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.
Jane Robinson, headteacher of Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, has resigned following an intensive four month Investigation into her actions by a former Interim Director of Education for the County, Professor Ian Craig, which reported three weeks ago. A KCC Press statement states that ‘Following his review of the findings the Chair of Governors considers that a number of actions should be put in place.’ These actions will no doubt have been instrumental in her decision to go, effective from 30th April.
You will find a copy of Chairman's letter notifying parents here, completely devoid of any thanks for Mrs Robinson's services, a failure echoed by the Press Statement, which speaks volumes. I understand that if she had not resigned, she would be facing disciplinary action. It is not at present clear if there has been any financial settlement, but it is likely according to precedent. Mrs Robinson has been absent from the school for about two weeks, leading to speculation that she has been suspended and it is unclear, although surely unlikely, if she will return to the school before her resignation becomes effective.
This article looks at way the plans of the government to invest £320 million in new free schools including possible grammar schools might impinge on Kent and Medway. The proposal is to fund an initial 30 free schools including some grammar schools in the life of this parliament, as well as helping with the pre-opening capital costs of some of the remaining 110 free schools due to open later. The investment is on top of the current commitment to 500 new schools.
With all new schools being required to be Free Schools under current legislation, most of this money should be targeted at areas where there is most pressure on provision, although until now this has not always been the situation. One can only hope that government will work more closely with Local Authorities in the future to ensure that new schools are only provided where they are needed.
There are clear areas of present interest in Kent for this limited extra funding. However, on the scale of the investment one can see no more than one or two of the following being taken forward: a possible new grammar school in Herne/Bay Whitstable; additional grammar provision to meet the expanding pressure from London families for places in North West Kent and now Medway grammars; the limited provision of grammar school places in the Wealden area ; the single sex-grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks; the strange proposal to turn Meopham School into a grammar; a range of non-selective pressure areas where new schools are planned (previous funding) or could make sense; together with Primary and Special Schools in a number of areas. Then as always there is Medway…..
The increasing numbers of Kent and Medway children applying for secondary school places has created different outcomes for children in the two Authorities. Whilst Kent has seen nearly 300 more children offered their first preference school and a total of 743 new places above the final Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) of 2016 (see below), there is still a slight dip in the number of successful first preferences, by 0.9 per cent to 85% Sadly, 616 children did not get any of their choices which, whilst more than last year, is still better than 2015 and most previous years. KCC has been working hard negotiating with popular schools to admit additional pupils with considerable success, in what they describe as “a challenging year”. The number of out of county children being awarded Kent places has hardly changed from 2016, settling at 810, although some of these will drop out as local alternatives present themselves.
The picture is very different in Medway although it is hard to be precise for, as always, their data and press release are very skimpy, the latter also being ridiculously upbeat and positive. However, the bottom line is that there is a fall of over 5% in the proportion of children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 142 children (approximate figures I have calculated from the percentages given). According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter “This is great news”!
As well as more information, and the tables of outcomes below, you will find a District by District survey of the information I have at present, required scores for super-selective schools, and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix.
I will update this article as I receive further information. As always, when I get a school by school breakdown, I shall publish a fuller analysis, the 2016 articles for Kent grammars here, non-selectives here and Medway schools here.
This article looks back on the website and my services over the past year (and a bit) since January 2016.
The year again proved very busy with 114,608 different browsers making a total of 181,752 visits. I published 72 news and comment items, the most popular being “Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions”, with an astonishing 20,511 hits in the six weeks since publication last month. Next was “Kent Reception and Junior School Allocations 2016: Oversubscription and Vacancies”, the 14 most popular pages being listed below.
Much of the information accessed from the right hand side of each page has been present and regularly updated since this version of the website was launched in 2010. Unsurprisingly the most popular page provides information and advice on ‘Kent Grammar School Applications’ with a total of 255,106 visitors since then.
In addition, the site now has around a thousand subscribers, including most importantly the many parents for whom the site is primarily intended. It is also tracked by local and national media, state and private schools, local and national government officers, and politicians. Further information about the website, stories I have covered, and other matters below.
I have now decided to retire completely from my Personal Appeals Advice Service begun in 2003, but am continuing with my telephone consultancy which offers an advisory service for school appeals and other education matters, as explained here.
The website will continue and expand as time permits. As you can see, I have now started to accept appropriate advertisements and welcome enquiries.
This article covers the opening of ten new primary academies, with a further eleven primary school proposals to become academies in Kent and Medway over the past five months.
I also look at academies under pressure because of falling rolls – Swadelands, Hayesbrook, New Line Learning and High Weald; more secondary headteachers lose their jobs – together with the numbers crisis at Kent’s first UTC.
Two new secondary schools are now on the stocks in Maidstone and Dartford, and the number of all through academies for pupils aged 4-19 is doubling to four, with Kent's two St George's CofE secondary schools expanding to take in at primary age.
I also cover a range of grammar school issues in Maidstone, West and North West Kent, and Chatham......
Update (Friday 10th): The Gravesend Messenger this week has published a three page article about Jane Porter, including the front page, as well as an internet comment section further back.
Jane Porter, formerly Executive Headteacher of Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend, has been found guilty of Professional Misconduct.
The Professional Conduct Panel of the National College of Teaching and Leadership published the decision on Friday, taken on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education.
“Ms Jane Porter is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against her, I have decided that Ms Porter shall not be entitled to apply for restoration of her eligibility to teach” (although she has right of appeal to the High Court within 28 days).
Whilst being in temporary post as Executive Headteacher of Kings Farm Primary School, at the same time as substantive head of Whitehill Primary in Gravesend, the Panel found that “it is evident that throughout her time at the school, Ms Porter had a cavalier disregard of key rules and procedures…Throughout these proceedings, Ms Porter showed no remorse for her actions and demonstrated a lack of compassion”. The panel found that Ms Porter "Having engaged in sustained and serious bullying, whilst failing to manage the running of the school the results of which included breaches in health and safety and safeguarding"…
Some of the many issues are explored further below; others are contained in the series of articles I have previously written on this website........
This article updates and replaces an earlier one covering provisional results, published in October
This year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths has been scrapped, being replaced by two new assessments, Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Medway above average at 0.05, against a National average of -0.03.
Headlines: Whilst the Rochester Grammar School heads up both tables, non-selective schools take the next highest Progress score places, as distinct from Kent where the grammar schools dominate. Second is The Thomas Aveling School, followed by Brompton Academy and Rainham School for Girls, all above the national average and unsurprisingly all heavily oversubscribed for admission. Next highest grammar is Chatham Grammar School for Boys (now Holcombe Grammar School). Bringing up the rear in both tables is St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive. No Medway secondary schools are below the floor target, which may trigger government intervention (there are seven in Kent). For Attainment 8, all the six grammar schools are unsurprisingly in the top spots, led by the two super-selectives, Rochester Grammar and Rainham Mark, although Fort Pitt, is at the foot of the grammars in both tables. Highest non-selectives are again Rainham Girls and Thomas Aveling, this time joined by The Howard.
Further information below, including the performance of individual schools, and a look at another measure, the English Baccalaureate ......
This article updates and replaces an earlier one covering provisional results published in October
This year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths has been scrapped, being replaced by two new assessments, Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Kent slightly below average at -0.04, in 80th place out of 152 Local Authorities, against a National average of -0.03.
Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent doing better than average with 50.4, against a National score of 49.9, ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics to choose from to suit your case.
Headlines: Grammar School progress dominated by West Kent and super-selectives; Oakwood comes below the national average. Top non-selective school is St Simon Stock, but remarkable performance by Meopham, Orchards Academy and Northfleet Technology College. Half the lowest performers are in the Maidstone area. Seven schools failed the government floor level requirement and will face government intervention. Top Grammar School attainment similar pattern to Progress, all five lowest performers are boys' schools, worst performance again Oakwood Park. Non-selective tale is led by three church schools and Duke of York's Boarding Academy, Bennett Memorial leading the way. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables: Hartsdown; Royal Harbour; Oasis Sheppey; Swadelands; and New Line Learning.
Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......
Update: I have been asked by a number of Year 12 families about any advice I can offer to current students who fear for their chances in Year 13. See new heading towards foot of the article.
|You will find a feature length article in Kent on Sunday here, widening the debate. It includes a quotation by Julie Derrick, headteacher of Invicta Grammar School: "This is an 'interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate". The host of testimonies at the foot of this table, and in the media, suggests she is out of touch with reality.|
Please visit comments at the foot of this page, from twenty young people or their parents, who come across as thoughtful, full of commonsense, concerned for other victims, and well educated by their school. All support the facts denied by Invicta Grammar. Please note that whilst some have chosen to write under a nom de plume, nearly all have identified themselves to me and appear to be genuine. This webpage has been unprecedented in its popularity with 9239 visitors on its first day of publication, indicating the importance of the issues raised, having subsequently soared to a total of 18676 at the time of the latest update (Saturday).
The pressure to achieve results has resulted in the two girls’ grammar schools in Maidstone both adopting apparently unlawful tactics to secure top A Level grade performance, at the expense of the future of some students. OFSTED considers both high performing schools are Outstanding, so there is no doubt about the excellent quality of education offered for those young people who stay the course.
However, at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the school suddenly introduced a new and unlawful provision for selecting external students for admission to the Sixth Form in September 2016, illegally picking those predicted to achieve highest GCSE Grades by a process not in the school’s admission rules.
At Invicta Grammar School, 22 students ‘voluntarily’ left the school half way through their A Level course, refused permission to carry on into Year 13, a total of 26 through the year, the highest number and the second highest proportion of any Kent grammar school. This was because their grades at AS level were insufficient to be confident of the high A Level performance of which the school is so proud, Given no alternative to stay on, this amounts to expulsion although there is no lawful provision for students to be removed mid-course by schools in this way.
Further details on the situation at both schools below, along with other grammar schools which have a high departure rate. There appears a particular problem in Medway, where four of the six grammar schools saw a loss of more than 10% of their cohort between Years 12 and 13 this year.
Each year, I am contacted by a number of young people, mainly but not exclusively in grammar schools, who are not admitted to Sixth Forms although fully qualified according to the school admission criteria, or who are forced out at the end of Year 12 because the school only wants the highest performing students for the sake of their league table position. However, these two cases are the most extreme I have come across.
Too many students, capable of fulfilling their potential by achieving A Level success, albeit sometimes at a lower level than schools wish to see, therefore see their career chances thwarted...
The nine Lilac Sky Academies in Kent and East Sussex have just two more days before the unlamented Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) closes down by Government Instruction and the schools are handed over to other Academy Trusts. The Trust Website still records the Board of Directors as those who saw the Trust to its financial ruin and were then removed, being replaced by Regional Schools Commissioners appointees six months ago.
Puffed up to the end, until just before the end of term, individual Trust Websites were self-congratulatory about their schools’ achievements with not a word about the change of Management apart from a brief notice buried away last July which reads– “Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust has decided that in order to serve the needs of our children we should seek an alternative Trust to take over the running of some of our schools” – perhaps an odd way to describe events.
The Trust carried a two million pound deficit at the end of 2014/15 (this year’s account still to come), which was originally reported as debts to be passed on to the successor Trusts, but I am now told the final sum will be absorbed by government; if so there will have been no incentive to save in the final year.
LSSAT probably reached its acme in November 2015, when it boasted on its website that it had won a Department for Education contract to support Regional Schools Commissioners in eight RSC Regions, including the South East, which would probably have come in very handy as the latter included all nine LSSAT Academies except that Government never activated it (see below).
The Contract Brief
- advise open academies on effective improvement strategies;
- assess and advise on Free School/UTC/Studio School applications;
- assist the RSC’s in securing suitable sponsorship solutions for relevant maintained schools.
This would have been invaluable as it was surely a major conflict of interest. In the event, it appears that government belatedly realised there was an issue and no services were requested, the Contract being terminated in November 2016 (response to FOI Request). The FOI request also reveals that ‘the EFA is reviewing financial management and governance at the trust. This work is currently ongoing and we have no further comments to make at this stage’......
UPDATED: 22nd December
Since I wrote a month ago about the second Consultation launched within a year by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) to turn the boys’ Holcombe Grammar School (HGS) into a co-educational school from September 2018, the school has published further documentation which only serves to underline four key propositions.
Firstly, in a crowded field, I believe this may be the most disgraceful proposal for a change of school status I have come across.
Secondly, The Letter to Parents, Consultation Document, and Notes of Meetings on 10th November and 1st December contain many errors of fact, misleading statements, innuendo and untruths most of which appear to be deliberately inserted to strengthen a very weak case.
Thirdly, the content of these documents point to a key purpose being behind its publication. This is the undermining of another grammar school, Chatham Grammar School for Girls (CGSG).
Fourthly, the proposal is put forward purely for self-interest with no thought for the local community, its schools or the reduction in pupil choice.
The Consultation follows hot on the heels of Government turning down a previous identical proposal just four months ago, in August and ends on 2nd January, so it is important that views are expressed by then, using the form provided. The school claims it can apply again as it is demonstrating a solution to the previous reasons for rejection. My previous article demonstrates that all five of the new reasons put forward for the new proposal in a letter to parents are either false or invalid.
Update and Correction Saturday 17th December
There is a sea change in measuring performance in primary schools this year with parents facing a barrage of statistics to assist in school choice and the factors outlined in a BBC article leading with “Parents are being urged to ignore the latest school league tables, after "chaotic" changes to tests in England.”
Nevertheless, there is important information amongst the mass of data which will enable a high proportion of schools to claim they are performing well by one measure or another and I attempt to point up some of this below, with a strong warning about reliability.
Government has now developed two key measures, firstly about the progress achieved between the age of 7 (Key Stage 1) and 11 (Key Stage 2), measured around a National Average of 0 (zero). Secondly achievement measured by the percentage of pupils in the school reaching a standardised score of 100 in mathematics, English reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG).
The good news in the Kent table is that overall pupils achieved above average progress in each of the three elements, and that 59% of children reached the standardised score across the board, against a National Average of 53%. This is way up on 2015's statistically absolutely average performance.
For Medway, the table shows that pupils achieved below national average progress in reading and maths, and average progress in SPAG, leading to a below National Average attainment score of 49% in attainment. It is unclear at this stage whether this is an improvement on last year's bottom place in the country.
Further details of the county figures below, with some interpretation, together with a look at some individual schools. I conclude with attempting some advice for parents looking for a primary school for their child in September 2017 based on this data.
- A fall in the proportion of Kent children taking the Kent Test from 64% to 60%, and a 9% fall in the number of children put forward for Headteacher Assessments (HTA).
- Girls are still ahead on both automatic test passes since the Test was changed in 2014, and also in HTAs, but the gaps have narrowed.
- As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in East Kent, the lowest in West Kent.
- The fall in HTA successes has resulted in an overall fall in success from 26.1% to 25.7%, nearer the target of 25%.
- There is an increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium found selective to 9.1% of the Kent state school total passes,brought about through headteachers recognising ability in the HTA, where coaching is irrelevant.
- Schools with the highest proportion of Kent successes are split between East and West: Amherst Junior (Sevenoaks); Ethelbert Road (Faversham); Ramsgate Holy Trinity CofE; and Claremont (Tunbridge Wells).
- Another leap in Out of County Passes, around 80% of whom will not take up places.
For more details see below:
In Medway the two schools inspected, Rainham Girls and Thomas Aveling, both maintained their ‘Good’ status.
Kent’s Special Schools continue to be rated at the highest level with every single school now currently rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ (although the Director of Education quoted just 96% in his most recent Report on OFSTED).These successes include last year’s three Inspections (79% 'Good' or 'Outstanding' nationally), with Milestone School maintaining its ‘Outstanding’ rating, the other two schools improving to ‘Good’. In Medway, the one Special School inspected, the INSPIRE Free Special School, was placed in special Measures.
Each year, I collect Appeal data for every secondary school in Kent and Medway that has Admission Appeals for Year 7 entry, and for those primary schools whose appeals are organised by the two Local Authorities. My thanks to all the schools that have co-operated so fully and willingly. I now have the data for every secondary school that held appeals.
Success rates at admission appeals for Kent and Medway grammar schools have fallen to 34% for 2016, a drop for the third successive year, but for non-selectives, up at 38%, with chances of success at primary school appeals remaining very low.
If you are qualified for grammar school, or if you wish to be considered form a non-selective school, it is important to put your name down on the waiting list for all schools for which you wish to be considered with well over 200 children being offered places by this route (it is impossible to be precise).
For grammar schools, numbers range from Chatham and Clarendon Grammar (Ramsgate) with 118 appeals (down from 146 last year) of which 47 were upheld, and Wilmington Boys, 114 with just six upheld, through to Cranbrook School with no appeals and Dover Grammar Boys 16 with 7 upheld. In Medway Rochester Grammar had three successful appeals out of 43, and Fort Pitt four out of 41. For non-selective schools, highest were St George’s CofE, Gravesend with 57 appeals (27 last year) with just three successful, and St George’s Foundation, Broadstairs with 50 (74 last year) with 30 successful. These were also the two most popular schools in Kent measured by oversubscription levels. Also amongst the oversubscribed secondary schools, Ursuline College had 11 appeals of which none were successful.
For Infant Schools where Infant Class Legislation applies (see below), there were 318 appeals heard across Kent and Medway by Local Authority Panels, with 14 successful.
You will find a much more detailed and later analysis here.
Kent Test results have now been published with the pass mark the same as last year. An automatic pass has again been awarded to candidates scoring 106 on each of the three sections - English; maths and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 320. This total will again be around 21% of the total age cohort across the county, with further details to follow as I receive them.
An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, usually around 6% of the total. You will find full details of the whole Kent Test process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 26% of Kent children in the age cohort.
One important and welcome change is that KCC are now making individual test scores available to parents who registered online from 5 p.m., so there will no longer be the anxious wait or chasing up of primary schools for results of previous years.
As last year, I shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC.
Initial figures released by KCC are below, together with further information and ways I can support you.
The Radio Five Programme, ‘5 Live Investigates’ has broadcast a programme (available here on i-Player) about Academies and personal financial benefit which includes a strong section on Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT), at 24 minutes into the programme. Most of the material on Lilac Sky is also reported on in various articles on this website, most recently here. Further comment below, but you can also read a summary of the whole on the BBC website, here.
Lilac Sky is not alone. Currently there are around 5,500 academies. Of these, 113 Academy Trusts are in debt to a total of nearly £25 million. In 2014, eleven academies were given financial warnings, now up to 21 in the past year. 16 of the schools in deficit have been bailed out by £4½ million. At least £700,000 has been written off already. One quote: “Some of those running academies have developed ingenious and legal ways to line their own pockets”.....
Story as at Monday afternoon, 3rd October
Medway Council has failed to report this year's Medway Test results to parents correctly, causing considerable distress to families. You will find the full story below, but first, here is a statement by Medway Council giving the current situation for concerned families, published 12.30 Monday.
The story up to the release of the above statement at noon on Monday (updated to take account of it)
Medway Test results are sent out by email after 4 p.m. on Friday 30th September, or by post to arrive the next day.
The Medway Test Pass Score is 513. Please note, as explained in my article 'Admission to Medway Grammar Schools' below, this does not mean the standard is any lower than last year's 521. The standard required is the same. The difference reflects the number of children taking the test And their abilities.
I run a Telephone Consultation Service to support and advise families living in Medway or Kent Local Authority areas, who are considering Review, looking at secondary school options, or thinking about chances of success at appeal, for schools in Kent or Medway Local Authorities.
The pages of this website also contain much free information about each of these issues
You will find details of each of the possibilities via the links below, or to the right of this article. You may wish to start with the page on Can I help you?
Individual Medway Secondary Schools. This contains information on each secondary school and academy. I am currently updating these pages. If the one you wish to consult is not up to date, please let me know and I will attend to it.
These pages also contain links to pages providing comment and data relating to school admissions....
Patrick Leeson, Kent’s Corporate Director of Education and Young People's Services, described the actions of Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) as ‘outrageous’ in a KCC Education Cabinet Meeting last week, following their gross mismanagement of the five Kent Primary Schools under their control. See previous articles for the story.
This is of course a complete turnaround from his position last year, when in spite of a series of articles by me on the gross mismanagement of the Furness School debacle by both Lilac Sky and Kent County Council, he praised Lilac Sky highly (four times) for their excellent work, in a debate on the school’s closure; see more below.
He has also praised the Regional Schools Commissioner on his 'swift action' in removing the schools from Lilac Sky control – but this won't be finalised until Christmas! 'Swift action' overlooks the reality that RSC has known of serious problems with Lilac Sky from 2014 as detailed below. The RSC initially arranged for Lilac Sky commercial companies to stop providing services to LSSAT from September 2015, after a conflict of interest was identified. In spite of these issues, government saw fit to appoint Lilac Sky on a two year Contract in November 2015 to advise Regional Commissioners on vetting new academies and advising on improving existing ones, surely an immense conflict of interest, so no swift action then. Indeed it was not until serious accounting issues came to light in July this year (in spite of a policy of light touch monitoring for academies) that the RSC was forced to take emergency action. The revelations appeared after the Trust's initial accounts were rejected and showed that Lilac Sky Education appears to have extracted excessive sums of money from the Trust academies, plunging some schools into financial crisis as they struggle to pay it back, as highlighted by Mr Leeson, below.....
Kent and Medway have many excellent private schools, for those who can afford it and wish for an alternative to a state school, but do not assume that private is best, as the experience of a number of local schools warn.
OFSTED now inspects the smaller private schools, although there are limited powers to take action on those that are failing. In the last year four of these, all promoting their ability to get children into grammar school, which can serve as a main reason for their existence, have been found Inadequate by OFSTED or in the case of one, had its Action Plan to show the route out of failure rejected by the DfE.
The schools are:St Joseph’s Convent Independent Preparatory School, Gravesend; St Christopher’s School, Canterbury (follow up to previous Inadequate Report); Shernold School, Maidstone; and Bryony School, Gillingham, which have all been found Inadequate by OFSTED.
New Definition of a Non-Selective school (see below)
A school where parents can send their children if they have £8,500 taxed income to spare. The school will then prepare the child for a very good grammar school as an investment, in order to save three times as much on secondary private school fees. No entrance test, but you are not advised to send the child if the money will be wasted. .
Kent primary schools show another strong performance through their OFSTED outcomes for 2015-16, with 25 schools improving their grading, against just 3 declining. 79% of schools were judged Good or Outstanding agasitn a national average of 77% to March (latest national figure published). This is underlined by very good figures in the latest Key Stage 2 attainment results, according to provisional results by Local Authority which place Kent 21st out of 152 Authorities, with 58% of children reaching the expected standard, well above the national figure of 52%. A KCC website providing information for teachers includes the view of the Corporate Director of Education on both OFSTED and Performance in National assessments.
Medway is at last also getting better, with 9 improved OFSTED outcomes against one down, a total of 7$% Good or Outstanding. Provisional KS2 results place Medway 25 places from the bottom with 48%, not good but a marked improvement on its bottom five position every previous year since 2009.
This is the first year that both attainment and progress are assessed at KS2, the new progress measure figures to be released later in the year.
Back in February when I reported on performance for the first half of the year, just three Kent schools had been found Outstanding, but this figure has now leapt to 11, with Blean, Brookfield, Great Chart, Hartley Primary Academy, Roseacre Junior, Sandwich Junior, and Tunstall CofE all improving their level from Good, and Herne CofE Junior leaping two grades from Requires Improvement to Outstanding.
In Medway, there are signs of progress at last with 72% of schools inspected last year found Good or Outstanding, the two schools assessed as Outstanding being Barnsole, up two levels from Requires Improvement, and Horsted Infants, up from Good. Two academies Oasis Skinner Street and Saxon Way are both up from Special Measures to Good.
You will find latest Local Authority and National figures at the foot of this article.
Meopham School in Gravesham, a non-selective mixed academy that has achieved excellent GCSE results this year, is proposing to change its status to become a mixed grammar school from September 2018.
This school, with a current intake of 160 students and run by the Swale Academies Trust, has published a Consultation document about the plan. This outlines the proposal if the recommendations of the recently published government Green Paper allowing non-selective schools to convert to grammar schools are approved. Current students at the school would be able to continue on their present courses.
I can see there would be strong demand for such a school if it came into being, as outlined below, but there are also massive problems for non-selective children in an area where there is already enormous pressure on non-selective places.
This is just the first proposal nationally to become public, and gives rise to speculation about several other possibilities of a similar nature across the county.
Please note: What follows are my initial reactions to breaking news today, but I will return to it, with a more measured response and updates as they arise.
There has been considerable press coverage, following the claim in the Sunday Times that there will be a new school on the Sevenoaks annexe site for boys.
It is of course not that simple. Quite simply, there are no regulations at present in place to allow any such development, not even a boys’ annexe.
Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has driven the project from its beginning and now appears to have his vision fully vindicated, appears quite clear that buildings will be constructed over and above those for the girls' annexe. There is a fall-back position in that it is reported that if no school or annexe is allowed, alternative short term use is being planned.
It has been clear for years that Mrs May, even as Home Secretary was in favour of expansion of grammar schools, possibly by creation of annexes, as I wrote in November 2014. Her current ideas are clearly proving very controversial, and I see no point in adding to the debate.
However, as I also wrote in May 2015 after the General Election, about a possible boys’ annexe in Sevenoaks to balance the one being built for the girls of Weald of Kent Grammar: “the pressure to sort this one could become irresistible!” It is starting to look that way.......
Updated with more Medway Academy news below, 7 September
Although there has been just one new converter academy and five sponsored academies in the past five months from Kent and one from Medway, there are six new academy proposals in Kent and five in Medway working through. Most of the new or proposed sponsored academies have a failed OFSTED in the last few years, academisation wiping out any previous OFSTED Grade and securing freedom from a fresh Inspection for three years – almost an incentive in itself for some schools, and surely a great relief for the two Local Authorities as their statistics improve overnight.
There are also five Free School proposals, some already approved for 2017 opening as the government Free School programme gathers pace, with three of the proposals coming from religious groups as, in Kent as well as elsewhere, faith schools are seeing their biggest expansion in numbers for decades.
This article also looks at Academy matters in Canterbury, Deal, Folkestone, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, and Sevenoaks, and major new developments in the Lilac Sky scandal.
You will find a full list of Academies, Academy Groups, Free Schools and University Technical Colleges elsewhere on this website; together with my previous article on Academy and Free School News (the delay explained by my commitments elsewhere in recent months).
Further details on all these items below…..
And more: Schoolsweek this week exposes the fact that many other academy chains are running large pension deficits, with the pension deficit at REAch2, which runs 55 primaries, rising from £12.6 million in 2014, to £18.4 million last year. They also Report that the Lilac Sky deficit is to be passed on to the new sponsors. How on earth are they going to recover this?
Further Update: SchoolsWeek has now published another article, in which the founder of Lilac Sky claimed the revised LSSAT accounts, see below, were inaccurate and released to try and embarrass him. The article also picks up on issues I have previously raised.
Update: Following publication of my article, SchoolsWeek has also published (page 4) an article about Lilac Sky. On page 2, it publishes an article about cheating by use of impostors, in the Kent Test.
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust, responsible for five academies in Kent and four in Sussex, has now published revised accounts for the year ending 31st August, in which the new Board of Trustees disassociates itself from what has gone before:
|Had the trustees been aware of the full extent of the non-compliance with the Trust’s policies on procurement at the date of the approval of the original financial statements, and the remedial action that would be imposed by the EFA as a consequence, it would have cast significant doubt on the trustees’ assessment of the trust’s ability to continue as a going concern.|
This news explains the events I have chronicled in three previous articles, most recently here, explaining the decline and fall of the Trust and its academies. It may well be that after January, the Trust will be quietly closed as the Regional Schools Commissioner has removed all its nine academies and allocated them elsewhere (details in my previous articles). Sadly, it is the students who have been punished over the past year by this mismanagement as amongst other events, most notably Marshlands Academy being given a Warning of closure if it failed to improve its standards, the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) instructed the Trust to claw back some of its financial losses by remedial action. This explicitly meant taking funds provided for education, out of the school budgets to pay off the debts.
Through part or all of the past eighteen months, well after the problems initially emerged, the RSC has been supported by Lilac Sky Advisers, appointed by government to assist him in his duties by overseeing the performance of academies, and opening new ones, surely somewhat of a conflict of interest!
Lilac Sky now appears to have decided its name is toxic and so Lilac Sky Outstanding Services Ltd, name recently changed to Lilac Sky Education Ltd on 1st July 2016, has now been completely re-branded as Education 101 Outstanding Education Services Ltd from 1st September. At the same time, the name of Lilac Sky Schools Ltd also bites the dust and this company is now branded Henriette De Forestier Schools Ltd from 31st August, as its seeks to diversify into private education.
I look at the latest news from each of the three companies, Lilac Sky Academy Trust, Education 101, and Henriette De Forestier, in more detail below - there is plenty of it!…
Whilst I have at last decided to retire completely from offering my full appeals service after twelve years I shall, however, continue to run my telephone (and FaceTime) Advisory Service which appears to meet a great need, covering school admissions including secondary schools. This of course means I shall still be very busy between now and the end of October. The Service also covers many other educational issues affecting Kent and Medway families, mainly discussed in these pages. I shall expand this to provide a telephone advisory service for appeals and am currently considering the best way to do this. It is clearly going to take time to revise the pages of the website to reflect this decision.
I also propose to write several articles and expand the information and advice about appeals on the Information pages - the most popular page currently looks at Kent Grammar School Appeals, currently standing at 47,762 hits. None of this takes away from what I regard as the excellent free advice service on admissions and appeals offered by Kent County Council Admissions, always worth a phone call first, although they are not allowed to wander into many areas I cover!
However, my final appeal was to be a classic example of the occasional parental nightmare that comes along, with Medway Council - who else - the villain of the piece.....
|Update: This article has already produced a number of enquiries from parents of, and in a couple of cases, students themselves looking for Sixth Form places. As in past years, a number of schools, grammar, non-selective and especially academies, are ignoring the precise admission criteria laid down for each school and making ad hoc decisions. Parents and students both have a legal right of appeal in such cases.|
Last year, the two Thanet grammar schools admitted 124 students from non-selective (NS) schools into their Sixth Forms, whilst the two in Folkestone took in just five between them. Non-selective Canterbury Academy astonishingly admitted 45 students from grammar schools travelling in the reverse direction, in the almost bizarre Canterbury situation; see more below.
An average intake of 16 NS students across the county for the Sixth Forms of the 31 grammar schools hides a massive variation from 65 at Dane Court, to six grammars admitting fewer than four. King Ethelbert's NS school saw 48 students transfer to grammar school Sixth Forms, although four schools had none. I have always argued that the opportunity for a second chance to join a grammar school, in the Sixth Form, is a criterion for a successful Selective System. These figures show it is working in places but as always - could do much better!
With most of the Further Education Colleges abandoning A Level courses because of cost, opportunities to study A Level are shrinking in many places, although some NS schools offer their own successful A Level courses, as explained below.
KCC publishes a very useful information article on choices and you will find an information article here on decision making at 16 plus, after GCSE, which looks at a variety of options, emphasising the point that it should not simply be moving on in the same establishment, but this is an opportunity to look round at alternatives.
Then there is just the one non-selective school that has increased its roll over each of the past two years!
What is even more remarkable about the Canterbury Academy story, is that it admitted 45 students from grammar schools, into its Sixth Form, going the other way.
However, this article does focus on the transition from GCSE to school Sixth Forms, looking at change of school and focusing on individual schools across the county, below. It is partially a follow on from a previous article that was more general, but which provoked my enquiry. You will find an article in Kent on Sunday, with some slightly different data, here.…
Update: You will find a later article focusing on the salaries of Primary Academy Headteachers here, including the primary head with an annual salary of over £155,000
A recent programme from the Channel Four Dispatches series with the above title focused on leaders of some Academy chains who are taking large sums of money out of the schools under their control, and away from the children's education.
Issues in the programme focused on: huge salaries; what are called ‘related party transactions’ where business deals and services are connected back to the Trust; large expense accounts; and the exclusions of ‘inconvenient pupils’ often with Special Education Needs.
I do not propose to go into detail about the general misuses of public funds uncovered, for you can read them in the accompanying article, but I have previously reported examples of scandals in Kent and Medway in various articles in this website, some referenced again below.
An analysis of some of the more prominent academy chains shows that size and performance bear limited connection with reward, the Head of one single school Academy Trust earning £176,000 last year. This was some £25,000 more than the CEO of Kent’s largest Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) which is responsible for 13 schools, and ten thousand pounds more than KCC’s Corporate Director, whose responsibilities include direct control of some 400 schools together with a wide range of essential services for all children and schools in Kent, who was paid £166,353 in 2015, with just £1,010 in expenses, all on travel.
I have now looked at the accounts of a number of MATs of different sizes, and also Single School Trusts on the Companies House website. The overwhelming majority have their lead officer on a salary of less than £100,000, so the examples below represent a small minority of the total in Kent.
“The con doc [consultation document] says we will open new grammars, albeit that they would have to follow various conditions.
The SoS’s [Secretary of State’s] clear position is that this should be presented in the con doc as an option, and only to be pursued once we have worked with existing grammars to show how they can be expanded and reformed in ways which avoid disadvantaging those who don’t get in.
I simply don’t know what the PM thinks of this, but it sounds reasonable to me, and I simply can’t see any way of persuading the Lords to vote for selection on any other basis.”
TWITTER VERDICT BY WARWICK MANSELL: THE GUARDIAN
Staggering blog by Kent consultant Peter Read on Lilac Sky academies. Real issues here re DfE oversight, it seems. 1:16 pm - 5 Aug 2016
in summary: In the two years to 1st April 2015, over a million pounds was paid by LSSAT to companies run by Trevor Averre-Beeson, founder of LSSAT, for services provided. As a consequence, LSSAT ended the year £665,972 in debt and with a pension deficit of £1,320,000. i.e. It was non-viable. Mr Averre-Beeson was awarded advances of £500,018 for 2013/14 in his capacity as majority shareholder in Lilac Sky Outstanding Services one of the beneficiary companies, although there appears no parallel entry in the record for the 2014/15. There is no suggestion by me of any breach of law.
Probably the biggest of so many questions raised by this debacle is who pays off the apparent near £2 million shortfall in LSSAT? Attempted answer below!
In order to try and reduce the deficit, LSSAT increased the individual academy contributions to central funding for 2015-16 to 7% of their total income, from 5% (many Multi-Academy Trusts only deduct 3%) and made new charges for services to individual academies, both clearly having a direct effect of reducing the quality of education in the schools. In addition it proposed increasing employer contributions to pension provision, presumably because this had been underfunded. It is unlikely that the effect of these actions would be likely to produce a swift removal of the deficit.
Mr Averre-Beeson 'left' the Board of LSSAT in April 2015, and also his role as CEO, to be replaced by Chris Bowler who had previously been Managing Director, However Mr Bowler only lasted a year, and now appears to have been removed from this post by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC).
As first reported in my previous article, Lilac Schools Company is still being considered for the running of a new Jewish Free School in North London, so amazingly has not yet lost all credibility with Government. ....
Events at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School continue apace since my previous article at the beginning of last month. See also article on resignation of Chief Executive of Thinking Schools Academy Trust.
Main details are that the school has now withdrawn its application to become an Academy, a number of governors and the clerk to governors resigned, and the Chairman of Governors has resigned.
Now KCC has appointed five new governors to the GB and a new Chairman has been elected, “bringing with them considerable educational and leadership experience and nationally recognised expertise in school governance”. The new Chairman is Dr Christine Carpenter, who a few years ago was Headteacher of the Sacred Heart High School, a girls’ Catholic School in Hammersmith. Most of the other new governors are recognisable as also being involved with education in Kent. However, there are still massive and ongoing troubles which affect the school.
A letter to parents, “Sent on behalf of Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School Governing Body and Kent County Council”, so unclear whether the existing Governing Body has actually produced or approved it, sets out the main changes and pledges that “Moving forward the school governors and Kent County Council are determined to ensure that relationships can be restored under a new climate of openness and transparency”.
You will find a superb commentary on the debacle by the local Newspaper, here.
However, matters to be resolved include ....
Several times on the pages of this website, I have written about “the worst ever” OFSTED Report I had read at the time with regard to Kent or Medway schools or academies failing because of incompetent management and leadership. However, the recent Report placing Wayfield Primary School in Chatham in Special Measures leaves the competition standing. In 2013, just before the school was taken over by Griffin, OFSTED had found it a GOOD school.
Whilst the school may indeed have been "Proud to Achieve" in 2013 some excerpts from the current Report describe the shocking fall from grace brought about by the Griffin Trust :
|“Pupils’ safety and well-being are at risk; Staff manage pupils’ behaviour poorly; Normal discipline has broken down; On occasion, staff lose control of pupils, who are then at risk of being harmed; Too often, pupils become distracted, fool about or are noisy in lessons; Over the past two years, the school’s provision has notably worsened; Pupils’ attainment and progress have fallen catastrophically; Pupils underachieve in all key stages; Pupils are inadequately taught; The leadership and management of the school are weak at all levels; The headteacher is the only senior leader; The Griffin Schools Trust oversees the school unsuccessfully; The governance arrangements, organised by the academy trust, are ineffective”.|
Media commentary by Radio Kent and the Medway Messenger on this appalling betrayal of children’s life chances missed my previous story, first reported in the Guardian, that: “in just two years the Trust paid over £700,000 to a company jointly owned by its two chief executives.Three other companies in which trustees of the charity have majority interests received smaller payments that amounted to around £100,000 for “educational consultancy services’”, the trust’s accounts show”. This is a common device by some academy chains to ensure an adequate financial reward for their leaders’ noble endeavours.....
I now have detailed figures for Medway’s Primary Reception and Junior School allocations for September 2016, and they confirm the data quoted in my initial article on primary school allocations, published in April.
The overall outcome in terms of preferences and vacancies is similar to 2015, although another 60 late places were put into two Gillingham schools, St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic and Woodlands Academy to head off problems. 40 extra unplanned places were put into Elaine Primary Academy, but in the end, these were not used.
Rainham is the most pressured area again, with not a single Reception place left unfilled. Most popular school is St Margaret’s Infants’ also in Rainham, turning away 39 first choices, soaring from nine last year. This is followed by: Brompton-Westbrook (Academy), (31), third most popular in 2015; Swingate 27, another school that has increased sharply in popularity; Pilgrim and Bligh Infants (Academy applications in progress), (25); and All Faiths Children’s Academy and Cliffe Woods Primary Academy (23).
Five primary schools have over a third of their places empty, headed by All Hallows Primary Academy on the Hoo Peninsula with a 60% vacancy rate for its 30 places, although Twydall has the largest number, with 34 of its 75 places going empty.
I look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools…….
A BBC news item last evening (Monday), reporting on the recommendations of the Grammar Schools and Social Mobility Committee of KCC (see previous article), contained the startling opinion that, in order to meet the objectives of the Committee, another 700 grammar school places would need to be created.
Although not mentioned, this would be spread across the five years of compulsory secondary education and so, capping the secondary transfer rate at the current 29%, including all three routes to selection, the Committee is looking at just 120 more places for high performing children on Free School Meals in Kent’s 32 grammar schools each year, fewer than 4 children per average grammar school with an intake of 150 students
In fact, there is no suggestion or intimation whatever in the Committee’s recommendations that a single new place should be created, which would of course increase the current 29% of the school population attending grammar school, an idea for which there appears no political will.
The Committee main thrusts are as follows:……
King’s Farm Primary School in Gravesend has been removed from Special Measures early, the Report of OFSTED Inspectors recording three ‘Good’ assessments in: The Effectiveness of Leadership and Management; Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare; together with Early Years Provision. However it is still classified as ‘Requires Improvement’ because of the vagaries of the ‘Quality Assurance’ process.
The school had been placed in Special Measures in October 2014 by OFSTED as explained here. That Inspection team, although faced with the wreckage left from a train crash brought about by the appalling management of a local Multi Academy Trust brought in by Kent County Council to improve standards, acknowledged early signs of improvement in their Report after the school had been handed over to the leadership of neighbouring Ifield School.
The following paragraph is based on quotes from the most recent Report, as is much of the commentary that follows.
As a Governor, I am delighted that Governance is described as excellent, the Consultant Headteacher responding to the previous Inspection with determination and a clear and uncompromising vision shared by staff that promotes the achievement of every child within a caring community. Since the last Inspection, leaders have relentlessly driven improvement, their accurate knowledge of the school, and the highly positive ethos they have created helping to promote further improvement. Overall, the school has been transformed. This rapid improvement was enabled by the partnership with Ifield school (an OFSTED Outstanding Special School) in a Federation from September 2015 which brought in the visionary oversight of the executive headteacher. …..
I have now received a school by school breakdown of Reception and Junior school allocations for Kent for September 2016. As last year, these show a sharp contrast between pressure on spaces in urban districts and those in more rural areas. The multitude of local pressures focused on the towns see the biggest problems this year coming in Sevenoaks, no empty spaces, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school. Then come Ashford, Faversham and Tonbridge, each with two per cent of their places empty. Contrast this with Ashford’s rural areas, with 16% of empty spaces, and Shepway with 15%.
The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, 2016 being no exception, the top ten being: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone (last year’s most oversubscribed school) and Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant on 34; and Herne Infant on 33. Just five of these schools were in the top ten last year, with Loose more than doubling the number of disappointed families as it recovers from several difficult years.
You will find more information and a fuller District breakdown below, along with a section on Junior Schools at the foot of the article. I will as usual publish a similar article on Medway Primary schools as soon as possible but am still waiting for some data.....
Six Kent and Medway schools have now been issued with Notices about standards in the year to 25th March 2016, a disturbing proportion of the 48 Notices issued nationally in that year – hardly an indication of rising standards in Academies. The total number of academies currently stands at 5272. Since my last article in July, which looked at a similarly alarming number of Notices for Kent and Medway schools, four new Notices have been issued. The Gravesend Grammar Schools Academy Trust was issued with a pre-termination notice in November by the Regional Schools Commissioner, in relation to Whitehill Primary School in Gravesham, the second school in the Trust. If it fails to improve or respond appropriately to some tough demands, as set out below, the school will be issued with a Termination Notice, which could lead to the closure of the school. Astor College, Dover, was issued with a Full Warning in December 2015, following its failure to respond properly to a pre-warning the previous year and again has had to answer some tough questioning. Spires Academy in Canterbury was issued with a Pre-Warning Notice in September, especially significant in connection with its relationship with Simon Langton Grammar School. The Future Schools Trust was issued with a pre-warning Notice relating to Cornwallis Academy and New Line Learning Academy, in Maidstone, in November....
Kent County Council will rightly celebrate the primary school allocation figures below, sent out today. For even with an additional 591 Kent children in the system above 2015’s figure, the number of children being offered their first choice school has leapt up by 762 to 87.2% of the total number of applications , a record over at least the past six years. In addition, whilst the number of children offered no school of their choice fell to 606, down by 118, also down for the second consecutive year, to 3.4%, again the lowest figure for at least six years.
Medway Council (Serving You) as usual has sent out an opaque press release on allocation and I have had to best guess the figures in the table below. Although the number of Medway resident applications has increased by just 10 children to 3533, the percentage being offered one of their choices has fallen from 96.4% to less than 96% (historically this suggests 95.75% or lower), whilst the percentage of first choices has remained around the same at around 87.1%, with a slight increase in numbers also around 10 children. However, approximately 150 children with none of their six choices looks to be the highest for many years.
I will publish further details on oversubscription and vacancies at Reception Level and at Junior schools when I receive them in the next few weeks, but you can see a flavour of the situation from my 2015 article on Kent oversubscription and vacancies here, and for Medway here.
The continuation below begins with some advice on next steps if you have not received the school of your choice....
Seven new primary school academy proposals; compulsory academisation; two new secondary Free Schools announced on site of Chaucer Technology College and in Thanet; academy takeovers of Community College Whitstable and the Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs; plans unveiled for mixed Sixth Form at Sevenoaks Annex; Hoo Peninsula to become first local area to become academies only, creating a squeeze on secondary school options; failure of Medway’s first Free School - Inspire Special Free School, and other sponsors; proposed new primary academy or free school in Paddock Wood; update on Whitehill Primary School – it has been a busy period…..
You will find the initial Medway Secondary school allocation figures here, showing that 84.3% of Medway children were offered places at their first choice school, with just 2.6%, or 77 children, offered none of their six choices, these being allocated a local school by Medway Council. I have also prepared parallel articles on oversubscription and vacancies for Kent grammar and non-selective schools. I now have more detailed information showing that the most popular school in Medway by far was Brompton Academy, which turned away 108 first preferences, followed by Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School with 42.
The Victory Academy has most vacancies, 110 on allocation, twice as many as the next school, Chatham Grammar Girls’ with 55.
158 of the 197 children from outside Medway taking up places in local schools at this stage come from Kent, with 113 of these taking up places in Medway Grammar schools, 48 at The Rochester Grammar School. 140 of the 142 Medway children going out county are taking up places at Kent schools, mainly non-selective.
As well as further details below, I look at the implications of these figures on the decision to turn Chatham Grammar School for Boys into a co-educational school from September 2017.
This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in non-selective schools District by District. Thanet with its six schools (after Marlowe Academy was closed last year) is probably the area under most pressure, containing the most oversubscribed school in the county, St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, turning away 161 first choices, just 14 spaces in one school, and 113 children allocated to a school not on their list, nearly a quarter of the total Local Authority allocations in Kent. St George’s CofE school in Gravesham comes second being 123 first choices oversubscribed in another pressure District along with Dartford, although successful Grammar school appeals will ease the pressures over the next few months.
At the other end of the scale, Dover District has a quarter of its spaces vacant and five schools in the county have over a third of their places vacant.
Kent has seen an extra 627 net places put into its non-selective schools, above the numbers planned for admission this year, and 460 more than the final figure in 2015, to meet rising rolls in several areas, biggest expansion being in Tunbridge Wells with an additional 121 places being pumped in.
As a result, the number of pupils offered their first choice rose by 363, and the number being offered none of their four choices fell by 213 children to just 428, the lowest figure for some years. However, this made little difference to the pressure on popular schools which has never been greater.
I look at individual schools below, mixed in with various news items, and you will find my previous article on allocations published at the beginning of March here. You will find an article describing the grammar school situation below, with Medway here. You will find 2015 non-selective data here.
This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar schools. Main pressure points are in West and North West Kent, led by Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, followed by the three West Kent super selectives and Dartford Grammar School for Girls. There is then a sharp fall to the next most popular school, Wilmington Grammar School for Boys but still at 49 first choices rejected. At the other end of the scale, ten grammar schools have vacancies on allocation. Medway schools here.
Kent has seen an extra 91 net places put into its grammar schools, above the numbers planned for admission this year, and 244 more than in 2015, to meet rising rolls in several areas.
As I was preparing to publish this article, local academy news is overtaken by the ideological decision to force all schools in England to have converted or started on the route to become academies by 2020. Whilst I normally confined myself to matters relating only to Kent and Medway on this website, the impact of this appalling decision on local schools is such that I have added a couple of paragraphs at the foot of the page.
As the conversion rate to academise has reduced to a trickle before this news, there are just two new Academies for February, Manor Community Primary School, Dartford, and Twydall Primary School in Gillingham, the latter having finally seen its future settled as it has been sponsored by Rainham Mark Grammar School after a very difficult failed take-over attempt by the Learning Schools Academy Trust.
There are several new converter applications: Simon Langton Girls Grammar; Upton Junior, Broadstairs; Temple Hill and Oakfield Primaries, Dartford.
News below about: two new build primary academies; Maidstone School of Science and Technology (or rather lack of news!); Castle Community College; Cranbrook School; Chatham Grammar School for Boys; Royal Harbour Academy (not an academy) and the Coastal Academies Trust; and a new 11-14 extension (or is it?) to Leigh University Technical College.
The good news in Kent is that the number of first choices in Kent secondary schools, awarded to local children, has risen to 13,159, that is 81.4% of the total applications, up from 80.5% in 2015; and the number of children with none of their four choices has fallen sharply to 428, a proportion of 2.7% of the total, from 4.0% in 2015. All of this with the number of Kent children making applications rising by 176 to 16,172. This has been achieved by KCC and schools working together to create 704 places additional to those planned for this September, 244 extra places in grammar schools and 460 in non-selective schools. There are full details of these additional places below, which give a good guide to the pressures in various areas.
For whatever reason, the number of OFSTED Inspections in both Kent and Medway is sharply down in the first five months of the school year.
In Kent in spite of the decrease in numbers, outcomes have improved on last years gratifying performance, with a remarkable 16 of the 22 primary schools inspected improving their Grade, including three East Kent schools up to Outstanding: Kingsdown & Ringwould; St Mildred’s Infant, Broadstairs; and St Thomas Catholic, Canterbury.
Another twelve improved from Requires Improvement to Good, Molehill Primary Academy at last escaping Special Measures under its new sponsor, Leigh Academy Trust. Sadly, two have been found inadequate, St Nicholas CofE, New Romney for the second consecutive time, and Brenzett CofE disappointingly both being run by KCC.
In Medway there were just five Primary Inspections, four Good, although with two improvements - St Helen’s CofE, Cliffe and Hoo St Werburgh - up from RI, together with Oaklands Primary just securing RI, with Medway Council still trying to find a magic answer to improve its appalling standards overall.
At secondary level, there were just four full inspections, all in Kent, as the schism between grammar and non-selective OFSTED assessments widens, driven by an increased emphasis on GCSE performance, this being exacerbated by government decisions to scale down the importance of vocational education and opportunities to motivate students by discounting repeat results. Wilmington Grammar School for Girls was up one category to Outstanding, with both Canterbury Academy and Knole Academy Requiring Improvement, the latter controversially down from Good, but Swadelands secondary crashing from Good to Special Measures again.
You will find more details below including commentary on some individual schools, and a full table summarising these outcomes at the foot of this article. There are a full set of OFSTED Results dating back to 2010 for Kent primaries here, for Medway here; for Kent secondaries here; and for Medway secondaries here.
Kent County Council has set up a Select Committee of County Councillors to explore social mobility in its Grammar Schools, adopting the principle that children from all backgrounds must have the same opportunities to flourish and succeed within the education system.
A Kent Messenger report on the first day’s proceedings, notes that: Mr Patrick Leeson, Kent’s Education Director talking about the achievement gap between poorer pupils and those without disadvantage, stated: “We have seen some movement in narrowing the gap but it is minute. Greater social mobility will only come about if the whole school system does better for children on free school meals.”
Of the 1,435 children on free school meals who sat the eleven plus in 2014, just 292 - about 8% - passed. The number of children on free school meals attending Kent grammar schools remains low at 3%, compared with 13% in non-selective schools, according to KCC data, although see further detail below.
However, good news was that those children from less well-off backgrounds who went to a grammar school did almost as well in their GCSE exams as others, with a gap of just 2% in the 5 A-C* plus maths and English success rate....
I am regularly asked about the legal right of a parent to see their child’s full educational record, with too many schools attempting to block release of information that could prove embarrassing, lead to a complaint about the school or ease admission to another school.
If the child attends a maintained school, parents have an independent right of access to their child’s educational record.
However, there is no equivalent legal right to access your child’s educational record for an academy or free school, or indeed a private school and it is likely to depend on the contractual relationship between the parent and the school.
Personally and professionally I find this wholly morally unacceptable, but sadly government has acted to strip parents of what in any civilised society would surely be regarded as a human right, as acknowledged by the different rules for maintained schools.
There is, however, a get out in that the child themselves attending any type of school have a right of access under the Data Protection Act 1998 to their own information. This is known as the right of subject access. When a child cannot act for themselves or the child gives permission, parents will be able to access this information on their behalf. See below for more details.
If, however, you have a concern about a school's information rights practices then raise it with the Information Commissioners Office.
You will find the full detail here, or else read on...
For further information on all these headlines, read on…
Updated 25th January
State school educated children in Kent and Medway both maintain their above average performance at GCSE and A Level. Nationally, 57.1% of children achieved five GCSEs Grades A-C, including English and maths, up from 56.6% last year. However, both have slipped this year, Kent from 58.1% down to 57.3%, whilst Medway has declined from 58.8% to 57.8%.
At A Level, a range of measures is available each of limited value, with Kent above national average on point score per A Level entry, and below on percentage of students achieving three A Levels. In Medway, measures are generally slightly below national averages.
The Government twist on the GCSE story that any school below the government floor target of 40% of children gaining 5 Grades A-C including English and maths is failing, is simply not valid in a selective county such as Kent. This is because on average 25 children out of every hundred, all of whom should have reached the floor target, are taken away from our non-selective schools as they are attending grammar schools. Simple arithmetic shows that removing these should bring the floor target for non-selective schools down to 20% and by that measure, just four in Kent are Failing. My bigger concern is that too many selective schools are under achieving.
The anti-grammar school campaign, Comprehensive Future has made clear today it is abandoning its attempt to launch a High Court Injunction to halt the proposed Sevenoaks Annex to Weald of Kent Grammar School, so building can now commence.
Cranbrook School, Kent’s only remaining 13-18 grammar school has been trying to come up with a proposal to change to 11-18 for at least three years, against fierce opposition from many parents of children attending local private schools, but has now put forward a compromise that will take seven further years to implement fully.
Highsted Grammar School has put forward a proposal for consultation to set an additional alternative Test for admission for girls, in line with grammar schools in Dover, Gravesham (girls) and Shepway.
Kent County Council has set up a Select Committee of Councillors to explore opportunities for wider access to grammar schools for disadvantaged pupils.
Barton Court Grammar School, having failed in its attempt to expand and move to Herne Bay, has now seen planning permission approved for a major expansion on its current site, which will allow an increased intake.
I also look at staying on rates for grammar school Sixth Forms which reveal a remarkable range of results, ranging from Dartford Grammar that has 73% more students in Year 12 than Year 11, to Folkestone School for Girls with 35% fewer.
There are two new academies, Kingsnorth Cof E Primary and Temple Mill Primary in Strood, since my last report, together with three new applications – Brenchley and Matfield Primary, Westgate Primary and a new primary at Ebbsfleet Garden City. Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar is also consulting on forming a multi-academy trust.
The Academy Monopoly game continues to run, with Marsh Academy now being managed by the Skinners Company Trust, Mascalls School joining the Leigh Academy Group and taking over the running of its three troubled Maidstone Primary Schools, and Chantry Primary in Gravesend being taken over by Greenacre School in Chatham after the failure of the Meopham Community Schools Trust.
The opening of the new Bishop Chavasse Free School in Tonbridge opening has been delayed by a year to 2017; this year's newly opened primary academies are taking time to attract pupils, with all having vacancies in Reception, several with over 50% empty spaces.
Success rates at admission appeals for Kent and Medway secondary schools have fallen significantly for 2015 for the second successive year, with chances of success at primary school appeals remaining extremely low, as can be seen from my previous article on 2014 appeals. You will find further historic data for Kent here, and for Medway here.
|Kent and Medway School Appeal Outcomes 2015|
|Appeals Held||Number||% Upheld||Number||% Upheld|
The secondary figures hide enormous differences between schools, and variations from year to year, key figures being given in the Individual School sections for Kent and Medway elsewhere om this website, as these are updated.
For grammar schools, numbers range from Chatham and Clarendon Grammar (Ramsgate) with 146 appeals (up from 102 last year) of which 33 were upheld, through to Cranbrook School, one appeal (6 last year) which was not upheld. For non-selective schools, highest were St George’s CofE in Broadstairs with 68 appeals (13 successful), and Brompton Academy in Medway with 58 appeals (7 successful), through to three schools with no successful appeals.
For Infant Schools where Infant Class Legislation applies (see below), there were 355 appeals heard across Kent and Medway by Local Authority Panels, with just 3 successful.
You will find further information and advice on school appeals here, with more data and explanation of the 2015 figures below…..
Updated Monday 14 December.
Kent County Council has announced it is Consulting on the closure of Pent Valley Technology College in Folkestone.
The reasons for this proposal are quite clear; simply, there are just 43 pupils currently in Year 7 at Pent Valley, reflecting a sharp annual decline from 2007 when the Year 7 cohort numbered 242 pupils, and a few years earlier when the school was oversubscribed with a capacity of 240 students, since reduced to 180. The Year 7 vacancy rate of 76.1% is nearly 10% higher than the next Kent school with most vacancies. As a result, the school is now in severe financial difficulties with no sign that matters will improve soon. Pent Valley is currently one of the worst performing schools in the county, having been on sharp decline for three years. In my view these three factors mean the decision to close is inevitable, with no obvious alternative way forward, a view clearly shared by KCC.
A decision on the proposal to Consult about the possible closure will be discussed at Education and Young People’s Service Cabinet Committee Meeting on 15 December 2015.
Governors, in a letter to parents, say they are shocked by the decision but then make it clear they anticipate and accept that the decision will be to close. One wonders what they and KCC have been doing over the past few years when decisive action might have saved the school, given its unpopularity with families for so many years.............
Primary School Key Stage Two test performance tables were published yesterday which, along with last week’s Annual OFSTED Report, confirm yet again that Medway Council is responsible for running the worst primary schools in the country. The Local Authority has again come bottom of the National Key Stage 2 League tables, having been in the bottom five every year bar one since 2009, and with a lower proportion of children in Good or Outstanding OFSTED schools than any other of the 153 Local Authorities in the country for the second consecutive year.
Kent has fared much better this year, starting from a very poor base-line four and more years ago, and is now around or above the national average by both measures, having successfully adopted tough actions to improve standards.
My Nominations for Best Performances at Key Stage 2, as explained below
The article below looks at performance in the two Authorities in greater detail, along with notable performances from local schools, both strong and weak......
There were four new Converter Academies in Kent for October, all primary schools. Culverstone Green Primary and Riverview Infants are both in Gravesham.
Dymchurch Primary has joined The Village Academy Trust, based in Swale, and St George’s CofE (Aided) Primary in Sheppey has joined the Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust. These four schools bring the total of current and proposed primary academies in Kent to 137 out of 432, or 32%.
Whilst t here are no new academies in Medway there are three new sponsored primary 'academies in progress', all currently in Special Measures, bring the total of current or in progress primary academies to 34 out of 79 or 43%.…….
See Further Controversy, in a new article here.
Chatham Grammar School for Boys has published a proposal to become a mixed grammar school from September 2017, and to change its name, possibly to Holcombe Grammar School, reflecting the name of the school site.
This proposal to increase the number of potential students at the school by admitting girls is mainly driven by the considerable number of current vacancies at the school, described in the proposal as “under-used capacity”. With the population of eleven year old Medway children having fallen to its lowest point before a slow and steady increase over the next few years, the problem is exacerbated by what for me is the unacceptable and annual bias in the Medway Test towards girls, with 371 Medway girls and just 325 boys assessed as of grammar school ability in the Test this year. The imbalance will have been increased further by this year’s Medway Review results, which also always favour girls.
As a result of these two factors, just 81 of the school’s 120 places were awarded in March for admission in September, the school having already reduced its capacity from 146 a few years ago. Further places will have been taken up after appeals.
Updated: 8th November
Nine headteachers from the eighteen non-selective secondary schools situated in towns around the Kent coastline, that is half the total, have lost their jobs over the past three years with eight of the schools achieving less than 30% 5 A-Cs at GCSE including maths and English in provisional results for 2015. The schools to have lost their headteachers are: Astor College, Dover ; Castle Community College, Deal; The Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs; The Community College Whitstable; Folkestone Academy; Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey; Pent Valley Technology College, Folkestone; St Edmund's Catholic, Dover; and Ursuline College, Margate. Another two schools have closed - Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate and Walmer Science School. There are particular issues in Thanet. I look at further details of all these cases below.One wonders which school will be next to lose their headteacher, and who is going to be attracted to such high risk posts in the future?
A Report by the Future Leaders Trust highlighted on the BBC website last month has once again focused on the difficulties of many schools in England’s coastal towns across the country to be able to flourish. The charity, which “works for fairer opportunities in schools”, says there is a culture in "which students are given limited experience beyond their own town and where they see little value in academic qualifications”.
The original version of this article led to a BBC SE item which focused on the departure of the four headteachers who lost their jobs in 2015.....
|Most recent Update: 5th November 2015|
The proposed Sevenoaks Annex to Weald of Kent Grammar School has today received government approval to go ahead, creating what is almost certainly the largest grammar school in the country with an annual intake of up to 265 girls. Below I give some excerpts from Mrs Morgan's statement of Parliament, making clear the government view that this does not break the law prohibiting the creation of new grammar schools but is, in accordance with government policy, simply the expansion of a good school with integration between the two sites which is allowable. In no way is it a green light for other grammar school developments that fail to fit with such criteria.
The path to approval has been a long, controversial and difficult one since the original proposal four years ago, including rejections of two previous schemes on grounds of illegality and one vote by Weald of Kent parents against the girls’ school becoming mixed to facilitate approval. You can trace back the history of the proposal from previous articles on this website, the most recent being here.
The delays mean the school will not now open until September 2017 (not confirmed yet and there may well be legal challenges to the decision causing further delays), by which time there will be intense pressure on existing grammar school places in West Kent for both girls and boys. Building plans for the new premises have been approved; and builders appointed, just waiting for final approval to begin work.
In the meantime to respond to the pressure on places, the school has increased its intake from 145 to 175 in the past few years, taking in a massive 211 girls in September 2014, presumably on the expectation of the Annex arriving by 2016......
UPDATE 18/10 WITH ADDITIONAL DATA SEPARATING PERFORMANCE OF BOYS AND GIRLS
THERE IS NOW CONSIDERABLE EXTRA DATA IN THE TRANSCRIPT OF A TALK I GAVE ON THE KENT TEST AND ADMISSION TO GRAMMAR SCHOOL AT THE RECENT CONFERENCE IN COUNTY HALL.
Kent Test results have now been published with to me the surprising feature that the pass mark is the same as last year, an automatic pass being awarded to candidates scoring 106 on each of the three sections - English; maths and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 320. I say surprising, for reasons outlined in an article I wrote after last year’s test, which was the first of the new style test designed to reduce the coaching effect and introduce an element of literacy to the test. This total will again be around 21% of the total age cohort across the county, further details to follow as I receive them.
An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, usually around 6% of the total. You will find full details of the whole Kent Test process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 27% of Kent children in the age cohort.
As with last year, the number of Kent girls being found suitable for grammar school is higher than the number of boys, although as I don't yet have the size of the cohort, it is impossible to predict with confidence last year's finding that 2.9% more of Kent girls passed than boys, although I anticipate a similar finding.
As last year, I shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC.
Initial figures released by KCC are as follows:....
The Medway Test pass mark for admission to Medway Grammar Schools in September 2016 is an aggregate of 521, slightly down on last year’s 525, but you can read nothing in to the annual variation of the pass mark as this is arrived at by a local standardisation of marks, as explained below and elsewhere and is a factor of the proportion of Medway children who decide to take the test, not the difficulty. There is further detail about pass rates below.
You will find a comprehensive survey of Medway Test arrangements and issues here, containing advice and information, with links through to Review Information and Advice and other articles.
I am afraid I am recovering from an operation and will not be able to offer any support to parents this autumn. To assist families trying to decide whether to go to Review, I offer what I hope is helpful advice below as an alternative.
Government has made the decision to release provisional GCSE data for all schools this year, to assist parents in making choice of secondary schools. It regards these as a better indicator of final 2015 figures (to be published in January) for the vast majority of schools than the final already published 2014 figures.
However, the figures comes with a caution, which means they should not be taken as gospel: “Changes can be due to the removal of certain pupils, such as those recently arrived from overseas, by schools in the September checking exercise and the addition of late results and re-marks”. As a guide, nationally the average achievement in terms of 5 GCSE including English and maths has fallen from 56.6% 2014 final to 56.1% 2015 provisional, although Kent has fallen from 58.1% to a still above average 56.6%, Medway slipping by the same amount, from 58.8% to 57.2%.
Most worrying in Kent is the performance of non-selective schools, with the number failing to reach 30% rising from 8 to 15, although below 40%, the government “floor level” target, it is stable at 24 schools in each year. Medway by contrast has had just one school below 30% in each year, both close to this figure, with a total of four under 40% in both years.
Chatham Boys Grammar School
Kent Primary Schools have made the best possible response to government’s proposals turn every school in the country into an academy by 2020, by delivering what can only be called an outstanding improvement in OFSTED grades in 2014-15. Even Medway, bottom Local Authority in the country for 2013-14, appears to be improving.
The facts: In Kent, out of 88 primary schools inspected, an astonishing 49 improved their grades, with just 9 declining. The total included 16 academies, of whom 7 got better, but 4 (a quarter of the total) got worse. 66 of the Kent primaries were assessed Good or Outstanding, well above the latest national figures, with just 2 having failed (one an academy, the other run by an academy).
In Medway, out of 25 schools inspected, 10 got better, but a worrying 4 still got worse. Of the 5 academies, 2 got better, one got worse.
You will find my previous survey of Kent and Medway Primary school OFSTED outcomes from January to March 2015 here, and the 2013/14 figures here. In the meantime, OFSTED has also published a critical Report on Medway School Improvement, covered here.
Full statistics are at the foot of this article. If there are any errors or omissions in the individual schools sections, please let me know and I will adjust figures accordingly.......
For years I have lobbied KCC to tighten up the regulations around abuse of residential qualifications for school admission. A common method is for families to use temporary addresses to secure places at favoured schools, depriving local families of school places by this means. At last, for September 2015 admissions, KCC tightened up the regulations considerably for those primary schools under KCC control that use a distance criterion, although it remains to be seen how effective this has been in practice.
Claremont Primary School
You will find the new rules in full in the Guides for applying for a Primary school in Kent. The specific pages are 24 and 25 in any area version of the guide for 2015 entry (2016 has not been published at the time of writing).
These place responsibility for monitoring and taking action over potential abuse firmly in the hands of school governors rather than KCC itself, and so action will depend almost entirely on the will of head and governors to police the system. So far the 2015 statistics show little change in outcomes.
The key sections of the rules are:.....
Kent’s secondary schools continue to show improvement at OFSTED with seven of the 27 inspected in the past year seeing their assessment rise up a level, against three that slipped. The new OFSTED framework that was introduced in September places an even greater importance on academic performance, so the gap between grammar and non-selective schools has widened. This has been reinforced by decisions about what government counts for GCSE performance. A number of vocational, or “lesser academic”, subjects have been cut out of the approved list, which, together with a decision to exclude re-takes, has benefited grammar schools even further and seen many non-selective schools slip in the league tables that feed OFSTED. In Medway, just one non-selective school was inspected.
However, pride of place must go to the Special School sector, with three of the six schools being awarded Outstanding status and three Good, four of these having improved their assessment.
This article covers all inspections published between September 2014 and July 2015, although there may be one or two late ones whose results won’t be published until later this month, in which case I will return and update the figures.
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....
Three new primary academies this month, all new church academies in Kent. They are: Reculver CofE Primary, sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Canterbury; and two converter academies, St John’s Catholic (Gravesend) and St Mary’s Catholic (Whitstable) both joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, which is now the largest academy chain across the two authorities. Rivermead School, a Special School in Gillingham for children with complex needs, has applied to become a converter academy, the third Medway Special School to go down this route. St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Canterbury has also applied to be a converter and will be joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership in due course.
Other news on academies, Free Schools and the Medway UTC follows……
Oasis Academy Skinner Street in Gillingham continues and extends the tale of woe for Medway Primary Schools by receiving a Pre Termination Warning Notice Letter from the Department for Education.
This follows the receipt of a similar letter by Chantry Primary Academy in Gravesend last November.
The Pre-Termination Warning to Academies states that if standards do not improve, the schools could be closed, following the termination of funding. To put it into context, exactly 100 letters warning of the consequences of continued failure have been issued to academies nationally in the past three years, but just four of these are Pre-Termination Warnings, the second most serious category. One school was terminated, the Durham Free School, after failure to improve following a damning OFSTED. Eleven of the of the other schools receiving Pre-Warning Notice Letters are also Kent and Medway academies, details below, a far higher proportion than the national average.......
Singlewell Primary in Gravesend has 83% of its 30 reception class places awarded to siblings for September, the highest proportion in Kent, with just five ‘non-siblings’ awarded places on distance grounds, all living within 200 yards of the school. Another 25 children who listed the school in first place on their application form, most with a good expectation of a place in normal years, have been turned down. You will find a list of the other ‘sibling hot-spots’ further down this article.
The school with the smallest cut off distance this year, out of the 185 Kent primaries who use and have applied standard KCC oversubscription rules, at just 92 yards, is St Peter’s CofE Primary in Tunbridge Wells (Outstanding OFSTED. Eleven of the school's 20 places have gone to siblings, higher than the average which saw 43% of places awarded to siblings in oversubscribed schools.
However, Tunbridge Wells also exposes a problem that arises from KCC’s use of temporary enlargements. Three TW schools have suffered from temporary enlargements each of 30 places for several years, followed by a subsequent removal of these places, which inevitably increases the proportion of siblings admitted whilst the number of children offered places on distance grounds shrinking. The most extreme example of this was at Bishops Down last year, when all 30 places went to siblings. Claremont and Pembury were also increased by 30 places each some years ago, but have now scaled back again to 60 places each. Bishops Down with 73% of siblings in 2015, has the second smallest catchment distance in the county with the five children who qualified through nearness all living less than 170 yards from the school. Fourth in the county on distance comes Claremont, with 67% siblings, the remainder all living closer than 181 yards from the school. Pembury, 16th tightest in the county on distance also has two thirds of its intake as siblings, those qualifying on distance all living less than 288 yards from the school. KCC was heavily criticised by the Schools Adjudicator in 2012 for using such temporary enlargements without working through the consequences…..
Mr Nick Gibb, Government Schools Minister, sent out a Consultation document last week proposing the admission of summer born children to Reception Year in September of the following year if their parents wish this, allowing such children to stay in that year group as they progress through school. Initially, this may sound a great idea and would be welcomed by many parents who have been pressing for the change.
There is clear evidence that summer born children are currently academically disadvantaged against their older peers in the same classroom, so this will help many of those who take up this opportunity if it is approved. Unfortunately it sees them replaced at the bottom of the heap by two other groups of children who would then be the most disadvantaged, so no net gain, as well as introducing a complex structure that could be a nightmare to administer at a time in an area like Kent, as pressure on places at popular primary schools becomes ever fiercer.
Currently Kent County Council has a very sensible policy placing the needs of the child, which are often medical, at the fore and this article goes on to look at the current situation and possible scenarios, although I recognise it will be highly unpopular with those parents fighting for their own children’s benefit, as of course they should....
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......
Permanent Exclusion numbers in Kent and Medway are heading rapidly in different directions, with an alarming rise in exclusions in Medway. In 2019-10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway, climbing to 22 in 2011-12. Just years later, it has soared to 71 pupils in 2013-14, of which fourteen were exclusions by Bishop of Rochester Academy, under its previous sponsors, Rochester Diocesan Board of Education. Just 9 of the Medway exclusions were of primary school children, that is 10%, against 26, or 30%, in Kent.
Meanwhile in Kent, the welcome news is that the reverse is happening as the number has fallen equally dramatically to a total of 87 in 2013-14, just a few more than Medway, although with 6 times as many children at local schools. An earlier article recorded that 203 children were permanently excluded from Kent schools in 2011 – 12, with 250 in the previous year.
However, the number of SEN statemented primary aged children permanently excluded in Kent after a dip to 5 in 2012-13 has returned to its 2011-12 figure of 19 which is now 69% of the total of 26 primary exclusions, all but two of the others also being on the SEN register. By contrast in Medway no primary pupils with statements were excluded, out of just 9 primary exclusions in total.
These are surely three very startling and contradictory outcomes in Kent and Medway for permanent exclusions overall and for primary and also primary statemented children.
I regret to inform browsers and other enquirers that I am retiring from my appeals consultancy with effect from the end of this term. Whilst I have enjoyed a gratifying level of success, I have found the past year especially hard work, accompanied by personal health difficulties. Just two clients were unsuccessful in appealing for a school of their choice this summer, and over the past eleven years I have prepared more than 800 appeals, with a success rate of over 95% and learned a great deal about schools and the admissions and appeals process on the way. With regard to the success rate, to be fair I have only taken on clients where I have seen a chance of winning, and so have disappointed many enquirers where I have felt unable to deliver.
I fully intend to keep my other educational activities going, including this website offering information, advice, news and comment, together with my campaigns and telephone consultancy, with the latter also likely to provide limited support for appeals but constrained by time available.
The Telephone Consultancy service has mushroomed, although as a result I find I am having to be more selective in the areas of advice offered, focusing mainly on school admissions, again because of time constraints. A big area of my work now caters for advising expatriates coming to Kent, with several new clients every week.
As many of you will have noted, my website is not up to date in several areas, a situation I plan to rectify over coming months. In particular I have to remove references to my appeals consultancy. In the past year, it has proved more popular than ever, and attracted 193,432 certified visits from 116,376 users, 57% of which were new visitors.
A subsequent article will explain that I am expanding the website to offer advertising for those offering educational services, and I am now happy to receive enquiries about this service. The first advertiser, the tutoring company Bright Young Things, has seen 156 visitors to its webpage in the first two days it has been up.
The past year…
OFSTED has published a critical Report into Medway Council's arrangements for supporting school improvement following years of underperformance, declining on an annual basis to last year’s nadir of being bottom Local Authority in the country out of 152 for primary schools in OFSTED assessments, although rising to the dizzy heights of 137th in Key Stage 2 outcomes. By contrast, overall Medway's secondary schools that are all academies and out of Medway Council control perform well on both counts.
The Council has a new school improvement strategy, but the Report records it does not: identify clearly enough what needs to change to drive improvement; show how significant gaps will be closed for underachieving schools; provide sufficient detail of targets for improvement to measure success; identify clearly enough how school improvement staff will be held to account for the impact of their work. Without these vital elements it is difficult to see how significant improvement can be achieved.
Good points include: the work of the early years team; recent school improvement work showing some results, but much of this is too recent to see its full impact; the work of the new interim assistant director for school effectiveness and inclusion, appointed a year ago, noting that her actions are starting to have an impact but limited by available expertise in Medway primary schools; School Leaders and governors who spoke to inspectors report a step change in the local authority's approach.
As a result, Ofsted will continue to monitor the local authority’s arrangements for school improvement. These arrangements are likely to be re-inspected within two years.
I look at the situation in more detail below, including the effect on some individual primary schools........
Updated: 28th June
Earlier this month, Channel Four showed a Dispatches programme entitled “Exams: cheating the system”. Whilst the programmeinvestigated how some teachers and pupils cope with the pressure of examinations by bending the rules or cheating the system, this article is concerned with the section that focused on the Early Years and KS2 issues at a Kent primary school, Kings Farm Primary in Gravesend.
It is important to stress that the programme attached no fault whatever to the current staff, the school being led between January and July 2014 by an Executive Headteacher appointed by Kent County Council, who shared her responsibilities with her home school, the neighbouring Whitehill Primary. She was subsequently removed from Kings Farm by KCC, after which she returned full-time to Whitehill.
There was a follow up in the Gravesend Messenger on 25th June, based on a frightening and convincing grievance procedure submitted by nine staff members and upheld by governors following an investigation by KCC Personnel Services. The grievance has now been circulated in the public domain, and the response by governors identifies: serious concerns about safeguarding and health and safety; concerns about treatment of children with SEN; concerns about relationships with parents; serious concerns about interactions with children and their well being; serious concerns about the curriculum and assessment; concerns about disability discrimination; serious concerns about relationships with staff, bullying and intimidation; serious concerns about the overall running of the school and serious concerns about the destruction of documents. As the executive headteacher, who has returned to Whitehill Primary and who refused to co-operate with the investigation, and a senior member of staff who is now employed full-time by Whitehill Primary were no longer employed by the school when this response was sent, no direct formal action has taken place. However, the response, sent in February 2015, notes that in view of the serious concern expressed about some of the allegations KCC intended to take the matter further.
After an investigation, the Standards & Testing Agency had “concerns over how all of the tests were administered and has doubt over the validity of the tests, including the mathematics tests. The team has therefore made the decision to annul all tests for all children”. When the Head of School at Kings Farm during the period in question was replaced, she then went to work at Whitehill.The KS2 test results were also annulled for the children at Whitehill. A separate investigation by KCC into events at Kings Farm decided that after the authority “found evidence of inappropriate behaviour during the assessments, the leadership team of the school was replaced”. KCC regards what happened as a “a serious breach of professional misconduct”. KCC has confirmed that investigations by the appropriate national bodies are still ongoing. The full statement by KCC to the programme is at the foot of this article.
Because Whitehill Primary is an academy, KCC has no authority there and I have no knowledge of what if any action has taken place as a result of maladministration at the school.
I have covered the background in previous articles and look at the issues in more detail below....
There has been an effective increase of 50 Reception places in Medway Primary schools for admission in 2015, although with an increase of 144 in the number of pupils admitted there is further pressure on spaces. However, my perception is that there are actually fewer issues this year, as parents have perhaps chosen more realistically and spread their preferences across a wider range of schools. Indeed, I reported earlier this year on the overall picture which saw more Medway children gaining their first choice than in 2014. Of course, none of this helps the 126 children who have been offered none of their choices, over a third of them in Strood.
Pressure is greatest overall in Rainham, with just 6 spaces in its 7 schools.
Most popular school in Medway is St Mary’s Catholic Primary, turning away 32 first choices, followed by: Hilltop (29); Brompton-Westbrook and The Pilgrim both 25; Balfour Infants and St Margaret at Troy Town CofE, both 24, All Faiths Children Community (23); and Cliffe Woods (22).
All Hallows Primary Academy has 67% of its spaces empty, followed by the new Hundred of Hoo Primary Academy with 50%, Twydall Primary 32% and New Horizons Academy in Chatham with 30%.
You will find a picture of the 2014 situation here.
I look more closely at each district below....
The new draft Education and Adoption Bill which includes provision to force failing or coasting schools to become academies, without local or parental views being taken into account, has many flaws, possibly the most serious one being that there is no evidence that, overall, academisation improves standards. You will find plenty of evidence to support this assertion on the Anti Academies Alliance website, admittedly a partisan organisation, but one that carries out a powerful analysis of outcomes.
Certainly not an original view, but I strongly believe that the key to a good school is good leadership and the status of the school is irrelevant if the resources delivered to perform the job are similar.
The second key flaw in the argument is that there is no consideration of what to do with failing academies, and we have plenty of these in Kent and Medway, most recently, Oasis Academy Skinner Street in Gillingham, classified ‘Requires Improvement’ under Medway and handed over, with many of its fellow underperforming schools, to academy chains.
The most recent OFSTED Report on Oasis Skinner Street, published today, places it in Special Measures, so where next for the school? The Report does not mince its words: “Leaders and governors have an unrealistic view of how well the academy is performing. Leaders do not check weak teaching or underachievement sufficiently strongly to address them promptly”. The Marlowe Academy is of course to close after 10 years of providing a sub-standard education to its students, with little happening from government to force improvement in this period. Castle Community College in Deal, fast-tracked as an Outstanding school to become an academy, spectacularly fell from Outstanding to Special Measures in 2014, in just three years.
There are of course many examples of highly successful academies and county maintained schools in Kent and Medway that are highlighted elsewhere in this website, but this article is written primarily to look at the implications of the proposed Bill for local failing or underperforming schools, identified below…….
This article looks at the five new Kent academies opened since my previous Report, changes in ownership of academies, Lilac Sky, and new and proposed Free Schools.
New academies open since February are: Beaver Green Primary in Ashford, sponsored by Swale Academy Trust; Charlton CofE Primary Dover, (Diocese of Canterbury); Lydd Primary (Village Academy Trust); and two Converter stand-alone primaries, Chilton Primary, Ramsgate; and Godinton Primary, Ashford.
There are new converter applications from Manor Community Primary, Dartford and St Mary’s Catholic Primary, Canterbury.
You will find a full list of open and proposed Kent and Medway Academies here, and of the academy groups operating in the county here, although the latter picture changes rapidly and I would be grateful for any updates or amendments that need to be made.
Kent Primary schools have continued to produce a very high pattern of OFSTED outcomes above the national averages since my previous report in February, with 3 more schools ‘Outstanding’, and 12 Assessed ‘Good’ out of the 19 schools inspected, with none failing. Even more pleasing for the families concerned, 10 of these have improved their rating, as against just 4 declining. The three ‘Outstanding’ schools are: Chiddingstone, Sevenoaks; St Martin’s CofE, Folkestone; and Wickhambreux CofE, Canterbury.
Special mention to St Martin’s, together with Kemsley Primary Academy in Sittingbourne and St Francis Catholic in Maidstone, which have each leapt two categories, Kemsley and St Francis (see below) up from Special Measures to ‘Good.’
In Medway, things also look much better with its first two ‘Outstanding’ schools for two years out of the eight assessed - The Pilgrim Primary in Borstal, and Cliffe Woods Primary, an Academy so independent of Medway Council, both up from "Good" on their previous assessment. The other six were all assessed as ‘Good’ and, although one has slipped from Outstanding, two others have improved, so overall some improvement on previous results.
At the foot of this article, is a table of the relevant data for both Authorities in 2014/15, compared with the most recent national figures, and you can compare them with 2013/14 via the link here.
Whilst not a primary school, I am also happy to congratulate here Five Acre Wood Special School, Maidstone, on its recent Outstanding OFSTED Report, joining seven other Outstanding Kent Special Schools out of a total of 20, eleven of the others being graded 'Good'.......
Update(20 May) – please read main article below first: BBC SE broadcast an item on 18th May about correspondence they had obtained by FOI, between Kent County Council and Government. This explains the delay in approving the building works for the new Trinity Free School on the old Wildernesse site in Sevenoaks. The problem is that the project is linked to the proposed Weald of Kent Grammar School annex on the same site and government has delayed a decision on approving the annex for over six months, as explained below. This item continues in the main body of this article, also below. In any case, with Trinity School about to grow by another 90 students in September, it appears that there is now approval for temporary accommodation to be erected on the site so the whole school can move there for the new academic year.
The proposed Weald of Kent Grammar School annex in Sevenoaks to cater for local girls surely came closer to approval with the Conservative victory in the election last week. Not being a lawyer, I could not see what was wrong with the most recent proposal currently with the government, as it avoided the fatal flaws in two earlier proposals described in previous articles on this website. Nonetheless, government sat on the proposal without making a decision for six months before the election, presumably because of its contentious nature. Certainly, the political ramifications of approving a new annex are enormous, not just in Kent but also likely to spread to other parts of the country, with the Home Secretary having already advocated a satellite grammar school in Maidenhead back in November, as explained in my most recent article.
As I see them, the subsequent issues for Sevenoaks and other parts of the country are as follows:
I now have a full breakdown of Kent primary school allocations for admission in September, following my previous post of preliminary information. Headlines are:
There appears to be a crisis in provision of primary school places in a number of Kent towns, with Dartford, Folkestone, and Sevenoaks each with NO vacancies in any school on primary school Reception age allocation last month. Ashford, Gravesend/Northfleet, Maidstone, and Tunbridge Wells have 2% vacancies, with Broadstairs/Ramsgate 3%. In addition, rural Sevenoaks also has just 2% vacancies. KCC has a target of there being at least 5% vacancies which is broadly achieved in each of their twelve Districts that each embrace both town and country.
The most oversubscribed primary school is Sandgate Primary with 67 first choices turned away.
It is followed by: Michael’s CofE Infants, Maidstone 60; Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE , Margate 58; St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet 48; Priory Infant, Ramsgate 47; Great Chart, Ashford & Brunswick House, Maidstone 45; Cobham, Gravesham 44; St John’s Catholic, Gravesend 43; Fleetdown, Dartford 38; and Chilton, Ramsgate 34. all but one of which are in or adjacent to these towns. Claremont Primary, Tunbridge Wells, which has receive much media attention because of its oversubscription, only comes in at 13th, at 32. Just four of these ten schools are the same as 2014 admissions, showing the difficulty in forecasting demand.
Thirteen schools will be at least half empty in their Reception year in September, headed by Lower Halstow at 77% with just seven of its 30 places taken up, and Charing at 70%, with six of its 20 places filled. Again, such is the changing pattern of admissions, that just four of the thirteen were in the same plight in 2014.
Fuller details on all individual districts highlighting individual areas and schools under pressure below.....
Good news for most Kent and Medway parents as the proportion of children in both Authorities to be offered places later today in a Reception class at a school of their choice, and also in their first choice school, has risen compared with 2014 figures and the against the national trend.
The headline figures are that:
- All overall statistics for Kent and Medway are an improvement on 2014 figures.
- Kent has 85.81% of children awarded their first choice school, up nearly 1% on 2014, Medway 87.08% over 1% higher than 2014.
- Number of children placed in Kent is 17,415, up by 318 on 2014, in Medway by 200.
- Seven new primary academies are opening in Kent in September, creating 240 additional places.
- Sadly, 724 Kent and 126 Medway children have not been offered any school of their choice.
This is my third annual analysis of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries. You will find the 2014 figures here. Abbreviation: ooc = out of county
- 757 ooc children offered places in Kent schools, with 552 Kent children going out county, both figures well up on 2014.
- 70% of the 455 ooc children taking up places in Kent grammar schools are going to schools in Dartford or Gravesend, with Wilmington Girls Grammar taking 105, Wilmington Boys 79 and Dartford 70. Nearly all are from London Boroughs.
- Elsewhere, highest are The Judd with 41 ooc boys and Rochester Grammar taking in 41 Kent girls.
- For non-selective schools, highest is Holmesdale taking in 41 Medway children, followed by Knole Academy with 35 Bromley children, and Homewood School 28, all but one from East Sussex.
- Exporting: 159 Kent children to Bexley (95 from closure of Oasis Hextable Academy); 139 from Kent to Medway; 121; 100 from Kent to East Sussex; 67 from Kent to Surrey; 53 from Kent to Bromley; and 122 from Medway to Kent,
As in previous years the official figures give a very different picture from the more lurid headlines ……..
I now have the data for Kent and Medway grammar school allocations, made on the 2nd March 2015. You will find those for non-selective schools below. My next article on secondary school admissions will cover cross county border movement. Headlines are:
- The four most popular Kent schools, Dartford Grammar, Dartford Grammar Girls, Skinners and Judd, are the same as last year, with Dartford turning away 127 first choices, in spite of having increased its intake by 30 boys.
- The four Dartford Grammar Schools between them offered 294 places to out of county children, nearly all of them from the SE London boroughs.
- Kent and Medway grammar schools increased their overall capacity by 258 places above 2014’s total, before appeals.
- 13 of the 37 grammar schools have vacancies, 8 with more than 15 spaces, with a total of 406 empty desks in the county.
- The higher pass rate in the Kent Test for girls has seen oversubscription levels rise at all 10 of the 13 girls’ grammars that are full leaving just three with vacancies.
- Rainham Mark Grammar in Medway has seen a surge in popularity at the expense of Sir Joseph Williamson’s, and is the most oversubscribed grammar even after increasing its admission number by 30 to 204.
More details below:.....
Broomhill Bank ......
Updated 9th April
Sean Heslop, Executive Principal of the Folkestone and Marlowe Academies that are run by the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, has been suspended from his post ‘pending investigation’. Police have confirmed he was arrested in March and is now on police bail 'on suspicion of abuse of a position of trust.'. You will find details here and elsewhere on the internet and social media.
This article looks at secondary allocations for non-selective and Free schools across Kent and Medway with further articles on grammar schools and cross-county movement to come. It is somewhat delayed as I have been overwhelmed with clients for secondary appeals this year, the number of parents going to appeal appearing to have shot up. A previous article provides the initial key statistics about school allocation.
After the headlines, immediately, below, I look at the key points in each of the Kent Districts and Medway.
- Most oversubscribed non-selective school for the second year running is Brompton Academy, with 159 first choices turned away, just pipped by Dartford Grammar School overall with 162 grammar qualified first choices rejected. Next comes St George’s in Broadstairs, up from 4th place with 150 first preferences not offered.
- Two of Kent’s Free Schools, Wye and Trinity, are in the top ten of most oversubscribed non-selective schools in the county. The third, Hadlow Rural Community School, is also full.
- The sudden closure of Oasis Hextable School with the consequent pressure on neighbouring schools, has seen 95 additional Kent children having to be allocated by KCC to schools in Bexley.
- I have featured five schools with serious problems in recruitment in recent years. Three of these have closed, but Pent Valley, Folkestone (““Good”” OFSTED) and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook (“Requires Improvement” twice, so not a bad school) still have over 50% of their Year 7 places vacant for September, now joined by Castle Community College, suffering for its disastrous fall from “Outstanding” to Special Measures a year ago.
I recently wrote an article at the request of Kent on Sunday on some of the many good non-selective schools of Kent. With apologies to those I have missed out, you will find the article here......
The long suffering Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate has announced today that it is merging with the Ellington and Hereson School to form a new school known as The Augustus Pugin Academy. This is effectively the closure of a school that has been mismanaged for years, and which has become non non-viable because of a lack of students, and is the third closure of a Kent secondary school in two years, following the Chaucer Technology School and the announced closure of the Oasis Hextable Academy last month.
In typical fashion, the current Trustees in an announcement greet the final admission of failure as “I am writing to inform you about an exciting new development for the students, staff and families of Marlowe Academy. In order to further develop the strong local alliance of schools known as the Coastal Academies Trust (CAT), Marlowe Academy and Ellington and Hereson School will be joining together from September 2015 to create a new school, with a proposed name of The Augustus Pugin Academy, working closely with Dane Court Grammar School and King Ethelbert’s school”. As regular browsers of this website know, I have followed the misfortunes of the academy for some years, and ‘Marlowe’ in the website search engine will yield a number of articles detailing its decline and the many attempts by Trustees to paper over the cracks, as once again exemplified by this announcement. You will find a good summary here.
Update: Cut off scores for Dartford, Dartford Girls, Judd, Skinners, TGS, Rainham Mark Grammar and Rochester Grammar below.
Kent and Medway secondary allocation figures have been published today, both Kent and Medway figures showing a worrying fall in the proportion of children being awarded any of the four schools (six in Medway) on their secondary school application form, with 641 Kent children and 155 Medway children not getting any school they have chosen. This is a rise of 237 children in Kent and by a considerable margin the highest proportion in recent years, with 4.03% of the total being allocated places by KCC. In Medway, there has been an increase in Local Authority allocations in each of the past four years, taking the LA allocation figure to a record 5.0%.
The four key factors in these worsening figures are likely to be: a further increase of 227 in the number of Kent pupils to be found places in our schools, with Medway increasing by 111 having come out of a sharp fall up to 2013; the increasing polarisation of choices, as families chase the more popular and successful schools, at the expense of some non-selective schools that are seeing numbers shrink as families seek to avoid them; an alarming surge in out of county applicants being offered places in Kent secondary schools, rising by 155 to 757; and the removal of 300 places in Kent since the publication of the 2014 allocations following the closure of the Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury (which happened in 2014 after the allocation numbers were published) and the recently announced closure of Oasis Hextable Academy.
Overall, 81% of both Kent and Medway children were awarded their first choice school, down on 2014. 296 fewer Kent pupils were awarded their first preference this year than in 2014, whereas in Medway it increased by 76, although at a slower rate than the overall increase in numbers. These falls in proportion of first choices awarded probably accounted for by the above factors, but I will know further when I receive a reply to my FOI request for more detailed information in the next few weeks.
Monday March 2nd is National Secondary Schools Allocation day, although children in different Local Authorities receive results at different times. Kent and Medway parents who have registered online will have their decisions available after 4 p.m., with a paper copy and further details of what to do next being sent to all families to arrive on Tuesday.
Some other parts of England have different arrangements; for example, in Lincolnshire, parents who have applied online can get their results at 00.30 on Monday morning.
One Lincolnshire primary school has arranged for ITV 'Good Morning Britain' to "watch some of our Year 6 parents and carers open their children’s secondary school offer letters live on air. Any Year 6 parents or carers who applied online are welcome to attend at any time from 5.45am through until 8.30am for a chance to be on the television. Hot breakfast will be provided for all those attending. Parents and carers attending must bring in their login details for the Lincolnshire County Council School Admissions Website. iPads will be provided for logging into the website to collect your offer letters. Please do not look at your offers online until you get to school!!!". I suspect they are being optimistic in asking parents not to look in advance!
I will be on air at 6.45 a.m. commenting on proceedings and giving my views on what they should do next if unsuccessful.......
UPDATE 19 March in main article.
The first of three main reasons being put forward for the closure of this special school for high functioning children suffering from Autistic Spectrum Disorder is that parents have asked the Council to develop mainstream provision rather than further provision in Special schools. This assertion appears now to have been discredited for KCC has been unable to provide evidence for the claim and KCC’s Corporate Director of Education has now acknowledged that there is well-evidenced increased demand for Special School places.
The key problem that parents have had responding to the Consultation is the consistent failure of KCC to answer the central questions about the proposal to close. I have the same frustration and formally requested the answers to 11 questions from Mr Leeson, questions that are also being asked by parents at meetings and in writing. Sadly, his reply to me only answered three of these. The ‘Kent On Sunday’ newspaper also asked the same questions with little success. What is the point of a Consultation where the key facts are being hidden from parents, and can it really be regarded as legitimate?
This rather lengthy article explores the powerful case for keeping the Furness School open, albeit under a different name, and yet again exposes the failures of KCC over its mismanagement of the whole issue………
Kent primary schools have overall had an excellent first half of the year with regard to OFSTED Inspections, with 5 schools Outstanding, 15 Good, 8 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures. More importantly, of the 28 schools inspected an impressive 13 have improved their rating, with just 3 declining. One school, Warden House Primary in Deal has leapt two grades to Outstanding.
Warden House Primary School
Sadly, Medway continues to limp along at the bottom, although with just 6 schools inspected this is too small a sample to draw any hard conclusions. Whilst 4 Good, 1 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures sounds reasonable, and is above the national average, not one of these have improved their assessment and 2 have got worse.....
As in previous years, I have prepared a variety of statistics relating to the Kent Test, published below along with my comments.
- Overall, 28% of girls and 25% of boys across Kent were assessed as of grammar school standard, a considerable shift in favour of girls' success over previous years, when the two figures have been very similar.
- 20.6% of children in the "selective areas" of Kent gained an automatic pass, close to the target figure of 21%. The new Kent Test for 2014 saw considerable change in the pattern of passes, with children required to reach a standardised score of 106 in each of the three assessments of reasoning, English and maths, with an aggregate score of 320. You will find further details here. More girls than boys took the test and more girls than boys passed. The figures for 2014 entry showed a bias towards boys success in the test, but the introduction of English has tilted it the other way.
- Another 6.2% of children, attending linked primary schools in these areas of Kent, secured selective assessments through Headteacher Assessment, target 4%.
- 49% % of Head Teacher Assessments were successful. As usual, the proportion of referrals and the percentage of passes is highest in the East and lowest in the West of Kent. Also as in previous years, many more girls than boys were found of grammar school ability by this route. With the girls also coming out on top in automatic passes, there is a fall of 82 in the number of boys passing in spite of an increase of 165 in the number of boys attending Kent state maintained schools in Year 6, and a rise of 141 girls passing against a decrease of 114 in the number of girls in Year 6.
Note: All these statistics come with a health warning, as the number of children in private schools is not always known (possibly 6% across the county), and such schools are often omitted from statistics.
“We are scared"
Radio Kent interview with the parent of a child living in Folkestone who has only been offered one appropriate school for her son if the closure of Furness School goes ahead
a private Boarding School in Shropshire!
Sadly, this family is not alone, for if Furness Special School closes, there is little alternative appropriate provision for the high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children for whom the redesignated school was set up in September, just six months ago.
|Breaking News (Wednesday afternoon) |
1) I have just received a letter from Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, following an informal KCC Cabinet Meeting on Monday. This makes clear that the closure of Furness School is not a foregone conclusion and that other avenues are to be explored, as there was a general view that there were many good reasons to try and retain such specialist provision. It was agreed that this view should be articulated at any public meeting.
2) The comment at the foot of this column suggests that Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education, who presumably was present at the above informal Cabinet meeting, is advising parents they do NOT need to look at schools or accept offers until the end of the Consultation. Many parents are indeed scared, these are families who have had to fight for proper provision for their children from an early age, not just in education, and are often highly stressed. Whilst this may be of considerable comfort it cannot take away the uncertainty. One parent who has visited a private school this week has been told they have to accept the place that has been offered, the next day or it will be lost. What should they do? I am not sure how I could answer them.
The article continued (before the above items arrived)....
This article is an update on my previous articles about the proposed closure of Furness School following gross mismanagement by those responsible for the school and its children. The school currently has just 31 pupils out of a capacity of 60, of whom 20 are high functioning ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) children who have joined the school following the bright future heralded last June in its redesignation as a school to cater specifically for their condition.
A meeting for the public and parents about the proposed closure took place last night; summary below.......
UPDATED: 20th February 2015
The Oasis Academy Trust has agreed with government that it can close the Oasis Hextable Academy because the school is failing to attract numbers. The reason it is failing to attract numbers is that the two neighbouring and competing schools, Wilmington Academy and Longfield Academy to the north and east have been turned round from being very unpopular, and have now become two of the most oversubscribed schools in the county.
In addition, Orchards Academy in Swanley to the south, once the failing Swanley Technology School, has also improved with steadily rising numbers, with Knole Academy further south in Sevenoaks, picking up some aspiring families who can’t get their children into Wilmington or Longfield.
Sadly, Oasis Hextable, for which I used to do admission appeals regularly a few years ago, has gone the other way, certainly in terms of parental perception. I now talk with families for whom Oasis is a last or no choice, across a patch where nearly every other school is full, apart from one with which Oasis vies in unpopularity. There was an upturn in numbers for the 2014 entry, with the school being taken out of Special Measures when a “Requires Improvement” assessment in 2013 was achieved after Alan Brooks, Executive Head of Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, had overseen major improvements at the school. Unfortunately for the Hextable children, he left after a year, for Oasis to take over. It appears that 2015 admissions due out on 2nd March, will offer no solace.
Kent County Council has made clear its view that the school should not be closed, as the increase in population over the next few years will certainly increase demand for places across the District. However, KCC has no voice in the decision, nor in the future of the site, with the premises on a 125 year lease to Oasis, who could decide to use them for different purposes........
I am very disappointed there has been no response from KCC to my previous article on Furness School, considering the important issues of finance and integrity it raises. Neither has there been even an acknowledgment of my formal request for the evidence supporting the unlikely assertion that parents of high functioning ASD children are spurning Special School places in favour of Units attached to mainstream schools, critical to the closure proposal, but completely ignored in the closure Consultation document.
The failure of the Local Authority to carry out a proper Equality Impact Assessment, according to the Equality Act, places the whole closure proposal in legal jeopardy.
I have now written the following letter to Mr Patrick Leeson, KCC Corporate Director of Education and Children's Services:
Dear Mr Leeson,
Like me, you must be both concerned and embarrassed by the two mutually contradictory documents produced by KCC Officers about the future of Furness School, accompanied by the failure to produce an adequate and legal equality impact assessment.
The situation is made much worse by the fact that the first of the two documents, the Complete Proposal for the re designation of Furness as a Special School for high functioning ASD children left out crucial information whose absence will have misled KCC Education and Children's Services Cabinet Committee members and would surely have affected their decision to approve the proposal. In particular, the financial crisis that is the prime factor behind the proposed closure of the school just seven months later, would have been starkly evident back in July and so should certainly have been presented to members to make a reasoned decision, whereas there is no mention of finances whatsoever.
My immediate concern is that parents have been invited to a meeting to discuss the consultation document on 24th February, and are surely entitled to answers to the following questions to enable them to understand the issues. Many of the issues are amplified in my article, which I am sure has already been referred to you as a matter of grave concern………
I have previously recounted the story so far here, and with previous links. To summarise:
KCC removed the headteacher of Kings Farm primary at Christmas 2013, and replaced him with the headteacher of Whitehill Primary on an Executive basis. This proved a disaster and the Executive Head was removed by KCC in September 2014, leaving a school that had degenerated into chaos. A consultant headteacher was appointed, the Headteacher of Ifield Special School appointed to oversee progress, and although an OFSTED Inspection in October placed the school in Special Measures, it both recorded the mess into which Kings Farm had been left by the previous leadership and the subsequent excellent progress in the school. A spokesman for the Government Standards and Testing Agency subsequently stated: “Following an investigation into the administration of this year's Key Stage 2 tests at King’s Farm Primary, in Gravesend, the decision was made to annul all tests results for all children. Any instances of maladministration of the tests are completely unacceptable.” A parallel investigation took place into the Whitehill results with the same result.
Kings Farm has now had its initial Monitoring Inspection following the Special Measures finding. Now free of the malign influence of Whitehill, the Report is the most positive assessment of any Kent school I have read at this stage, and my congratulations to all concerned. There can now be no doubt where the initial responsibility for the disaster lays.
Meanwhile, KCC had rewarded Whitehill Primary, the most unpopular primary school in Kent with parents, according to one measure, by allocating another 24 children places in the school at the last moment, raising its Reception Class numbers to 114, making it by far the largest all through Primary school in the county……
The 2014 Kent and Medway A Level results have a familiar look to them, with The Judd School once again topping the league table of state and private schools with 62% of its students attaining at least 2 A Grades and a B Grade.
The only other state school in the top seven is Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar, with 41%.
There are a number of tables available, showing different schools to best advantage, but for schools with a lower percentage of top grades, a better measure is the average point score per A Level entry, although Judd is still top again on 257.0. On both measures, Bennett Memorial is as usual the top non-selective school on 212.2 (7% AAB), closely followed by St Simon Stock, 208.9 and then St George’s CofE, Gravesend with 204.6. Bennett is above 7 of Kent’s grammar schools……….
GCSE results published last week show the effects of government changes in results coming into play, as explained below, which have hit many of Kent’s non-selective schools disproportionately. The effect on many private schools offering the IGSE instead of GCSE is to see their results discounted completely, so there is no sensible measure of performance in the private sector. You will find government league tables here.
Overall Kent state school students have once again exceeded the national average as they have for many years with 58.0% succeeding at 5 A-C grades, including English and maths, against a national figure of 56.6%. Medway students have done even better, with 58.8% of students having achieved the standard, as always underlining the disparity with Medway primary school performance.
The top of the table is not surprisingly dominated by the grammar schools, although Skinners is the only one to emerge with 100% success at 5 A-C grades, including English and maths. At 99% come most of the usual suspects: Dartford Grammar Girls; Dover Grammar Girls; Folkestone Girls; Invicta Grammar; Judd; Maidstone Grammar Girls; and Weald of Kent Grammar; along with The Rochester Grammar and Sir Joseph Williamson’s in Medway. Lowest performing grammars are: Simon Langton Boys and Tunbridge Wells Boys at 93%, along with Chatham Grammar Boys in Medway; Sir Roger Manwood’s at 92%; Borden Grammar 91%; Dane Court at 90%; and Dover Grammar Boys at 85%.
For non-selective schools, top performers as always are Bennett Memorial (CofE), 78% and St Gregory’s Catholic, 72%, both Tunbridge Wells. Then come: St George’s Cof E, Gravesend and St Simon Stock Catholic 67%, closely followed by St John’s Catholic, Gravesend on 64%. The highest performing non-church schools are: Hillview, Tonbridge, 62%; and Wrotham 59%.
At the bottom end, the effect of the government changes can be seen to full effect as many non-selective schools have seen the strategies they used to promote their academic performance discounted. Wholly unsurprisingly, they are headed up by The Marlowe Academy, eighth lowest performing state school in the country at 13%. Others are: Hartsdown Academy and Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy at 19%; Pent Valley Technology College at 21%; St George’s CofE Foundation, Thanet, and Sittingbourne Community College on 22%. Every one of these has seen a sharp fall in performance since 2013, ranging from a 15% drop at Marlowe, through to 32% at Hartsdown. Lowest Medway performance is better, with Strood Academy on 28% (a 15% fall on 2013).
There is considerably more detail below, including a closer look at Thanet which has attracted media attention over the disappointing results of many of its schools........
In 2013 KCC made the decision to close The Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury, as the intake had fallen sharply every year but one since 2009 from 202 to 85, with a forecast intake of 57 for September 2014. During that period, the school had reduced its capacity from 235 to 150, but this would still leave at least 62% of places empty in Year 7. I now have the school census figures for September 2014 and this shows four secondary schools in a worse situation than Chaucer with regard to empty desks. What is more alarming is that that in 2013 all these four schools again had the highest vacancy rates, all more severe than Chaucer, whilst in 2012 the only school that separated them was Walmer Science College which KCC closed at the end of that year because of falling numbers.
Three of these four schools, Marlowe Academy, Oasis Academy Hextable, and High Weald Academy, are probably safe from direct KCC intervention because of their academy status, but must all have problems of viability, including financial pressures and the ability to offer an appropriate curriculum - for example a proper range of courses at GCSE, as the low numbers work through. All three have previously been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, but have now earned their way out, although still clearly suffering from their reputation. The fourth is Pent Valley School, Folkestone which actually possesses a ‘Good’ OFSTED assessment, but whose troubles include expansion by more popular neighbouring schools......
This article looks at two new Catholic academies in Kent and two fresh applications to become academies in Medway, for January.
It also considers the progress of the North School sponsorship by Swale Academy Trust, together with other issues relating to change of status of Private Finance Initiative schools, some of which will place a further financial burden on those schools remaining with KCC.
The North School
KCC informed parents of children at Stansted CofE Primary School, at a meeting on Thursday, that the school was being considered for closure following a series of poor OFSTED Reports, declining numbers as children were withdrawn from the school and sent elsewhere, and consequent financial difficulties. Stansted is in the Malling area of Kent.
This decision has comes as no surprise, as anticipated when I wrote my previous article below just a week ago, following the latest OFSTED Report, with OFSTED reporting the number of children having fallen to 35 at the time of the Inspection (it is 34 now). Sadly, the decision to consider closure is the consequence of bad management and governance at the school, with parents losing confidence with a series of temporary headships, turn-over of teachers, poor teaching, seeing other children removed and overall poor reputation.
KCC has now offered each of the remaining children a place in another school, making the decision to close inevitable. Parents have two weeks to accept or decline the offer. ……..
Monitoring OFSTED Inspections for Charles Dickens School in Ramsgate and Stansted CofE Primary School, in Sevenoaks District, south of Gravesend both of which have previously been placed in Special Measures, are published today. For Charles Dickens, it is very good news, for Stansted, the writing is surely on the wall for its future.
Looking at today’s very positive Report, one of the briefest I have ever seen indicating the very low level of concern by the OFSTED, it is almost impossible to visualise the same school as was observed just three months previously. This was a ‘Good’ school, as established by the previous OFSTED in 2011, and still is. Further comment below.
Again, further comment below.
The two Reports between them raise many issues, the most important of which are:
1) There was enormous support for Charles Dickens, its standards and headteacher after the original Inspection. The appearance of the Chief Inspector at the school during the inspection suggests there was another agenda, and this Monitoring Report seriously undermines the findings of that Inspection. I still have confidence in the findings of most OFSTED Inspections, which tend to fit other evidence, but this situation serves to undermine the whole process, never mind the unnecessary damage it has caused the school.
2) KCC has installed a number of temporary leaders at Stansted, but the school’s decline, which now appears terminal, appears to be in part due to the performance of the two Interim Headteachers, both appointed by KCC. Where is the quality control here?
The Judd School in Tonbridge has published its proposed admission arrangements for 2016 entry, containing three important decisions by Governors that will have a considerable impact not only on the school itself, but also on grammar school admissions across the area.
You will find the details here. The proposals are:
1) To increase the intake by 30 places to 155, consolidating the temporary increases of the past two years, and also presumably for 2015 entry. This has been done at the request of KCC, which will then provide substantial capital investment to support the expansion.
2)To ensure the increase caters for the current pressure on places from Kent boys, by creating two separate catchments one primarily from West Kent admitting 140 boys, the second from the remainder of the United Kingdom, admitting 15 boys. The academic criterion in each case would be high scorers in the Kent Test. The proposal includes a clear map of West Kent showing the division.
3)As I prophesied some time ago, The Judd is proposing to abandon its plans to set its own test, the new Kent Test meeting the criteria it lay down.
My own view is that I am delighted with all three proposals. They serve both the needs of the grammar school population of West Kent and, by keeping the testing procedures in line with the rest of Kent, slow down any further splintering of the Kent Test, making life much easier for children looking to apply for several Kent grammar schools. May I encourage parents to support all three.
I consider the proposals in more detail below………
Kent has continued its steady increase against national norms, with 79% of schools achieving Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in reading, writing and maths, the same as the national average – in 2013 Kent was 1% below, and in 2012 2% below. 19 schools had 100% of their pupils achieving this level up from last year’s twelve, details below, with particular mention for Bodsham CEP School who also came top of the county table for percentage of pupils achieving Level 5.
Kent is also performing above the national norm: by counting Level 5 scores; and with the proportion of pupils achieving Level 4b in each of reading, writing and maths; and also in the average point score. Well done! There are also some very welcome improvements at schools I have previously criticised, such as Tree Tops Academy and Molehill Copse Primary School, details below. Eight schools are below the government Floor Standard of 45%, a fifty per cent reduction on last year’s 16 schools although, worryingly, all but one one of these has declined in performance on last year.
Medway, at 75% remains 4% below the national average, the same as 2013, when it was 144th out of 150 Local Authorities, and 6% below in 2012 when it was in last place, although it has now crept up to 140th, so there is improvement. What is pleasing in Medway is that there is just one school, Phoenix Junior Academy, below the Government Floor Standard of schools achieving 45% at Level 4, whereas last year there were two. Top school is Chattenden Primary, 100% Level 4s and top of the Level 5 Table.
One has to approach the whole Key Stage 2 outcomes with caution, remembering the enormous pressure on schools to deliver, with headteachers’ jobs at stake. I talk to many Year 6 parents in state schools in the summer term each year, and habitually ask if their children have done anything interesting in school. Consistently the answer is “No, they have been practising SATs”. I doubt it’s that bad, but it is a strong indicator. The consequence is that KS2 results may be partially a reflection of the proportion of time and the coaching skills employed, rather than the real quality of the school. Nevertheless, with this caveat, KS2 results are an important indicator, published in time for primary admissions. Sadly, this year two Kent schools have seen their KS2 results suppressed by the Standards and Testing Agency for alleged cheating, such is the pressure to do well.
Further details below………