May 2015 after the General Election, about a possible boys’ annexe in Sevenoaks to balance the one being built for the girls of Weald of Kent Grammar: “the pressure to sort this one could become irresistible!” It is starting to look that way.......

Published in News and Comments
Page 1 of 4

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: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.

    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

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27 6 comments Read 789 times
  • Grammar Schools, Faith Schools, and Non-Selective Provision in Tunbridge Wells

    Updated 13th May

    This item covers the government announcement of £50 million to provide new grammar school places and the relaxation of rules for admission to faith schools. 

    The first issue was discussed on Meridian TV News on Friday to which I contributed, having previously discussed both issues including a previous article from last year, that looked across the landscape. This was updated with more recent coverage of the now likely provision of a Coastal Grammar annexe at Herne Bay or Whitstable, and the extension of the Weald of Kent Annexe. The latter is currently for girls only, but with premises offering capacity for boys, so approval does not appear to be finance related and presumably can be granted simply by a change in regulations. There may also be proposals from some of the more assertive grammar schools to look at annexes across the county boundary in Sussex and Surrey. 

    The second part of the government plan has attracted fewer headlines, and indeed appears toothless, whilst promoting a new generation of  Voluntary Aided faith schools. However, any built under this proposal (which appears little different from current regulations) will evade the current limit on new faith Free Schools, who can admit just 50% of their intake for children who qualify through faith criteria.

    The crisis in non-selective places in Tunbridge Wells has been brought about by church schools operating under the previous regulations, as explained below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 11 May 2018 14:12 2 comments Read 477 times
  • Medway UTC: Abject Failure -OFSTED

    Further update sentence in blue below.

    Updated: Tuesday 8th May. See important comment below by Ita Caufield.

    Ofsted has judged the new Medway University Technical College to have failed its Inspection on every count, some of its main criticisms being levelled at the members of the Governing Body who 'abrogated their responsibility'. Medway UTC is one of a new breed of 14-19 schools dropped in on existing school systems without thought for their impact elsewhere, with a horrendous record of success including five of the 26 inspected by Ofsted being placed in Special Measures. A further eight have closed through failure to attract students. The evidence below shows that Medway UTC is surely en route to be the eighth.

    The Medway UTC opened in September 2015 in £12 million purpose built premises, sponsored by local businesses, Higher Education Institutions and Medway Council.

    Medway UTC

    Ofsted found that: there is a culture of low expectation across the UTC; current progress in all year groups very weak; poor GCSE and A Level results last year as a result of weak teaching; the curriculum is too narrow; there is no provision for physical education or religious education in the school; behaviour in lessons is poor and sometimes disruptive. These are the consequences of: governors failing to offer sufficient challenge for leaders or training for leaders and teachers to carry out their duties effectively; of significant turbulence in staffing; leaders development plans being not fit for purpose; and failure by teachers to match assessment to the learning needs of pupils with the result that the most able, those with SEN, and the disadvantaged make very poor progress.

    I have never seen or read anything like the torrent of criticism heaped upon the quality of teaching in the school, as exemplified below. Frankly one would not expect such negative comments to be uttered about untrained instructors dropped in for their first term in a school. Academies and UTCs are not required to employ qualified teachers, and this report suggests they may have taken advantage of this loophole in full. I am astonished that Ofsted did not report on the issue, given there appears a complete breakdown in quality, with no redeeming factors identified.

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 05 May 2018 11:25 9 comments Read 782 times
  • Four Medway Secondary Academies abandon unlawful attempt to set Unfair Admission Criteria
    Update: Developments since the article was written are in blue in this introduction. 
    The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) and Holcombe Grammar School who are part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), together with Hundred of Hoo Academy from the Williamson Trust, have withdrawn the sections in their 2019 proposed Admission Criteria that gave priority for admission to children of staff members of any school in the Trust, rather than just of their own school which would have been lawful. Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School and The Thomas Aveling School have withdrawn all unlawful elements of their proposals. 

    This follows my previous article which made clear the proposals were unlawful (together with an objection lodged with TSAT), which is likely to have led to the change of policy. 

    However, RGS and Holcombe have retained a section offering priority to siblings of any child in a secondary academy of the Trust, rather than their own school which appears equally unlawful, as does Brompton Academy. 

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 17 April 2018 21:56 Be the first to comment! Read 356 times
  • Kent and Medway Primary School Allocations for September 2018

    Update, 26th April: KCC's Corporate Director, Children, Young People and Education has published an article on Primary Admissions on the KELSI website for education professionals as his weekly update. Unfortunately, it neither tells the truth about the main reason for the rise in proportions of Kent pupils offered their choice of schools, nor does it cover the level of detail you will find below. See comments at foot of page. I plan to publish District by District figures along with key school numbers shortly, which will provide further important detail. 

    Update: I have now received a copy of the (sketchy) Medway Press Release on Primary Allocations and have incorporated it below. 

    Excellent news for most Kent and Medway families applying for primary school places.

    A record proportion of Kent pupils who applied for Reception places at primary schools will be offered their first choice school today, at 89.5%Just 390 children have no school of their choice, a record low contrasting for example with 724 disappointed families in 2015. Unfortunately, the one page Medway Press Release is as usual almost content free, but informs us that over 97.5% of the 3347 Medway pupils were offered a place on their  application form, slightly up on last year's 97.4%.

    The promising Kent figures have been achieved because of a fall in numbers of children looking for places for the second successive year, 94 fewer than in 2017, and 773 fewer than in 2016. All 2018 data is from the KCC press release. In Medway there has been an increase of 17 children offered places in local primary schools.

    I am waiting for detailed oversubscription and vacancy figures at both Reception and Junior School level to be sent, both for Kent and Medway and will publish these as soon as possible. You may find the equivalent picture for 2017 allocations helpful.

    You will find advice below on what to do if you have not received a school of your choice, together with a breakdown of offers for both Kent and Medway over the past four years. 

    You will also find information and advice on appeals below and  here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, chances are negligible. 

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 13 April 2018 15:14 4 comments Read 810 times
  • Permanent Exclusion, Home Education and Children Missing from Education in Kent 2016-17

    I have at last obtained comprehensive data for Permanent Exclusions and numbers leaving schools for Home Education across Kent in the school year 2016-17, in spite of spurious attempts by KCC to keep back the detail. For those few who may be interested, there is a section on the issue below, together with a ruling I have fought for for years. 

    68 children have been permanently excluded from schools and Pupil Referral Units across the county, 19 of these being from the primary sector. Most exclusions from one school were the five from the Knole Academy, for the second time in three years. Three excluded children have Statements of SEN or EHCP Plans, a sharp fall from the 14 statemented children of 2015-16. For that year Kent had the lowest permanent secondary school exclusion rate in the South East, and the thirteenth lowest in the country, a comparison that is likely to stand up again for 2016-17 when figures are published.

    There has been a sharp rise in the number of children leaving to be home educated from 770 in 2015-16, to 925 last year. Largest number is from Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, under Tough love new management at 44, more than twice the 20 of the previous year. However, the school with the highest percentage is Ebbsfleet Academy, also Tough Love, at 4.4% of its roll, or more than one child from every class. 

    Altogether, 2,292 Kent children went missing from education at some time in 2016-17, 333 of whom were from Thanet. From the data of previous years, it is likely that some 500 were still missing at year’s end.

    I am absolutely convinced that the large majority of schools in Kent work very hard to support children at risk of exclusion and try to avoid losing them through one of the reasons described below, as far as possible. 

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 15 April 2018 07:24 3 comments Read 659 times