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Sunday, 09 October 2016 20:06

Kent Education Network and 11+ Truth

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The owner of the Kent Education Network (KEN) website has recently provided sites for two other small campaigns against academic selection at Local Equal Excellent (LEE) for residents of Buckinghamshire  and 11+ Truth, which involves KEN, LEE, Transform Reading and Kendrick, andExcellent Education for Everyone  from Maidenhead”, both registered in September. The last named apparently represents campaign groups as:  “A joint effort by groups in selective areas around the UK”, although I am not sure that four meets the description of 'many', and looking at their output it is clear there is a long way to go.

The focus in 11+ Truth on its trashing of Kent schooling is appalling, with many false allegations, wrong data and misleading conclusions as illustrated below. 

Parts of this article have been rewritten as a result of comments by the three organisations, which have enabled me to focus on the more important features. Whilst I have cut out some other valid illustrations of my theme, this is because of their limited relevance to Kent. 

Below I look at some of the false claims on 11+ Truth, and a closer look at the Kent Education Network and its claims...

11+ Truth (sic)
11+ Truth claims it has no connection with the Kent website apart from its host server (the host also claiming no connection!), and  begins a claim starting: The reason so many campaign groups exist in grammar school areas is…”, although it comprises four small campaigns. However its focus on Kent is such that it carries five articles about the county out of a total of eight (two others were general), all written by an author, ‘elevenplustruth’, who is very familiar with the Kent system, and uses data from FOI requests only asked for by the founder of KEN! Some of these articles are very lengthy (apologies that this one is also), several claiming technical skills where statistics are misused, but each contains false or misleading statements including those below, a trait very similar to articles on the KEN network.   

“Most regular Kent grammar schools do not contain ‘academic high fliers’, only the super-selective grammar schools of Kent which select by the highest scores are hot-houses for academic talent”.This is of course is factually wrong and damaging to regular Kent grammar schools which of course do contain their fair share of the brightest students, apart from a small proportion of the 'academic talent' being siphoned away predominantly from those in the west  of the county. This goes to to the three 'super selectives' based there (although this still leaves plenty of high performers to go round as exemplified by the outstanding academic results of the 'regular' Tunbridge Wells and Weald of Kent Girls' grammars). They self-evidently have no impact whatever on the two thirds of Kent grammar schools, stretching from Maidstone east of Thanet! Sadly, this falsehood might take in someone who does not know the county and damage the reputation of the twenty nine 'regular' grammar schools, except that it is so obviously pure trouble making with no basis in fact.

An article called: “When a test score doesn’t matter – how Kent doesn’t even trust its own eleven-plus test”, is based on a complete misrepresentation of the Kent system. It does this by falsely basing it on comparisons of children’s performance by aggregate score, completely ignoring the fact that the Kent system has a floor level in each subject so of course is another travesty of the reality, but might impress someone who does not know the county. It also considers “The worst thing about Kent grammar school admissions is the Head Teacher Assessment panel. I was told in confidence by one member of this panel that it is flawed”. Wow! “Most parents don’t even know about this appeals system at all.” They don't need to because it is not a parental appeal, hence the name. “I’ve seen many smart parents put in FOI requests to see HTA for the primary schools in their area, and then they send their child to the school with the best results”. Just doesn’t even begin to make sense and I don’t believe it; they may try and get their children into schools with the best 11+performance, but Head Teacher Assessments (HTAs) seven years hence. Never! “Apparently "it also helps to make an effort with annotated notes, leading to those schools who do this getting more children through appeal.” Well they would because this is in the instructions given to headteachers for making HTAs. Loads more false statements in this one, utterly discrediting it and the website.

The truth about school choice” surprise, surprise is all about Kent, giving various flawed and misleading examples of lack of choice for children who do not pass the Kent Test, suggesting the sixth and ninth most popular non-selective schools in the county, Canterbury Academy and Knole Academy in Sevenoaks (with its popular and successful grammar stream) are, to use KEN's description, poor options. St Anselm's and Archbishop's School in Canterbury and Trinity Free School are falsely dismissed out of hand as denying places to anyone without a religious background, although: St Anselm's usually takes in a few; Archbishops, not being oversubscribed in most years takes anyone who applies; and Trinity Free School takes 50% of its intake on non-religious grounds. Why is that no one, including KEN, campaigns for freedom of choice for admission to church schools, which in other parts of Kent and the country severely restricts or eliminates choice of schools? Actually there are issues in some areas, but 11+Truth by ignoring these to focus on the two areas which are most familiar(?) to KEN and the hunting ground for their campaigns, chooses examples again failing to  measure up to the truth.  

“How do 11 plus admissions work in disadvantaged communities?”  is yet another attack on Kent’s system, conveniently ignoring the KCC Select Committee set up to improve what is acknowledged to be a weakness of the Kent Test, and which has produced important recommendations that have now been adopted. Surely one would have thought this was highly relevant. But why spoil an article by including inconvenient truths. One can drown in statistics here, but the conclusions again are seriously flawed. For example, the article decides to focus on East Kent including a table showing the percentage of 'children with disadvantage' winning grammar school places. The most deprived part of Kent is Thanet, and the article fails to comment on the finding in its chart that Chatham and Clarendon Grammar in Thanet has the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils attending grammar schools at 14%, a higher figure than five non-selective schools. It also conveniently completely omits the second (equal) highest, Dane Court Grammar, the other grammar school in Thanet at 12%.

Although it makes a lot of noise, Kent Education Network appears to comprise a website, two spokespeople, and just another nine members.
 
This is not a pro or anti grammar school article, but one which argues for honesty in argument. It is an established fact that the driving force behind Kent Education Network, is motivated, not apparently by her daughter failing to pass the Kent Test, nor because she had the misfortune of then sending her to a school with an out of date good reputation which crashed and was then closed, nor then to a local school which then lost its way. But then this school lost its headteacher which was the event that finally sparked activity five years on from the Kent Test and the bitter article which started the crusade in January this year. Two months later, kenteducationnetwork.org was registered. Since I wrote the first version of this article, she has made clear her pride in this background and enthusiasm for using it, although my article was described by one of the three LEE activists as ‘abhorrent’ because of its use of her child as illustration. 
 
In order to boost arguments, too many obviously misleading arguments are employed, Kent’s non-selective schools are denigrated, and the children who have not passed are repeatedly told by KEN they are failures. 

KEN makes a common mistake, with its assertion "We do not believe a one-off test to define children’s education pathways is fair or desirable". KCC and I would all agree with this, which is why nearly a third (31%) of children in Kent grammar schools are selected using Headteacher Assessment or appeals, where further evidence is considered. 

Another quote from the KEN website reads: “Of the 67 non-selective schools, only 4 are ‘Outstanding’ and 17 require improvement or are currently in ‘Special Measures.’ It is clear that a Kent Test pass gives a child greater opportunity to attend a good or outstanding school, while a Kent Test fail dooms thirty percent of our children to a place in an inadequate school.“   The quoted Statistic cannot bear to mention schools that are rated Good, as the 50 Good or Outstanding non-selective schools in Kent come to 75% of the total, by itself remarkably above the national average in 2015 of 74%, without taking any notice of the grammar schools performance. It is an appalling misuse of statistics to argue that the 17 schools that require improvement or are currently in Special Measures are all Inadequate. ‘Inadequate’ is the precise term for schools that have failed OFSTED, which does NOT include those that Require Improvement. There are of course just two Kent non-selective schools in Special Measures, at 3% well BELOW the national percentage of 5%. (UPDATE: As a result of this article the sentence in italics above has been corrected by its author. All other factual errors have been retained).  The 2015 OFSTED Annual Report places both Kent and Medway in the top third of Local Authorities. KEN: “We think Kent’s two-tier education system shows poor results.” The above evidence demonstrates that the ‘thinking’ is wrong. "57% of Kent children achieve 5 A-C GCSE passes, just the same as the UK average." Being picky, it is not JUST the same, Kent comes in above this figure at 57.4%. The organisation clearly follows the information and advice provided on KentAdvice closely and is happy to quote from it, as I try to present my findings accurately and fairly, and am happy to correct errors when these are pointed out.  Perhaps KEN has something to learn from this approach. Why would I do this if I thought all was well with the education system in Kent, as the founder of KEN appears to assert is my view?

I have a serious concern that like KEN, parts of the media itself has too negative a picture of Kent’s non-selective schools, focusing relentlessly on the achievements of grammar schools, and so rarely are they given credit. This website regularly points up the achievements of many good non-selective schools through articles such as the one in Kent on Sunday last year and frequently on other occasions. 

Too many other pejorative statements betray the personal bitterness behind KEN, for example: “Our divided school system means many of our non-selective schools cannot offer good A level options.” Of course many do, with 18 non-selective schools having 50 or more students taking A Level this year, amongst a total of 4880 students staying on last September to follow vocational or A Level courses, often in combination. If all Kent secondary schools became 11-18 comprehensive schools, apparently the model that KEN espouses, many would still not have the Sixth Form numbers to support a viable A Level Sixth Form. However, equally importantly most of our grammar schools offer opportunities to admit students who have thrived thanks to a good education in non-selective schools (yes again, they do exist!). My recent article on Transfer from Non-Selective Schools to Grammar School Sixth Forms, highlights that 11% of Kent’s Sixth Form students have transferred from non-selective schools, a considerable demonstration of the selective system at its best (there are of course grammar schools that confound this!). 

What is unforgiveable is the way that young people are used as ammunition for the argument. The relentless emphasis and anonymised 'quotes' about children's failure, about pressure, about their distress, about parental feelings of inadequacy in websites and social media help no-one, and will harm too many. As demonstrated above, the majority of young people in non-selective schools settle down and thrive, as the example of the daughter of the founder of KEN shows. However, once again children are used as political capital. The eldest is used, having now achieved excellent results at GCSE (but that is apparently okay as she is right behind her mother);  firstly to make mischief in the Simon Langton Girls Grammar scandal, and then transferred to a different named grammar school thoughtfully identified on Twitter, under @Tooting Jo. This Twitter account,  where amongst other illustrations of some of the above that appear, nine year old child number two is thoughtfully introduced into battle, but we are not told if he has given his approval. 

Put together, this all sounds like a Marketing technique where, if you create enough waves you may be able to rock boats. Fortunately this one is, and should be, barely creating a ripple.

Schoolsweek
Sadly, the reputable SchoolsWeek Online magazine has been taken in as well in an article this week, headed: "Independent schools in Kent are openly advertising their success at coaching pupils to pass an 11-plus test, against their council’s ruling banning such tutoring." This of course is untrue and private schools have every right to coach, as even though KCC would love to force it out, they have no power to do so. So how did it come about? Quite simply Kent's 11+ actual past papers are copyright and the Council attempts with considerable success to stop circulation of them, and would take action if they were used in any school, for private schools this would be in breach of copyright. Kent's state schools are not allowed to tutor for the 11+. The story is helped on by misinterpretation of a quoted KCC statement that makes crystal clear the issue is about copyright of past papers, and indirectly refers to the sole case I am aware of, where KCC took action some ten years ago of this precise issue for one small private school. But of course this becomes magnified and distorted. The source of this misinformation is identified as Joanne Bartley. This has now been widely circulated as a SchoolsWeek tweet that falsely proclaims: "Exclusive: Kent private schools are banned from coaching for the 11-plus. But have discovered evidence they are ignoring the rules".  
 
You will also find this falsehood published on the Kent Education Network as news, here. 
 
Update on Disgraceful use of Statistics (20/11/16)
KEN applies an appalling misuse (or is it complete lack of understanding)of statistics to 'prove' "Survey shows head teachers are against selection and grammars".  "The survey sought head teachers’ views on the accuracy and fairness of the 11 plus, and on the impact of grammar schools on local non-selective schools. Almost 100 head teachers responded (~10% response rate) with most responses (78) being from primary school heads and least responses (4) from grammar school heads". Apparently no one has explained to KEN that a 10% response from a survey sent to busy people by a partisan organisation is completely valueless, as the main respondents will be those most enthusiastic about the loaded questions set. But no sense of doubt in the answers, key finding number one: "78% of selective area head teachers think 10 or 11 is the wrong age to judge children’s ability". Actually all this can show is that fewer than 78 heads out a total of around a thousand responded positively to the claim. The rest of the survey can similarly be utterly discounted, as KEN only shows leadership in what is being called this post-truth society. One wonders what the Head of Research of KEN, a lecturer in American Literature at the University of Kent would think of such misuse of statistics by one of his students. 
 
Finally
The tragedy is that there is a case that can be put forward for the abolition of grammar schools, and Kent Education Network makes several good points in favour of this, but then totally undermines these by using material exemplified by the above quotations.
 
I am regularly asked for my own views on whether there should be grammar schools in Kent. My answer invariably begins with: "I would not start here; but we are where we are"….  continuation another day!
Read 2802 times Last modified on Sunday, 20 November 2016 17:51

7 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 25 November 2016 11:17 posted by Anon parent

    NOTE FROM PETER: The following comment utterly bemused me, as I have no recollection of such a client and find the alleged advice I gave bizarre. Could it be that 'Anon Parent' is someone trying to make a political point by inventing a story? Sounds a similar style to those peddled on 11 Plus Truth, etc! I have unsurprisingly had no response to my request for confirmation or further information. COMMENT BEGINS: When my child failed the 11+ in Kent by a couple of marks on one paper a few years ago I sought Peter's advice and went ahead with two appeals. One appeal was unsuccessful but the other found that my child was suitable for a grammar school but there were no places so my child was put on a waiting list.
    Church schools were not an option for us so I felt we had no local choices for a suitable school for an academic child. Our only option was to move county to an area of the country with excellent comprehensives, few private schools and no grammars at all. We did move and it was heartbreaking for our family to uproot, but a good education has always been a priority for me and having experienced both systems I feel strongly that the comprehensive system in the non-selective county in which we now live is far better for ALL the children. Children are not divided at age 11 and 25% of the children/parents don't feel they got a prize that was denied to everyone else!
    Peter - at the time you agreed with me that, hard though it would be, moving to a comprehensive county would be better for a bright child than having to send my child to a non-selective school in a selective area because she had missed the 11 plus by a couple of marks. You have much to contribute to this debate in challenging the inaccuracies but as you know the many faults with the 11+ system in Kent I think you should be more supportive of people who are trying to do something about the gross unfairness and inequalities of the 11 plus system. PETER: Oddly when you posted a comment two years ago on the Kent Test at http://www.kentadvice.co.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=689:kent-test-september-2014&Itemid=84 as O.W. you made no reference to being a client of mine that year or before. I would be grateful if you could remind me of your circumstances and the county you are now in, so that I can understand the situation you describe, which i do not understand on the limited information provided.

  • Comment Link Friday, 14 October 2016 07:03 posted by Ken P

    You have surely provided enough solid evidence to show she cannot be trusted with the truth in educational matters. Why is she allowed to carry on in this way? My fear is that someone gullible could be taken in, blackening my name

  • Comment Link Thursday, 13 October 2016 14:54 posted by Sheila S.

    What a disgrace

  • Comment Link Thursday, 13 October 2016 14:27 posted by Tony Smith

    I understand she is on the Panel of the Big Grammar Debate, on Monday, organised by the BBC, at St Stephen's Academy, the small school with the third largest Headteacher's salary in the county, at over £100,000 for 2014-15. Looks like a massive double own goal for the Beeb. How is anyone to believe anything at all she says. This looks like Donald Trump in Hilary Clinton's residence!!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 13 October 2016 08:10 posted by Josephine

    forget the long arguments below.Quite simply you have shown the woman has destroyed her own argument because no one can believe a word she says!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 13 October 2016 02:54 posted by Richard Davis

    Oh dear, Joanne Bartley.

    I'm sorry to read that you continue to post "half-truths" and "not-at-all-truths" online, whilst you continue to wage your one woman war against the grammars that you hate so much.

    I feel you are pretty lucky, that Peter's article was actually quite kind to you, not even mentioning the ***** that you have demonstrated on the SLGGS parents website (although you are not and have never been a parent at SLGGS) to feed your anti-grammar rhetoric, only to subsequently remove and delete everything you had posted once you realised that the press from the Sevenoaks area had taken an interest in what you were publishing.

    Peter didn't mention the ****** of you sending your daughter, to a grammar school in Faversham, which you kindly announced to the world on social media. How very ****** for you to use the very grammar system that you seek to bring down. Presumably, ideally, after your daughter has finished having use of it and it is no longer of benefit to your family?

    Peter didn't mention how you complain so vigorously about your children being brought into the debate, despite the amusing irony that it is YOU that is talking about them - how you labelled your own daughter as a failure for not passing the 11+ a number of years ago, and whinging about how your son will have to go through the same "distress" of sitting the 11+, whilst failing to acknowledge that it is your choice to enter him for it - it is not a requirement, nor is it compulsory. One would assume, should he pass, that he will seek to attend a grammar in the Canterbury or surrounding area like his big sister? Or were you just entering him for fun to see how he goes? Assuming your intent is to send him to a grammar on the back of an 11+ pass, it only serves to heighten your ***** all the more.

    Peter also didn't mention how you decided, as a resident of Whitstable, to stick your oar into the Sevenoaks grammar extension debate? Why? It's got nothing to do with you living some 40 miles away from Sevenoaks - but you sought to attempt to deny the residents of Sevenoaks the provision that they've been crying out for for years - why? Because of that almighty chip on your shoulder?

    Thankfully, Peter has gone some way to highlighting how small the campaign you run really is. It's interesting that you allude, persistently, to a number of others being involved in your multi-site campaign, which appears to have been authored by the same person.

    However, why not prove me wrong? Why not announce to the world, finally, exactly who these mysterious other 9 (alleged) members of the KEN are (why stop at their occupations? Are they ashamed to be publicly associated with you?)?

    Why not name exactly who is behind these websites (if indeed it is someone other than you)? You deny you're behind it, and yet no names appear on these sites apart from your own (as the website registrant and domain owner of all of them). Why is it that no-one else that you purport to be "other campaign groups" are willing to have their names known in the public domain, despite attempting to campaign so loudly against the grammar system?

    Why not take the opportunity, once and for all, to prove that it's not just a one-woman campaign?

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 12 October 2016 11:57 posted by Jo Bartley

    Dear Peter, I have to admire your desire to make a mystery where there is none. This blog post suggests secret underhand goings on with anti-selection groups..!

    I am the 'Whitstable resident' you mention and I run a web business. I have a server and host sites for friends, who pay me for setting them up with a domain.

    A few local groups got together and thought it would be useful to create a site to post facts about the 11 plus that might interest a wider audience than our own areas. This seems important at a time when grammar schools are likely to expand soon. So we created 11plustruth.org.uk hosting it on my server.

    I discovered the LEE group had no website so I offered them my server for hosting if they wanted one. This is something I have offered a few friends as it costs me nothing to add sites. LEE were busy on social media and had nowhere to permanently link to the stories they had achieved in the press, and the reports they had written. So they were glad to get a web presence and decided on a domain and paid me to set that up.

    We are all confused by your assertion that the LEE and KEN websites have similar content. They are written by different people, and I am not a 'campaigner for Bucks' as you state here. I am simply a web host for a Bucks campaign group, and I have not had time to even read all their content yet... Though I feel sure it will be interesting.

    We feel that your story insinuated that the mysterious 'Whitstable Resident' was inventing a fake campaign website. (PETER: no such insinuation exists). The point that the two personal stories on the LEE site were a 'similar style' seemed to be a suggestion that these were not in fact real but faked. They are of course real, and written by two different young people who wished to share their stories.

    There is no actual 'news' in the fact one member of KEN owns a server and hosts a couple of sites for friends in other campaign groups. (PETER: but there is that you appear to have written most o f the articles on 11+ Truth for people outside Kent)). Yet you presented this in a way to suggest there was something odd about it. In fact the word 'oddness' is used a number of times, as well as a suggestion of some strange 'coincidence.' I still don't see what oddness of any sort there is. I have never been accused of oddness for hosting a games site, menswear blog or writing website for friends.

    I hope that this comment sets the record straight so that readers will understand the truth of the situation.

    We are sorry that you disagree with some KEN content and do not like our style (PETER: I have no problem with style, its the factually wrong and misleading statements made) but differences of opinion are inevitable in a debate like this. I was also no fan of the personality profile section of this post which guesses at my reason for involvement in KEN (PETER: no guess, you have made this clear), but you are entitled to write what you wish on your own blog.

    In any case all the groups involved in these sites thank you for drawing attention to our websites. We hope readers will follow the links, read all our articles and make up their own minds. PETER: Unfortunately, as a result of comments I have rewritten part of this article, focusing more closely on Kent, so this comment now has limited relevance except to indicate the ground covered by the parts now deleted. I am pleased that others may now visit the websites as there are important issues to discuss, but hope they go warned by the content of this article. Perhaps you could return the compliment and post a link!

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