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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

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

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

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

 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”. 

Education Secretary Mrs Morgan, last week announced a National Teaching Service of 1500 'elite' teachers to support struggling schools by 2020. Coastal towns and rural areas are seen as a priority in an attempt to reverse generations of underachievement in some places but, starting with a pilot of 100 teachers in the West of England it is difficult to see this having a positive effect on Kent schools any time soon. 

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.....


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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. 

Sevenoaks Annex 

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......


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Tuesday, 13 October 2015 18:41

Kent Test Results 2015, Initial figures

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 hereOverall, 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:....


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Unfortunately, the Department for Education has taken to publishing monthly data on academies four weeks later than in previous years, so the September information has only recently been made available. A total of eleven new academies have been created in Kent and Medway in August and September. One new Free School has opened in Ramsgate, along with the Medway University Technical College.
 
You will find  a list of Academies and proposed academies here, Free Schools here, and UTCs here........

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Updated 5th October

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.


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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%.

High Weald

 

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

Chatham Boys Grammar School

  

The full tables are here for Kent and Medway, with further individual details below.......


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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.

St Martins Folkestone

 

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 a fuller analysis below with notable outcomes highlighted, and the OFSTED outcomes of all individual Kent primary schools for the past five years here, with Medway here.

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.......


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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

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:.....


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