Supporting Families
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Peter Read

Key Stage Two school performance for 2017 tables were published on Thursday, with 65% of Kent pupils meeting the expected standard for the second year running, well above the national average which was 61%. Medway was once again below average at 58%.

Government’s key measure is progress from Key Stage One (end of Infant stage at age seven) through to Key Stage Two, in Reading Writing and Mathematics. The best overall progress performances in Kent were by: Kingsdown & Ringwould CofE, Dover, and Bredhurst CofE, 16.1; Temple Ewell CofE, Dover, 15.0; Castle Hill Community, with 15.4, and Christ Church CEP Academy, 14.7, both from Folkestone; Canterbury Road, Faversham, with 14.6. Apart from Bredhurst, every one of these schools is in East Kent, showing that Progress is not a function of West Kent prosperity. Just one Medway school reached and also surpassed these levels, Barnsole Primary, with three outstanding progress scores, to total 19.1 (explanation of numbers attempted below).

In Kent, five schools saw every pupil achieve the expected achievement standard set by government: Rodmersham, near Sittingbourne, for the second year running; Ethelbert Road, Faversham: and Temple Ewell CofE in Dover, all three schools amongst the highest performers for each of the previous two years, and all three again in East Kent; together with Seal CofE, and Crockham Hill CofE, both in Sevenoaks District.

Ethelbert Road    Rodmersham   Temple Ewell 2

In Medway, Barnsole was again the highest performer with 89% of pupils achieving the expected standard. 

Barnsole

Government also sets a Floor Target for all schools to reach, in either Progress in all of Reading, Writing and Maths, or Achievement. In Kent, 20 out of 414 schools failed to achieve either standard, with Richmond Academy, in Sheppey failing on all four counts. Medway had five schools out of 62 below the floor target.

I look more closely at all of the main categories below; you can see my 2016 report for  comparison hereThe article concludes with some advice to parents trying to select a primary school for their children.....

Patrick Leeson, Corporate Director of KCC’s Education and Children Services Directorate, retired from his post at the end of November. He has been succeeded in a revised role by Matt Dunckley CBE, who has become Corporate Director Children, Young People and Education.

Patrcik Leeson 2        Mat Dunckley

What follows is a brief look at Mr Leeson’s time with KCC, together with a summary of the background of Mr Dunckley.....

Having been away on holiday for the past fortnight, I have previously been unable to comment on the sad closure of Kent on Sunday at the end of November as ‘it was no longer economically viable’.

Of particular interest to me and many browsers of this website was its focus on education as, often in conjunction with myself, it ran many educational stories in depth and conducted important campaigns.  

For KOS has surely been exceptional for a local free paper, in its willingness to provide such detail in its stories and campaigns, being prepared to devote up to three pages of news, analysis and political insight to an issue for the thoughtful reader, rather than go with the fleeting headline for those with a low attention span. Perhaps that has been its downfall but, on the way it has secured many prestigious newspaper awards, being the first free paper to win London and SE Regional Newspaper of the Year, UK Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year (six times) and, most recently in 2014, Regional Free Newspaper of the Year again.....

There are major changes ahead in Special Education Needs (SEN) provision in Kent as KCC begins to phase out its SEN Units. These are attached to mainstream schools across the County and offer education to children with particular learning and medical conditions, whilst giving them the opportunity to benefit from education with mainstream children through integration into some lessons.

Instead ‘lead schools’ are being designated in each specialism, across the county that will offer support to such children as they are now admitted to all mainstream schools and classes in their area.  This full inclusion of such children has been government policy for many years, but has now been challenged, as it is apparent that it leads to a dilution of specialist teachers, additional strain on teachers in mainstream classes as they come to terms with  an even wider range of challenges in their classrooms and an uncertain future for the quality of education to be provided for the children themselves.

Currently there are primary and secondary school units catering for conditions such as autism, speech, language and communication, specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, hearing and visual impairment, and physical difficulties. All children currently in Units will retain their places.

Pilot areas for the new schemes have been set up in Gravesham, Dartford, Shepway, Ashford and Swanley and a decision will be made to extend the scheme across the remainder of Kent this Autumn on the basis of the evaluation of this pilot, although the first children in the Pilot will only be affected in September.  It is therefore difficult to see on what real experience of how such children fare in mainstream will be available.

The main advantages of the scheme are identified by KCC as: providing more potential to access local provision for children and young people with SEN; enabling them to benefit from learning with their local peer group and providing more flexibility to use resources to meet changing needs of children and young people in the locality.

Concerns include: the breaking up of  centres of expertise and excellence in these specialisations; the dilution of such skills across schools in the locality; the pressures on teachers in mainstream schools now having to come to terms with a wider range of learning conditions in one classroom and  consequent effect on the learning of other children in that class.

Meanwhile KOS reported last week that many children coming up to secondary school transfer have found their proposed Statements of SEN have been delayed. The Statement spells out educational provision and the school in which it is to be offered, and any delay would cause enormous problems for parents if they wish to challenge the decision.  Such parents will be doubly dismayed if they now find that any hopes of a place in the Unit to cater for their child’s needs have been dashed, 

My first ever article for Kent on Sunday, published July 2004, at a time when Kent Education was managed chaotically. See recent article on closure of KOS). Reproduced here in December 2017. 

The current chaos in the Kent secondary school transfer procedure is further underlined by enormous variations in the number of children with no school of their choice, district by district across Kent. I have been passed the following figures which will alarm many parents about their chances of securing a place in one of their three preferred schools.  

While in Ashford there are just 32 children who have been offered no school of their choice, in Thanet the number leaps to 161, and is higher yet in Maidstone and Malling at an enormous 249.  Other figures are: Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells/Sevenoaks – 173; Canterbury/Herne Bay/Whitstable – 123; Faversham/Sittingbourne – 110; Gravesham – 96; Folkestone/Shepway – 68; Dover/Deal/Sandwich – 52. Dartford is a special case with 267, as the Leigh City Technology College refuses to co-operate with KCC on secondary transfer, and many of those will have been offered places at re-allocation last week.

Certainly I have been shocked by the number of parents who have contacted me for advice in the Thanet and Maidstone areas, and these figures underline those concerns. In Thanet, I suspect that the overwhelming number of that 161 have been offered places at the deeply unpopular and failing Ramsgate School, which is likely to be closed and re-opened after major investment. In Maidstone, there are currently three schools which many parents are trying to avoid, one more than in previous years, the new one attracting most adverse comment.

Town by town, circumstances are different, the variation in numbers generally reflecting the level of unhappiness with unpopular or failing schools in the vicinity. A few families have leapt out of the abyss under reallocation, the first round taking place last week. This saw 234 pupils with no place offered a school on their list, 101 of these vacancies being created by pupils offered a school further up their list, most of the rest being in the Dartford area. However, many of the families with no school on their list did not apply for re-allocation, and so are unlikely to secure a place, as up to 90% of oversubscription appeals are doomed to failure, according to last year’s figures.

Some parents have turned down their allocated school as being completely unacceptable, and face their child not attending school in September. On the other hand, in East Kent, in particular, Foundation grammar schools are already holding appeals, and some of the 350 empty grammar school places are being filled, freeing up places in other acceptable schools, which will be reallocated at the end of April. County school appeals are likely to stretch into July again, and it is already apparent that the prophesied movement of some pupils at the start of the new school year in September will take place. Whilst the Chief Schools Adjudicator comments that he did not expect problems in Kent following his decisions in October, he should visit the county now and see the misery he has caused to so many families.    

I have now had further opportunity to look at data relating to the recent Kent Test outcomes for Admission in September 2018, with a summary of the statistics below. This article expands my initial look at the 2017 Kent Test results, written in October, which should be read in conjunction with this article. The figures do not match exactly, as adjustments and late tests have produced changes.

Bidborough CofE

Headlines are:
  • The proportion of passes for Kent school children has fallen slightly from 25.7% to 25.4%, made up of 19.1% automatic passes with a further 6.4% Head Teacher Assessment.
  • Girls are still ahead on both automatic test passes since the Test was changed in 2014, and also in HTAs, with the differentials widening to 26.6% girls passing to 24.3% of boys.  
  • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in East Kent, nearly twice the lowest in West Kent.
  • The proportion of passes for Kent school children has fallen slightly from 25.7% to 25.4%, made up of 19.1% automatic passes with a further 6.4% Head Teacher Assessment.
  • Girls are still ahead on both automatic test passes since the Test was changed in 2014, and also in HTAs, with the differentials widening to 26.6% girls passing to 24.3% of boys. 
  • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in East Kent, nearly twice the lowest in West Kent.
  • There is a further increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium found selective to 9.8% of the Kent state school total passes. This increase is brought about through headteachers recognising ability in the HTA, where coaching is irrelevant, with 37% of all PP passes being through this route. 
  • As last year, the schools with the highest proportion of Kent successes are drawn from across the county. However, the schools are all different from last year: Bidborough CofE VC (Tunbridge ~Wells) – 69%; Stowting CofE – 67%; Bridge & Patrixbourne CofE (Canterbury) – 66%; Lady Boswell’s CofE VA (Sevenoaks); Ryarsh (Malling) – 62%; and Sheldwich (Faversham) – 62%.
  • There is yet another leap by 600 children in Out of County Passes, but going  on last year’s pattern, only around 15% of whom will apply and be offered places in Kent grammars .
  • StowtingFor more detail on each of these items, see below:

A representative of a responsible national news organisation has approached me looking for a family whose child has been excluded from a Multi Academy Trust school, they consider unfairly. They are looking to understand the events and use the case, anonymously if necessary, to illustrate and article being prepared.

If you are interested and have a child excluded from a Kent or Medway Multi Academy Trust school,  please email me the background at peter@kentadvice.co.uk together with your contact details and I will forward them.

Update on Aggressive MATs and illegal Sixth Forms below
Another eleven schools have become academies in the past few months, bringing the Kent total to 84% of 100 secondary schools, and 33% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 58 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest changes below, along with new applications to become academies. There is a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.
The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here
The government Free School programme appears to be in difficulties, with problems for some new schools of financing appropriate sites and finding suitable sponsors. There is a full list of local Free Schools here; and examples of the difficulties here.…
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 23:31

Financial Crisis in Schools

I was asked by the KMTV online TV station this evening to comment on the letter written by 5000 headteachers to government asking for more funding to meet the current crisis. An article on the BBC News website sets out the background and summary of the letter here

You will find my interview here

Earlier this evening I was part of an item on BBC SE criticising St John Fisher Catholic School in Chatham, which had put up charts in public view with photographs of all Year 11 pupils on Friday, along with their academic performance and illustrated by large emojis to show how they were progressing.

St John Fisher 

This was intended as a motivational scheme, but there for all to see it would inevitably be humiliating for those at the bottom of the pile (the reason so many universities have scrapped posting lists of results). For a church school it is shocking to see the disrespect it showed to those pupils.

The school had a mountain to climb after finishing as bottom school in Medway at GCSE in both Progress and Achievement league tables in 2016, being the least popular school in Medway for admissions by several criteria, and an Ofsted Report close to Special Measures in March. However there are clear signs that the new headteacher, appointed in September 2016, is turning the school round, including solid GCSE results this summer.  

This tactic is just a step too far, and the school has rightly removed the boards today.

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