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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

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

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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

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!.......


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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. 

My information pages on academies and Academy Groups provide a comprehensive list of all academies open or in development across Kent and Medway. 

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.......


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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.....


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 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......


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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.

Kings Farm

 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.". 

However:  

"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".......


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Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

The Conundrum of Kent Test scores solved

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. .....


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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.

Sevenoaks

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. 


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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......


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