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Thursday, 23 January 2014 00:00

Kent and Medway GCSE/Key Stage Four results

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.

Castle

Just one of the nine, Bishop of Rochester Academy, at 26%, is in Medway. More details follow: .......

Wilmington Academy was placed in Special Measures in 2009 under its previous leadership, but seen its performance rise sharply each years, so that for 2013 it is even ahead of its high performing stablemates; Longfield Academy - 66%; and Leigh Academy - 63%. Not surprisingly, these are three of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent.

Other high performing non-selectives are: St Simon Stock Catholic in Maidstone - 73%; Hillview Girls in Tonbridge - 69%; St Gregory's Catholic, TW - 69%; St John's Catholic in Gravesend - 66% (under new management after three difficult years); Rainham School for Girls at 65%; and Northfleet School for Girls with 64%.

Surprisingly just six grammar schools achieved 100%. As well as Folkestone, these were: Invicta Grammar (13th nationally); Tonbridge Grammar (20th); The Skinners School (23rd); Maidstone Grammar School for Girls (35th) and Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, Rochester (45th), a lower figure than normal. It is common for grammar schools to have a couple of children who don't perform for some reason such as illness, and many of the usual high performers missed out slightly because of this. My rule of thumb is that all grammar schools should achieve an average of 98% % A-Cs, but very occasionally may hit a glitch or group of unfortunates, and so occasionally fall as low as 95%.

With over 60% of Kent children achieving the benchmark of 5 A-Cs including English and maths, I can see no excuse for any grammar school to score less than 95%, so the lowest performer, Simon Langton Boys Grammar in Canterbury at 91% is particularly woeful, and with over 95% just once in the past four years, has let an awful lot of boys down who expected a bright future at grammar school. Perhaps this is the real reason behind its policy of giving priority to admitting brighter students! Other low performers are: 92% - Borden and Dover Boys (OFSTED judged it requiring improvement recently); 93% - Sir Roger Manwood's; 94% Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School, Ramsgate; Cranbrook School; and Dane Court Grammar School. Some prestigious schools here! Chatham Grammar School for Boys, England's second grammar school to be placed in Special Measures, at 96% has performed better than all this group!

One school which I have criticised previously, Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury, has had turmoil and dire results for many years, and had Oasis Academy Trust pull out of taking it over, probably as they could not see how to resolve the problems. It was then supported by Swale Academy Trust, who took responsibility for it in July  and has now turned in by far its best results for many years - at 51%. Couple this with the greatly improved results at Meopham School, already sponsored by Swale Trust, and this promises well for the future

However, those results were never as low as Castle Community College, at 20% fourth lowest in the country. This will be a bitter pill for parents and pupils at the former Walmer Science College (32%), who fought hard but unsuccessfully to stop their school being swallowed up by Castle an OFSTED Outstanding school in 2011, with results never spectacular, but never as low as this. One wonders if the school has got so absorbed in the takeover and its wonderful new buildings, that they took their eye off the boil.

Next comes Bishop of Rochester Academy - 15th lowest in the country at 26%, another school with a troubled history. Whilst some of the high performers such as the Leigh group are academies, so also are two thirds of the bottom 15. Counting up and 21st from the bottom is Ebbsfleet Academy- 28%, surely some way from the team work ethos praised on Radio Kent this morning as one of the keys for success, as explained in previous articles. At the same level is the notorious Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate, suffering as families avoid it, now with two thirds of its Year Seven places vacant, and the previous headteacher left midterm before Christmas. Parents do take note of league table performance as the other low scorers, Spires Academy 31%; and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook, and Hextable School both at 34% confirm, all with a large number of empty desks in Year Seven, the last two of these with over 50% going begging. All these seven schools are academies.

My overall impression is that with Kent secondary schools achieving well above national averages for each of the past four years, and Medway above average for three of them, the contrast with the disappointing primary results in Kent and the appalling ones in Medway on which they have to build, shows signs of optimism. Sadly, a small rump of schools, most now converted to academies without seeing any of the trumpeted improvements that government expected, and who appear at the basement year after year, stops the secondary sector as a whole from getting even better.

Last modified on Sunday, 27 April 2014 17:43

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