Supporting Families
  • banner3
  • banner2
  • banner8
  • banner13
  • banner11
  • banner12
  • banner10
  • banner6
  • banner7
  • banner9

In its time Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy has been the most troubled school in Kent, my previous article also providing links to earlier references.

That article, entitled “Problems in Secondary Schools in Kent's Coastal Towns“, looks at the high casualty rate amongst headteachers of non-selective schools around the Kent coast. With Sheppey’s sharp fall in GCSE performance since the current Principal, David Millar, took over in 2013, from 41% and 37% before he arrived, to his 19% then 25% in 2015, he was surely a candidate to be next for the chop, especially with discontent amongst the staff and the continuing cry of ‘anywhere but Sheppey’ from any aspiring parent.

Isle of Sheppey Academy

However, remarkably, although he is leaving the school this summer before his public commitment to serve at least three years at the school was fulfilled, he has been given a ‘great opportunity’, a further promotion with another multi-academy trust, presumably therefore a school even larger than Sheppey, the second biggest in Kent.....


Read more...
Last modified on Tuesday, 25 April 2017 21:48

The issues surrounding Chatham Grammar School for Boys’ proposals to go co-educational and also to redefine the way “grammar school ability” is determined are obviously of considerable importance to all secondary schools and the families affected in Medway. You will find my most recent article on the controversy here.

Medway Council’s view is clearly central to the situation as they have legal responsibility for the provision of education, if not the power since the introduction of academies.

According to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, owners of Chatham Grammar, Medway Council is supportive of the proposal to go co-educational: “In Medway the Council can see the benefit of a co-educational school to absorb both boys and girls” and “Medway LEA were happy for the school to increase its published admission number to accommodate all those that applied for a place”.

Unfortunately, whether this is true or not is currently a secret, as Medway Council is refusing to make its representations to the consultation public at this time……


Read more...
Last modified on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 22:21
Wednesday, 30 December 2015 20:13

Review of the Year 2015; and looking forward to 2016

Written by Peter Read

Kent on Sunday has published my personal Review of the Year, reproduced in full here. It will come as no surprise that it is introduced as: "As pressure grows on teachers, is 2016 going to provide any relief? - Probably not according to former headteacher and education adviser Peter Read in his end of year report", and concludes with "What is certain is that the education map is changing faster than at any time I can remember in my forty years of working in the county, with government more firmly in the driving seat than ever before. I see no sign of relaxation of this centralised and politicised grip in the near future, so hang on for another bumpy ride in 2016."


Read more...
Last modified on Sunday, 16 October 2016 16:51
Friday, 25 December 2015 07:12

Happy Christmas to all Browsers

Written by Peter Read

christmas

May I wish a Happy Christmas to all the 1000 plus subscribers to Kent Advice (its easy to join in, see below right) and the thousands of other occasional visitors who arrive here, and thank you for the many seasonal wishes I have received. The high level of support for this unique website which attracted 193,432 certified visits from 116,376 users over the past year, underlines my strong belief that there is an important need for an independent and critical view of educational issues in Kent and Medway, along with quality information and news to inform families making decisions that will critically affect their children’s lives.

As always, the Christmas period is a busy one in schools,......


Read more...
Last modified on Friday, 25 December 2015 07:38

You will find a more recent article here

Last month I reported on the controversial proposal by Chatham Grammar School for Boys to become co-educational. This article looks at an even more controversial aspect whereby, with the school to be capable of expansion up to 180 children, a committee of governors would be able to fill any vacancies after school allocation each March with children they choose, using their own interpretation of ‘grammar school ability’.

To enable this to take place, the proposed new school Admission Policy states: “From National Offer Day, any available spaces will be allocated to those children who have provided sufficient evidence to the Admissions Committee of being of grammar school standard”.

Another factor emerging is the low proportion of boys being assessed suitable for grammar school in recent years, being 19% of the total number from Medway primary schools in 2015 (target is 25% of girls and boys), which may itself have precipitated the proposal if the school is desperate to make up numbers.   

At a Parental Consultation meeting on the proposal it was implied that Medway Council supported the proposal. It would be useful to know if this is true, as I cannot see why any secondary schools other than those in the Thinking Schools Academy Trust would support this proposal......


Read more...
Last modified on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 22:23

Julia George of Radio Kent interviewed Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council on Tuesday morning about Medway matters. With so many important issues for the Authority, she chose to spend the first quarter of an hour pressing him on the failed and failing Medway education service as her priority. At the time of writing the interview is still on iPlayer.

Quoting extensively from the wide range of data provided elsewhere on this website, Julia focused on the following facts: for every year bar one since 2009, Medway Council had been in the bottom five Local Authorities in the country out of 153, in terms of Key Stage Two performance at the end of primary school years; this year the Authority was bottom in the country in terms of both KS2 performance and also in the proportion of primary school children in OFSTED Good or Outstanding schools, and was again last in the latter in 2014; in addition, the Authority had the third highest school exclusion rate in the country. Julia made the point repeatedly that the children of Medway had been failed by the Authority and asked what Mr Jarrett would do about the Cabinet Member responsible for this debacle; whether he should keep his job and how much longer he should be given.  Mr Jarrett’s defence was that the Cabinet Member responsible, Mr Mike O’Brien, had the confidence of himself and his Cabinet colleagues and should be given as long as it takes to bring about improvement. This triggered an exchange about which was most important, the future of Medway children or Mr O’Brien, Mr Jarrett apparently coming down in favour of the latter………


Read more...
Last modified on Thursday, 17 December 2015 19:45
This article comprises a collection of items from across the county covering: Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys; Kings Farm Primary School; Hempstead Junior School; Barming Primary School; Duke of York's Royal Military School; the proposed KCC Select Committee on Wider Social Access to Grammar School; and Oakwood Park Grammar School and the cost of A Levels.

Read more...
Last modified on Sunday, 26 February 2017 18:57
Saturday, 07 November 2015 18:25

The Griffin Academies Trust

Written by Peter Read

The Griffin Academies Trust,which runs 12 schools, six in the Midlands and six in the South East including four in Medway, has been heavily criticised for its financial arrangements.  An article in the Guardian reports that in just two years the Trust paid over £700,000 to a company jointly owned by its two chief executives, one whom is Elizabeth Lewis, previously a headteacher of Dover Grammar School for Girls. Three other companies in which trustees of the charity have majority interests received smaller payments that amounted to around £100,000 for “educational consultancy services’”, the trust’s accounts show. The article continues:....


Read more...
Last modified on Saturday, 07 November 2015 19:18

Once again, the last fortnight in October has proved exceptionally busy for the website, with 19,621 different visitors after the publication of the Kent Test Results on the 14th. In all, a total of 26,846 visits were made, in one of the two busiest times of the year (the other being the first fortnight in March when school allocations were made). Because of the specialist nature of the site, these will be predominantly visitors seeking information and advice on school admissions and appeals in Kent and Medway.

In the hours after the Kent Test results came out, there were 3,931 visits to the site on the same day, 14th October, with the busiest day in the period coming on the 15th, with 4,229 separate visitors.  

Overall, in the fortnight, 18,823 visits were made to the Kent Grammar Schools information page with 5,688 browsers looking at the news page on Kent Test Results. Other popular pages were: ....


Read more...
Last modified on Monday, 02 November 2015 20:02

The recent Conference on the Kent Test and Admission to Grammar Schools in Kent which took place at County Hall Maidstone on Wednesday, was a great success, with those attending including: primary and grammar school representatives and headteachers, parents, school governors, appeal presenting officers and panellists, tutors and media representatives.

The Conference was set up to focus on five themes: the New Kent Test, sat earlier this month for the second time; alternatives to the Test, with five Kent grammar schools now setting their own tests as an additional way of qualifying for grammar school; how primary schools approach the Kent Test and the controversial issue of coaching; appeals to grammar schools; and the range of expectations of standards for admission to Kent grammar schools. The four speakers, myself included, gave presentations that covered all these issues between them,  and you will find a copy of my own presentation here, with coverage by Kent on Sunday here

Kent Test Conference

Matthew Bartlett at Kent Test Conference
photo courtesy of Kent on Sunday

 

Interestingly, and topically there was considerable emphasis placed on opening grammar school admissions to a wider social profile, given the announcement by KCC the day after the Conference that they were setting up a commission for this very purpose. Matthew Bartlett, head of Dover Grammar School for Girls, underlined this theme by talking about how the alternative Dover Test had widened opportunities for local girls, a school with 10% Free School Meals, whilst still producing some of the best examination results in the county.......


Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 28 October 2015 03:55

A letter to parents reports that the controversial Headteacher of Whitehill Primary School, an Academy and part of the Gravesend Grammar School Academy Trust has been given leave of absence and the Associate Head of Gravesend Grammar has been put into the school as Acting Head. 

This follows a particularly turbulent year in the life of this troubled school. Much of the background to this sorry story is reported elsewhere in this website.

Allegations of cheating in SATs last year, which saw the school’s Key Stage 2 results annulled, and in Early Years Assessments in 2014 and 2015 have bedevilled the school, and the Department for Education carried out a visit last week which may have triggered the leave of absence.

Turnover of staff is very high, staff morale is rock bottom, and by one measure the school is the most unpopular in the county, with 30 children allocated to Reception classes by KCC in April who had not even applied for the school. I am regularly contacted by parents seeking advice on how to avoid sending their children to Whitehill Primary.

One of the many questions being asked by so many people in the local community and by many past and present staff is why this scandal has been allowed to continue for so long, especially after the Headteacher was removed by KCC from the neighbouring Kings Farm Primary School in July 2014 where she had been installed as Executive Head in January 2014........


Read more...
Last modified on Friday, 18 November 2016 20:32

Medway Council has launched its second initiative to improve standards across its schools in three years, this one called “Get Medway Learning” , the previous initiative entitled “Effective Challenge of Underperformance in Schools” having sunk without trace or effect.

The initiative aims to raise the bar in local primary and secondary schools, ensuring children are receiving a quality education and achieving to the very best of their ability, certainly a laudable aim, as for 2013-14, the last year for which results are available, Medway Primary schools came bottom in the country in both Key Stage 2 performance and OFSTED Inspection outcomes.

However, I remain unconvinced it will fare any better than the 2012 attempt, except that perhaps Medway Council is at last realising the seriousness of its situation and the damage being done to Medway children’s education. The only bright sign on the horizon is the continued good performance of Medway secondary schools, producing GCSE results above the national average, and demonstrating they are turning round the underperformance in the primary sector.

The main themes of the initiative are:…..


Read more...
Last modified on Sunday, 18 October 2015 19:22

As regular browsers will know, I make considerable use of the Freedom of Information Act to secure information about education matters in Kent and Medway for parents. However, it is important to use the service responsibly and not make requests that will obviously be refused on grounds of unreasonableness. Two recent requests about the Kent Test:

I understand head teachers will now know our child's results under
this act please can I know my child's results too?

 

Please could I see a copy of the Kent Test for the
years 2014 & 2015?

 

Very reasonably and politely, Kent County Council responded:


Read more...
Last modified on Thursday, 24 September 2015 21:00
Sunday, 20 September 2015 15:26

Why are so many teachers leaving the profession?

Written by Peter Read

Too many young teachers are being lost to the profession through a lack of support in the classroom, chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has said. Sir Michael, giving evidence to the Commons select committee on education, said he had been upset by the number of talented teachers who complained about the lack of support available to them at the start of their careers.

What used to upset me was talking to people who were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hugely enthusiastic  about coming into teaching, wanting to do well for disadvantaged youngsters, saying to me that they were put off teaching in the first few years because they weren’t adequately supported by leaders”.

This statement coincided with an article I had been asked to write for Kent On Sunday, on why so many teachers were leaving the profession, which was published on Sunday. My article is illustrated by a number of recent examples of schools affected, drawn from Kent and Medway, although I have provided another below which I believe dwarfs these examples but may of course not be unique.....


Read more...
Last modified on Monday, 20 February 2017 23:13

Mid Kent College has cynically left 175 students in the lurch 24 hours after they received GCSE results which qualified them for A Level courses at the College. All A Level courses for new students have been scrapped less than two weeks before term starts, at both the Gillingham and Maidstone campuses. Some of the students learned of the decision only after news was published in local media and before they received letters informing them that their career plans had been torpedoed by the College.

According to the College the decision was taken in order to focus more effort on apprenticeships and vocational training. The College had ‘reviewed its curriculum in the face of fewer resources and recent government policy’ although I am aware of no government policies that have changed in recent months to precipitate this change.

And then, there is the remarkable coincidence outlined at the foot of this article.......


Read more...
Last modified on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 09:56
Page 3 of 7