For whatever reason, the number of OFSTED Inspections in both Kent and Medway is sharply down in the first five months of the school year.
In Kent in spite of the decrease in numbers, outcomes have improved on last years gratifying performance, with a remarkable 16 of the 22 primary schools inspected improving their Grade, including three East Kent schools up to Outstanding: Kingsdown & Ringwould; St Mildred’s Infant, Broadstairs; and St Thomas Catholic, Canterbury.
Another twelve improved from Requires Improvement to Good, Molehill Primary Academy at last escaping Special Measures under its new sponsor, Leigh Academy Trust. Sadly, two have been found inadequate, St Nicholas CofE, New Romney for the second consecutive time, and Brenzett CofE disappointingly both being run by KCC.
In Medway there were just five Primary Inspections, four Good, although with two improvements - St Helen’s CofE, Cliffe and Hoo St Werburgh - up from RI, together with Oaklands Primary just securing RI, with Medway Council still trying to find a magic answer to improve its appalling standards overall.
At secondary level, there were just four full inspections, all in Kent, as the schism between grammar and non-selective OFSTED assessments widens, driven by an increased emphasis on GCSE performance, this being exacerbated by government decisions to scale down the importance of vocational education and opportunities to motivate students by discounting repeat results. Wilmington Grammar School for Girls was up one category to Outstanding, with both Canterbury Academy and Knole Academy Requiring Improvement, the latter controversially down from Good, but Swadelands secondary crashing from Good to Special Measures again.
You will find more details below including commentary on some individual schools, and a full table summarising these outcomes at the foot of this article. There are a full set of OFSTED Results dating back to 2010 for Kent primaries here, for Medway here; for Kent secondaries here; and for Medway secondaries here.
Kent County Council should feel very pleased with the overall performance of its primary schools and sharply rising trend in Good and Outstanding schools. All three academies inspected improved their rating along with Tiger Free school in Maidstone. The turnaround at Molehill Primary Academy after decades of underperformance and poor management is especially welcome, the dreadful saga of its previous sufferings being covered extensively elsewhere. Although there are still too many schools rated inadequate under previous inspections, six of the seven who had Monitoring Inspections in this period received good reports, apart from St John’s CofE Canterbury, below. However, St Nicholas CofE, New Romney, has been found Inadequate for the second consecutive time - Requiring Significant Improvement, along with Brenzett placed in Special Measures, I have commented further on Drapers Mill Primary Academy, St Nicholas and St John’s, Canterbury, below. It is no coincidence that these three schools, along with three others already in Special Measures and the disgraced Whitehill Primary are all in the bottom ten in the county for KS2 results in 2015, out of 425 schools.
Balfour Infant and Junior Schools in Medway, two of the four Medway schools rated Good, are joining nearly half of all Medway primaries by becoming academies. Medway Council has brought in consultant Headteachers from London Boroughs, all from Outstanding schools and National Leaders of Education to work with struggling primary schools in a desperate attempt to improve standards from being the worst in the country, as I have described previously. However, a recent meeting of Headteachers addressed by Barbara Peacock, Director of Children and Adult Services (with education only part of her brief indicating its priority!) was taken aback when she placed all the blame for poor standards on them. Hardly motivational and not well received! Previously her Cabinet Member for Education, Mike O’Brien had placed the blame on governors, singling out Hempstead Junior School where he has now lost three Chairmen, and a large number of other governors – see separate article. Not a word of criticism for the Inadequate School Improvement section or its recycled consultants, or even the Authority’s own senior officers who have final responsibility. The recent OFSTED Report on Oaklands Primary, finding that it Requires Improvement, underlines yet again the Council’s inadequacies: "The new headteacher has a clear vision of how he wants to improve the school. The local authority, governors, senior leaders, some staff and parents think that this is a change for the better. However, overall staff and parents have very mixed views about whether the school is moving in the right direction……Leaders value the considerable support provided by the local authority. This has helped to secure improvements in the early years provision and begun to build the capacity of leaders who are responsible for particular areas of the school. However, the local authority has not challenged leaders well enough to ensure that the school’s checks and evaluations of its own performance are backed up with secure evidence that improvements are consistent, embedded and impacting on pupils’ outcomes. Consequently, both school leaders and the local authority think the school is further forward than it is”. Yet another indictment of the role of Medway Council.
At secondary level, KCC will be disappointed that Swadelands School, one of its few remaining secondaries, which moved out of Inadequate to RI in 2010, then up to Good two years later following hard work and investment by all involved, has now crashed two levels to be placed in Special Measures, especially given the county's apparent surprise at the decision – see quote below. It is now one of five Local Authority schools to suffer this fate since 2013, the others being: Charles Dickens; Chaucer Technology College (now closed); The North; and St Edmund’s Catholic. Yet another, Pent Valley, is to close because of poor standards, with The Community College Whitstable having lost its headteacher for the same reasons. Given that Kent County Council will shortly have responsibility for less than a fifth of the 99 secondary schools in the county after several further academy conversions go through, one has to ask serious questions about its current ability to run secondary schools in direct contrast to Kent's successful primary sector, a complete reversal of the picture five years ago. On Swadelands, OFSTED Reports that: “Senior leaders, governors and the local authority have all held an unrealistic view of the effectiveness of the school. Leaders’ understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the school were neither accurate nor insightful enough. Improvements noted at the last inspection have not been sustained. Since that time, standards at the school have fallen considerably” also underlining the weakness at KCC's Secondary Advisory Service, whose Head of Standards, Nigel Blackburn, has recently retired.
The high profile Knole Academy in Sevenoaks suffered a shock when OFSTED downgraded it to Requires Improvement, and lodged an official complaint about the decision, although two months on there is no word of the outcome. The school recently received publicity about the head’s salary of £176,000 reportedly the eighth highest in the country.
Draper’s Mill Primary Academy Draper’s Mills became an academy in June 2012, having had a disastrous history under KCC previously, but the sponsors managed to take it to down a new low as seen in its OFSTED Report of June 2014 and subsequently. I have written about the academy and its sponsors TKAT a number of times previously and so it was pleasing to see that, after yet another churn of staff, the Monitoring Report of September, and more recently the full inspection of January which found the school up to Requires Improvement, TKAT have at last made the necessary investment to improve standards somewhat.
However, the delay in improvement, as well as damaging the futures of the pupils passing through has brought its own penalty. Draper’s Mills unpopularity has meant it is one of the very few Thanet primaries with vacancies and so a high proportion of new arrivals are placed there with little choice of alternatives. So OFSTED reports: The academy serves a community with above-average levels of deprivation; The proportion of disadvantaged pupils, those eligible for the pupil premium (additional funding from the government for those looked after by the local authority or eligible for free school meals), is well above average; The proportion of pupils from Black and minority ethnic households is well above average; The proportion of pupils with English as an additional language is also well above average. It is nearly half of the school population; A higher than average proportion of pupils leave the academy during each school year. Vacant places are quickly taken up by new arrivals to the area or the United Kingdom; The proportion of disabled pupils and those with special educational needs is above the national average. Frankly, I don’t know what can be done to help the school by sharing new arrivals round as others are full, but unless there is a solution forthcoming, Draper’s Mills may shortly become another example of the increase in ghettoisation which threatens such schools.
St John’s Primary, Canterbury I have covered the travails of this unhappy school a number of times previously: from the catastrophic enforced amalgamation of two incompatible schools in 2012 in unsuitable buildings to produce a school which now has the highest level of deprivation amongst its pupils of any school in the county; under a headteacher with no previous leadership experience; through her outrageous humiliation when marched out of the school publicly in what proved an illegal suspension by KCC's then Senior Primary School Improvement Officer; through critical OFSTED's and KS2 outcomes, having the second lowest SAT results in the county for two of its three years of existence. Unfortunately, the illegal removal of the head has meant that the problems could not be properly tackled, and the school has limped on, now being on its fifth Monitoring Inspection in November. Sadly for the children, this found the school was NOT Taking Effective Action to Remove Special Measures. The headteacher remains in post, having been firmly reinstated following KCC’s unacceptable actions. The Report states along other serious criticisms: “Over time, the school has received a great deal of support from the local authority, including training for staff, leaders and subject leaders. The headteacher has also received leadership coaching from another headteacher. Initially, it has often appeared as if this support has been received well and is beginning to make a positive difference. The local authority has then attempted to draw back to let the school take a stronger role in driving improvements. However, leaders have not ensured that initial improvements following training and coaching have been maintained and become embedded in everyday school practice. For example, training on strategies to improve the teaching of mathematics initially resulted in changes in teaching strategies. However, on a recent review of mathematics teaching, few if any of these strategies were seen in practice. As a result, the support provided has sometimes had limited impact”. Hardly a recipe for success and the Report also notes: “The local authority and the diocese are working together to ensure that, if the school becomes an academy, suitably strong sponsorship arrangements will be in place”, but clearly strong, urgent, but appropriate action needs to be taken to bring this debacle to an end. The legacy of the now departed Senior Kent Adviser lives on in this and other schools, and the children continue to suffer. King’s Farm Primary in Gravesend another of his casualties is starting to recover (it can take a long time) and has just been found to be taking Effective Action to Remove Special Measures for the second time, one of the six positive Monitoring Inspection Reports.
St Nicholas CofE, New Romney and Brenzett Primary
Following the first Monitoring Inspection after the school was previously found Inadequate with Serious Weaknesses in 2014, the headteacher departed and was replaced by an Interim head. A new permanent headteacher has now been appointed, and appears to be making progress according to the Report, although working from a very low base as OFSTED records: “The school has been through a very turbulent and unsettled period. Numerous changes in staffing and poor staff morale have severely hindered improvements in teaching and learning since the previous inspection; Until recently, inaccurate and unreliable information about pupils’ progress has limited teachers’ and leaders’ efforts to check that pupils are learning quickly enough”, which saw the school fall to 46% Level 4 SATs in 2015, seventh worst in Kent. However, in the OFSTED Report: The new leadership team demonstrates the capacity to secure necessary improvements in teaching and learning. They have halted the decline in pupils’ progress and reduced the amount of inadequate teaching in the school. The headteacher has established an orderly, purposeful and positive ethos in the school. Pupils speak enthusiastically about improvements since the headteacher’s appointment, particularly in behaviour”, but sadly KS2 results and the start of the improvement were too low and too late for OFSTED.
Brenzett Primary also saw its headteacher depart in September, yet another school currently being run by an Interim Head. In terms of KS2 results, its Special Measures decision is a bit of surprise, given the high 67% Level 4's at Key Stage 2 in 2015, although presumably KCC sensed an issue seen by the sudden departure of the previous headteacher last summer, and the OFSTED Report makes robust criticisms of leadership, teaching and governance.
|OFSTED Performance of Kent and Medway Schools: Sep 15-Jan 16 |
| ||Outstanding ||Good || |
|Inadequate ||Total ||Up ||Down |
|Kent Primary || 3 ||14 || 3 || 2 ||22 || 16 || 1 |
| % ||14 || 64 || 14 || 9 || || 73 || 5 |
| 0 || 2 || 2 || 0 ||4 || 4 || 0 |
| Medway || 0 || 4 || 1 || 0 || 5 || 2 || 0 |
| 9 || 62 || 26 || 4 || || || |
| Kent Secondary || 1 || 0 || 2 || 1 || 4 || 1 || 3 |