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Tuesday, 10 November 2015 05:04

Sevenoaks Annex; Kings Farm; Hempstead Junior; Barming; Duke of York's; KCC Select Committee; Oakwood Park; St Christopher's

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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.
 
Sevenoaks Annex
A news item on the website of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys refers to speculation that the proposed Sevenoaks Annex  could include a boys’ annex. For legal reasons, I do not believe that there could be a single mixed annex, as it needs a single governance, and set of admission criteria, as discussed in a previous article. There would therefore need to be two separate single sex annexes, but the school states: “It is important to point out that potential involvement for TWGSB is not being considered at this time. Should the local authority make a formal approach to the school we would discuss the options, however, the provision for pupils on this site remains our priority.”  I am surprised that, given the pressure on boys’ places there has been no such formal approach, but surmise it is because the Authority is waiting to see if the Annex is fully legally cleared before taking the next step which would almost certainly need to include offering to improve the facilities and provision on the main TWGSB site which is currently under considerable pressure.
Kings Farm Primary School
Kings Farm Primary in Gravesend, after being placed in Special Measures shortly after the Executive Headteacher, from the neighbouring Whitehill Primary was removed (now also ‘on leave’ from Whitehill) has been found by OFSTED to be “taking effective action towards the removal of Special Measures”.
As a Governor of the new Federation of Kings Farm and the neighbouring OFSTED Outstanding Ifield Special School, I am aware of the tremendous amount of work going into improving the school and the leap in morale of families and staff that has contributed to this improvement. However, the school is still short of a couple of permanent teachers.
 
Kings Farm Primary School
If you are a good teacher, looking for a new challenge, and want to be part of this exciting set up, feel free to contact the headteacher: Mrs Catherine Taylor, on 01474 566979, mentioning this link.
 
Hempstead Junior School
In Medway, the troubled Hempstead Junior School is about to lose another Chairman of Governors, following the resignation last year of five governors including the chair and vice-chair after the failure of Medway Council to help them when in conflict with the controversial headteacher. This Chair was an external Local Authority appointment, presumably in an attempt to cover up the problems of governance and leadership in the school, after at least two outside experienced governors turned down the role; She has now given notice she is quitting after less than six months. Where will Medway Council turn next to try and put out the fire, as this situation continues to act as an indictment of Medway Council’s failure to recognise the value of governors? 
 
Barming Primary School
Recent media reports that the Interim Headteacher of Barming Primary School in Maidstone, has banned the school Christmas Play to focus on academic work remind me of his link with a previous national media storm. When he was Deputy Headteacher of the controversial Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend, the headteacher made the headlines when she “banned Christmas”. More details here. 
 
Duke of York’s Royal Military School
A story that will not go away. 
 
Select Committee to widen access to Kent Grammar School
Kent County Council is to set up a Select Committee, at the instigation of Leader Paul Carter, to explore the possibility of wider social access into Kent grammar schools. This follows a recent Conference on the Kent Test at which I spoke, one of whose themes was this precise issue. My own presentation focused on the recommendations of the Sutton Trust Report which you will find here, along with my other main themes of: different admission profiles for grammar schools; headteacher assessment and pass statistics; grammar school appeals; and an analysis of outcomes of the new Kent Test. 
 
Oakwood Park Grammar School and the cost of A Levels
The head of Oakwood Park created considerable media interest with a letter to parents informing them the school was having to cut several subjects because of financial pressures. I am not sure why this one caught the imagination so much, as other grammar schools have already had to make similar decisions, with Highworth Grammar’s economy in being forced to reduce from 40 to 32 A Levels being raised in Parliament back in January. I wrote back in August of the knee jerk reaction of Mid Kent College, when they scrapped all A Levels, a decision also reached by North West Kent College some years back. In spite of government reassurances to the contrary, the decision to fund sixth form students by age and not by course followed is just one factor amongst many that are putting pressure on provision in school sixth forms. I have written previously in February about the problems, also highlighting the specific issues at non-selective schools with the reduction in opportunities for students capable of achieving lower grades at A Level, and the need for more co-operation between schools, admirably highlighted between Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar and Abbey School in Faversham, amongst others. However, co-operation depends both on a degree of geographical closeness and a willingness by schools some of whom have difficulty in sharing. Whatever, my article observed that The private schools must be rubbing their hands!at this government imposed reduction in opportunity in state schools. 
 
St Christopher's School (private), Canterbury
I don't normally comment on private schools, but the recent OFSTED for St Christopher's, whose main function appears to be to prepare children for the Kent 11 plus, is a warning to parents to check such schools out carefully. Always look to see if there is an Inspection Report. Many such schools are very good, but this was an Emergency Inspection commissioned by the Department for Education because of concerns relating to the leadership and management of safeguarding arrangements at the school, probably triggered by parental complaints. As a private school, the outcome is not required to be posted on the school website, unlike state schools, but key findings include: leadership is weak; there is a culture of mistrust, claim and counter claim amongst staff, meaning there is too little focus on the welfare of pupils; the headteacher does not always demonstrate appropriate professional conduct so consequently, neither do the staff; the deputy headteacher has left the school and not been replaced; the monitoring of safeguarding practice at the school is weak; the recently formed governing body is ineffective with no formal terms of reference or authority delegated to the governing body; staff freely admit they act on concerns with safeguarding in different ways, few of which reflect the school’s policies. However, it may well be that these issues do not concern parents overmuch, many of whom see the school as a vehicle to achieve success at the Kent Test, with nine of the twelve candidates passing the Test this year.  

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