Supporting Families
  • banner6
  • banner9
  • banner7
  • banner2
  • banner10
  • banner12
  • banner11
  • banner13
  • banner4
  • banner8

Peter's Blog

You will find the main news and comment articles on the front page of the website here. This page contains secondary or local news items and thoughts.

Elias Achilleos, the founder and until recently, CEO of the financially mismanaged SchoolsCompany Trust, responsible for SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy in Deal and three PRUs in Devon, has at last resigned, on 18th May (my thanks to a subscriber to this website for informing me). My previous article sets out the background to this debacle.

Goodwin Academy

All the other Directors with responsibility for the Trust as it plunged into deficit taking Goodwin Academy with it, had previously departed along with the salaries most drew from the Trust, and it is now run by a team put in by the Regional Schools Commissioner.


Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 23 May 2018 22:59
Friday, 27 April 2018 12:15

Hartsdown Academy: Ofsted 'Requires Improvement'

Written by Peter Read

Hartsdown Academy’s recent OFSTED Report records that the school ‘Requires Improvement’ which, before publication I would have thought generous, because of factors I have identified in previous articles.

However, the Report focuses on the other side of the picture, with some very positive aspects, including: ‘the school’s work to promote pupils’ personal development and welfare is outstanding. It has always been a strong part of the school’s work and continues to be essential to support pupils and respond to issues within the local community’.

Hartsdown Academy

 

Its main praise is reserved for Matthew Tate, the headteacher, who: ‘is transforming the school, having been in post for two years. He continues to steer its future path in the right direction with resolute energy and determination’. I am delighted to learn this, although still critical of some of the methods he uses and casualties created to achieve this outcome, as explained in my article on ‘Tough Love Academies’.

The biggest anomaly comes in the fall from Ofsted ‘Good’’ in March 2014, to the current rating, the headline then being ‘As a result of good teaching, students’ standards are broadly average at the end of Year 11. This represents good achievement from low starting points’ , the school described being not far off Outstanding.


Read more...
Last modified on Saturday, 28 April 2018 06:56

 

Update 5th June: To no-ones surprise (surely), Tina Lee, currently Interim Principal, having been at the school for three years has been named as the new permanent Principal of Isle of Sheppey Academy. Whilst I genuinely wish her well with this poisoned chalice the academy surely needs, and the Trust was surely looking for an external candidate 'someone with a strong track record of outstanding leadership' with, as a priority in the next two years: 'Ensure the Academy is well placed to secure a judgement which is at least good and ideally Outstanding at its next Ofsted inspection'. I am afraid in salary terms offering up to £100,000 was never going to attract such a candidate to the second largest, split site, most troubled school in the county.  

Update 28 April: Several updates to the article below in blue. Mr John Cavadino, Principal of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Academy (OAIS), has left his post at short notice after just over 18 difficult months in post.

Update 1 July: At least one MP appreciates what is going on in his constituency and is taking actionHe has taken this up with the Schools Minister. Now there is an idea Mr Henderson! 

Ihave written several articles about the mismanagement of the school over this time, and indeed during the time of his predecessor, one of which The scandal of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, written last summer, explores most of the issues. 

One paragraph which bears repeating looks at his formalisation of the notorious Reflection punishment, begun under his predecessor within Oasis in 2014,  referring to many of the 33 pupils who left the school to take up Home Education between September 2016 and April 2017:
Some of these children will previously have endured the Reflection punishment, which requires pupils to sit in a room and ‘Reflect’ on their behaviour for a whole day, an utterly unrealistic expectation that a day of boredom will improve matters. Astonishingly, 39% of the whole student body has been subject to this humiliating punishment, many on multiple occasions. The reality is that Reflection is utterly destructive, inevitably producing antagonism towards and alienation from the school, is almost certainly unlawful as the child has been forcibly deprived of education without provision for catching up, and indeed could be regarded as child abuse.
 I have seen too many examples of Reflection being inflicted at OAIS for minor failures to follow procedure, including non-production of the pupils ‘Rewards’ diary required to be carried at all times; minor non-uniform breaches, etc.
 
OAIS is one three Kent schools I call the Tough Love Academies, all using fierce disciplinary approaches for often trivial offences and a 'no excuses' culture, and all being very unpopular with parents, having to take in large number of pupils who did not apply to them but can't get into any other school. 
 

Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 04 July 2018 04:43

Note: Some data updated

A study by two researchers at the London Institute of Education has discovered some unsurprising facts about tutoring for grammar school places across the country.

For me, the most important one is that taking school achievement at the end of Key State One into account, children are 20% more likely to be found selective if they have been tutored than not. Actually, I am surprised by this one as I would have thought it higher than this, as explained below.

They also come up with the slightly bizarre proposal to tax tutors and use the funds raised to provide vouchers to assist lower income families to purchase tutoring, an idea that has gained much media coverage. I consider this counterproductive, unworkable nonsense, as also explained below.

The research has received considerable media attention including two interventions by me on BBC SE and Meridian TV. Interestingly the BBC has rapidly dropped the item from its website! 

However, the headline is that children living in prosperous areas and who receive tutoring are far more likely to be offered a grammar school place than those living in deprived areas without tutoring, but who may not have chosen to apply for grammar school. 


Read more...
Last modified on Monday, 26 March 2018 02:47
Wednesday, 14 March 2018 11:00

Tax Avoidance by Some Academy Leaders

Written by Peter Read

I suspect that school teachers, who are employees of schools or Academy Trusts aren’t usually in the business of tax avoidance. As a result the following, relating to one of the highest paid leaders of a Kent Academy Trust in the county, caught my eye.

The leader in question has arranged his contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme to be paid in blocks of five months in the scheme, then withdraw for five months, then renew, the pattern to be replicated indefinitely. I am not privy to the rationale for this, but the tax consultant who advised senior leaders of the trust, at cost to the Trust itself, clearly considers this advantageous.

Whilst he is assured this is legal, as to the moral use of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme in a way it is clearly not intended, I leave it to others to judge.

I also wonder how the teachers in the Trust view his actions. Teachers in state schools in England have been subject to a cap on annual pay increases, initially of 0% and then 1%, which has been in place since 2010. There are no tax reduction arrangements for those on the front line, as the gap between their salaries and those of their leaders gets ever wider year on year, as my previous article shows. This manipulation of tax schemes not available to the classroom teacher,  increases the gap even more.


Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 14 March 2018 20:47
Saturday, 10 March 2018 20:43

Hartsdown: A Tough Love Academy

Written by Peter Read

 Hartsdown Academy has featured in national and local media after it placed the following job advertisement

Excerpt from Original Hartsdown Job Advert in the Guardian (rapidly replaced but still on the Internet)

What does our Science Department need?
Hartsdown Academy needs a Department Head to rebuild its Science Department.  Results are well below expectations and teaching has been poor. As a result, the attitude of students towards the subject has diminished, resulting in disappointing behaviour for learning. The Department effectively requires special measures.

The advert continues with such selling points as: ‘Margate is on the margins of English society, both culturally and economically – as well as geographically’. As one of Kent’s three ‘Tough Love Academies’, it is difficult to match ‘Hartsdown is a beautifully inclusive school and I am immensely proud of the care the school takes over every single child’ from the advert, with the robust disciplinary action on minor infringements that has attracted bad publicity ever since the headteacher was appointed. This has made the school so unpopular with families, leading to the second lowest proportion of first preferences for admission at any school in the county, and the highest number of children abandoning the school for Elective Home Education. 

Hartsdown Academy

One wonders how the headteacher would describe the remainder of the school’s teaching, which provides by some way the lowest examination performance in Kent across the board. Is science really so much worse than the other subjects? Perhaps instead of condemning his teachers as indeed he has publicly condemned many pupils and their families coming from possibly the most deprived District in Kent, he should reflect and try a different approach.


Read more...
Last modified on Monday, 12 March 2018 20:42
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 20:07

Website Review of the Year 2017

Written by Peter Read

I have published 72 news items on this website in 2017, almost exclusively about education issues in Kent and Medway. This article has been somewhat delayed as other matters have intervened. The website continues to be unique in the country, offering a fully independent take on state education matters in the two Local Authorities. 

In total there have been 106,810 different browsers on the site, making up a total of 168,222 visitors. The most popular item attracted 26,823 visitors countrywide and sparked off a national news story which changed attitudes in schools across England. You will find links to the ten most popular stories below, featuring four major scandals, five articles reporting on admission and Test data, and one with a family connection. I have 958 subscribers who have linked by email and, although I find it difficult to comprehend, 10,790 subscribers by RSS, the vast majority based in England, further details below.

Since the website was reorganised into its current format in 2010, the most popular pages have been predominantly from the Information Section, accessed to the right hand side of this article, headed by Kent Grammar School Applications with 294,251 hits. It is followed by Kent Secondary School Admissions with 139,240 hits, both being updated on an annual basis. These are followed by a listing of Kent Special Schools and Units which, until a few years ago, wasthe only comprehensive source of such information but now, like too many other pages, in need of updating. 

More details on all these matters, and others, below. A number of the items covered in last year’s Review also continue to be headlined.


Read more...
Last modified on Tuesday, 27 February 2018 14:19
Thursday, 22 February 2018 16:40

Barton Court Grammar: Another Bid for a coastal Annexe?

Written by Peter Read

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. 


Read more...
Last modified on Friday, 11 May 2018 14:19
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 07:24

Grammar School numbers increase: BBC News Item

Written by Peter Read

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. 


Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 20:56
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 18:02

Phil Karnavas: One of the Great Heads Retires

Written by Peter Read
Phil Karnavas who has been one of the great maverick characters of education in Kent for many years, a breed sadly fast declining in the drive towards playing safe, has retired as Executive Principal of Canterbury Academy after 27 years at the school. A fearsome opponent of grammar schools, Multi Academy chains, and the weaknesses of Ofsted, he was a pragmatist who took whatever steps necessary to benefit the pupils in his care. 
Phil Karnavas
Mr Karnavas' final Newsletter to parents is typical of his utterly uncompromising style, but begins with a factual description of the estate since Canterbury High School became an academy in 2010 under Phil’s leadership:The Canterbury Multi Academy Trust now has an annual turnover of nearly £14,000,000. It employs nearly 300 people (one of Canterbury’s biggest employers). It oversees City View Nurseries Ltd; The Canterbury Primary School; The Cavendish ASD primary provision; The Canterbury High School; The Speech & Language Facility; the largest non-selective sixth form in Kent/Medway and is one of the largest of all schools (attracting many grammar school transfers in). It provides exceptional programmes for post-16 performing arts and sport; The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy; The City & Coastal College with programmes of study for 14-16 years olds in the area, who otherwise would have been permanently excluded by their schools; The Canterbury Youth Commission; and works with Adult Education. It is responsible for over 2000 children.
The Academy website, the most informative and imaginative of the many I have consulted, goes into further detail about the many highly successful innovations Mr Karnavas has introduced since the school became an academy. His unique departing letter is well worth reading, expressing his views and values in words that need and deserve a much wider audience, including the following:

Academies and free schools, of themselves don’t make any difference to standards or education. They are just a different organisational, business and financial model which is nothing other than a policy of centralising power, denuding local authorities …. Academies have nothing to do with the local authority. They are under the control of the secretary of state through an organisation most people are unaware of (The Office of the Regional Commission) which is managed by individuals most people have never heard of. Parents and local communities are marginalised as academies are fundamentally unaccountable. Large academy chains may offer economies of scale but they may do nothing to serve the local community if they are not based in, or part of, it. Irrespective of what one may have thought about the efficiency and effectiveness of local education authorities they did at least have a commitment to their communities and were, however imperfectly, accountable to them”.

There is plenty more on a number of themes where this came from!

 

Read more...
Last modified on Thursday, 04 January 2018 09:57

Patrick Leeson, Corporate Director of KCC’s Education and Children Services Directorate, retired from his post at the end of November. He has been succeeded in a revised role by Matt Dunckley CBE, who has become Corporate Director Children, Young People and Education.

Patrcik Leeson 2        Mat Dunckley

What follows is a brief look at Mr Leeson’s time with KCC, together with a summary of the background of Mr Dunckley.....


Read more...
Last modified on Monday, 18 December 2017 20:21

Having been away on holiday for the past fortnight, I have previously been unable to comment on the sad closure of Kent on Sunday at the end of November as ‘it was no longer economically viable’.

Of particular interest to me and many browsers of this website was its focus on education as, often in conjunction with myself, it ran many educational stories in depth and conducted important campaigns.  

For KOS has surely been exceptional for a local free paper, in its willingness to provide such detail in its stories and campaigns, being prepared to devote up to three pages of news, analysis and political insight to an issue for the thoughtful reader, rather than go with the fleeting headline for those with a low attention span. Perhaps that has been its downfall but, on the way it has secured many prestigious newspaper awards, being the first free paper to win London and SE Regional Newspaper of the Year, UK Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year (six times) and, most recently in 2014, Regional Free Newspaper of the Year again.....


Read more...
Last modified on Sunday, 11 March 2018 16:48
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 23:31

Financial Crisis in Schools

Written by Peter Read

I was asked by the KMTV online TV station this evening to comment on the letter written by 5000 headteachers to government asking for more funding to meet the current crisis. An article on the BBC News website sets out the background and summary of the letter here

You will find my interview here


Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 15 November 2017 12:58

Earlier this evening I was part of an item on BBC SE criticising St John Fisher Catholic School in Chatham, which had put up charts in public view with photographs of all Year 11 pupils on Friday, along with their academic performance and illustrated by large emojis to show how they were progressing.

St John Fisher 

This was intended as a motivational scheme, but there for all to see it would inevitably be humiliating for those at the bottom of the pile (the reason so many universities have scrapped posting lists of results). For a church school it is shocking to see the disrespect it showed to those pupils.

The school had a mountain to climb after finishing as bottom school in Medway at GCSE in both Progress and Achievement league tables in 2016, being the least popular school in Medway for admissions by several criteria, and an Ofsted Report close to Special Measures in March. However there are clear signs that the new headteacher, appointed in September 2016, is turning the school round, including solid GCSE results this summer.  

This tactic is just a step too far, and the school has rightly removed the boards today.


Read more...
Last modified on Thursday, 23 November 2017 00:19

The recent ‘Good’ OFSTED Report on The Canterbury Academy is one of the most astonishing I have ever read, with most findings meeting an ‘Outstanding’ criterion, and some going beyond this. There are criticisms, but the Report drips with compliments.

Canterbury Academy 

Amongst the headlines:
The executive and senior leaders and the board of directors could not be more determined to give all pupils and students the best possible education and confidence in their futures.
The curriculum, facilities and resources are outstanding, and the choice of subjects is exceptionally varied and rich.
The school offers a grammar stream for the most able pupils in Years 7 to 11, and also provides highly effective education for pupils who struggle in mainstream education or academic work.
Staff enjoy working at the school and their morale is high. The mutual respect between them, and pupils and students, contributes to the cheerful and productive atmosphere.
In the large and successful sixth form, excellence flourishes in the performing arts, sports and practical learning.
Almost all the parents who added written comments to their questionnaires praised the school in glowing terms.
It is the excellent, thoughtful care, support and kindness which many senior leaders and support staff provide which underpins pupils being happy and feeling safe.
The proportions of Year 11 pupils and sixth form students proceeding into education, employment, training or work are well above those seen nationally.....

Read more...
Last modified on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 20:36
Page 1 of 7