Supporting Families
  • banner8
  • banner11
  • banner7
  • banner6
  • banner12
  • banner2
  • banner4
  • banner10
  • banner9
  • banner3
News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

I am regularly asked regarding possible complaints about Admission Appeals to academies and Free Schools, and respond that it is rare such complaints succeed.

I now have the data for academies and Free Schools for the past two years, and this underlines how difficult it is. Across Kent and Medway there were 53 complaints to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) in the two years, and not one was successful, although two found maladministration without injustice, i.e. the panel made mistakes but these made no difference to the outcome.

Nationally there were 461 complaints, possible injustice was found in 20 of these, and 36 were found to have maladministration with no injustice.

Further details and comment below.


Read more...

Update 7th September: The Department of Education has today sent a letter to all schools clarifying the situation regarding exclusion at the end of Year 12 for academic reasons. This makes it crystal clear that it is unlawful to remove students for any but disciplinary reasons. No school should be in any doubt about this regulation. If needed, you will find a copy of the letter here

This confirms my view on the law after highlighting the case of 22 pupils most of whom were illegally forced out of Invicta Grammar School Sixth Form last summer, because they did not achieve high enough grades at the end of Year 12. Since the publication of A Level results this summer, I have been approached by families across the country who have also been thrown out of grammar and non-selective Sixth forms for not achieving similar illegal requirements, in particular several from St Olave’s Grammar in Orpington, a Voluntary Aided School sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Rochester.  

The DfE statement throws open a gaping hole in current practice, with thousands of children across the country being sacrificed in the drive to improve school league table positions. Every one of these should now know or be told their expulsion is illegal and they are entitled to resume their places in Year Thirteen.


Read more...

Update - Read below first: Numbers taking up Victory option have fallen on fist day of term, as have those taking up places at Holcombe. Surely, the mature solution is to admit this has been an almighty blunder and place the residue of the seven currently at Victory, back in Holcombe. All sorted. 

Holcombe Grammar School, previously Chatham Boys' Grammar, aided and abetted by Medway Council, have carried out one of the most shameful actions I can recall being imposed by a school. Seven boys who have passed the Medway Test, and have been placed on the roll of Holcombe Grammar, are to spend their first secondary school year at low flying non-selective Victory Academy, both schools being part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust. The boys have been told they are to form part of a newly created Grammar stream, the remainder being made up of boys and girls from the academy none of whom will have been assessed as of Grammar ability by the Medway process. 

This device has the effect of denying the children an appeal against the decision, which they would surely win given the circumstances as explained below. Instead on Monday morning the seven boys, on the roll of Holcombe Grammar, will be walking up the same road as other pupils in the school, but in Victory Academy uniform to join a class taught by teachers some of whom, according to Medway Council, have no experience in teaching Grammar ability children but who will be trained on the job. As explained below faulty procedures administered by Medway Council and the school have contributed to allowing this travesty to occur. 

On a wider scale, if this process were judged to be legal, it would have wide reaching consequences. It would allow any Multi Academy Trust in the country the astonishing freedom to transfer children offered places at one school, to be placed in another school in the Trust to be educated. Congratulations again Medway Council on setting an appalling precedent (if indeed it is legal)


Read more...

Update 7th September: I have updated the initial data in this story which was based on reports from informed parties. I accept some of this may have been inaccurate in detail, as I explained in the story, but was broadly consistent overall with the results of a KCC FOI, submitted before the Sunday Times story broke, which I have now incorporated. I apologise for any error.  

The Sunday Times led this week on a story about Academy'fat cats', one focus being the CEO of charitable company Swale Academies Trust (SWAT) with his £170,000 annual salary and the four BMWs provided for him and three other top Trust Executives to carry out their duties. A Public Relations Consultant, employed by the Trust, described the CEO as 'hands on, who needed to drive between the trust’s 17 schools in Kent. Having a company BMW made his “frequent long journeys safe and comfortable”, allowing him to “focus on improving the schools in his care”'. It is astonishing that a PR company could allow such an arrogant, misleading and factually false representation of the Trust's situation.

Coincidentally, I had been looking at  the Trust's finances with regard to two Kent Local Authority schools they have managed recently through a contract with KCC, preparing to taking them over as sponsored Academies. The Community College, Whitstable, had a budget deficit of £185,626 at the end of March 2016, Shortly afterwards SWAT took over and within a year the deficit had shot up to £683,642, with a further bill to KCC for staff re-structuring of £219,452.  Shortly before The North School, Ashford, was taken over three years ago it had a budget surplus of £244,000 which fell to £121,277 within four months, and became a deficit of £65,344 by March 2017. KCC is paying the Trust £180,000 p.a. for each school to manage them until conversion into Sponsored  Academies. At that time the two schools' deficits will be settled by KCC, the norm for new sponsored academies. The losses will then be met from KCC maintained school budgets at a cost to all remaining Local Authority schools, so clearly there is  no incentive for SWAT to economise, and apparently no accountability for their actions.


Read more...
Saturday, 12 August 2017 10:22

Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman

Update: You will find a parallel article on complaints about academies, here

News headlines have reported that there were more complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) against Kent education and social services last year than any other Authority, a total of 89, perhaps unsurprising as KCC is the largest Local Authority in the country. 

I have been looking at complaints about school admissions, exclusions, transport and Special Needs in Kent and Medway. For KCC and Foundation schools, but excluding academies and Free Schools which are considered elsewhere, there was a total of 35 complaints, most against Independent Appeal Panels and their decisions over school admissions. Injustice was found in just 6 complaints, most for delays in making Special Needs provision, several of which were resolved by a small financial settlement. I am anticipating one further outstanding complaint to be upheld shortly.

In Medway, one out of three complaints was upheld, again for a Special Needs issue, although no injustice was found.


Read more...

Update: Hartsdown Academy GCSE results at 5 A-C (or new equivalent) are reported to have fallen to 15% for 2017, from 28% last year. 

I have been looking at Kent schools that have abnormally large numbers of pupils dropping out before completing their statutory education, and trying to work out some of the reasons. Three schools leap to the fore because of their exceptional disciplinary requirements, which are clearly unpopular with families, but I also look at several other schools of note below.

Each of these three Kent schools have featured in the media in the last year because of controversial and tough disciplinary policies, often on minor uniform issues, designed to raise standards of behaviour and which they claim will make them popular with families.  They also all have large parts of their hinterland which are areas of social deprivation.

However, they share two other common characteristics which raise serious questions about this approach. Families try to avoid all three when choosing secondary schools; and all three have a large number of children being removed from the school to take up Elective Home Education. I look at the relevant data below, along with a look at the approach of each school individually.


Read more...

Update: See article in Kent on Sunday. Full version here

 Government statistics for Permanent and Fixed Term Exclusions, published today, show that Medway schools are for the third consecutive year amongst the worst in the country for excluding children. Taken in conjunction with the very large number of children leaving Medway schools for Elective Home Education, it is no surprise that Medway Council is unlawfully trying to hide the relevant data as explained below and in a previous article entitled: Medway Council: Incompetent Again.

For 2015-16, 81 children were permanently excluded from Medway schools, 78 of them from secondary schools. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions, and up 35% on 2014-15. Compare this with Kent, six times as large as Medway, with permanent exclusions down to 58, including 49 for secondary schools, see below.

There were 3,295 fixed term exclusions in Medway schools, again the highest rate in the South East, and 9th highest in the country, up 12% on 2014-15. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

Accompanying all this are the 377 Medway pupils who ‘opted’ for Elective Home Education, many of whom will have left school against the threat of exclusion, and again a very high figure in proportion to other Authorities, and whilst a massive increase on 2014-15's figure of 239 pupils, an astonishing and frightening tenfold increase on 2013-14's 38.  

In total, this represents a frighteningly high number of Medway children being abandoned by the system, and which will inevitably lead many to troubled lives, and long term cost to society. It clear from my analysis below that Medway Council has no idea what to do about the problem, if indeed it wants to do anything. 


Read more...

UPDATE 3, 2nd September: A Government Ministerial statement has said the action by St Olave's is unlawful. The school has withdrawn its decision to  expel the boys, and offered them places back in Year 13 to resume their studies. You will find the update here.   

UPDATE 2, 30th August: This scandal is unravelling fast. The Guardian followed up with a second story today, with more to come, and I am commenting on Radio Five in an item at 5.20 this evening. Question, will St Olave's and other schools operating this Unlawful action, or seek to drag it out?

UPDATE 29th August: At last this story has been picked up by the National media with an article in The Guardian reporting on the scandal of the unlawful expulsion of about 16 students from St Olave's Grammar School in Bromley for failing to get high enough grades at the end of Year 12. Several of these families had already asked my advice, which you will find below, but it is now confirmed by lawyers engaged by the families. It remains a hard road, as schools can introduce delaying tactics into the new term, so that families are forced to make alternative arrangements. However, if case law is established as I have encouraged in my initial article, this unlawful practice can be stamped out. Certainly, at Invicta Grammar, as a direct result of my campaign, Invicta has removed any reference to conditional admission to Year 13, and I have heard from no victims this year. Presumably this all leaves the school open to legal action from students unlawfully expelled last year.


Back in January, the Kent Messenger headlined an article with ‘Maidstone: Headteachers of Invicta Grammar and MGGS rubbish unlawful admissions claims(comments at the foot of the article).

This was in response to my website article: ‘Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions’ exposing the unlawful practices at both schools . The article attracted an unprecedented 23,717 visitors to date along with enquiries from across the country and localunlawful  and national media. With GCSE and AS results time coming up shortly, this second article is written to help advise families who find themselves in similar situations.

invicta        MGGS

With regard to the Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the Local Government Ombudsman will be publishing a decision in September, which is currently embargoed, but I am able to offer advice below to families placed in a similar situation.

The Headteacher of Invicta Grammar School  made the ridiculous claim that all 22 girls who left Year 12 from the school last summer did so of their own accord, having failed to achieve the school’s high expectations at AS Levels. This has been powerfully refuted by over twenty testimonies from girls who were forced out in this and previous years, mostly published as comments to be found at the foot of my previous article. Although this practice is not uncommon in other schools, although rarely on this scale, no one has challenged my claim that such permanent exclusions are illegal, including the Department of Education. I explore the rules that confirm this, below. 

So, hardly rubbish in either case; instead very serious issues for the students concerned, for whom neither school appears to have had any pastoral care or responsibility.


Read more...
Page 1 of 2