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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.
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………
IMPORTANT UPDATE 13th December at top of "Further Information" below
Cllr Kelly Tolhurst, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Educational Improvement in September:
“It is pleasing that results at primary level are increasing each year and parents can be assured of a good start in their children’s school life”.
To no one’s surprise, except Medway Council’s, Medway has come well bottom of the national league table for OFSTED outcomes, published today. Medway Council came 152nd out of 152 Local Authorities, one place below last year’s appalling results, with 53% of its pupils in Good or Outstanding Schools, down 6% on last year’s 59%. Nationally, the figure is 82% up from 79%. This decline, both absolute and against the national trend, was absolutely predictable although not apparently to Medway Council, as my previous OFSTED article shows, with 11 schools declining in performance, against just 4 improving, and no Outstanding schools at all this year.
This dire performance follows many previous years of dreadful results, with Medway Council betraying an astonishing complacency year on year.
Kent primary schools have improved slightly in position from 132nd to 130th, with a few more schools improving their grading than declining. However, a shocking 18 schools failed their Inspection. Again, fuller details here. However, for Kent the future is looking much brighter, as Key Stage 2 results this year, as yet unconfirmed, show a positive picture, every measure being improved on last year to around the national average.
The paradox of poor primary OFSTED results and good secondary results, underlined by examination performance at Key Stage 2 and GCSE, continues with Kent secondary schools coming 37th in the country on OFSTED outcomes (up from 54th in 2012/13) and Medway 41st (down from 25th). Now that every Medway secondary school is an academy, and over two thirds of those in Kent, the Local Authority has much less influence in performance
I have now included an update on published OFSTED Inspections this year, at the foot of this item, Kent improving, guess what about Medway!.......
Most of the activity of conversion to academies this year has been in the primary sector, as those secondaries looking to convert have already done so. There is one batch of secondary schools that, even if they are willing to convert, are still in difficulty about doing so. These schools were built under Private Finance Initiative and would incur heavy charges for themselves and KCC if they converted, as explained in two previous articles I wrote last year and a follow up to come.
Once again, the majority of the nine conversions listed below are to join church academy groups either by federation, or under sponsorship for underperforming or failing schools.
Currently in Kent, 72% of secondary schools and 28% of primary schools have converted to academies, are in progress or are Free Schools. The corresponding figures for Medway are !00% secondary and 42% primary. These figures are based on my own records and are not official.
I also comment on three schools that have run into difficulties over possible conversions - Twydall Primary in Gillingham; Kings Farm Primary in Gravesend and The North School in Ashford; together with the proposed new Free School in Sittingbourne for children with high functioning autism.......
This article reports on the full details of the Medway Test for entry to Medway grammar schools in September 2015, and explores the implications of the results.
To be eligible for entry to a Medway grammar in September 2015, children had to score an aggregate of 525 in the Medway Test. This comprises age-standardised papers in verbal reasoning, mathematics (score doubled up) and a single piece of English writing (also times two). So a child scoring 100 in VR, 95 in maths and 119 in English would pass with an aggregate of 528 made up of 100 + 2x95 + 2x119. There is no minimum score in each paper as in Kent.
Headline comments are that:
1)The figures confirm that the fall in numbers of children has bottomed out and rolls are again rising, which will come as a relief to those schools who have suffered from falling rolls in recent years. An increase of 130 children in the age cohort is a welcome 4% rise from 2013 for the schools most under pressure.
2) Even so, there is a fall in the number of boys taking the Medway Test, accompanied by a further increase in the proportion of girls to boys both taking the test and also passing, compared with the 2013 figures; see below.
3) There is also a fall in the number of boys being put forward for Review, a total of 36 children out of the 239 put forward being successful. This is only 1.2% of the total cohort, against a target of 2%, or 62 children. According to Medway Council: “The academic evidence supplied did not support a grammar assessment for the maximum 2% of the Medway cohort.” With growing concern over primary school standards in Medway, the inability to find another 26 children whose work is up to a grammar school standard only underlines the problems of literacy and numeracy in those schools.
4) I have highlighted before the built in prejudice of the Medway Test, showing a discrimination against both boys and younger children. For 2015 entry, the bias towards older children is similar to that in 2012, the previous time I analysed the figures, with 55% of passes going to children born in the first half of the year, and 45% in the second half of the year, on both occasions. Just 21% of boys in the cohort passed the Test this year, compared with 25% of girls.
5) Remarkably, every one of the top four schools by percentage pass rate are Catholic Primary Schools, these being the only Medway state schools scoring over 50% grammar school passes. This is in spite of the fact that Catholic schools are encouraged to support St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, rather than the grammar schools.
6) The number of children from outside Medway, taking and passing the Medway Test continues to rise inexorably as Kent children hedge their bets by taking both tests, and London families increasingly look to Medway as an alternative, but the reality is that few of the latter actually arrive.
Medway Council is conducting a Review of the Medway Test at present and I would expect these issues to be central to the discussion, although I have raised most of them before with no response from the Council.
In the remainder of this article, I expand on these points, as well as provide the relevant statistics on which the article is based.....
I now have appeal data for all of the Kent and Medway secondary schools that held appeals in 2014 between March and August, as summarised in the table below, along with Kent primary appeals organised by KCC. Comparing these with the 2013 figures for secondary and primary schools, it is clear that the success rate for appeals in all categories has fallen, in some cases quite sharply.
The biggest fall is with Primary Schools, the large majority of which are governed by Infant Class Legislation, which prevents appeals from being successful if they would result in Infant Class numbers increasing beyond 30 pupils, unless a second qualified full-time teacher is employed for the class, a massive expense for the school. There are a few exceptions, as explained here, and in the past, appeal panels have tried to be sympathetic to strong cases, but the pressure on appeal panels to follow the rules has increased year on year. For 2014, just 5 out of 537 appeals registered for schools where Infant Class Legislation applied were successful, although 147 families pulled out before the appeal were heard, many when they read the rules, another 30 being offered places off the waiting list before appeal, leaving only 1.4% of successful appeals from those heard. I have only collected appeal outcomes for Kent primary schools whose appeals are organised by KCC. They will be very representative of the small proportion of primary appeals managed by other organisations, and of Medway primary schools.
For secondary schools, the non-selective proportion of successes has fallen from 42% to 30%, and for grammar schools, the proportion has fallen from 48% to 45%. For Kent Primary schools with Infant Class Legislation, the fall is from 4.7% to 1.4%, other primary appeals actually increased from 31% to 63%, although numbers are too small to be significant.
The full summary table is as follows......
Kings Farm Primary School in Gravesend has been placed into Special Measures by OFSTED in what must be the unique circumstances of: missing performance data, allegations of wrongdoing, multiple investigations by the authorities, suppressed KS2 results, public protest by parents, self-reporting of safeguarding issues by the school, and a staff turnover of around two thirds shortly before the Inspection. OFSTED is required to make its judgments on the school as it is, and yet this Report is massively influenced by the dreadful period from January to July 2014 when the school had a temporary Executive Headteacher who was removed by KCC over the summer.
First the good news:
A new Consultant Headteacher was appointed in September. OFSTED reports:
"The consultant headteacher has made an excellent start. She is very clear about what needs to be done. The school is more stable and there is an air of optimism. Senior leadership is being strengthened rapidly. The school provides well for pupils’ personal and social development. The consultant headteacher has taken decisive steps to improve behaviour in lessons and around the school. As a result, there have been no exclusions this term, and most pupils show enthusiasm for learning. Relationships with parents and carers are improving rapidly. All procedures for the safeguarding of pupils have been reviewed and are now secure.".
"It is not possible to report whether the school met government floor standards in 2014, as the 2014 school data for the achievement of Year 6 pupils has been suppressed by the Standards Agency, pending investigation. Most of the school’s data on pupils’ past performance cannot be located. The local authority considers the submitted data for the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2014 to be inaccurate. Consequently, the school has little information on pupils’ achievement in reading, writing and mathematics. No evaluation of the impact of pupil premium expenditure was carried out in the last school year. The inspection team was aware during the inspection of several ongoing investigations by the appropriate authorities into allegations of wrongdoing. A review of safeguarding was carried out by the local authority, at the school’s request, in September 2014. The school community has experienced extensive disruption and instability recently. There has been considerable discontent among the staff, culminating in significant changes in staffing. Parents and carers have publicly demonstrated their lack of confidence in the school leadership. These matters, the rapid deterioration in standards, and the ongoing investigations have adversely affected morale and contributed to wholesale changes in leadership and management".......
Like many others, I have puzzled over the low pass mark of 106 required in each of the three assessments of English, Maths and Reasoning to produce 21% of children taking the Kent Test assessed of grammar school standard.
The Tests are nationally standardised so one would expect an untutored child on each test to score 113 to come in the top 21%. An initial look at these figures might suggest that Kent children are less bright than average, but a closer investigation of scores for the individual subjects, shows a very different picture and provides a full explanation of the conundrum.
Quite simply, whilst the majority of children have scored considerably more highly in the reasoning test than in the mathematics or English, a large number have failed to reach the standard in one of maths or English, dragging down the pass mark to provide the numbers.
As a result 4446 Kent children reached the pass level of 106 in English, and 4884 in maths, out of a total of 9902 taking the test, but less than half this figure will have passed in both!
In summary, Kent children have outperformed the national standard in all three assessments, whether through natural ability or the effect of tutoring on maths and English being open to question. However, the tutoring effect is still seen to the full in the Reasoning assessment, although this now counts for just one third of the assessment compared with the two thirds of previous years.
In my view, this data shows the new Kent Test has been highly successful if its aim was to select children with ability in both maths and English, and reduce the effect of tutoring, although the days of the bright male mathematician whose literacy skills are poor are over, if this pattern is repeated in future years.
The Judd School, which has been influential in the design of the new test, with its call to reduce the effect of coaching and improve standards of literacy in its intake, should be well pleased with this outcome and is surely likely to back off from its plan to introduce its own test for the 2016 intake.
I have already published an article on the Kent Test outcomes, and another on my reflections of the admissions season this year, both of which now need to be read in the context of the above. As soon as I receive the necessary data from KCC, I shall also publish a full analysis of Kent (and Medway) test outcomes. .....
UPDATE: The proposal by Weald of Kent Grammar School is now being considered by the Department for Education.
There could soon be movement in the stalled proposal for a satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks, after the Home Secretary, Mrs Teresa May has come out in support of a similar proposal in her own parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead, as explained below.
Planning permission for the Sevenoaks satellite grammar school has now been passed, building contractors are in place, and an application to go ahead has been put to the Department for Education. Meanwhile, a separate plan for buildings on the same site for the Trinity Free School has also been approved and this project appears to be ready to go.
Two previous proposals for the Sevenoaks grammar development have been rejected by Mr Gove, when he was Secretary of State for Education, both on the grounds that they did not comply with current government legislation that required the satellite to have the same gender make up and admission rules as the host school. I have written about these previously.
A new proposal was put forward in September by the Governors of Weald of Kent Grammar School, to run a three form Satellite in the new premises for girls only, which would apparently overcome the previous legal hurdles but doesn't meet the pressing need for additional places for boys.
This has been a particularly busy admission season for me, primarily because the change in structure and scoring pattern of the Kent Test have considerably increased uncertainty about chances of access to super selective schools and appeal success to grammar schools across the county. My news item on the Kent Test saw the fastest rate of hits ever on the website, totalling 7000 in just over a week. The article on the Medway Test, with about a sixth the number of applicants has already attracted over 3000 visitors.
The other major factor has been the urban myth and misinformation circulating amongst parents, too often driven by some primary headteachers trying to be helpful and some secondary headteachers keen to encourage numbers.
I have covered most of the comment and information below in previous news and information items on this website, but now that most Secondary School Common Application Forms (SCAF) have been submitted, I have time to reflect. Kent parents will know that exceptionally, KCC has extended the closing date to 5th November (nationally it was 31st October) to give parents good time to consult schools after the Kent Tests results were sent out, allowing for half-term in between.
I hear many good reports about the advice freely given by KCC School Admissions, and know that, as always, the Department has been massively overworked. However, they are not allowed to comment about individual schools as I am. Medway Council also runs an advice service.
I explore these issues and a variety of others below......
I am writing this article in response to a large number of enquiries from parents of boys, and to a lesser extent of girls, looking for places at the Dartford, Wilmington and Gravesend Grammar Schools, who have just missed the selective standard and are looking to appeal.
Last year, between them, there were 183 appeals lodged at Dartford and Wilmington Boys Grammar Schools, of which just 14 were successful, nearly all of these being made up of boys who had already passed but were initially excluded on distance grounds in the case of Wilmington, and not high enough scores in the Kent Test in Dartford.
The problem is created predominantly through pressure from children in London Boroughs, notably those on the railway lines from London Bridge through Bexley and Bromley, looking for grammar school places in Kent. Boys who live in Dartford itself who passed the Kent Test, whatever their school, are able to access either grammar school without difficulty. Other indications of the pressure on these two schools is that upon allocation back in March the two schools between them turned away 174 grammar qualified first preferences from the total of 1358 preferences expressed for the two schools. 419 of these applications were second preferences, although just 48 of these boys received offers. 110 of the 300 places available at the two schools were taken up by out of county boys on allocation in March although, as with the other figures, these proportions will have changed slightly by the time of admission in September, and I am not able to track the direction of any change.
The article explores the issues in more detail, and also looks at the growing problems in Gravesend and in the local grammar schools for girls.
In summary the difficulty of winning an appeal at one of these two schools for a boy who missed the pass mark, for whatever reason, was and will remain immense. As a result most parents will need to consider alternatives, several of which are spelled out below. .......
Last Updated: Sunday 19th October
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Kent Test results have now been sent out and present a very different picture from previous years. First the facts.
There were two tests, the first being in verbal and non-verbal reasoning. The second was in curriculum English and mathematics, the first time that English has been assessed as part of the main testing procedure.
This has produced three marks of equal weighting, one in Reasoning, one in English and one in Mathematics. The achieved English scores range from 69 - 138 with the maths and reasoning between 69 and 141 after age related standardisation, so a top score of 420.
To pass, children have to have scored an aggregate of at least 320 across the three papers, together with a minimum score of 106 in each paper. The aggregate score is very different from previous years and there are will be number of important consequences and conclusions from the changes, listed below. This is the first draft of this article, prepared today, so this section may well change. I am open to comment about my opinions that may well change as more data arrives. You will find the pattern for 2014 entry here.
The table below confirms that a very similar number of Kent children passed the Test this year compared with 2013. The number who sat it has risen by nearly 1000, many of whom will be ‘out county’ applicants, as the number of these rises inexorably. However, it is important to note that, however many out county passes there are, the number of children being offered places in Kent grammar schools remains similar, at around twenty per cent of those who were found selective, at just 343, mainly in Dartford schools, for 2014 entry. See further comment below. You will find details of cross border school allocations here, with over 100 Kent children going to Medway grammar schools.
You will also find considerable discussion and advice in the comments at the foot of the column. However I am afraid I am no longer able to give individual advice on personal situations though this mechanism..............................
The complete set of OFSTED Reports for 2013-14 have now been published and they confirm the very different fortunes of primary, secondary and special schools across Kent and Medway. I published the outcomes of secondary and special schools in a previous article and this one now looks at underperfoming primary sector. Another article highlights failings in both Authorities part way through the year.
Leaders of both Authorities are fond of quoting the combined results of the three sectors, as they hide the gulf between the excellent performance of secondary and special schools which are mainly academies, independent of the Local Councils, and the disappointing, in some cases shocking outcomes of primary schools as a whole, mainly run by the Local Authorities. In response to a previous article on disappearing primary headteachers, the KCC representative falsely claimed that the 80% Good or Outstanding Inspection results this year proved that KCC’s policy was working. In fact, with 81% of 26 secondary schools, 80% of 10 special schools and 54% of the 128 primary schools achieving Good or Outstanding, the overall figure is just 60%, well short of the claimed figure.
A full set of statistics is given below, with a KCC analysis, consistent with the results in this article, available here. OFSTED results for every Kent and Medway Primary School are also provided on the website.
First the good news......
The complete set of OFSTED Reports for 2013-14 have now been published (although there may be one or two strays to come where there have been disputes over outcomes) and they confirm the very different fortunes of primary, secondary and special schools across Kent and Medway.
This article looks at the overall superb outcome of Secondary and Special School Inspections last year, with a review of primary schools to come in a following article. Overall Kent and Medway saw a remarkable 80% of OFSTED Inspections rated Good or Outstanding, against a national figure of just 67%
It also looks at the fearsome future some of Kent’s non-selective schools face in terms of OFSTED and GCSE performance, with changes in the government measures of achievement.
Between them 17 of Kent and Medway’s 23 non-selective schools that have been inspected have been found Good or Outstanding, that is 77%, well above the national average for all secondary schools. Why is it that in frenzy of debate about grammar schools, such positive outcomes for non-selective schools are so comprehensively ignored by the media and indeed by the Local Authorities?
The pass mark for the Medway Test this year is an aggregate of 525. The total score for each child is made up of a verbal reasoning score, a mathematics score which is doubled up and an English score which is also doubled up.
So a child who scored: Verbal Reasoning - 110; mathematics – 102; and English – 103; would get a grand total of 110 + 102x2 + 103x2 = 520. This child would not pass as they have not reached 525 in total.
Unlike the Kent Test, there is no minimum score required in individual tests. Therefore, for example, a score of: VR- 75; mathematics – 140; and English – 85; scores 525 and passes.
For those parents whose children have not passed the Medway Test, there is now the decision as to whether to go for Review which must be made by next Friday, 10th October, and you will find extensive advice on how to make the decision elsewhere on this website.
An important new factor to be considered if you are likely to go to appeal, was introduced without warning last year. ........
Most of the cases of “disappearing primary school headteachers” who have been removed by Kent County Council, sometimes in an inappropriate manner, cannot be reported as the headteachers sign agreements not to speak out in exchange for inducements to ease their departure. I have written several previous articles about this situation.
However, one has surfaced this week where Simon Webb, an officer of KCC, is reported to have acknowledged in writing that the Authority did not have the powers of intervention to carry out the initial suspension of a primary headteacher and also his wife, both employed at St Francis Catholic Primary School in Maidstone. The allegations are carried in the Kent Messenger.
Also below, I cover the case of a headteacher who cannot be named because she has signed a termination agreement, whose suspension also appears to seriously break employment law and procedures; and catch up with the story of St John's CofE Primary in Canterbury.
Kent County Council's justification for the unreasonable way they have treated so many of their primary school headteachers, often appearing to go outside employment law, appears to be that there is no other way of forcing up standards and indeed KCC reports that Key Stage Two standards have risen this year to match national standards. Good news indeed,after so many years of poor overall performance in the county but at what price? Is the removal of around 5% of Kent's primary headteachers leaving many of the schools in a state of disruption really the central factor in school improvement across the county, with all the other initiatives by Kent to raise standards not playing a part.......
Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, which admits girls up to GCSE level and is then mixed in the Sixth Form, is now attempting a third attempt with KCC support to open up the proposed grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. The proposal is now out for consultation with parents.
The proposal shows a change of direction from previous attempts, in that the school is now looking at a three form entry girls’ only annexe up to GCSE level and then mixed in the sixth form, opening in 2016.
Building Plans for the annexe have now been approved, builders have been appointed, but at present there is no approved scheme and so building on the site is in abeyance.
My own view is that Weald Of Kent parents may well support this scheme for, as distinct from the previous proposal, there appears no disadvantage for current students and positive advantages for future students living towards Sevenoaks. There appear to be none of the previous problems with legality, and although the school is likely to make minor changes to its oversubscription criteria, there would be ample space for all qualified applicants for many years.
I have written a number of previous articles on the proposed annexe, which you can follow back from here, or else by searching for ‘Sevenoaks’ or ‘annexe’ in the search facility of this website ........
Valley Invicta Academy Trust (VIAT) is considering opening a new Free School in September 2017 on the site of its two secondary schools, Valley Park school and Invicta Grammar School. It would be called the Maidstone School of Science and Technology, specialising in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and is proposed initially to take in four classes of entry, or 120 students.
You will find an expanded version of this item in an article I wrote for Kent on Sunday published 21st September 2014
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. In May I wrote articles on primary allocations in Kent and Medway, identifying some of the pressure areas as: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the problems. These are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place.
In 2012 KCC drew up a Commissioning Plan which developed a strategy for creating the 10000 new places needed by 2016. This is already creaking at the seams and the overarching principles set down to guide it appear a distant memory.
I am not sure what, if any, strategy is being followed by Medway Council.....
On August 24th, Mark Geadah, headteacher of Allington and Aylesford Primary Schools died tragically. The inquest on his death has recently heard that he hanged himself, at a time when he was receiving treatment for work related stress leading to depression. The many tributes on the internet from those who knew him show the high esteem and affection in which Mr Geadah was held by his colleagues and friends.
Kent County Council has confirmed that Simon Webb, KCC’s Principal Primary School Adviser, is to retire next month, and he appears to have left his desk with immediate effect. KCC is tight-lipped about the decision and is making no other comment about the matter. Mr Webb is the principal architect of the ‘drive for school improvement’ that has produced such a large number of casualties amongst Kent primary heads, and a severe drop in morale for many others, as they have witnessed the manner of removal of their colleagues. Mr Webb has escorted a number of headteachers of underperforming schools from their schools in the middle of the school day and placed them on ‘gardening leave’, sometimes without documentation in place, as if they have committed a disciplinary offence and are not safe to leave of their own accord.
I have written several previous items on both subjects of this article, most recently here.
The recent National Conference of the National Association of Headteachers, hardly a hotbed of radicalism, approved the following motion from the Kent Branch:
Conference calls upon National Executive to highlight the number of school leaders being forced from their posts through spurious and unacceptable means by the bullying actions of some local authorities who seek to remove experienced and skilled head teachers to make way for academy sponsorship or other forms of school governance”
Rather pointed, and indicative of one reason for the sharp decline in teachers willing to take up headships in Kent......
OFSTED carried out a focused inspection of 12 of the schools run by Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) in June. I have previously written an article about AET entitled “Is this the worst school in the country, run by the worst academy chain? - Tree Tops Academy”. For AET also runs four Maidstone primary academies, three handed over by KCC because of their inability to turn the schools round, and which have also now been let down by AET. The article focuses on Tree Tops, but could equally have been about Molehill Copse Primary. The other two schools are Oaks Academy and St James the Great Academy. Currently, because of its poor record, AET is banned from taking on any further academies.
A letter from OFSTED to AET is highly critical of this, the largest academy chain in the country, with 77 schools under its control. The poor performance is in spite of the fact that, as Warwick Mansell in the Guardian has Uncovered, some chains are given advance warning of focused inspections (you need to see Warwick’s additional information in the Comment section).
OFSTED, in a Monitoring inspection Report about Molehill Copse carried out in April, after it failed its Inspection in December, wrote “The Academy Enterprise Trust’s statement of action includes all the areas for improvement from the school’s inspection. However, the organisation of the plan is muddled. It does not set out well enough who will lead the actions, what is hoped to be achieved, how progress towards goals will be checked and how this will be done. This means it is not a useful tool for governors and senior leaders to check how well the school is doing”. About Tree Tops it wrote: ““Financial issues have prevented the Principal from ensuring staff have the right resources to support their teaching. The sponsor has not acted to provide resources even temporarily to resolve this issue”.......
Non Registration for Kent or Medway Test
Sadly, each year a number of families fail to register their child for the Kent test in time, for a variety of reasons, often very understandable.
Unfortunately, neither Kent nor Medway Authorities will consider late applications for registration. In such a case, it can only be arranged for your child to be tested after March 2015. The one exception is, if you have moved into the Local Authority area after the deadlines, in which case you should contact the Local Authority for advice.
Illness at time of Kent or Medway Test
If your child is unwell at the time of the 11 Plus, resist the temptation to send them into school ill. I recommend a doctor's certificate on the day to show they have a medical condition, and you must inform the school in advance. Arrangements will then be made for the child to take the tests late. See below for further details.
The Office of the Schools Adjudicator has ruled on a number of complaints about decisions made by Dartford Grammar School (DGS) and Dartford Grammar School for Girls (DGSG) to award more of their places to high scoring pupils in the Kent Test at the possible expense of local children. He also considered complaints about sixth form admission policies and also about failures in consultation about the proposals. The complaints were submitted submitted by parents and governors of neighbouring grammar schools in Bexley. You will find the determination (decision) here.
In the biggest area of complaint, the Adjudicator does not find fault in the changes in priority at the expense of local children.
With regard to the sixth forms, the main faults in the admission process and criteria at the two schools are also applicable to many other secondary schools in the county, a regular issue raised with me by parents whose children have been denied entry, further details here.
Both schools failed to consult properly on their changes, although the Adjudicator oddly argues that as there were few responses (not surprising if few knew about them), there appears to be no need to find a remedy.
A key and surely controversial section not directly related to the complaints arises from the provision of the ‘unique’ International Baccalaureate Curriculum beginning in year 7 at DGS. The Adjudicator notes that the nature of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum is seen by both the school and the Local Authority as not being suitable for all qualified applicants “and for this reason the school has “ …attracted pupils from a wider reaching catchment area, as a result of this niche which they have created in the education market”, to quote the LA”. To me this is a remarkable statement, for surely, if the IB is not suitable for some local children then the admission arrangements should be changed to reflect this rather than allowing them to enter and struggle. Alternatively, and highly preferable for me, would be to amend the curriculum arrangements so that all children admitted could access the curriculum.
I expand on all these issues below:........
The dire outcomes of Medway primary schools performance are once again in the news, with the Medway Messenger publishing a front page article last week, highlighting the results of an FOI by Labour Councillor Tristan Osbourne. This reveals that “With 30 out of 65 primary and infant schools in Medway ranked either as requiring improvement or inadequate by Ofsted, 46% of children will be going to struggling schools”. This will not come as a surprise to browsers of this website, as I have highlighted the consistently dreadful OFSTED outcomes of Medway primary schools for some years.
I am very conscious that this is not news that parents want to read this week, as their children take up places in their new schools, but the bottom line is that the figures are a disgrace and something has to be done to improve these schools. Stage One is for Medway to acknowledge the depth of the problem which it has steadfastly refused to do so far.
Apparently, the article was badly received by the Council and followed up by a press release lauding the improvement in Medway’s Key Stage 2 SAT results, which although not confirmed claim to show a significant improvement in results compared to national figures.
The press release (below) reveals that the improvement is measured by a rise of 4 places in the national league table which has to be good news, somewhat tempered by the fact that last year Medway came 144th out of 150 Local Authorities, so it has now reached the heady heights of 140th. However, this certainly does show consistent improvement, up from 150th in 2011 and 149th in 2012!
More details below..........
Please note: I am unable to advise on which routes are cheapest, or the best option to take. You should contact the Council school transport department or the bus company for this information.
Good travel news for Kent students aged 11-16 after KCC initially scrapped the highly valued Freedom Pass for 11 -16 year olds for economic reasons last year. The furore this decision caused saw the council wisely backtrack and come up with a new scheme, the Young Person’s Travel Pass, albeit one with a narrower focus on school journeys, as explained here.
KCC has now agreed an extension to the scheme with local bus companies Stagecoach and Arriva, whereby young people holding the Young Person's Travel Pass can make journeys in the evenings and weekends at a cost of £1 for each journey by scanning their pass. An alternative, and surely a much better choice for many, is the purchase of an off peak season ticket for just £50 a year. At the time of writing, whilst this has been announced in local media, along with a quote by the KCC Cabinet Member responsible for school transport, details are not yet published on the KCC website.
The new post-16 Travel Card also offers excellent value for many young people over the age of 16, living in Kent and attending a participating school, college or work-based learning provider, at a cost of no more than £400 a year, reduced from the previous £520.
These arrangements remain distinct from school bus passes which provide free transport to the nearest school, if the child live more than two miles as the crow flies for primary aged children, and three miles for secondary children, slightly different in Medway.
Further details on all these concessions below, together with an outline of the schemes for children living in Medway, the latter having different rules set out clearly here. This article is slightly amplified in the information section, here.
Kent County Council has responded to an article I wrote for Kent on Sunday a week ago, the response being provided in full at the foot of this article. Unfortunately, it completely ignores my two central points also set out in the article below, which are underlined by recent developments at the National Association of Headteachers Conference and at Kings Farm Primary School in Gravesend.
Meanwhile, at the other end of Kent in Thanet, a dire warning that conversion to academy status is not a panacea, deserves a separate article, below.
The NAHT Conference, hardly a hotbed of radicalism, passed the following motion:
Conference calls upon National Executive to highlight the number of school leaders being forced from their posts through spurious and unacceptable means by the bullying actions of some local authorities who seek to remove experienced and skilled head teachers to make way for academy sponsorship or other forms of school governance”.
NAHT Conference Motion
If there is any doubt, this motion was proposed by Kent Branch of the NAHT......
Governors of Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, have decided the school should remain in the city, rather than pursue the proposed move to Herne Bay which would also have enabled the school to be enlarged.
The proposal, outlined in previous articles on this website, split parents with many living in the city fiercely opposed to a move to the North Coast. In the other camp, many parents and especially prospective parents living on the North Kent coast around Herne Bay and Whitstable welcomed the proposal for a brand new local school building, with excellent facilities in an area where it was becoming increasingly difficult to access a grammar school place because of rising numbers in Canterbury and along the coast.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the county in Sevenoaks, the county's second proposal to enlarge a grammar school in new premises continues on the tortuous path it has now followed for three years. Planning permission for the proposed annexe and the new Trinity Free School has been approved without difficulty, but there is still no sign of a clear and legal agreement about which school or schools are to run the annexe......
Drapers Mills Primary Academy in Ramsgate has just joined two other Thanet Primary Academies in trouble, all three run by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), who have been failed by OFSTED, becoming yet another academy to decline in category since conversion. Today, OFSTED has published an equally scathing Report on TKAT itself, confirming that conversion to become a Sponsored Academy is no panacea for success (parents at Twydall Primary and Kings Farm Primary, Gravesend, take note!)........
School motto: Dream it! Believe it! Achieve it!
This is very much a church month, as both the Church of England and the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark remove more schools from the oversight of Kent County Council, and take over direct control of them. Most of these schools are sponsored; some are Converter academies who have joined in federation.
There has been much debate since my previous article on the problem of Kent’s disappearing primary headteachers, with Kent County Council arguing that the removal of these headteachers is a necessary part of school improvement, that the improvement in OFSTED outcomes proves this and that every Kent primary school has someone in charge of it. It appears from the information available that some 40 primary headteachers have lost their posts since September 2012, 21 by formal means, the remainder being "encouraged" to resign.
However, chickens are coming home to roost. There is a sharp increase in the number of primary headship vacancies across Kent, a sharp fall in the number of applicants for each vacancy to an average of 2.33 per post, a quarter of all primary headships are having to be re-advertised, 16 Kent primary schools have failed their OFSTEDs since September, there is a fall in the proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected by OFSTED and more schools are seeing a worse OFSTED outcome this time round. Kent’s Key Stage 2 results for this summer should be interesting!
In 2012, KCC published its key policy document: “Bold Steps for Kent”, laying out its key education priorities for the next three years. Its key policy aim for 2015 was:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. With standards falling instead as we head towards 2015, KCC is clearly panicking and headteachers are becoming scapegoats, taking us into a spiral of decline.
UPDATED TO INCLUDE LINK TO FAMILIARISATION PAPER
Kent County Council has now published the details of the new Kent Test to be taken in September 2014, and I was pleased to be able to break the news here, a week before official publication, after several primary headteachers shared the information with their parents. The specification provided is as follows. You will find KCC's statement here. Kent County Council has now prepared a familiarisation paper for pupils taking the test, to indicate the type of questions being asked. You will find this here.
There has been much media interest this week on the issue of Infant Class numbers. The Labour Party has claimed that a relaxation of legislation by the Coalition has led primary school headteachers to allow infant Class numbers to increase over the statutory maximum of 30 children per class with a single teacher. This is based on an article in the Daily Telegraph. However, in my opinion, far more important is the ambition of both Coalition and Labour parties to reduce Infant class sizes below 30 also discussed in the document, although the resources required to build new classrooms, open new schools and employ additional teachers would be immense and are nowhere on the horizon. In any case, unless something is done to expand infant class provision then the limit of 30 children per class will become impossible to maintain.
In fact, my analysis of the data can find no incidence of headteachers in Kent or Medway choosing to ignore the regulations and, although there are a number of infant classes with numbers over 30, almost all are due to perfectly legitimate actions outside the control of headteachers.
I am sure that all browsers of this website will wish to join with me in congratulating Pam Jones on her well-deserved award of the OBE in today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours. Having been associated with Pam and Ifield School for ten years, I hope you will understand my pleasure in preparing this tribute to her qualities.
Pam has been headteacher of Ifield Special School in Gravesend since January 2004, and has overseen its transformation from a school for Moderate Learning Needs to one catering for Profound, Severe and Complex Learning Needs and Communication Difficulties including autism.
I now have further information on Primary school allocations to individual schools, to expand on my previous article on allocation day, 16th April 2014.
Most popular primary school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants School in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50), reflecting the very difficult pressures in the Borough.
Next come: Slade Primary in Tonbridge (47); West Hill Primary in Dartford, Madginford Park Infants in Maidstone and Priory Infants in Ramsgate all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE in Tunbridge Wells (38). St Joseph’s Catholic in Northfleet, last year's most oversubscribed school (36) brings the total up to 9, with tenth place being shared by: Brent in Dartford; Palm Bay in Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant, Westgate on Sea, Thanet and St James CofE VA Infants in Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.
You will find a list of last year’s most oversubscribed schools here. Below, you will find a brief analysis of the most pressured districts: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge.......
Four new applicants to become converter academies, together with further information on the new Jubilee Free School In Maidstone and Leigh UTC.
The Kent Messenger has discovered, via a Freedom of Information request, that 21 headteachers of Kent schools were removed from their posts since September 2012. Of these, 15 were told to go due to performance reasons, five on grounds of conduct and one for an issue not disclosed. These will be mainly primary school heads, but would include secondary heads like the head of the North School, Ashford, a KCC run school, who resigned after the school was placed in Special Measures in December. It will not include the additional ones removed from academies, such as Castle Community College in Deal and Molehill Copse Primary in Maidstone. Neither does it include those who “voluntarily” gave up their posts, rather than face the stigma of removal. I hear that in total some 40 heads have given up or “lost” their posts since September 2013. I covered some of these issues in a previous article in April, which may well have sparked the Kent Messenger FOI request.
Please make no mistake; Kent County Council is forced to take action in maintained schools about 'Schools Causing Concern' through Government Statutory Guidance. This government policy is unforgiving and leaves limited room for manoeuvre, but the evidence presented below suggests that KCC's interpretation of this is not achieving the aims of the document, to 'drive up standards'.
Although I am no fan of Free Schools in principle, I can quite understand why a group of people of Deal has proposed a new Free School in the area, with age range from Nursery through to 18 plus, following the disaster at Castle Community College.
This article also looks at other new academies and Free Schools opened and proposed, along with several snippets of news....
KCC has filed a new letter with Sevenoaks District Council, reproduced below, relating to its Planning Application for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe and Trinity Free School. This sets out a refined version of the case for the annexe, including KCC’s continued commitment to find a solution to the problems previously covered here.
Probably the most significant paragraph is the penultimate one, which refers to an invitation to submit further proposals from an interested school. I presume this refers to a local single-sex grammar school, but following previous conclusions it would probably also need to become co-educational......
I now have detailed figures of Medway primary reception class allocations for admission in September 2014. The equivalent figures for Kent are to follow.
The main headlines are that: in Chatham, the area where there were most problems last year, 76 of the total 79 vacancies occur in the single new school being built with a capacity of 90 Reception places to alleviate the pressures; in Rainham there are no vacancies whatever; and in Rochester, all 17 vacancies occur in one failing school; The most oversubscribed school is Balfour Infants in Chatham, turning away 33 first choices, followed by St Margaret’s Infants in Rainham (28), Swingate Primary in Chatham (26), and Byron Primary in Gillingham (23, although in Special Measures). Making some sort of statement, parents have placed eight low performing newly converted or about to be converted academies in the list of eleven schools with most vacancies, along with the new New Horizons Children’s Academy in Chatham, the new Cedars School, created by Medway Council from the two Sherwin Knight schools, the Juniors having been found inadequate by OFSTED, and St Mary’s Island Cof E (Aided) Primary (just out from Special Measures).
The tables confirm my earlier findings that the proportion of Medway children offered a Reception place of their choice has continued to fall inexorably for the past four years, with the proportion of disappointed first choices having fallen by over 2% this year, in spite of the Council's delight over the outcomes.....
St John’s CofE Primary School, Canterbury
See update on this item here.
In a previous article below, KCC describes in a policy document the circumstances under which they will replace the headteacher after a school is placed in Special Measures by OFSTED. Even as a news item describing this policy was being published in the Guardian, another headteacher was humiliated a few days before OFSTED arrived, being marched out of the school in front of pupils and staff by the Kent Principal Primary School Improvement Adviser, probably without notice. As OFSTED records in the recent Report that placed St John’s in Special Measures: "The headteacher was given a period of authorised absence just before the inspection" so it was not a disciplinary matter. However, the action ensured she was not in a position to defend a decision that was highly critical of her leadership. See below for more on this story.
Castle Community College was controversially formed from what was called a merger of the school of the same name and Walmer Science College in 2012, but was effectively the beneficiary of the closure of Walmer. Surprisingly, there was no change of name to indicate this was not just a take-over, which it became in practice, leaving many Walmer students and parents feeling bitter about the effective closure of their school. The Principal, Mr Philip Bunn joined Castle in 2011, shortly before it received an Outstanding OFSTED Report that June. In what is probably the fastest decline of any school in Kent, Mr Bunn has left the school during the Easter holidays without prior notice to parents, after the school achieved the 10th worst GCSE results in the country last summer, and is reported to have failed its most recent OFSTED Inspection. See below for more on this story........
Kent and Medway primary school parents have now received details of Reception Class allocations, or where appropriate those for Junior Schools, together with details of how to apply to go on a waiting list or to appeal. The parallel article for Medway parents is immediately below this one.
The headline figures are that:
- The number of children allocated places is up by 3.6% over 2013 to 17,097.
- The proportion of children offered a school named on their application form, at 95.34% is the second highest in the past four years and beyond.
- The number of children offered their first school, at 14516 is the highest ever, but the proportion has fallen slightly to 84.90%
- The number of disappointed children offered no school of their choice has risen to 796, but is a lower proportion of the total than in 2012 or 2011. .....
Reports on the national scene have been very grim in places, and Kent appears to be far better placed than many. In spite of the twin repeated observations on this website that (a) I do not give advice to families living outside Kent and Medway (also excluding London Boroughs that were part of Kent pre-1965) and (b) very few Primary Appeals can be successful because of Infant Class legislation (see below), I have had enquiries from desperate families across the country in: Bexley, Birmingham, Brighton, Bromley, Cornwall, Hertfordshire and Lancashire, but sadly am unable to assist.
Also below, I reproduce the statistics relating to appeal outcomes in Kent and Medway last year. Headline is that where Infant Class Legislation applies, just 18 out of 546 appeals were successful, although 132 families dropped out of the process before the appeals was heard, many after seeing the appeal paperwork.
Early problems are emerging at Tunbridge Wells, where the 23 extra places at the Wells Free School don't even compensate for last year's reduction of 30 at Claremont Primary (cut off distance just 160 yards), and the problems with Bishops Down reducing from an intake of 60 to one of 30, a decision of governors, but a situation badly handled by KCC. With 37 siblings applying, seven of these have not been offered places. I will have the full picture when I see the relevant data, from about the middle of May. A comment below refers to one parent's problem.
Once again this article only just makes it into the month, as I have been overwhelmed with concerns about primary school provision, and other news some of which is published or to come shortly.
Three new Kent academies have opened this month, two sponsored by Lilac Sky Academy Trust: Morehall Primary School in Folkestone and Richmond Primary School in Sittingbourne. The third is the converter academy, Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend federated with Gravesend Grammar School.
In Medway there are two new stand-alone converter academies, Bradfields Special School and Delce Junior School.
St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Dover has also applied to become an academy, presumably joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, which appears to be taking over all local Catholic schools.
Reculver CofE Primary School and St Mary of Charity CofE (Aided) Primary Schools are to be sponsored by the Diocese of Canterbury, with West Kingsdown CofE VC Primary School going to the Diocese of Rochester, as the churches take over an ever growing proportion of schools from KCC. Cuxton Community Junior School is to become an academy sponsored by the Primary First Trust, a multi academy group running academies in South East London. The troubled Warren Wood Community Primary School is to be taken over by the Greenacre Academy Trust. All of these schools have had a recent troubled history, some described in this website, which you can find using the search facility.
Free School News
No new developments this month, except to record the initial success of Kent’s Free Schools against recent national debate about the number of empty spaces in Free Schools........
Updated 2 May 2014, incorporating data from item above.
Medway Council appears 'delighted' with the continued fall in the percentage of children being offered their first choice Medway school, more than 2% down on 2013, and more than 6% down on three years ago. Unfortunately, the glowing and very positive Council Press Release is once again vague on the figures, the full release being produced below. Up until 2011, full percentages and comparisons with previous years were produced but, given the annual decline ever since, the Council appears to have made a policy decision to try and hide the reality of the problem. The portfolio holder for Children's Services is quoted as being"delighted to see so many families in Medway have been offered a place at one of their named schools and such a high number at their first choice school".
More worrying for too many parents is the inexorable rise in the number of children offered none of their choices and being allocated places by the Local Authority.
A major reason for the fall in first choices being offered is not, as often stated in the media, that parents are chasing the best schools, but rather they are trying any way to avoid those with the worst reputations, as explained in my more detailed analysis above. With the OFSTED outcomes of Medway primary schools continuing to plummet this is becoming more and more difficult year on year......
This is my second annual analysis of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries. You will find the 2013 figures here.
I now have official details of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries to take up secondary school places for 2013 entry and, as in previous years it gives a very different picture from the more lurid headlines on this issue. I have divided the cross border movement into four sections below: Medway; North West Kent; West Kent & South Kent. I don't have precise figures for which part of the county children live in so some of these figures are best estimates. The headline figures are: 602 (589 in 2013) children from out of Kent are taking up places in Kent secondary schools, with 441 (436) coming the other way, figures very similar to 2013 & 2012. For Medway it is 188 in and 111 out. But don't jump to conclusions. Read the following:...
First the good news: Kent's secondary school OFSTED outcomes are well above national averages, with 90% of non-selective schools inspected this year being classified Good or Outstanding.
Then there is the primary news. In Kent, there are five outstanding primary schools, but 12 inadequate, over three times the national average. Overall, no improvement on low standards.
And finally: Medway primary schools dreadful again; 8 schools have been awarded a lower grade than before, just two better, none Outstanding........
Children who take the Kent Test have their results standardised against a national sample of children who have not been coached or prepared in any way. The pass mark for 2014 entry was a minimum of 118 for each of the three papers, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and mathematics, together with an aggregate score of 360. This mark is set to select the top 21% of children by performance in Kent. By contrast, for the national sample a score of 113 is sufficient to become part of the top 21%.
So the pass mark is much higher than should be expected and I have carried out an analysis of marks on the three individual papers taken last September, to try and understand this, and have come to the following conclusions. An explanation of my analysis follows:
Conclusion One: Mathematics is by far the likeliest determinant of whether a child passes or fails the Kent Test, as children in general perform far better on their two reasoning tests, especially verbal reasoning, than on mathematics.
Conclusion Two: The only explanation I have as to why the pass mark has risen by five marks in each subject, over that expected of a child who has carried out no preparation, is because of coaching which is most effective in the two reasoning tests.
Conclusion Three: The Judd School is absolutely right to shift away from reasoning tests and focus on curriculum achievement.
Conclusion Four: The new Kent Test to be taken in September may well dilute the problem somewhat with the introduction of an element of multiple-choice English, but does not address the central issue
Conclusion Five: Medway’s system of “Local Standardisation” eliminates the problem of Conclusion One.
Conclusion Six: If you can afford it, get some good coaching or other preparation........
I have now received further data from Kent County Council and Medway Council regarding secondary school places for September. Now that children have been allocated to schools using the co-ordinated admission process, it is possible to see the pattern of oversubscription, and schools where there are too many empty spaces. This pattern will change significantly between now and September, because some children will secure places off waiting lists, over six hundred will win places on appeal, and others will go off to private schools, often where they have been disappointed by the school offered. I have previously published the general admission statistics for Kent and Medway. You can find last year's pattern to compare here.
I have tried to look at the key areas, notably: Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover and Folkestone, Medway, Sittingbourne, Thanet and West Kent, together with a list of those grammar schools with vacancies. However, first a look at the ten most popular grammar and non-selective schools, the most popular school having more than doubled its level of oversubscription in rising from eighth place last year. Yet many people will never have heard of it, let alone know where it is.
The Guardian newspaper yesterday published explosive details of a ‘KCC protocol for what happens to a Headteacher when their school receives a poor OFSTED Report'. It explains the punitive actions taken against such headteachers, starting with ‘a professional deep dive of the school’ if the OFSTED assessment falls by one or more Grades. This article also looks at the poor performance of Kent’s primary schools at OFSTED which is likely to have precipitated the policy.
If the school has Serious Weaknesses KCC generously ‘does not expect to replace the leadership or governance’ of the school.....
This article is being updated as fresh information is received. You will find the parallel article on Medway here.
Good news for 13,092 Kent families who have been allocated to their first preference secondary school, at 83.6 %, a slight dip on 2013, but otherwise higher than any other recent year, with, for example, the 2008 figure being just 70.5%. You will find previous outcomes here. Coupled with this is an overall fall in the number of children allocated places by Kent County Council over the same period. These are children who were offered none of their four choices of school. In 2008 there were 840 such children, but by 2014 this has fallen to just 404. Of course this is no consolation to the parents of those 404 children, but over the next few months, through waiting lists, re-allocation and school appeals I am sure the majority of those children who are still seeking an alternative school will find one.
You will find considerable free advice about appealing elsewhere on this website, together with details about my services.
The full set of data released by KCC, together with some older statistics I have retained is as follows: ........
This article is being updated as fresh information is received. You will find the parallel article on Kent here.
This is a fairly brief article on secondary transfer, as Medway Council is rather grudging in its release of information this year, possibly because the number of Medway children getting their first choice school has fallen sharply from 86.0% in 2013 (similar to previous years) to 81.2% for 2014 entry - claimed by Medway Council to be nearly 82% (more problems with arithmetic!). For 2013 admission the number of children allocated a school place by Medway Council (i.e. offered none of their choices) more than doubled over previous years to 3.2%; this year it has worsened further, increasing to over 4%. I also take the opportunity to look at the recently published Chatham Grammar School for Boys OFSTED Monitoring Inspection. The Medway press release in full reads:......
Kent County Council has submitted hard-hitting written evidence to the Government Select Committee on Education’s inquiry into Academies and Free Schools which began on Wednesday last week. It explores “the potential atomisation and fragmentation of the education system” – a very evocative image. The Guardian calls its views on Free Schools ‘withering’ and, with last week’s news about the culling of sixth form courses for financial reasons, whilst the Free School budget appears to have no bounds, KCC makes some very good points on this aspect. Perhaps the money that state schools would have to find to keep schools open for nine hours or even taking Public School Common Entrance Exams, would be better spent on reinstating foreign languages, economics, music and other important sixth form curriculum courses all dear to Mr Gove’s heart, that have bitten the dust.
Much of the evidence provided is concerned with the problem of accountability and what to do with underperforming or failing academies, taking as an exemplar the surely non-viable Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate, now down to fewer than 30% of its places filled this year.
Kent on Sunday published an article expanding on these issues, which you will find here, however, to pick up some of the issues in the article ........
Could Tree Tops Academy, a primary school in Maidstone run by the highly controversial Academies Enterprise Trust, be the worst school in England for the period of its existence over the past decade? And is it currently being run by the worst Academy Group chain? (although there is plenty of competition for both titles!).
It has now: failed four OFSTED Inspections in ten years including the most recent one in December; seen Monitoring Inspections record damning verdicts; come fourth lowest in the country in last summer’s Key Stage Two assessments; and been issued with a pre-warning letter by the Department for Education in November, warning that standards are low and likely to remain low. The letter makes clear who is responsible: It records “Financial issues have prevented the Principal from ensuring staff have the right resources to support their teaching. The sponsor has not acted to provide resources even temporarily to resolve this issue”.
UPDATE - 4th February
Molehill Copse Primary School
Molehill Copse Primary School, Federated with Tree Tops Academy, referred to below as one of just 36 primary schools in the country to receive a Pre Warning letter from the the Secretary of State for Education, who considered that "the standards of performance at Molehill Copse Primary School are unacceptably low and are likely to remain so". The letter was sent on 16th September 2013 and recorded the very low standards reached. The letter concluded that "the school is at risk of being judged as inadequate at its next inspection if teaching and pupils' progress do not improve significantly". Nearly three months later, on 3rd December, the school was inspected again, the Report, published today failing it on grounds of Serious Weaknesses. The Report does note there have been some improvements recently, and it appears that since the Pre-Warning letter, AET has belatedly realised it does need to do something about the school and has put in a new Management Board to bring about improvement. This is the third OFSTED failure for Molehill Copse, previously in 2006 and 2010, but it escaped with a "Satisfactory" Grade in January 2012, just in time to be taken over by AET, under whose leadership it has clearly sunk again.
Academies Enterprise Trust (slogan: to make our best better) is one of the largest academy groups in the country, and is running 10 of the 36 academies which have been sent pre-warning letters from the DfE warning about low standards, along with Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate which it was effectively running at the time of the letter (see below).......
The DfE GCSE/KS4 Performance tables for Kent and Medway give a wide range of statistics about schools in Kent and Medway which, combined with OFSTED reports, provide a very good understanding of their nature. The tables often show schools coming to the fore or disappointing, that are different to public perception. This is usually fairly accurate, as shown by popularity, but often lags a year or two behind the reality. For example, there is a case, as explained below, for The John Wallis Church of England Academy in Ashford to be regarded as the top school in Kent, for its students make the best progress between the ages of 11 and 16, no matter where their starting point. Other contenders are The Judd School, The Rochester Grammar School, and Bennett Memorial Diocesan School.
This article should be read in conjunction with my previous one, which gave the headline figures.
The tables also reveal, quite logically, a strong link between schools where there is persistent absence by students, and poor performance in examinations, a link far stronger than the number of Free School Meals.
The sections below only cover a selection of the measures used by the Department for Education to measure schools, but in my view some of the most important ones.....
Kent County Council is shortly to introduce an SEN and Disability Strategy seeking to improve and re-focus the provision of school places for children with Statements of Special Education Need (SSEN) and to raise standards of performance. This article looks at the Council's plans to increase the number of places in Special Schools and Specialist Resource Based Units by at least 275 children over the next four years. KCC has already published a Commissioning Plan that sets out its SEN provision needs, recognising an increase in the number of children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorders), SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Difficulties); and BESN (Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs) across the county, putting great pressure on current provision. This article is based on that plan, and was reproduced in a slightly abbreviated form in Kent on Sunday on 24th January.....
National Key Stage Four results are out today, with some fascinating insights into how schools are doing. As I observed on Radio Kent this morning, there are many other key factors, as well as examination performance and league tables that come together to make a good school, but these are key indicators of its health, provided they are read in context.
Headlines are: Once again both Kent and Medway secondary schools as a whole have performed above the national average of 60.6% for all children - Kent with 63.6%; Medway 60.9%; All three Leigh Academy Trust Schools feature in the top non-selective schools in Kent, headed up by Wilmington Academy, with 71% five A-Cs including English and maths; Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells as usual topped the non-selective list with 81%. Highest performing grammar school is Folkestone School for Girls, having few of the advantages of the other top performers, but still gaining 100% at GCSE, coming 10th highest state or independent school in the country on average grade scores. Of greatest concern are the nine grammar schools whose students each achieved fewer than 95% GCSE Grades A-C including English and maths; and the nine lowest performing non-selective schools, all academies, all having other concerns hanging over them, with Castle Community in Deal, lowest of all at 20%, 4th worst in the country.
Just one of the nine, Bishop of Rochester Academy, at 26%, is in Medway. More details follow: .......
Meridian TV, Item shown on 8th January
The main story, written earlier, follows this news box.
Meridian TV covered this story this evening. Unfortunately, but understandably, not all my points were broadcast, however the bottom line remains that in the past few months, five Medway Primary Schools have had Monitoring Inspections from OFSTED following previous poor outcomes, and in EVERY ONE of these Medway Council is strongly criticised for its failure to support the school properly. In two inspection reports Medway Council's action plan for improvement was found to be UNFIT FOR PURPOSE. In a third, "Advisers from the local authority did not do enough to check that the school’s new improvement plan was fit for purpose, even though inspectors had reported that plans were not sharply focused in June". Medway finished 6th from the bottom nationally out of 152 Local Authorities in the Key Stage 2 league tables (last in 2012 and in the bottom 10 for several preceding years) - in secondary schools not controlled by Medway Council they finished well above the national average, demonstrating it is not the calibre of children which is the problem at primary level; in the OFSTED Annual Report they came 151st, last but one nationally (and in the bottom 10 for several years previously). That is unchallengeable evidence there is a problem; it is not me making assertions. The broadcast reply from Medway Council's School Improvement Cabinet Member, Councillor Kelly Tolhurst, made no mention of this comprehensive demonstration of the failure of Medway Council to provide a proper education for its children, and certainly no attempt to refute it. Instead it comprised solely of a personal attack on me, complaining amongst other things that I have not worked with Medway's excellent School Improvement Team (!). Consistently with all other Medway Education spokespeople over too many years, there was not the slightest acknowledgement that there is anything wrong with Medway Council's management of its schools, although there was another brickbat suggesting that criticisms from me made it harder to recruit good teachers. Actually, there are many good teachers in Medway Primary Schools. What the evidence above shows is that they are not being properly supported by Medway Council; hardly a recommendation to come to Medway!.
I am obviously happy to discuss this evidence directly with Councillor Tolhurst or Medway Council, as they don't appear to have noticed it yet! You will find the broadcast here.
Radio Kent 15th January
Radio Kent decided to run the story today. I made the usual points, but having counted up Medway's OFSTED's since September added in a few points from this. Out of 15 Reports, 7 were "Good", 7 were "Requires Improvement", and one was "Special Measures". More importantly in my eyes, of the 15, just one improved its standard, four went down, a case of further decline, if that was possible. Mr O'Brien, Cabinet Member for Education, after failing to dismiss my evidence as "old news", although some of it was made public only today, then explained how wonderful Medway Council was. He referred to the excellent GCSE and A Level results, which I happily acknowledged below, pointing out that this only magnifies the stark difference with the primary schools for which Medway is responsible. He reeled off some of the "Good" OFSTED primary schools (details of all outcomes here), and referred pointedly to St Margaret's at Troy Town's improved result, failing to address my evidence that this was the only one which had improved! He even managed to bring his opposite number in the Labour Group in, who he claimed had added his support to Medway Council's actions at a cross party meeting the previous night. He pointedly failed in spite of repeated questioning, to tell the interviewer what Medway Council were actually doing to improve standards (I have made a couple of suggestions below), and otherwise completely failed to address any of my evidence, focusing instead on the wonderful job Medway Council was doing!
National Key Stage Two SATs have been published this week, producing predictable overall figures for Kent and Medway. The tables provide a wealth of statistics but of particular important are the number of children in each school with a Key Stage Two Level Four in Reading, Writing and mathematics.
Medway continues with its dreadful pattern of being at the foot of the National Table, a slight improvement (of which they have made much) to sixth from the bottom in the whole country out of 152 Local Authorities from the absolute bottom in 2012. Kent continues to be consistently just below average.
The paradox is that at KS4 or GCSE, the most recent results show that Medway with 61.2% of its students scoring 5 GCE Grade C’s including English and maths or better, against a national average of 58.8% and Kent at 61.3% are both well above the national averages. These pose the key question: why is it that, in both Kent and Medway, primary school outcomes are so poor overall, compared with very good progress in our secondary schools? This difference is equally strongly emphasised by looking at my previous article on the recent annual OFSTED Schools Report and in a recent article in Kent on Sunday.
One key difference....
Both Kent and Medway are at the bottom of the OFSTED national league table of Primary School Inspection outcomes, published in today's OFSTED Annual Report on Schools.
Out of 152 Local Authorities in the country, Kent came 133rd and Medway 151st. At Secondary level, Medway came an impressive 27th and Kent came 54th.
The Cabinet Member for Medway in an interview with Radio Kent this morning is still unable to accept there is a massive problem in Medway and found nothing wrong with Medway's position in the primary table or in the quality of education provided. Indeed he began by claiming that any problem lay with the previous Labour government. He went on to suggest that what problems there were had been solved by getting rid of the previous senior management education team in the Council. My earlier article, below, also looks at the situation in both Kent and Medway since the summer, showing that the situation in Medway has, if anything, got worse. Of course, Medway primary schools were the absolute bottom Local Authority in the country in the most recent published SAT Key Stage two results for the summer of 2012, having been in the bottom five in the previous two years.
In my article, I forecast that Medway would also be absolute bottom in the country for OFSTED outcomes, but they have been saved by a slight change in the statistics methodology, calculating by the number of children in each Authority rather than the number of schools! However, one place from the bottom is hardly an improvement........
As I have been very busy since September, my website postings have been fewer than normal. This one is designed to catch up on OFSTED news in Kent and Medway since then, before the OFSTED Annual Report for 2012-13 is published, expected to contain bad news yet again for Kent and Medway primary schools. For 2011-12, both Local Authorities were in the bottom 10 in the country for percentage of Good and Outstanding OFSTEDs, but Medway has fallen further, against a national trend of improvement, and on these figures I anticipate it to be at or very close to the bottom this time round. You will find a previous article and links to others here. Although Kent's outcomes remain low, there was considerable improvement on individual outcomes.
Since September, the news from Medway remains dreadful but, even though it is just a small sample, it shows a continuation of last year's shocking statistics. Even more worrying is the continued poor performance of those schools inspected last June as part of a focused inspection in Medway which ought to have been targeted by Medway for improvement. Kent also continues to be well below national averages, but more schools have improved their assessment as slipped back.
KENT & MEDWAY PRIMARY SCHOOL OFSTED
INSPECTION OUTCOMES SINCE SEPTEMBER 2013
|Most recent national||18%||60%||19%||2%|
I have prepared a variety of statistics relating to the Kent Test, published below along with my comments. I am awaiting some more data on individual scores and will publish another article when I receive these.
- 21% of children in the "selective areas" of Kent gained an automatic pass, the target figure. To achieve this the pass standard varied slightly from the two previous years, being fixed at a minimum aggregate score of 360 and at least 118 in each of the three papers. Another 5.8% of children in these areas of Kent secured grammar school assessments through Headteacher Assessment, target 5%.
- In spite of an increase of 183 in the number of out of county 11 plus passes, I estimate there will be no significant increase in last year's 335 ooc children taking up places in Kent grammar schools.
- Around 50% 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. Nearly 40% more girls than boys were found of grammar school ability by this route. This balances out the higher number of boys passing the test and gives very similar proportion of boys and girls passing overall.........
Updated 19 November with Out of Medway Results
I now have the main results of the Medway Review process, which you will find in the table below, along with the previous data from automatic passes. These produce four main conclusions:
1) the number of girls who were successful at Review is nearly twice the number of boys ( last year girls were MORE than twice as successful as boys).
2) parents of girls were nearly twice as likely to apply for a Review as parents of boys;
3) Very few out of Medway Review requests were successful;
4) For Medway children, both the automatic pass rate, at 23.2% and the Review pass rate at 2.0% of the total number of children in the age group are very close to the targets of 23.0% and 2.0%.
I have previously considered the data for the automatic pass figures here, and you can compare the data with the 2012 test figures here. I have also looked at reasons for the underperformance of boys here, but can now add to these a possible lack of confidence by parents of boys in pursuing grammar school places in Medway...........
Medway Council has now published its Report on school OFSTED results for the school year 2012-2013. It is obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into preparation of this Report, but it is unfortunate that the authors have not read my two previous articles on the subject from this website, as otherwise they would have been able to identify the crucial issue in Medway.
To assist them and any readers of the Report, the key finding is that just 39% of the primary schools under Medway’s control inspected this year achieved a Good or Outstanding OFSTED in this period. This is a lower figure than any other Local Authority in the country in 2011-12, the last year for which national results (follow link and go to bottom of PDF Report) are available. It reveals a dramatic fall from the previous year’s deplorable result of 54% of Medway Primary Schools inspected achieving a 'Good or Outstanding' standard, then the ninth worst Local Authority in the country. It is also in the opposite direction to the national trend, with primary school OFSTED results improving nationally over the same period (OFSTED interim figures, but we await the 2012-13 OFSTED annual report for confirmation).
Even if one assists by adding All Faith’s Children's Community School, the primary academy which was inspected this year (not under Medway's control but achieving a 'good' classification), the figure only rises to 41%. This is still below the lowest Local Authority nationally for 2011-12, which achieved 42%........
The Medway Test pass mark has been published. Successful candidates needed to have gained an aggregate score of 528 across the three tests. Although this is well up on the last few years, 2013 entry requiring an aggregate score of 509, the level of the difficulty of the test remains the same, the pass mark being set to achieve the target 23% of the population of Medway children being successful, a very similar total to last year. For a more detailed explanation of the process for determining the pass mark, go to here, although there is further explanation below. However, figures I have obtained from Medway Council show both a remarkable increase in the proportion of boys passing the test as explained below, accompanied by a leap in the number of Medway children taking the test (the explanation for the higher pass mark).
The comparative figures for 2014 and 2013 entry are as follows:
("Children in cohort" is the total number of Year 6 children in Medway, this figure being used as the base for the percentages quoted).
|Children in Cohort||Candidates||Successes||% successes||% of cohort|
|MEDWAY AUTOMATIC PASSES AUTUMN 2013|
|MEDWAY AUTOMATIC PASSES AUTUMN 2012|
|OUTSIDE MEDWAY AUTUMN 2013|
|OUTSIDE MEDWAY AUTUMN 2012|
Medway Reviews are being carried out this week, and will produce another 2% of Medway children ( around 59 in total) to be added to the pass list, along with others from outside. I will add these figures into the above table as soon as I receive them. I usually have the out of Medway figures broken down by Local Authority and will also publish these here, as soon as they are received. The 421 candidates from outside Medway will be predominantly from Kent and as they are self-selecting will have produced a higher pass rate than the Medway norm. I will also be publishing the figures for the Kent Test as soon as I receive them.
Regular visitors to this website will know that I have for some years been very unhappy at the way the Medway Tests appears to have discriminated against boys, but somehow, for 2014 entry, Medway Council appears to have addressed this concern. Indeed there are a number of changes in the patterns of entry and success in the Medway Test for Medway residents, the most significant being as follows:......
I have identified a financial scandal relating to academies, with Kent County Council being forced to pay more than £100 million to Private Finance Initiative (PFI) companies who are running schools that have become academies, over the length of their contracts. This is a figure that is likely to rise even further, and perhaps double as more schools convert. Academies are run independently of KCC and fully financed by government, many would say over generously, so it is bizarre that KCC still has to financially support their arrangements. I was interviewed on both Radio Kent and BBC SE about the issues.
None of what follows is a criticism of the schools themselves, who are the innocent parties in this mess.
The PFI money comes out of the pot available to KCC maintained schools, so every school that is not an academy contributes to this totally unjust payment. The size of the pot depends on the number of schools that are not academies and so shrinks every time one converts. However, the sum payable to the PFI companies remains constant (and is index linked) so each school remaining with KCC receives a smaller budget. To take it to the extreme, if all but a few schools became academies, as the government would like, those few would have no budget at all - the total school fund going to meet the PFI bill. This injustice can only increase the pressure on schools to change status, supporting a vicious circle that already operates because of other fixed costs faced by the county.
Medway Council has received a letter from OFSTED reporting back on its series of focused Inspections, accompanied by a survey of schools, last June. Whilst there are many positive comments there are, as I expected and forecast, areas of major concern exacerbated once again by Medway Council's refusal to acknowledge the reality.
First, the main positive: Medway Council's support for its primary schools is highly praised by the schools themselves and the letter cites many ways in which that support is delivered. However, this is balanced by the poor performance of those same primary schools in OFSTED inspections, so one has to ask how effective it has been. This may be summarised by a sentence in the letter that reads: "Medway’s drive to raise achievement is acknowledged by schools, but many headteachers and governors cannot readily articulate the local authority’s vision or strategy for improvement".
Unfortunately, and confusingly, the OFSTED summary figures provided combine primary and secondary, academy and Medway maintained school outcomes, enabling Medway Council to blur the conclusion. The following table spells out the reality:
Medway School & Academy
OFSTEDs Sep 2012 - July 2013
Shockingly and astonishingly, both the BBC website and Kent Online report that the main response from Medway Council is a statement from the Cabinet Member for Education in Medway, offering as an excuse that Medway is not responsible for its academies, so he is planning to seek clarification of who is responsible for standards at the academies from the Department for Education. How fortunate for the council that Chatham Grammar School for Boys, an academy, was the one school to fail its OFSTED on this occasion and so can be used as a helpful scapegoat (see below)! All this in a year when primary schools run by Medway Council achieved just 39% 'Good' or 'Outstanding' assessments, a figure which is worse than than the lowest performing Local Authority in the country last year at 42% and well below even last year's figure of 54% when Medway was the ninth worst performing Local Authority in the country. What is crystal clear from the statistics is that in Medway, as distinct from many other Local Authorities, it is the academies which have saved it from an even worse disaster so it is bizarre to imply that the problem is with the academies just because one has failed.
As explained below, and as expected, OFSTED has carried out an in depth inspection of the Authority, backed up by 10 school inspections following Medway’s appalling primary school OFSTED and KS2 record,.
Results of eight of these inspections have been released today, of which six are primary schools.
Of the six just one, All Faith’s Children’s Community School, has been classified as good, the other five: Fairview Community Primary School, Napier Community Primary School, Stoke Community School, Walderslade Primary School and Thames View Primary School all being found to require improvement.
All Faith’s is and has been an academy for the past year so Medway Council can hardly claim responsibility for its performance although it appears to be trying to. Not one of the six has improved its OFSTED Grade and Fairview has in fact declined from its previous “good” assessment. Medway’s press release (below) astonishingly regards this as a good outcome.
BBC South East covered this item, on SE News last night, available on i-player today (Friday).
The facts: In December, OFSTED published its annual report for 2011-12, showing that Medway came 9th from the bottom in the whole country for OFSTED performance in its primary schools, with only 54% of its primary school inspections being Good or Outstanding, with Kent 10th from bottom at 55%. I have kept records of OFSTED Reports for both Medway and Kent for 2012-13 to date, and these reveal that of Medway’s 34 published OFSTED Reports since September, just 14, or 41%, are now good or outstanding, a sharp further fall on the previous year’s appalling performance. If these figures had been for last year, Medway would have been placed botttom Local Authority in the whole country. OFSTED, in its explanation as to why it was Inspecting Medway made clear the reason was the poor performance of Medway primary schools in OFSTED inspections, with the latest results for each school shoiwng a total of fewer than two out of five were good or outstanding (consistent with my figures for the past year). By contrast, Kent, which publicly recognised its deficiencies, has seen its percentage of good or outstanding schools rise to 59%. Medway came bottom of the whole country in KS2 performance......
I have uncovered shocking statistics relating to the Medway Test for grammar school admission that show it both discriminates sharply against boys, as compared with girls, and also against younger children as against those born in the first half of the school year. Surely neither of these levels of discrimination should be acceptable to Medway Council or the families of the children so disadvantaged, especially younger boys who get caught both ways. ......
Medway OFSTED Inspection
I understand that OFSTED is very keen for more parents to contribute to their in depth Inspection of Medway schools. One way of doing this is through Parent View for any school, which you will find here.
A press release by OFSTED published today begins: "Teams of Ofsted inspectors have today begun a week of co-ordinated inspections in Medway to find out why the city has a disproportionate number of under-performing primary schools – and whether the picture is improving. Ofsted’s latest data from the 30 April 2013, found that almost 8,000 children are attending a primary school that, at its last inspection, was judged to be less than good. That’s 29 primary schools not providing the expected level of education to young children. This is much worse than the quality of primary schools across England and is an unacceptable situation". However, as regular browsers of this website will know, the picture is far worse than this with so many areas of the Department underperfoming or failing in their functions. Just six weeks ago, Councillor Les Wicks lost his job as Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services after having presided over this debacle for too many years, despite calls for him to go from all sides. Other recent lowlights of Medway Council (slogan: Serving You) performance include:
Dame Janet Primary Academy in Ramsgate, created on 1st December 2012 from the two predecessor schools, Dame Janet Infant & Junior Schools, has recently been the subject of a withering OFSTED Report. Last July I wrote in an article entitled “KCC hands over low performing schools to Academy Trusts”: “A classic example is Dame Janet Community Infant School in Ramsgate, placed in Special Measures by OFSTED in January. A recent follow up OFSTED inspection is highly critical describing progress as inadequate. KCC ought to have poured in resources to bring it back on track; instead OFSTED considers that KCC’s "Statement of Action has not had an impact on bringing about improvement". Never mind, the Report states that KCC is developing plans to change the status of the school, and it will become an academy sponsored by Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT)”. KCC therefore absolved themselves of responsibility for the failing school, along with four other Thanet primaries all handed over to TKAT. Sadly this abdication has, initially at least, only sent the school spiralling further downwards, showing that the academy movement is not a panacea for all Local Authority failings.....
There has been considerable discussion in the media in the last few days following reports claiming that children born in the early part of the school academic year, which runs from September to August, do the best in school, and in life. As a June birth I had a particular interest in this topic, especially when there has been reference to 11 plus testing also giving this advantage. Last year I collected the relevant figures for the Kent and Medway 11 plus tests for 2012 entry, and give these below, followed by my conclusions. However, in summary, where there are multiple choice tests which are age standardised, there is little difference. But when written work is also taken into account to the large extent that happens in the Medway test, then there is a real discrepancy between performance related to month of birth. This effect is compounded by the sharp difference in pass rate between boys and girls resulting in real discrimination against younger boys in the Medway test .
I have now revisited the matter and am shocked to find the 2011-2012 statistics for permanent exclusions of statemented children are even worse than before, especially with regard to primary schools. In fact of 48 permanent exclusions of primary aged children, 19, or 40% were statemented. This is a further alarming increase on the 10/34 or 29% of two years ago, a figure that Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council described as unacceptable. You may have heard my views on Radio Kent this morning (Wednesday).
The figures for secondary school exclusions are not quite so stark at 15 out of 155, or 10%, but still unacceptably high. compare this with Medway, where just one student in any school was permanently excluded!
I also look below at concerns over the high number of permanent exclusions in East Kent, and other issues........
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