Supporting Families
  • banner12
  • banner6
  • banner4
  • banner7
  • banner9
  • banner3
  • banner8
  • banner11
  • banner10
  • banner13

Further update: Holcombe proposal to change to co-ed turned down

Update: Potential issues on the Hoo Peninsula expanded below, along with a different look at the numbers.  

This is my third article looking at school admission oversubscription rules that appear to be unlawful and open to challenge. The two previous articles focused on Invicta Grammar in Maidstone & The Rochester Grammar in Medway, and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, also in Rochester.

There is a unique situation rapidly developing in Medway, in spite of challenges by the Council in previous years with nearly all secondary academies appearing to rush like Gaderine swine this year to give admission priority to schools in their Academy Trusts and limit options for families. In Kent, where the Local Authority also keeps a close eye on such matters, there is no evidence of anything similar after Invicta Grammar School withdrew their proposal. 

In Medway, amongst the issues, it is proposed that pupils at over a quarter of all non-catholic primary and junior schools (excluding infant schools) and 38% of all primary and junior academies will be given priority for admission to specific grammar schools (some of these schemes are already in place). Pupils at half of all primary and junior academies will be given priority for admission to one or more linked schools, which poses an additional challenge for families choosing primary schools. Already fourteen of Medway's 17 secondary schools either have admission policies that give preference to children from named schools or are proposing to introduce them. 

Medway Council's policy of encouraging all its schools to become academies has obviously played its part in this undesirable outcome, and is bound to see numbers of the tied primary schools increase as more change status. Currently, 42 of Medway's 65 primary and junior schools are academies. 

I look below at the situation as it affects each of Medway's secondary schools and linked primary academies.………

Published in News and Comments

The proportion of children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen to 97.4%, the highest proportion for at least five years. This is a result of a reduction of 160 in the number of Medway school places taken up by children from the Authority and outside. As a result, there are 432 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 12% of the total available, up from 7% in 2016.

Most difficult area as usual is Rainham, with just 8 vacancies in two of its schools, a total of 2%. of the total number of places.  At the other end is Rochester with 17% of all places left empty in five schools. Most popular school is Barnsole Primary which turned away 52 first choices, followed by Walderslade and Pilgrim primaries with 29 disappointed first choices for their 30 places. There are ten schools with more than first choices turned away, nine in Chatham and Gillingham, listed in the table below. 

Barnsole     Pilgrim 3    Walderslade Primary 2  

Eight schools have over a third of their places empty, up from five in 2016, but headed for the second year running by All Hallows Primary Academy, with 70% of its Reception places empty (up from 60% in 2016). Altogether 31 of the 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 85 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council, well over half in Chatham and Gillingham schools.  

look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools…….

Published in News and Comments
See article in Kent on Sunday: 1st April 2017 
This article looks at the key oversubscription and vacancy situation in Medway non-selective schools, following secondary allocations at the beginning of March.
The headline figure for all secondary allocations shows a seriously worsening picture, with a fall of over 5% in the proportion of Medway children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 145 children. According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter in a press release, “This is great news”! See my previous article for initial figures.
There were just 14 additional places created above the final intakes for 2016, all at Strood and Thomas Aveling Academies. However, with a hundred extra children accommodated in Medway’s non-selective schools, this produced a doubling of children being offered none of their choices, instead becoming Local Authority Allocated Children (LAAC) at schools with vacancies.

Most popular non-selective school is once again Brompton Academy, disappointing 177 first choices, well up on 2016’s figure of 108.

Brompton Academy

Five of the eleven non-selective schools had vacancies, most at Victory Academy with 30% empty spaces, in spite of having 30 children allocated who were given no school of their choice.

After allocation, there were 140* empty spaces in all, a just manageable 5.6% of the total thanks to a net outflow of 60 children. However,  more vacancies will be created through successful grammar school appeals and considerable churning will follow as the more popular schools refill.
There is now a sharp polarisation of popularity in Medway, with families clamouring for places in the three most popular schools, the three at the other end accepting 106 LAACs between them.
Published in News and Comments

See article in Kent on Sunday: 1st April 2017 

This article looks at the final outcomes of the Medway Test and its effect on individual grammar school allocations in March.

Last year I wrote an article exposing the failure by Medway Council to set the Medway Test pass mark correctly in 2015, and for some years previously, revealing the fact that some 70 Medway children were deprived of grammar school places by a miscalculation. This produced a success rate after Reviews were taken into account of just 23% for Medway children. Perhaps it was article that produced a change in practice and this year the success rate has risen to 25.1%, almost exactly the target level. However, just 25 Medway pupils were found selective after Review, as against a target of 68. There is yet again serious bias towards girls and older children.

The increase in the success rate has produced an extra 125 pupils eligible for grammar school (an increase in pupil numbers contributing to this) placing enormous pressure on the capacity of all Medway grammar schools, so that there are just 6 vacancies in just one school, in spite of an extra 70 grammar places being added.  

The headline figure for all secondary allocations, including non-selective schools, shows a seriously worsening picture, with a fall of over 5% in the proportion of Medway children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 145 children. According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter in a press release, “This is great news”! See my previous article for initial figures.

Most oversubscribed school is Rochester Grammar, turning away 87 grammar qualified first preferences even after expanding its intake by 25 girls. The pressure for grammar school places from children living in London Boroughs, with 64 being offered, continues as explained below. I also look more closely at individual grammar schools and the Medway Test analysis.

Published in News and Comments

Story as at Monday afternoon, 3rd October

Medway Council has failed to report this year's Medway Test results to parents correctly, causing considerable distress to families. You will find the full story below, but first, here is a statement by Medway Council giving the current situation for concerned families, published 12.30 Monday.  

MEDWAY TEST UPDATE: The total score and assessment outcomes published in Medway Test result letters is correct for all candidates, despite a publication error which led to the wrong extended writing score being printed in the letters to non-selective (non-grammar) pupils.

We worked as a matter of urgency to look into the Medway Test results after a figure was incorrectly published on non-selective (non-grammar) result letters. While individual scores published for maths, verbal reasoning and extended writing papers did not add up to the total score, the total score stated and the assessment outcome in the results letter is correct.

We have thoroughly rechecked the results and we will be re-issuing result letters today to those families affected with the correct figures, but this will not impact the total score or the assessment outcome for pupils. The deadline for review requests has been extended to 10am on Monday, 10 October, to give parents more time to prepare in acknowledgement of any uncertainty this has caused over the weekend.

We are sorry for the concern and confusion this may have caused parents at what is a very important time in their child's education.

Parents who would like further clarification on their child’s results can contact their school directly.

The story up to the release of the above statement at noon on Monday (updated to take account of it) 

Medway Council sent out wrong individual test scores for many children who sat the Medway Test last month. It appears this applies to all children who have not passed. It is clear from the many enquiries I have had, and the 4508 hits (by some way a record) on this page since I posted the first version of this article on Saturday evening, that there were many very distressed families left in limbo by this blunder.
Medway Council Logo

In summary,....

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 29 September 2016 22:39

Medway Test and Secondary School Admissions

Medway Test results are sent out by email after 4 p.m. on Friday 30th September, or by post to arrive the next day. 

The Medway Test Pass Score is 513. Please note, as explained in my article 'Admission to Medway Grammar Schools' below, this does not mean the standard is any lower than last year's 521. The standard required is the same. The difference reflects the number of children taking the test And their abilities.

I run a Telephone Consultation Service to support and advise families living in Medway or Kent Local Authority areas, who are considering Review, looking at secondary school options, or thinking about chances of success at appeal, for schools in Kent or Medway Local Authorities.  

The pages of this website also contain much free information about each of these issues

You will find details of each of the possibilities via the links below, or to the right of this article. You may wish to start with the page on Can I help you?

Telephone Consultation Service

Medway Grammar School Review and Appeal

Admission to Medway Secondary Schools

Admission to Medway Grammar Schools

Individual Medway Secondary Schools. This contains information on each secondary school and academy. I am currently updating these pages. If the one you wish to consult is not up to date, please let me know and I will attend to it. 

These pages also contain links to pages providing comment and data relating to school admissions....

Published in News and Comments
The issues arising from an analysis of the results of the recent seriously flawed Medway Test for grammar school admission are even greater than last year, with:
A mistake in calculating the pass mark by Medway Council, according to their own rules - depriving 40 Medway children of grammar school places;
The Review process selecting fewer than half the number of children it is targeted to choose, because of insufficient quality of school work presented - another 30 children denied places;
Continued powerful bias towards girls and older children with 21% more girls than boys found suitable for grammar school. The highly unsatisfactory Review process selected fourteen Medway children born in the first quarter of the school year, compared to just one in the fourth quarter.
The Council excuse is that the process works as it all comes right in the end (it doesn’t)!
With the test and Review both being so biased towards girls and older children, and the inability of the Council to apply their own formula for calculating the pass mark, it is surely time for it to be replaced by a process that is fit for purpose.
The school with the highest percentage of pupils being found selective is St William of Perth Catholic Primary with 47%, followed remarkably by Temple Mill Primary with 42%.

For further information on all these headlines, read on…

Published in News and Comments

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

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

St Marys catholic Gillingahm       

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

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

You will find a picture of the 2014 situation here.

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

Published in News and Comments

This is my third annual analysis of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries. You will find the 2014 figures here.  Abbreviation: ooc = out of county

  • 757 ooc children offered places in Kent schools, with 552 Kent children going out county, both figures well up on 2014.
  • 70% of the 455 ooc children taking up places in Kent grammar schools are going to schools in Dartford or Gravesend, with Wilmington Girls Grammar taking 105, Wilmington Boys 79 and Dartford 70. Nearly all are from London Boroughs.
  • Elsewhere, highest are The Judd with 41 ooc boys and Rochester Grammar taking in 41 Kent girls.
  • For non-selective schools, highest is Holmesdale taking in 41 Medway children, followed by Knole Academy with 35 Bromley children, and Homewood School 28, all but one from East Sussex.
  • Exporting: 159 Kent children to Bexley (95 from closure of Oasis Hextable Academy); 139 from Kent to Medway; 121; 100 from Kent to East Sussex; 67 from Kent to Surrey; 53 from Kent to Bromley; and 122 from Medway to Kent,

As in previous years the official figures give a very different picture from the more lurid headlines ……..

Published in News and Comments

This article looks at secondary allocations for non-selective and Free schools across Kent and Medway with further articles on grammar schools and cross-county movement to come. It is somewhat delayed as I have been overwhelmed with clients for secondary appeals this year, the number of parents going to appeal appearing to have shot up. A previous article provides the initial key statistics about school allocation.

After the headlines, immediately, below, I look at the key points in each of the Kent Districts and Medway.

    • Most oversubscribed non-selective school for the second year running is Brompton Academy, with 159 first choices turned away, just pipped by Dartford Grammar School overall with 162 grammar qualified first choices rejected. Next comes St George’s in Broadstairs, up from 4th place with 150 first preferences not offered. 
    •  Two of Kent’s Free Schools, Wye and Trinity, are in the top ten of most oversubscribed non-selective schools in the county. The third, Hadlow Rural Community School, is also full. 
    • The sudden closure of Oasis Hextable School with the consequent pressure on neighbouring schools, has seen 95 additional Kent children having to be allocated by KCC to schools in Bexley. 
    • I have featured five schools with serious problems in recruitment in recent years. Three of these have closed, but Pent Valley, Folkestone (““Good”” OFSTED) and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook (“Requires Improvement” twice, so not a bad school) still have over 50% of their Year 7 places vacant for September, now joined by Castle Community College, suffering for its disastrous fall from “Outstanding” to Special Measures a year ago.

I recently wrote an article at the request of Kent on Sunday on some of the many good non-selective schools of Kent. With apologies to those I have missed out, you will find the article here......

Published in News and Comments
Page 1 of 2

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 1502 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