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........
Medway Primary Schools
Use of the term 'Medway' in the search engine of this website produces far too many reports of other failures by Medway Council's Children and Adult Services Department, exemplified by Medway OFSTED letter: cause for concern; Medway Council Education and Children's Services; All Change at the Top; Medway Council OFSTED on Protection of Children - FAILED; and Medway Council Report on low KS2 standards in Primary Schools. The last of these analysed a Report by Medway Council into how to improve standards, including: "The first two of twelve recommendations make clear who the fall guys are in this analysis that contains not a single recommendation on how Medway Council might improve its own performance. Recommendation number one is that governors should have compulsory training. I do think it important that governors should be trained, providing this is of a high quality and relevant to the issues. I have carried out my own (very) small informal survey of Medway governors, asking them how they are supported to raise standards by Medway Council? The main response was blank faces. The second recommendation I regard as farcical, which is for all Medway Councillors to put themselves forward as school governors because: "they have experience in meeting procedure". A constant complaint of school headteachers is that they regularly fail to attract good school governors, and there are many reasons for this, but I have never detected any enthusiasm for recruiting local politicians and the Report's explanation that they be "encouraged to demonstrate effective practice in the skills and qualities required for good governance" hardly supplies any explanation as to how this will improve matters". One can speculate on how far this section of a totally bland report has been implemented! My previous article on OFSTED shows that since September 2013, standards have actually fallen further, if that is possible.
Medway's Cabinet Member also referred to the new Management Team in Medway's Directorate of Children and Adult Services (surely too wide a brief for anyone) starting to pave the way to improvement. The new Director, with a background in Children's Services, rather than education, has now been in post for a year and a half with her new team, so it is worrying that hard evidence of any such improvement is so hard to find.
There is an argument that Medway's standards are so low because of the high number of children with deprivation in the Borough. The classic response to this is the experience of Tower Hamlets which, in 1997 came last out of the 149 Local Authorities in the country, and was and remains one of the poorest in terms of deprivation, etc. Today's OFSTED Annual Report finds that every one of the Borough's 15 secondary schools are Good or Outstanding, whilst at Primary Level the figure was 87% of Tower Hamlet's children being taught in Good or Outstanding schools, placing it 23rd in the National league table. At Key Stage 2, every single Tower Hamlets primary school achieved the floor standard of 60% of children achieving Level 4 in both English and mathematics. In Medway 9 out of the 53 schools for which figures are provided failed to reach this standard. I am regularly asked, given that I have been making similar criticisms about Medway for too many years, what I would do to change things. The first thing that Tower Hamlets did was to acknowledge their failure and then work from there. One school, Manorfield Primary (672 pupils), went from Failing to Outstanding in just over a year! Sadly for Medway's children, such a transformation is unlikely to happen until and unless the Authority first admits it is similarly failing.
Kent Primary Schools
In Kent, one should be able to see the effect of the economically deprived coastal areas identified by OFSTED, with the Chief Inspector focusing on the problem of achievement in these areas. However by this criterion, whilst Thanet is unsurprisingly the lowest performing District bar one in Kent ( and just below Medway), other likely contenders are actually above the average for Kent. For those who have read previous articles on this website, it will come as no surprise that the worst performing district remains Maidstone, the county town, hardly a deprived area. I believe this underlines the reality that success at OFSTED depends critically on an ability and determination to raise standards, and suggest the low achievement factor of deprived coastal towns is not as significant as suggested.
OFSTED OUTCOMES FOR KENT AND MEDWAY
2012-2013, including some key districts
| || |
Total number of
|% Inadequate |
|National || ||18 ||60 ||19 || 2 |
| Kent || 162 ||2 || |
| 35 || 9 |
| Dover || 9 || 0 ||67 ||33 ||0 |
| Gravesham || 12 ||8 ||68 ||8 ||17 |
|Maidstone ||14 ||0 ||14 ||71 ||14 |
| Thanet || 8 ||0 ||38 ||50 ||13 |
| || || || || || |
| Medway || 35 || 6 ||34 ||46 ||14 |
The Cabinet Member for Education in Kent referred in the Radio Kent item to the county's significant improvement in moving up from 10th bottom to 18th from the bottom in today's Primary School OFSTED table. Sadly I don't find this impressive at all, especially as the Director of Education, Patrick Leeson, who came from OFSTED where he was a senior Director and has now been in post for two years, must know the reality. One of his first actions in post was to publish several policy documents, setting out Kent's education strategy, including "Bold Steps for Kent", including strategies and targets to improve OFSTED standards. The key targets were: "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: All special schools will be good or outstanding". I was amongst many who were impressed with the determination to improve. Sadly, 18 months later, the first two of these targets look as far away as ever (the Report rightly describes Kent's Special Schools as on of the county's strengths), with a surely unacceptable 15 Kent primary schools failing their OFSTED Inspection last year, many of which described elsewhere in this website, making truly horrific reading in terms of failure by headteachers, governors and the Kent County Council.
The one piece of good news in Kent is that of the 162 primary schools inspected, 67 improved their OFSTED rating, nearly twice the 35 whose performance declined, suggesting that over time we should see the improvement work through. Once again, a very different picture for Medway, with just 7 of its 35 primary schools improving, against six who got worse.
Kent and Medway Secondary Schools
I consider the two Authorities together, as the overwhelming majority of secondary schools are academies, independent of the Local Authority, or else Voluntary Aided or Foundation schools who have a great deal of independence. The above average success of these schools at OFSTED is in sharp contrast to the failures at primary school level which are mainly the responsibility of the Local Authorities. With Medway coming an impressive 27th, and Kent 54th these are both success stories. It has been argued that this is a function of the selective system, but the new OFSTED classification looking at outcomes in terms of the number of children affected rather than the number of schools, removes this factor making the results more impressive.
Certainly, at secondary level, the picture is far more complex, with the mixed economy of grammar and non-selective schools, academies, Foundation Schools and other schools run or overseen by KCC including faith schools and other non-religious Voluntary Aided schools. Across Kent and Medway, out of 32 secondary schools inspected in 2012-13, four (including 3 grammars) were outstanding, 15 (7 grammars) were Good, 10 (all non-selective) Required Improvement, and 3 (including one grammar) were Inadequate. All 4 Outstanding schools were Academies, as were 12 Good Schools, 7 Requiring Improvement and one of the Inadequate schools. Just four faith schools were inspected: 2 Good, one Requires Improvement and one Inadequate. The failed secondary schools were: Chatham Grammar School for Boys (Academy); Chaucer Technology School (Foundation); St Edmund's Catholic School (Voluntary Aided).
I can find no particular pattern of coastal schools underperforming the norm in the secondary sector, except that two of the historically most troubled troubled schools in Kent, Isle of Sheppey Academy and Marlowe Academy, have both been into Special Measures but have now climbed out to Improvement Required.