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Update Two - 3 August: In talks to parents, the Student Services Manager at Medway Council has told families that there is no need to prepare specially for the changed Verbal Reasoning Test (now CEM),as it is covered in the normal English KS2 curriculum. He has also confirmed the sole reason for the change is that it has saved money (never mind the content policy change!). Medway Council has now produced an article explaining the use of the Familiarisation Booklet, which I have commented on at the foot of this article. I also include a link to the Booklet which has not been published, 

Update: The value of the following item is underlined by the interest shown by browsers. 1500 hits in the first two days makes this the second most popular item on the website this year - in third place is the article Medway Test Scores Blunder - Medway fails families yet againconfirming once again the lack of confidence Medway families have in their Council's education operation. 

The Council sent a letter to schools last week announcing that it is changing its Test provider from GL Assessment to CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) for the forthcoming Medway Test in September. Unfortunately, the two testing providers have different interpretations of the assessment procedure, as explained here. The CEM Verbal Reasoning Test is far more language based than the GL model (which is used by Kent), including vocabulary and normally comprehension, as can be seen by a glance at the above link together with model answers provided by commercial companies. It will account for 20% of the aggregate Test marks which, together with the 40% for the Free Writing Test, will make this a highly language based selection method. It will therefore discriminate against children from socially deprived areas who are often weaker in language skills, children with English as a second Language, boys, and those who don't hear of or appreciate the change being made. The Council’s letter to schools gives no rationale for this change of approach or warning of the effects of the change, so presumably it is not for educational reasons, but simply a cost cutting exercise. 

Neither does it do anything whatever to address the other serious problems I have previously identified in the Medway Test process, missing a golden opportunity in its recent review of the procedure, which appears to have reached no conclusions. It also comes close on after last year's debacle of the 2016 Test.   

In addition, the Council has suddenly dispensed with the services of its highly experienced Free Writing Test setter, and at the time of writing does not appear to have re-employed any of its trained markers, although there is no change in the processes. It is not yet clear who is going to provide these essential skills this year.

Published in News and Comments
Tuesday, 07 March 2017 06:24

A Parental View of Medway Council

I have received the following plea from a parent who moved to Medway last year and who sought my advice about primary schools. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to offer significant support, but I did work through the dreadful interaction she endured with Medway Council (Tagline - Serving You) school admissions department. Sadly she is not alone and only this week I have been advising another family which has been given the run around by the same department with different officers offering completely opposite advice with no particular expertise apparent.

Medway 

 However, there appears little hope when only last week the Medway Council Cabinet Member responsible for Primary and Secondary Schools commented on the sharp fall in the percentage of children receiving their first choice secondary school, and the near doubling of the number being offered none of their six choices. He considered in the thinnest of press releases, that it was 'great news that a vast majority of children have been offered a place at one of their top preference schools' His more senior colleague carrying the whole Children's Service's Portfolio was more circumspect observing that 'I'm pleased many children have been allocated a place at a school they preferred' clearly dodging the worsening statistics and the near doubling of those who hadn't. Is it  that these senior politicians aren't being told the truth by their officers, or that they simply  don't care? By contrast, in Kent where the Local Authority has been working hard to identify additional school places, the Education Cabinet Member provided the reality: 'As we predicted, this has proved Kent’s most challenging year due to record numbers of applicants' about a slightly worsening situation with a rising population, but nowhere near as bad as that in Medway. 

Whilst following up another issue on the website, I made the perhaps astonishing discovery that two thirds of the twelve the most visited news items featured the failings of Medway Council all clocking up between 32 and 65 thousand hits (see below)!

Published in Peter's Blog

Further Update: Application Turned Down by Government in August 2016, here.

Update: Medway Council's objections published in full here

Chatham Grammar School for Boys is to admit a co-educational intake for September 2017, subject to approval from the Regional Schools Commissioner (advised by the Regional Headteacher Board of six headteachers, of which Ms Shepherd is a member, but who would not be involved in the decision), following a decision by the Directors of the Thinking School Academy Trust. This decision represents a reduction in opportunity for boys, leaving Medway with one very oversubscribed boys’ grammar, inaccessible to those in most of the Council’s area, as opposed to three girls’ grammars.

Chatham Boys 3

The school is to change its name to Holcombe Grammar School.

The Trust has scrapped its controversial proposal to admit children through a decision of the Admission Committee without testing, following my previous article pointing out that it was illegal. This article also covers some of the main issues and provides links to other items.

Medway Council refused my FOI Request for their response to the Consultation “in the public interest!” leaving one to wonder yet again, which public's interests they serve. 

Published in Peter's Blog

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……

Published in Peter's Blog

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………

Published in Peter's Blog

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:…..

Published in Peter's Blog

Updated with Medway permanent exclusions 2014-15.

How much worse can it get for the children of Medway? My previous article recorded the dire statistic that Medway primary schools had the worst KS2 results in the country for 2015, and overall for the period from 2009 to 2015, whilst earlier in the year, Medway Primary schools published figures show that the Authority came bottom in the country in 2013-14 for OFSTED outcomes.

Now come the latest national figures on fixed and permanent exclusions, which cover the school year for 2013-14 and show Medway has the second highest percentage of primary school fixed term exclusions in the country. This is the equivalent of one fixed term exclusion for every 3.37% of the school population, over three times the national average and an astonishing rise of 34% over 2012/13.

A previous article I wrote about permanent exclusions showed that permanent exclusions in Medway rose astonishingly over the same period by over three times from 22 to an astonishing 70, the third highest proportion of the school population in the country. In 2009/10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway.

Couple this with the two most recent Inspections of local authority arrangements, the first for the protection of children in 2013, which were found to be Inadequate, the second for looked after children services in 2013, also Inadequate.

Surely, now there is now enough evidence for a full investigation into the quality of education and children’s services in Medway taking all these factors into account, followed by a replacement of Education and Children’s Services part of the Children and Adult Services Department which is clearly not fit for purpose, before the children of Medway suffer even more....

Published in News and Comments

Medway primary schools have come bottom nationally for Key Stage Two results in 2015 for the second time in four years. Medway is surely the worst Local Authority in the country in terms of primary school performance, having been in the bottom five out of 152 Authorities for every year but one since 2009, as shown in the table below. In the most recent figures available for the proportion of children in OFSTED good or Outstanding schools, Medway was also bottom in the country in 2013-14.

According to the Medway Messenger, Mr Mike O'Brien, Cabinet Member for Education, considers that a group of unpaid volunteers, "the Governors are responsible" for this perennial disgrace. He has promised to take appropriate action - and warned governors and teachers to "shape up or ship out". The consistent record of failure is apparently nothing to do with Medway Council or its failing and failed School Improvement Department, an utterly complacent and false position that has been adopted annually and recorded diligently on this website year after year......

Published in News and Comments