Kent Primary Schools
Although nationally. as can be seen from the figures at the foot of the table, performance is rising, there is no doubt that Kent in particular is rising considerably faster. In particular, the disgraceful picture of 18 Kent primary schools failing their OFSTED in 2013/14 has been hopefully blotted out, although that is still a lot of schools to turn round.
Since March, another five schools have been found Outstanding with St Martin’s CofE, (Folkestone) and Sundridge and Brasted CofE VC taking pride of place (both up TWO levels from Requires Improvement).
The other three are both up from Good: Offham; St John's CofE, Maidstone; and St Margaret’s at Cliffe. Other schools to have improved two levels, all from a previous Inadequate rating are Churchill (Hawkinge); Petham (taken out of KCC control by the Village Academy Trust); Shoreham Village; Staplehurst; and Westlands Primary Academy. This makes a total of 13 (15%) Outstanding and 57 (65%) Good out of the 88 in the year, well above the most recent national percentages published, for January-March 2015, of 9% and 62% respectively.
The most worrying failure was that of Chantry Primary in Gravesend, then run by the Meopham Community Primary Academy Trust, itself in crisis, placed in Special Measures and subject to a closure notice by the DfE if standards do not improve.
Looking at Kent on a District by District basis, Dover has the best performance over the year, with five schools rated Good, the sixth, St Margaret’s at Cliffe, Outstanding. Malling is similar (but with one fewer school inspected, and in a much leafier part of the county!).
Maidstone primary schools, which I have castigated in previous years as having the worst overall OFSTED performance in the county appear now to be on the up, helped by the three failing AET academies having been taken over by the much more successful Leigh Academy Group. Two schools, Barming and Molehill Copse (ex-AET) are still working to escape the Special Measures trap.
However, the most problematic district by far is Gravesham. Of the 27 primary schools, three are currently failed. One of these is Chantry only failed after it became an academy mismanaged by Meopham Primary Community Trust which has also failed with Istead Rise, still in SM after four inadequate monitoring reports. The third, Kings Farm was ruined by being handed over by KCC to be managed by an Academy Trust (but is now on the way back under new management). Three more have escaped Special Measures by becoming academies (when the category is cancelled), awaiting their first OFSTED under new management. Five others Require Improvement, three of whom have declined from Good. This presents particular problems for families moving into the Borough, as there are currently no places in any school north of the A2, so families are directed to Istead Rise.
Medway Primary Schools
At last, a suggestion that Medway has realised it has to do something about its dreadful record in OFSTED assessments although, as the Cabinet Member considers responsibility for school performance lies with governors, it is clearly the schools themselves, not the Council, that are starting to deliver.
Bligh Infants joins Cliffe Woods and The Pilgrim, both earlier in the year as Outstanding, all up from Good, the largest number I can recall in one year.
All Hallows, now an academy with the Sir Joseph Williams Trust is the only school to improve its standards by two levels, to Good. Oasis Skinner Street Academy joined Temple Mill in Special Measures, also receiving a warning of closure if standards did not improve.
In one sense, government threats to academise all schools are working, in that Kent, and to a lesser extent Medway Councils have responded, and standards are improving strongly. Surely, if Councils are showing they can run schools properly there is no point in confiscating the schools and handing them over to central government control, when there is no objective evidence whatever that academies work best. You will find links to this evidence available on the Anti Academy Alliance website and in a recent report by the NFER, etc. Kent in particular has had its fair share of disastrous conversions to academy status. The reality is that good leadership is the central feature for a good school whatever its status, and if Kent’s awakening from its previous complacency continues, it should be allowed to get on with the job.
One caveat. I have featured elsewhere on this website the large number of primary headteachers who have been removed to bring this improvement about, and also the attrition rate of teachers leaving the profession under the pressure to improve. Some good heads have been removed, others were rightly replaced, but the ruthless manner KCC officers adopted to bring this about has caused considerable damage to the morale of primary headteachers which will take years to repair. The shortfall is now being hidden by a thinner spread of ‘super’ heads who are managing multiple schools, but how long will this supply last. Many experts fear that gaps caused by the departure of so many often dedicated and able teachers with their vocational ambitions in ruins, will be impossible to fill in the future.
|Kent & Medway Primary OFSTED Outcomes 2014/15|
Kent FS &