Supporting Families
  • banner6
  • banner12
  • banner7
  • banner2
  • banner10
  • banner4
  • banner13
  • banner9
  • banner8
  • banner3

Peter Read

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 15:16

Holcombe Grammar Appeals Still Unresolved

Update Thursday: Medway Council has written to Holcombe Grammar School requiring them to make a decision on the waiting list issue (below). Was/Is Holcombe planning to leave the families in the lurch over the summer holiday.   

Over a month on from the Holcombe Grammar school appeals, and two days from the end of the school year, distressed families whose sons were found of selective ability by the Holcombe Appeal Panel are still waiting to learn if they are to be placed on the waiting list. This follows eight months of worry leading up to the appeal process. I have worked with many families in the past waiting and planning for school admission appeals, and know the enormous stress this places on them, as they believe their child's future depends on their performance at appeal. This extra and unnecessary dragging out of the decision, with the mistakes, misinformation  and  confusion that surround it, can only pile the pressure on.  

The mystery of why and how Holcombe Grammar misrepresented Medway Test scores in its case to the Appeal Panel is no clearer in spite of an FOI by me asking these two questions, and an Internal Review into the process whose outcome also fails to answer the questions, itself offering a response that is clearly untrue. Along the line the school has put in writing repeated demonstrable falsehoods, as explained below, most of which it has not even acknowledged. I now have copies of the appeal notes of a number of the appeal cases that confirm the parental version of events, proving the school’s versions in its role as Admission Authority are false. 

I look at two of the central issues below, events up to this point having been explored in two previous articles, most recently here

Friday, 13 July 2018 14:46

Turner Schools Revisited

American Guru on short visit to Folkestone
Compares it to American Rust-Belt cities!

The Turner Schools relentless PR campaign to promote its Folkestone academies drives on with a lengthy article in the TES (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) about another American pedagogue introducing his views to the teachers of the Trust. He finds surprising and false parallels between the coastal towns of Kent and the American ‘Rust Belt’. These are surely unrecognisable by local residents who should be up in arms about the comparison with US towns in the previously industrial North East, with their rusty, disused, failed factories and falling populations where 'Most people who are economically viable are moving to places like New York City'. Sadly, he also reiterated some of the fallacies put out previously by the Trust as he paces around the auditorium at Folkestone Academy in Kent, impeccably dressed in a cream jacket, chinos and rimless glasses’. He is reported as addressing teachers of the new Turner Free School, although it doesn't appear to have any apart from its Principal and three Vice Principals (see below)!

TurnerSchools 

This is my second article about Turner Schools Academy Trust and you should read the first before this one, as what follows is primarily an update on the situation described there, along with an analysis of the TES article and an exploration of the 'Magic Pupil Pot'. 

In between, I have had an exchange of letters with Dr Jo Saxton, CEO of the Trust,  after I had challenged her claim that I made numerous factual errors in my previous article about Turner. Fortunately, in the end there appeared to be just one minor error, now corrected of course, but she has now failed to respond to several questions I put rising out of the correspondence.

In addition, I have uncovered other issues below, including a refusal by the Trust to answer an FOI on the number of teachers leaving Folkestone Academy as ‘Publication would be or would be likely to  prejudice commercial interests'.  (I am told the number of leavers is 25 teachers!). I am not sure what the commercial interests are that need to be kept secret. 

The remainder of this article is divided into five Sections: The Mystery of the Magic Pupil Pot; Individual Schools (items not covered  elsewhere); the TES Article; Correspondence with Dr Saxton; my Four Questions

 The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen to 97.6%, the highest proportion for at least six years. This is a result of a reduction of 27 in the number of Medway school places taken up by children from the Authority and outside, together with an increase of 80 places in local schools. As a result, there are 524 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 14% of the total available, up from 12% in 2017.

Most vacancies are in Rainham (last year just 3% places empty) and the Hoo Peninsula, with 11% of places empty. At the other end is Rochester with 21% of all places left empty in five of its eight schools. Most popular school is once again Barnsole Primary which turned away an astonishing 72 first choices turned away, followed by All Saints CofE and Walderslade primaries with 23 disappointed first choices. There are eight schools with 15 or more first choices turned down, spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. 

Barnsole     All saints chatham   Walderslade Primary 2

Twelve schools have over a third of their places empty, up from eight in 2017, but headed for the third year running by All Hallows Primary Academy, with 73% of its Reception places empty (up from 70% in 2017), and looking increasingly non-viable as a stand-alone school. Altogether 36 schools, over half of the total of 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 79 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council, 48 in Chatham schools.  

I look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools

If there are sections that need amplification, please let me know…….

Update 4th July: here in blue 

This article looks at the situation where families have gone to appeal for a grammar school place for a child who was initially non-selective, the child has been found of grammar school ability, but then been told by the Independent Appeal Panel that there is no room. In most cases, the family can then ask for the child to be placed on the school waiting list.

After the debacle of the 2018 appeals for places at Holcombe Grammar School (previously Chatham Grammar School) in Medway described previously, the article then considers the ongoing shambles of waiting list mismanagement for places at the school. The cast of this story also includes Medway Council and an Appeal Panel provided by KCC. 

Update: see more recent item reporting further on the shambolic Appeals management by Medway Council.

The 2018 Admission Appeals process is a pointer suggesting Thinking Schools Academy Trust has yet another plan to change the character of Holcombe Grammar School. It is to be changed from a school serving its local community well, to one dedicated to attracting high scorers in the Medway or Kent Tests no matter where they are drawn from.

Currently, Holcombe Grammar has a Planned Admission (PAN) number of 120. For September 2018 entry it offered 148 places topping up the PAN with 28 offers to boys living in London Boroughs as far away as Croydon. It then declared itself full in spite of a previous claim that ‘We have the capacity to provide enough places for every boy and girl who wants one’.

Chatham Boys

 

The Case for the School from the Trust to the Appeal Panel is a document  riddled with issues. Most importantly it completely misleads the Appeal Panel by providing a gross misrepresentation of how the Medway Test works, as explained below. It also states that ‘students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School, steering the Panel to select additional boys who have been found selective (probably through the Kent Test), but live too far away to secure a place initially. In the event just four appeals were upheld out of some 65, by a Kent Panel who appeared out of their depth, in sharp contrast to the 30 successes of 2017, typical of previous years.

The school is rightly proud of its GCSE performance having been second and third of the six Medway grammar schools in terms of both Progress 8 and Achievement 8 in the past two years, demonstrating its great capability to take local Chatham boys with moderate Medway Test scores through to strong performance. All this is now to be thrown away in the pursuit of glory, using pupils imported from London each year, including 10 from Greenwich for September, nearly 30 miles away.

Ifield    

Kings  Farm 2018

Ifield School celebrates its third successive Outstanding Ofsted assessment and King's Farm, brought to its knees four years ago by a headteacher now banned from the profession, is now Good in every respect, in a very powerful Report.

The Federation saw a change of Executive Headteacher in September when Pam Jones, OBE, retired after a stellar career, and was succeeded by Abbie Birch, moving from the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector, having previously been a headteacher in Kent.

If anything, the achievement at King's Farm is the more powerful, having risen like a Phoenix from the train wreck of 2014. Taken over by the Cedar Federation that year, now: ‘All leaders, including governors, are uncompromising in their high aspirations for every pupil. They are relentlessly driving improvement and accept nothing but the best. The executive headteacher and the head of school model the high standards expected. An exceedingly positive and respectful ethos permeates the school’.

The strength of the transformation can be measured by: ‘In 2017 the school’s results at the expected standard for combined reading, writing and mathematics were the most improved in Kent, with an impressive rise of 34% from results in 2016’.

Update at foot of article

The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

Elias Achilleos, the founder and until recently, CEO of the financially mismanaged SchoolsCompany Trust, responsible for SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy in Deal and three PRUs in Devon, has at last resigned, on 18th May (my thanks to a subscriber to this website for informing me). My previous article sets out the background to this debacle.

Goodwin Academy

All the other Directors with responsibility for the Trust as it plunged into deficit taking Goodwin Academy with it, had previously departed along with the salaries most drew from the Trust, and it is now run by a team put in by the Regional Schools Commissioner.

Index

Last Updated 29/05

One of the Turner School Visions:

We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,

which we interpret as being the whole person.

Turner Schools, an Academy Trust whose leaders have no problem with schools being profit making enterprises, appears to be heading for difficulty with each of its four Folkestone projects. Currently Folkestone Academy is the only non-selective school serving the town. It is to be joined in September by the Turner Free School, to be opened on the site of the old Pent Valley School. The Trust also runs two Folkestone primary schools acquired in January 2017 from the failed and now closed Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and both struggling to attract pupils.

One problem I, and surely most enquirers, have with the website for the Trust with its sections for  each of the four schools, is that it appears to be aimed at an audience of academics and teachers. This is in contrast with every other school website I have visited which set out to be attractive to parents and potential parents, providing them with much valuable information rather than empty words and aspirations.  

I look at all four schools in more detail below on separate pages, underneath a broader look at the Trust, with the following links to each school: Turner Free School; Folkestone Academy; Morehall Primary & Martello Primary You can see a fascinating variety of views in the comments at the foot of the page. 

Index

There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

Brent Outstanding 1

There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

Page 1 of 70