Supporting Families
  • banner11
  • banner6
  • banner3
  • banner12
  • banner9
  • banner4
  • banner7
  • banner2
  • banner8
  • banner13
Displaying items by tag: Tunbridge Wells - Kent Independent Education Advice
Update 7 November
This article triggered a wider and more general look at pressures on school places across Kent and Medway on BBC SE this evening 

The problems in both areas have been caused by the failure of appropriate sponsors to come forward to adopt planned new schools. This is happening because of the seriously flawed government Free Schools process, which is now required to deliver all new schools.

Large temporary or permanent expansions of other local schools in these two Districts are now necessary to meet the shortfalls, which will inevitably cause a change of character in them, if indeed they give approval. The independence of academies means that KCC has no power to force them to take additional children, although it is legally responsible for the provision of sufficient places!  

Neither District had a single vacancy on allocation of places last March, in spite of Thanet schools managing to creating an additional 71 places to meet requirements, with a further estimated 183 places needed for 2018. New plans for a proposed Free School include a possible temporary base in Deal, 16 miles along the coast from 2019, if other places cannot be found locally for that year.  

In Tunbridge Wells, 190 temporary places have been proposed for 2018 if agreed by the schools concerned, with ongoing discussions for subsequent years. Unfortunately, the site for a proposed new Free School in TW has now been lost, and a replacement cannot be delivered until at least 2021, so the future looks very unclear.  

I expand on the proposals for the two Districts below….

Published in News and Comments

bishops down

The long drawn out saga of Bishops Down Primary School in Tunbridge Wells continues and appears to be inching towards a permanent solution after KCC tried to force a reduction in its intake numbers until a parent took them to the Schools Adjudicator in 2012, who in August ruled KCC was in the wrong. The Adjudicator further criticised KCC heavily for: failing to provide reliable information on admissions arrangements at schools in Tunbridge Wells from year to year; failing to consult parents on changes; and for using practices and criteria to decide Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) that were not clear, consistent or objective. KCC tried to wriggle out of the instruction to expand permanently over the next year, but during the course of 2013 has now come to the conclusion that the expansion is the right way to go......

Published in Peter's Blog
Thursday, 08 November 2012 22:58

What a media day

Every now and then I have a media storm, but never one like the last two days (a little licence in the title). It began on Wednesday morning when I was invited to comment on Radio Kent about claims by the headteacher of Bromstone Primary School in Thanet that some headteachers were going out of their way to discourage children with a poor reputation and some with Special Education Needs  from applying to their schools. Although I often disagree with him, he is absolutely right in this case. I have talked with parents of children with SEN who have visited schools and been told they can't cope and to go the school up the road "which is good for such children".  A good way of keeping the SEN budget down! At primary level the HT talked of primary schools that identified difficult children through the nursery and set out to put them off. Again, I have come across parents reporting such experiences. Unprofessional schools, but looking out for one's league table  and OFSTED performance, together with a more easily earned reputation for good discipline . Next, ...

Published in Peter's Blog
Saturday, 13 October 2012 13:50

Bishops Down Primary - the story continues

I have previously covered the developing story of Bishops Down Primary below.  That episode concluded with  a Determination from the Schools Adjudicator ruling that KCC needed to hold the Planned Admission Number (PAN) at 60, although KCC was trying to reduce it to 30 on the grounds that, in spite of an earlier survey identifying that the school was able to admit 60 children every year, a fresh report had concluded this was impossible. To continue:........

Published in News Archive

I now have detailed information on Kent and Medway primary school admission offers for September 2012. On the surface, all looks well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, with rising rolls the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a worrying rise of 45%.

You will find more general information in a separate article below.  I have started to provide more detailed information on difficult areas, via the links below. 

Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for (you will find an earlier article on part of the problem here) and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include:........

Published in News Archive

To be updated. My previous article gives general figures on primary school admissions. 

Thurnham_2

I am fielding many enquiries about infant class appeals and, sadly, having to explain that because of Infant Class Legislation, there is little or no prospect  of success for  most appeals, apart from the following five reasons:.......

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 29 March 2012 09:10

Skinners Kent Academy Success from OFSTED

In complete contrast to the failing Marlowe Academy, see below, Skinners Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells has just been given a 'good' OFSTED Report. The school has suffered a poor reputation in the town for at least 20 years in its previous incarnations as Sandown Court School and Tunbridge Wells High School (in those days it was hoped a change of name was sufficient to throw off a poor reputation). The Report says: "Most students join the academy with very low attainment. They make consistently good progress and many make outstanding progress so that attainment is rising strongly. Parents, carers, and all students, recognise this”.  The OFSTED took place whilst the school was a building site, as the new buildings rise around it. 

Skinners_Kent

The Report records that 'The number of students known to be eligible for free school meals is above average. The proportion of disabled pupils and those with special educational needs is also above average', so clearly not the typical Tunbridge Wells. It goes on: This is a good school that is improving rapidly. Aspects of its work are outstanding. Governors and leaders are highly ambitious for the success of every student. They have instilled high expectations and a ‘no excuses’ approach to school improvement....

Published in News Archive
I prepared an article this week for Kent on Sunday, reporting on pressure points in secondary school admissions, mainly in grammar schools in West Kent. The substance of this is contained in the items below on this page.
Published in News Archive
 

Parents of Kent children, applying for secondary schools, learned their allocated schools last week. Overall figures were very similar to last year, although the number of children given none of their choices rose from 413 to 443. As usual, West Kent is the main problem area (not to overlook other hot-spots), although the difficulties are clearly more pronounced this year, especially amongst children qualified for grammar schools. All three of the ‘super-selectives’ - Judd School, Skinners School and Tonbridge Grammar School -  saw their base-line Kent Test score for entry rise, Judd requiring a record marks aggregate of 418 points (maximum possible 420), and even then some with this score did not gain admission. There are three main reasons for the increase:  the intensive coaching culture in West Kent (especially from the private schools chasing grammar school places) is seeing more children in West Kent passing and also gaining  high scores; more children from outside Kent crossing the boundary this year, although we don’t yet know the schools they went to; and the economic climate seeing a fall in admissions to several private schools, putting more pressure on grammar schools. Girls appear to have lost out in the south, including Pembury and Langton Green, whilst many boys around north Sevenoaks and Riverhead have not been offered any grammar school place.  Some have been allocated to the Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, which has opened an additional class planning to make it a grammar school stream. Many villages to the north through to Dartford are affected, Dartford Grammar School only offering local places to boys living in the town itself, most of the remainder taken up by boys from SE London right through to Lewisham (the train journey is easy) who achieve highest scores, the cut off again reaching a record, of 414 points.  Meanwhile Dartford Girls and Gravesend Boys were not able to take all qualified children in their hinterlands. As the Kent 11+ selects just 25% of the children from across selective parts of Kent, the increase in the West is balanced by fewer successes in the East, leaving several grammar schools there with vacancies.

I believe these trends are making the concept of a common test with common pass mark impossible to maintain, especially as grammar schools have new freedoms to choose their own admission rules, some setting higher pass marks than the standard, hastening the breakup of the system.  KCC is now looking at alternatives that address some of the issues above, but anything new will have to be by consensus as the Authority now has no power to impose solutions. My fear is that individual schools will be tempted to set their own entrance tests, leading to the dreadful outcome we see around the M25, as parents drive their children to different grammar school tests every Saturday through September and October. Slightly more sensible solutions may include a common test with differing pass marks for each school, or perhaps an additional paper of a more difficult standard to discriminate between the ablest children.

Another possibility is the proposal for a disused school site in Sevenoaks to be adapted as an annexe to two current grammar schools (one boys and one girls), although legal problems surrounding this are complex. There is also a competing proposal for a church free school on the site whose formal proposal has been submitted to government, and would attract considerable government funding.

Meanwhile, the time bomb of rising pupil numbers, especially in Tunbridge Wells, is spreading through the primary schools, creating intense pressure on local schools – and secondary schools within a few years.

Sadly, government policy has meant there is now no planning authority to resolve these issues and we are destined to see more such problems in the future as the cracks widen. 

Published in Newspaper Articles

In 2009, a senior KCC officer produced a confidential paper for the then Director of Education, forecasting there would be an 8% shortfall in primary reception class places in Tunbridge Wells in 2011. This wasn't actually difficult to foresee, as these children had been born two years previously, and so the issue should have been raised earlier. No action was taken at a time when finance may well have been available to tackle the impending crisis.  

In 2010, there were considerable problems in finding primary school placements in Tunbridge Wells.  I wrote a newspaper article publicly outlining the issues, expanding it later in the year. No action was taken, but KCC explained that there wasn't actually a problem. I am not saying that KCC should have responded to my articles, but they had prior access to the same data I had subsequently unearthed. 

In 2011, the expected forecast shortfall of 8% shortage of places in Tunbridge Wells  proved exactly correct........

Published in News Archive