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John Wallis

My own view, scarcely original, is that a school succeeds through the quality of its leadership, rather than its status as an academy, free school or maintained school. My current nomination for best performing school in Kent is the John Wallis CofE Academy in Ashford (my hometown, so I am one of the few that know who John Wallis was!). Yes, its OFSTED published last week was only ‘Good’, not ‘Outstanding’ but the school replaced the previous Christ Church School and Linden Grove Primary both in Special Measures under KCC control just over three years ago and has travelled a great distance in that time. It is only Kent's second all through, children ages 3-19, academy. OFSTED sets the scene by describing the school population's characteristics: “The proportion of students known to be eligible for the pupil premium (additional funding provided by the government to help nationally underperforming groups such as students eligible for free school meals and children who are looked after) is considerably above the national average; close to 80% of students are of a White British heritage. While the proportion of students from minority ethnic groups is below average, the proportion who speaks English as an additional language is well above average; The proportion of disabled students and those with special educational needs supported through school action is well above average. The proportion of students supported at school action plus or with a statement of special educational needs is also well above average”.

In other words, this is a school flourishing in an area that includes much deprivation, and where many would dismiss the school and its students as bound to fail, because of the very high proportion of disadvantaged and SEN pupils. Other schools with a similar intake do fail because of low expectations and poor leadership. John Wallis shows what can be done to overcome disadvantage.......


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Last modified on Friday, 21 February 2014 23:42
Friday, 03 January 2014 08:00

Chatham Grammar School for Boys:Update

Written by Peter Read

Since my previous article on the fate of Chatham Grammar following its failed OFSTED back in June, only the second grammar school in England to be placed in Special Measures, there have been dramatic and controversial changes at the school. A monitoring Inspection by OFSTED in October clearly approved of developments, one Facebook page run by parents tells a very different story, but a second one apparently run by responsible students tells another. Newsletters published by the school describe some of the factual changes, and I have also been kept informed by worried parents and prospective parents providing me with information and seeking advice.

The OFSTED Report and school information show that the governance of the school has passed to the RGS/AFS Thinking Schools Trust


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Last modified on Monday, 27 January 2014 05:52
Thursday, 14 November 2013 16:10

Shoreham Village School - Special Measures

Written by Peter Read

The latest OFSTED Report on Shoreham Village School, which was published earlier this week placing the school in Special Measures, is possibly the most scathing I have ever read. The school is found inadequate in every category: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching; behaviour and safety of pupils, and leadership & management. This is a dramatic turnaround from the previous inspection of 2010 when the school was judged to be good. Shoreham is just north of Sevenoaks with an annual intake of just 15 and fills each year, in spite of the problems.

Typically of failing schools, there are staffing problems: “At the time of the inspection the substantive headteacher was on long-term sick leave. Four members of staff began working in the school in September 2013, including an acting headteacher who is providing support to the school for three days a week temporarily”. This is in spite of “Arrangements to lead it temporarily have gained the confidence of parents, staff, governors and pupils”, confirming that the problems are not primarily related to the new staff appointed.

It is clear from the Leadership & Management section where the problems are located.......


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Last modified on Thursday, 14 November 2013 16:23

 swan valley 1swan valley 4

Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe had its official opening on Thursday 19th September, also attended by local dignitaries. However, there is no Ebbsfleet Academy, rather there is Swan Valley School, which hopes to become an academy on 1st November 2013, after extensive delays, partly brought about by the complexities of converting a school built under the Private Finance Initiative. I understand that unravelling the PFI issues is now the main hold up, but given this is a problem nationally for such schools wishing to convert, it was surely premature to assume that at Swan Valley all would run more smoothly.  The Department for Education's school data base now shows Ebbsfleet Academy as a sponsor led academy, proposed start date 1st November, with Swan Valley being billed to close on 31st October. 

Interestingly, in media interviews and comments two weeks ago, when I broke the story of how PFI academies would still continue to cost Local Authorities unfair costs after conversion, focused around Swan Valley, no one thought to correct the false information that the school had actually become Ebbsfleet Academy. Hardly surprising as everything about the running of the school gives the same impression.

Why is this of interest, apart from the misleading information? Ever since November when the previous headteacher was deposed, there has been controversy about the running of Swan Valley, and I have had a succession of messages from parents and staff expressing their concerns. Not an enormous number, but more than I have received for any other school in difficulties, and dwelling on the punitive nature of the school ethos or, for its supporters, the strict discipline.  A recent example of this is the controversy over the home school agreement, where the school falsely maintained there ws a parental obligation to agree to it. This is accompanied by concerns about poor communication which are obvious even to me, an outsider.

As a result I have monitored developments at the school from a distance......


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Last modified on Thursday, 03 October 2013 19:24

bishops down

The long drawn out saga of Bishops Down Primary School in Tunbridge Wells continues and appears to be inching towards a permanent solution after KCC tried to force a reduction in its intake numbers until a parent took them to the Schools Adjudicator in 2012, who in August ruled KCC was in the wrong. The Adjudicator further criticised KCC heavily for: failing to provide reliable information on admissions arrangements at schools in Tunbridge Wells from year to year; failing to consult parents on changes; and for using practices and criteria to decide Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) that were not clear, consistent or objective. KCC tried to wriggle out of the instruction to expand permanently over the next year, but during the course of 2013 has now come to the conclusion that the expansion is the right way to go......


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Last modified on Sunday, 22 September 2013 12:38
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 23:10

Chatham Grammar School for Boys: Parents' Forum

Written by Peter Read

This item should be read in conjunction with the article outlining the Ofsted failure of Chatham Grammar School for Boys

The new leadership of Chatham Grammar School for Boys held a parents’ forum last Thursday, to explain their way forward from the failed Ofsted Inspection and to answer questions. I have had a number of reports back about the meeting as there are many concerned parents about, and this article attempts to summarise these. If you think I have misread the situation, please let me know.  

What is clear is that the main effect on families is the feeling of loss of pride and self-esteem that came from being members of what most saw as a happy and successful school. I have repeatedly heard statements such as: “my son was so proud to be a student at Chatham Grammar School for Boys. That pride has been destroyed by the Ofsted Report”. 

What is also evident is that the Report came as a totally unexpected bombshell to so many parents, hence the sense of bewilderment and anger......


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Last modified on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 23:36

mayfield

I live in Gravesend and am regularly asked why Mayfield Grammar School has vacancies this year, a situation hardly improved when there were just 17 successful appeals  out of 39, although the school had 35 spaces going.

Actually there is no mystery as the explanation is quite straightforward and arises because of a gender difference in the town greater than anywhere else in Kent this year. In the current Year 6, Gravesham has 610 boys in local state schools but only 536 girls. The discrepancy was exacerbated by the children’s performance in the Kent Test where 23% of boys passed but only 21% of girls. This gave a total of 144 selective boys but only 115 girls.....


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Last modified on Friday, 20 September 2013 19:38
Saturday, 25 May 2013 08:08

What a difference three days makes

Written by Peter Read

Took three days holiday this week in gap caused by half-term between preparing clients for appeals. Naturally there was a sudden outbreak of news including the following, some of which I will cover over the next couple of days:

1) Judd School announces it is considering setting up its own 11 plus tests for 2015 entry.

2) Judd school confirms no successful appeals this year.

3) Two new proposed Free Schools announced for opening in 2014 if approved. Jubilee Primary, in Maidstone, will be run by  Jubilee Church. Also the INSPIRE Special Free School will initially have 40 places and be based next to Silverbank Park in Churchill Avenue. Medway Council has worked in partnership with three schools in submitting the bid to the Department for Education: Willimaosn School Trust; Bradfields Special School; and Greenacre School. I don;t have any further details yet.

4) Kent County Council has begun its consultation on the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School satellite

5) The usual assassins keep putting the boot into the Trinity Christian Free  School on the 11 plus website (not sure what it has to do with the 11 plus!) proposed for the same site

6) An OFSTED for Dame Janet Primary Academy in Ramsgate. formed out of Dame Janet Junior and Dame Janet Infants (failed OFSTED) receives shocking OFSTED  showing that  becoming an Academy is not the solution for everyone.

7) KCC to debate unacceptable delays in preparing Statements of Special Education Need. It is claimed that these are down to failures by the medical services to provide timely appropriate evdence. 


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Last modified on Monday, 27 May 2013 19:21

Mike Whiting is the biggest Conservative casualty in yesterday's election for the Kent County Council, losing his seat for Swale Central. Politics apart, I believe he will be sorely missed and Kent school children will be the losers by his going.  Mike only became a County Councillor at the last election in 2009, and when he was appointed Deputy Cabinet Member and then Cabinet Member for Education in short succession, both in 2011, I feared that his lack of education experience would be a setback. However, he mastered his brief rapidly and in the last 12 months we have seen many initiatives that are down to his drive that have improved the quality of education for our children.

The shortage of places in both primary and secondary schools last year was a debacle, but was minimised for 2013 admissions through a robust approach to creating additional places .......
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Last modified on Saturday, 04 May 2013 08:23

Three weeks ago I wrote an article about the OFSTED failures of two Catholic schools, and  appended a comment about problems with admission numbers at St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive School in Chatham. However, it looks as if those who have stuck with the school are on a winner, as OFSTED has Reported that the school as having a GOOD standard of education, up from the previous 'Satisfactory' two years ago. St John Fisher is supported by St Paul's Academy in Greenwich, whose Principal spends one and a half days weekly at St John Fisher. Strong leadership is clearly a major factor in the turn-around, OFSTED recording: "The headteacher and the leadership team are passionate about driving up standards at the school.......
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Last modified on Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Thursday, 11 April 2013 13:19

What can I do about Medway Council? - Continued

Written by Peter Read

Warning – this is a very long and somwhat rambling article about Freedom of Information Requests in Medway, but it makes me feel better if nothing else! Back in December 2011, I wrote a blog article on this very topic, complaining about Medway Council’s repeated failure to respond to FOIs with a follow up in February. . Since then the Information Commissioner has ruled that Medway Council is in breach of Section 10(1) of the Freedom of Information Act in failing to comply with a request of mine within the statutory time for compliance. However, this appears to have made no impact on their current poor practices. .......


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Last modified on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 18:24
Monday, 25 March 2013 23:25

Cranbrook School

Written by Peter Read

Cranbrook School has now concluded its consultation about changing the age of entry from 13 to 11 and governors have agreed in principle to go ahead using the Kent 11 plus as the basis for admission to the school, preference being given to those living within the school catchment area.  I am delighted to learn this, having counselled many unhappy families over the years who were and still are trying to cope with the results of the anomaly. As is the nature with such things, the proposed date to start the new entry at eleven has slipped another year to September 2016.

I explained the background to the current unique age of entry in Kent in an article a year ago at the start of the consultation........


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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 11:04
Thursday, 31 January 2013 23:24

Medway Council: no comment needed

Written by Peter Read

Dan Bloom of the The Medway Messenger has reported on an education debate which took place in a Medway Council full meeting on 24th January. According to this, the Lead Member for Education, Councillor Les Wicks maintained that Medway's exam results were good, surely the only person in the whole of Medway who could think this. You will find on this site, clear evidence of many cases of Medway's inadequacy, and the washing of hands by councillors and officials of their responsibility. For example (1), (2), (3), and (4), although a search for 'Medway' on the site will find others.  

The article reads in full..........
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Last modified on Saturday, 27 April 2013 20:06
Sunday, 27 January 2013 19:42

Chaucer Technology School: : Headteacher Resigns

Written by Peter Read

The Headteacher of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury has resigned with immediate effect, the second Kent secondary head to go in such a way in just a few months, following the head of Swan Valley School in Swanscombe. The head of Hextable School, also featured on this website. went just before the end of last summer term. Although there is no formal indication of the reasons for the departure of the Chuacer headteacher, there are signs that this was on the cards. The school is consulting on plans to become a Sponsored Academy, becoming part of a multi-sponsored trust, presumably one of the large academy chains, many of which would dispense with the previous leadership in a struggling school, most academies on this model starting with a new headteacher. 

There is no doubt that Chaucer Technology is struggling at present,.....


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Last modified on Monday, 28 January 2013 10:46

As Reported below, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), which effectively ran The Marlowe Academy in the last school year, made limited progress in its attempts to improve standards at the academy, overseeing a failed OFSTED. It then made limited progress in two subsequent monitoring Inspections and paved the way for the most recent barely adequate one.  

It also took over three Maidstone primary schools in April 2012, including the previous Bell Wood Primary School which became Tree Tops Academy. OFSTED has now carried out its first monitoring Inspection eight months after AET took over the school which was previously in Special Measures. The summary conclusion of "Having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time the academy is not making enough progress in raising standards for all pupils. This visit has raised serious concerns and the timing of the academy’s next inspection may be affected" is surely an indictment of the academy chain's input to this school. 

Some excerpts from the Report:.....


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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 07:24
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