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The story so far: In September 2010, Chaucer was still Canterbury’s most popular school, and the year before that I was handling appeals for places at the school. However, because of poor governance, mismanagement and failure to provide proper oversight of the school’s finances it had already started on a downward spiral culminating in OFSTED placing the school in Special Measures in February last year, identifying these as the key issues. By then the school had reduced its Planned Admission number from 235 to 150 with just 57 children entering the school in September 2013, filling only a quarter of the places available and taken up a few years previously. Kent County Council subsequently decided to close the school in February this year after just 26 children placed the school as their first preference, a decision that was unavoidable given all that had gone before.  You will find further details here

 

Chaucer

Following a Public Consultation, whose outcome was inevitable, given that nearly all students in Years 7-9 had been transferred to other schools by Easter, a formal decision to close the school from September 2015 was made on June 4th.

However, OFSTED in its most recent Monitoring Inspection of the school, explicitly and wrongly places the blame for the closure on the decision of The Canterbury Academy to increase its intake by two forms of intake to absorb a massive increase in first choices, soaring from 155 in 2013 to 205, rather than the failures of those responsible  for the school itself, as parents sought to avoid the disaster that was now the Chaucer. This is demonstrated by the dramatic fall in first choices to 26, continuing a sharp decline over several years, finally halving from from 58 the previous year. This has nothing to do directly with Canterbury Academy, except for the latter's far more popular offering. Chaucer is currently run by the Executive Headteacher of the Swale Academies Trust, which originally took it over with the intention of turning it round, but having failed in this task is now closing it down after the current Year 10 students, the only year group left in the school, have taken their GCSEs.  

OFSTED identifies the following consequences .............


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Last modified on Friday, 29 August 2014 23:33

his article looks at updates on a number of previous articles about individual schools: the proposed resiting of Barton Court Grammar School at Herne Bay (updated 20 May); Castle Community College's Special Measures Classification; St John’s Primary School, Canterbury, headteacher resurrected; and the redesignation of Furness Special School.......


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Last modified on Wednesday, 05 November 2014 23:36
Thursday, 10 April 2014 00:00

News Stories

Written by Peter Read

I have been looking at the stories and information pages that have provoked most interest on this website. The most popular news items (those with over 20,000 visitors since publication ) naturally include six stories about  Kent and Medway admissions and the Kent Test, and three about problems in Medway. What I hadn't appreciated was the popularity of stories about individual schools, the remainder being articles about Chaucer Technology School (49,820), Swan Valley School/Ebbsfleet Academy, Marlowe Academy, Dover Road Primary School (Gravesham), and two Catholic Schools - St Edmund's RC, Dover and St Philip Howard, Herne Bay, all attracting over 20,000 visitors. 

Biggest draw by far is the information page article on Kent Grammar School Admissions at 85,687 visitors, the second most popular information article listing Kent Special Schools and Units (41,071). Other popular pages provide information about Kent secondary school admissions, Kent grammar school appeals, secondary school statistics on admissions and appeals, Medway grammar school applications, primary school admissions and appeals, and the thorny issue of school transport and transport appeals.

You will find the full lists below, followed by comments about some of the individual stories.........


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Last modified on Saturday, 24 May 2014 19:54

It is with great personal pride and pleasure that I report that Ifield School in Gravesend has been awarded its second consecutive Outstanding OFSTED, so that the school has now been assessed as 'Outstanding' in  three out of the past four Inspections. Ifield is a Special School serving children with Profound, Severe and Complex Difficulties and severe Communication Difficulties. I was Chairman of Governors for six years, taking over at a time of difficulty for the school but have now retired, although I continue as an Associate Governor, so am well aware of the challenges facing governors today.  

The summary of the Report reads:......


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Last modified on Monday, 10 March 2014 07:11
Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:00

Chaucer Technology School: Consultation on closure

Written by Peter Read

 This article looks at the consultation papers sent out out to parents and other interested parties regarding the proposed closure of the Chaucer Technology School, which are reproduced later in this document. 

In my view the undue prominence given in the document to the expansion of the Canterbury academy as a reason for the closure, totally misses the point. The dramatic fall in numbers over five years, is purely down to the school failing to offer a quality of education attractive to families. The fact that there are just 26 first choices for Chaucer for September is nothing to do with Canterbury Academy, except that families are clearly finding it, and the other Canterbury District schools a far more attractive option. 

The table in the document only gives the expected intake at Chaucer for September if the school was to remain open as 26, rather than the 40 offers made today. 26 is the number of first choices only, but is a realistic assessment, and mirrors the situation of 2013 entry, as most of the children who did not make it first choice did not take up their places having found preferred schools.  

I think it is misleading, presumably unintentionally, when referring to places available in the Canterbury District. I can find no reference to the possible destinations of Year 7- 9 pupils. For the information of parents, In Years 7 to 9, the schools with vacant spaces are as follows: The Community College, Whitstable - 242; Spires Academy - 88; St Anselm's Catholic School - 27; The Archbishop's School - minus 5; Canterbury Academy - minus 33. All three grammar schools are full. It therefore follows that the overwhelming majority of the 237 children who are to be displaced from the school in September, will be destined for The Community College Whitstable, outside the city and over 8 miles by road. KCC does acknowledge that children will receive free school transport if they qualify (!) but this is hardly satisfactory. The council appears happy that there will be a 5% surplus in Canterbury District for the new Year Seven pupils, but again this is also likely to be concentrated in Whitstable!

It remains my view that the closure of Chaucer Technology School remains inevitable because of past and present mismanagement as explained in my previous articles...


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Last modified on Monday, 24 November 2014 10:52

The following table shows the miserable performance of Warren Wood Primary School at OFSTED Inspections over the past ten years. It includes FOUR Ofsted failures (three Special Measures, one Requires Improvement), three Inadequate Progress Inspections following Special Measures, just one Satisfactory OFSTED, one Good progress from Special Measures and two Satisfactory Progress Inspections following Special Measures or Requires Improvement. 

Warren Wood Primary School
History of OFSTED Inspections
Category Date
Special Measures June 2004
Good progress since SM Nov 2005
Satisfactory Mar 2006
Requires Improvement  May 2008
Satisfactory progress since RI Jan 2009
Special Measures Jul 2009
Inadequate progress since SM Jan 2010
Inadequate progress since SM May 2010
Inadequate progress since SM
Satisfactory progress since
previous Monitoring Inspection
Sep 2010
Satisfactory  progress since SM
Mar 2011
Satisfactory
Jun 2011
Special Measures 
Dec 2013

 That is a decade of an appalling standard of education offered to pupils of Warren Wood Primary School. However, Medway Council continued to maintain in its most recent responses to my reporting of the disgraceful performance of the Council that: it has nothing to apologise for; it is doing alright (citing the exam performance of the  secondary academies); that its School Improvement Department is excellent, and that any problem is down to the academies (which are mainly secondary schools, so its not!). OFSTED results of Medway Council controlled primary schools  since September are as follows:

Medway Primary School OFSTED Outcomes September 2013 to January 2014 
                                 Outstanding Good
Requires 
Improvement
Inadequate Total
Category
improved
Category
got worse
Number of
Schools
0 7 7 2 16 1 5
% of schools  
0 43 43 13      
% of schools
2012-13
6 34 46 14      

In 2012- 13 Medway Council was the  worst but one Local Authority in the country, on the proportion of Good or Outstanding primary school OFSTED outcomes. For the current school year it appears fractionally better, but in fact is much worse, as five out of six schools that changed their classification have actually got worse, compared to one that became better. 

Also this week has come the news that Napier Primary School, referred to previously, has had a second Monitoring Inspection, the conclusion being: "Evidence indicates the school has not improved quickly enough since the last monitoring inspection in October 2013. You have started to act on the recommendations made at that visit but too little is securely in place" ......


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Last modified on Sunday, 12 November 2017 19:57

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
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