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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

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

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

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

The long suffering Marlowe Academy in  Ramsgate has announced today that it is merging with the Ellington and Hereson School to form a new school known as The Augustus Pugin Academy. This is effectively the closure of a school that has been mismanaged for years, and which has become non non-viable because of a lack of students, and is the third closure of a Kent secondary school in two years, following the Chaucer Technology School and the announced closure of the Oasis Hextable Academy last month. 

Marlowe Academy

In typical fashion, the current Trustees in an announcement greet the final admission of failure as “I am writing to inform you about an exciting new development for the students, staff and families of Marlowe Academy. In order to further develop the strong local alliance of schools known as the Coastal Academies Trust (CAT), Marlowe Academy and Ellington and Hereson School will be joining together from September 2015 to create a new school, with a proposed name of The Augustus Pugin Academy, working closely with Dane Court Grammar School and King Ethelbert’s school”. As regular browsers of this website know, I have followed the misfortunes of the academy for some years, and ‘Marlowe’ in the website search engine will yield a number of articles detailing its decline and the many attempts by Trustees to paper over the cracks, as once again exemplified by this announcement. You will find a good summary here.


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Update: Cut off scores for Dartford, Dartford Girls, Judd, Skinners, TGS, Rainham Mark Grammar and Rochester Grammar below.

Kent and Medway secondary allocation figures have been published today, both Kent and Medway figures showing a worrying fall in the proportion of children being awarded any of the four schools (six in Medway) on their secondary school application form, with 641 Kent children and 155 Medway children not getting any school they have chosen. This is a rise of 237 children in Kent and by a considerable margin the highest proportion in recent years, with 4.03% of the total being allocated places by KCC. In Medway, there has been an increase in Local Authority allocations in each of the past four years, taking the LA allocation figure to a record 5.0%. 

The four key factors in these worsening figures are likely to be: a further increase of 227 in the number of Kent pupils to be found places in our schools, with Medway increasing by 111 having come out of a sharp fall up to 2013; the increasing polarisation of choices, as families chase the more popular and successful schools, at the expense of some non-selective schools that are seeing numbers shrink as families seek to avoid them; an alarming surge in out of county applicants being offered places in Kent secondary schools, rising by 155 to 757;  and the removal of 300 places in Kent since the publication of the 2014 allocations following the closure of the Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury (which happened in 2014 after the allocation numbers were published) and the recently announced closure of Oasis Hextable Academy.      

Overall, 81% of both Kent and Medway children were awarded their first choice school, down on 2014. 296 fewer Kent pupils were awarded their first preference this year than in 2014, whereas in Medway it increased by 76, although at a slower rate than the overall increase in numbers.  These falls in proportion of first choices awarded probably accounted for by the above factors, but I will know further when I receive a reply to my FOI request for more detailed information in the next few weeks. 


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Sunday, 01 March 2015 17:55

Secondary Allocation Day: Monday

Monday March 2nd is National Secondary Schools Allocation day, although children in different Local Authorities receive results at different times. Kent and Medway parents who have registered online will have their decisions available after 4 p.m., with a paper copy and further details of what to do next being sent to all families to arrive on Tuesday.

Some other parts of England have different arrangements; for example, in Lincolnshire, parents who have applied online can get their results at 00.30 on Monday morning.

One Lincolnshire primary school has arranged for ITV 'Good Morning Britain' to "watch some of our  Year 6 parents and carers open their children’s secondary school offer letters live on air. Any Year 6 parents or carers who applied online are welcome to attend at any time from 5.45am through until 8.30am for a chance to be on the television. Hot breakfast will be provided for all those attending. Parents and carers attending must bring in their login details for the Lincolnshire County Council School Admissions Website. iPads will be provided for logging into the website to collect your offer letters. Please do not look at your offers online until you get to school!!!". I suspect they are being optimistic in asking parents not to look in advance!

I will be on air at 6.45  a.m. commenting on proceedings and giving my views on what they should do next if unsuccessful.......


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UPDATE 19 March in main article. 

The Consultation launched by the Interim Executive Board of Furness School and Kent County Council on a proposal to close the school ends on 25th March. I have written several articles on this highly flawed and controversial proposal previously, but this one looks at my perspective on the current situation. 

The first of three main reasons being put forward for the closure of this special school for high functioning children suffering from Autistic Spectrum Disorder is that parents have asked the Council to develop mainstream provision rather than further provision in Special schools. This assertion  appears now to have been discredited for KCC has been unable to provide evidence for the claim and KCC’s Corporate Director of Education has now acknowledged that there is well-evidenced increased demand for Special School places.

The key problem that parents have had responding to the Consultation is the consistent failure of KCC to answer the central questions about the proposal to close. I have the same frustration and formally requested the answers to 11 questions from Mr Leeson, questions that are also being asked by parents at meetings and in writing. Sadly, his reply to me only answered three of these. The ‘Kent On Sunday’ newspaper also asked the same questions with little success. What is the point of a Consultation where the key facts are being hidden from parents, and can it really be regarded as legitimate?

This rather lengthy article explores the powerful case for keeping the Furness School open, albeit under a different name, and yet again exposes the failures of KCC over its mismanagement of the whole issue………


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Kent primary schools have overall had an excellent first half of the year with regard to OFSTED Inspections, with 5 schools Outstanding, 15 Good, 8 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures. More importantly, of the 28 schools inspected an impressive 13 have improved their rating, with just 3 declining. One school, Warden House Primary in Deal has leapt two grades to Outstanding.

Warden House

Warden House Primary School

Sadly, Medway continues to limp along at the bottom, although with just 6 schools inspected this is too small a sample to draw any hard conclusions. Whilst 4 Good, 1 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures sounds reasonable, and is above the national average, not one of these have improved their assessment and 2 have got worse.....


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Monday, 26 January 2015 16:22

Kent Test Results 2014: Girls on top

As in previous years, I have prepared a variety of statistics relating to the Kent Test, published below along with my comments. 

Headlines:

  • Overall, 28% of girls and 25% of boys across Kent were assessed as of grammar school standard, a considerable shift in favour of girls' success over previous years, when the two figures have been very similar. 
  • 20.6% of children in the "selective areas" of Kent gained an automatic pass, close to the target figure of 21%. The new Kent Test for 2014 saw considerable change in the pattern of passes, with children required to reach a standardised score of 106 in each of the three assessments of reasoning, English and maths, with an aggregate score of 320. You will find further details here. More girls than boys took the test and more girls than boys passed. The figures for 2014 entry showed a bias towards boys success in the test, but the introduction of English has tilted it the other way. 
  •  Another 6.2% of children, attending linked primary schools in these areas of Kent, secured selective assessments through Headteacher Assessment, target 4%.
  • 49% % of Head Teacher Assessments were successful. As usual, the proportion of referrals and the percentage of passes is highest in the East and lowest in the West of Kent. Also as in previous years, many more girls than boys were found of grammar school ability by this route. With the girls also coming out on top in automatic passes, there is a fall of 82 in the number of boys  passing in spite of an increase of 165 in the number of boys attending  Kent state maintained schools in Year 6, and a rise of  141 girls passing against a decrease of 114 in the number of girls in Year 6. 

Note: All these statistics come with a health warning, as the number of children in private schools is not always known (possibly 6% across the county), and such schools are often omitted from statistics.


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Tuesday, 24 February 2015 13:36

Furness School closure update

“We are scared"

Radio Kent interview with the parent of a child living in Folkestone who has only been offered one appropriate school for her son if the closure of Furness School goes ahead

a private Boarding School in Shropshire!

 Sadly, this family is not alone, for if Furness Special School closes, there is little alternative appropriate  provision for the high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children for whom the redesignated school was set up in September, just six months ago. 

Breaking News (Wednesday afternoon)
 1) I have just received a letter from Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, following an informal KCC Cabinet Meeting on Monday. This makes clear that the closure of Furness School is not a foregone conclusion and that other avenues are to be explored, as there was a general view that  there were many good reasons to try and retain such specialist provision. It was agreed that this view should be articulated at any public meeting.
 
2) The comment at the foot of this column suggests that Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education, who presumably was present at the above informal Cabinet meeting, is advising parents they do  NOT need to look at schools or accept offers until the end of the Consultation. Many parents are indeed scared, these are families who have had to fight for proper provision for their children from an early age, not just in education, and are often highly stressed. Whilst this may be of considerable comfort it cannot take away the uncertainty. One parent who has visited a private school this week has been told they have to accept the place that has been offered, the next day or it will be lost. What should they do? I am not sure how I could answer them.   

 

The article continued (before the above items arrived)....

This article is an update on my previous articles about the proposed closure of Furness School following gross mismanagement by those responsible for the school and its children.  The school currently has just 31 pupils out of a capacity of 60, of whom 20 are high functioning ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) children who have joined the school following the bright future heralded last June in its redesignation as a school to cater specifically for their condition. 

A meeting for the public and parents about the proposed closure took place last night; summary below.......


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Wednesday, 18 February 2015 22:14

Closure of Oasis Hextable Academy is announced

UPDATED: 20th February 2015

The Oasis Academy Trust has agreed with government that it can close the Oasis Hextable Academy because the school is failing to attract numbers. The reason it is failing to attract numbers is that the two neighbouring and competing schools, Wilmington Academy and Longfield Academy to the north and east have been turned round from being very unpopular, and have now become two of the most oversubscribed schools in the county.

In addition, Orchards Academy in Swanley to the south, once the failing Swanley Technology School, has also improved with steadily rising numbers, with Knole Academy further south in Sevenoaks, picking up some aspiring families who can’t get their children into Wilmington or Longfield.

Oasis Hextable

Sadly, Oasis Hextable, for which I used to do admission appeals regularly a few years ago, has gone the other way, certainly in terms of parental perception. I now talk with families for whom Oasis is a last or no choice, across a patch where nearly every other school is full, apart from one with which Oasis vies in unpopularity. There was an upturn in numbers for the 2014 entry, with the school being taken out of Special Measures when a “Requires Improvement” assessment  in 2013 was achieved  after Alan Brooks, Executive Head of Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, had overseen major improvements at the school. Unfortunately for the Hextable children, he left after a year, for Oasis to take over. It appears that 2015 admissions due out on 2nd March, will offer no solace.

Kent County Council has made clear its view that the school should not be closed, as the increase in population over the next few years will certainly increase demand for places across the District. However, KCC has no voice in the decision, nor in the future of the site, with the premises on a 125 year lease to Oasis, who could decide to use them for different purposes........


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