I am currently receiving a number of enquiries about the Kent Test, mainly concerning the marking system and am happy to supply my latest thoughts here. However, please remember that I do not have a formal connection with KCC so these are my views alone.
The issues are certainly attracting strong media attention. There have already been a couple of radio programmes looking at the subject; I believe that Meridian is planning a news item on Tuesday, on the eve of the test, with the BBC proposing to look at it in the SE Politics show on Sunday. They won't be alone.
You will find the specification of the new test in the Information section to the right of this page, 'Secondary School Admission', 'Kent Grammar Schools'. This information article also includes links to some of the relevant news items about the test.
Apart from the issue of coachability, the main feature of the new tests is the introduction of a literacy element, and I am confident that the marking structure will require a certain standard to be reached in English. We are told that “The English will involve a comprehension exercise plus some additional questions drawn from a set designed to test literacy skills”, but remember it is still a multiple choice assessment.......
In a further set-back to the proposal to set up a mixed grammar school annex in Sevenoaks, Governors of Weald Of Kent Grammar School have decided after consulting parents “that the case for Weald of Kent to become co-educational at the Tonbridge site has not been established and, therefore, conclude that it is difficult to go ahead with the expansion into Sevenoaks if this is a requirement”. There is a copy of the letter text at the foot of this article. You will find links to my previous articles here.....
Weald of Kent Grammar School is consulting with parents about taking over the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School annex and running it as an integral part of the school. I understand that Consultation papers are being sent out to parents this evening, and will expand and update this article when I have seen them.
However, my view is that this is the first feasible proposal to come forward and stands every chance of meeting the legal obstacles raised over the previous proposals by Weald and Invicta Grammar School. I have written several previous articles on the project and its history.
The proposal is for Weald to become co-educational and then operate the Sevenoaks annex (hopefully renamed) as an integral part of a twin site grammar school, benefitting from the additional excellent facilities planned for the new buildings. It will have a single set of admissions criteria. The school is already planning to change its oversubscription criteria for 2015 admission in line with this proposal.....
My previous article on this topic attracted over 4000 hits in five days, counting in my regular subscribers, the fastest hit rate ever. Feel free to add another comment at the bottom of either item.
The Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury is to close at the end of the summer term, subject to a legally required consultation process, apart from the current Year 10 students who will need continuity to complete their GCSE courses. I offer advice to affected families on their next steps, in the second highlighted box below. The Council has provided the following statement, explaining the decision and the consequences:.....
The following is an adaptation of an article appearing in Kent on Sunday this weekend. It is written following the announcement of the closure of Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury subject to Consultation (below), and also looks at other vulnerable schools, the effect of Free Schools on Kent's maintained school system, and the impact of inward migration in Kent.
The announcement of the closure of Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury at the end of the summer should have come as no great surprise, given the dramatically falling number of students entering the school over the past few years, and the huge financial deficit allowed to develop. You will find a fuller analysis of the issues here. However, this article looks at the wider pattern of take up of secondary school places across Kent, identifying other schools that are vulnerable. The schools with the highest proportion of vacant places have remained the same over the past few years, leading one to ask how some of these can also remain viable, given that school incomes depend on the number of pupils they attract. Chaucer is the second closure in twelve months, with Walmer Science College being absorbed into Castle Community College last September, because of the falling number of children in the Deal District. I do not anticipate these two schools will be the last.
Concerns have been expressed about the number of young people coming to Kent from other European countries, causing pressure on school places.....
A link to this article from another website, means that some browsers are unaware I have updated it with a fresh article above, here.
There are convincing rumours in Canterbury, backed up by an article in the Kentish Gazette, that Chaucer Technology School is to close at the end of the school year. An official announcement of the situation and plans for the school will be sent to parents on Tuesday (25th), and I will update this article when I see the KCC statement that day. i.e. before school allocations are made on 3rd March. You will find the following statement from Kent County Council on the school website and which was also sent to parents. It is hardly designed to comfort families although it is difficult to know what else the Council can do at short notice, given what appears to be an unplanned and unauthorised leak of information.
|Kent County Council regrets that an article speculating on the closure of Chaucer School has appeared in the press. We recognise that parents, pupils and staff may now be anxious about the school. We will inform staff and write to every parent next week to clarify the situation.|
In one sense, this dreadful situation is no surprise for, as readers of this website will know,I have reported on the school's downwards spiral for some years, from its previous standing as being a very popular school. You will find my most recent article here. Even as recently as 2010, the school’s 235 places were all awarded on allocation day, with 163 families making Chaucer their first choice. A few years previous to that I was handling appeals for admission to the school, which was bi-lateral running a popular grammar stream open only to those who had passed the Kent Test, alongside a non-selective section which was heavily oversubscribed........
Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury has now gone out to Consultation on its proposed move to Herne Bay, details here. In previous articles I have discussed the proposal which has now been amended and refined to read as follows: "proposal to relocate the School to the former Herne Bay Golf Club site from September 2017 and to expand to 5 forms of entry. We have been offered an opportunity to build a new school within a proposed housing and sports complex development by Newmaquinn Ltd”.
The proposal is being challenged by all non-selective schools in the Canterbury district, on the grounds that there is no call for an extra grammar school class in the area, and to fill it would require the school to admit more students on appeal, who were initially non-selective, changing its character.
Unfortunately, both Barton Court's rationale for increasing its size and a letter to the press from the non-selective heads contain too many errors in the statistics they quote, the cases therefore becoming mutually contradictory. As a result, no conclusions can be drawn from the statistics in either of these two documents. The letter to the press has also gone to BCGS, KCC and the two local MPs.
I have carried out my own analysis of the data, using information from KCC under Freedom of Information requests, and conclude that the BCGS case for expansion is sensible, but not on the grounds they give......
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Following the decision of KCC to change the Kent Test to reduce coachability and introduce an English assessment for the 2015 and onwards Kent Test, Judd has decided to stay with KCC. I have left this item on the website, as I consider these plans were a major factor in the decision to change the format of the Kent Test.
The Judd School is planning to leave the Kent Test structure and set up its own admission tests in mathematics and English for admission in 2016. You will find the school statement here. This comes as no surprise as the school has made clear for some time that it is disillusioned with the Kent Test and believes its own tests will enable it better to select boys of the highest ability, and those with a stronger background in English. I have looked at the background to this proposal in a previous article.
Judd will therefore be the first Kent grammar school not to accept Kent Test results for over ten years, since the grammar schools of North West Kent scrapped their own separate admission procedure. Five other grammar schools: Dover Boys and Girls, Harvey Grammar and Folkestone School for Girls, and Mayfield Grammar in Gravesend now offer success at their own tests for admission, but they have kept the Kent Test as an alternative route. Loss of this prestigious school will be a great blow to Kent County Council, which has introduced its own new test arrangement for 2015 entry in an attempt to keep all schools on board.
This article looks at the reasons behind the move, including the problems with the current Kent Test notably around coaching of the two reasoning papers as confirmed by data on individual subjects. It also considers the consequences and future of the Kent Test, and dips into the influence of the Test data on appeals to other grammar schools..........
This article looks primarily at recent activity in provision of grammar school in Kent and Medway. In particular it looks at: the proposed Sevenoaks Satellite Grammar School (last week's development); West Kent; North West Kent; Canterbury; Cranbrook; Maidstone; Medway; Shepway and Thanet......
The tables further down this article show the overall 2013 Reception Class and Junior School Appeal outcomes for Kent and Medway primary schools who used KCC or Medway Council Appeal Panels (the large majority). Foundation, Free, and Voluntary Aided schools, together with academies are able to use Independent Appeal Panels from other providers or, in the case of Kent schools can also buy into KCC organised Panels. I do not have data for other primary appeal panels, merely a sense that they operate to a similar or even tougher standard.
Appeals for Reception classes in infant and primary schools are governed by Infant Class Legislation (ICL), but in any case are only needed if the school is oversubscribed, when some applicants will have been turned down. Unless the school is full, no child can be rejected. You will find more information about primary school appeals here. The bottom line is that in Kent, just 3.5% of Reception Class appeals were upheld where Infant Class Legislation applies, in Medway where ICL applies in all but two schools, the proportion is 4.5%.
For Junior Schools in Kent, where ICL does not apply, the figures are much more positive, with 31% of appeals being successful. In Medway both appeals were successful!.....
PLEASE NOTE: This article has been superseded, following pressure from parents leading to a further change of mind by KCC. You will find the new article here.
Currently KCC operates a Freedom Pass for young people 11-16 costing £100, which offers free bus transport throughout the county any number of times, at all times of day. Introduced in 2007, this is unique outside London and has been greatly valued by young people. In Medway, travel support for young people is limited to half the adult fare.
It is an addition to the provision for free school transport for children up to Year 11 to their nearest appropriate school for transport purposes if they live more than three miles away (for over 8 year olds); or two miles away (for under 8 year olds). The “for transport purposes” term means that free transport to grammar schools will only be offered if it is the nearest mainstream school of any type. For details go to free transport. (In passing what if free school transport is only available to the nearest Free School, perhaps one with a strange religious philosophy?).
However, the Council is under extreme pressure to save money, and so has now agreed to change in principle to a much reduced scheme for the Freedom Pass from September 2014 – however one that is still more generous than in many parts of the country. Further, following the third successful “e-petition” to the County Council, a version of the scheme is proposed for over sixteen year olds, who currently only receive a travel pass costing £520 that provides a small overall subsidy for those travelling on a regular basis
This article includes the four key documents relating to this devastating decision for Kent County Council and parents of children in Sevenoaks and district looking forward to a new grammar school (annex) in their locality both from 2015 and afterwards as pressure increases further on grammar school places. The documents are: (1) A press release from the Department for Education announcing the decision to reject the competing applications from Weald of Kent Grammar School and Invicta Grammar to set up a co-educational grammar school annex in Sevenoaks; (2) A letter to Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone, rejecting their application and giving reasons; (3) A letter to Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, rejecting their application and giving reasons; (4) A press release from Kent County Council's Cabinet Member for Education, commenting on the decision. Following a previous exchange of letters between the Secretary of State for Education and Mr Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks, I wrote a previous article anticipating this was the likeliest outcome. You will find this below. This also provides links to other articles describing the process over the past two years.
The DfE's decision is based on their reading that both proposals would be illegal to implement. The key one centres on the requirement that any annex should adopt the same admission criteria of the host school, primarily the gender issues. Weald proposed to keep its home school as girls only, with a co-educational annex. Invicta sought to overcome this by setting up a further boys annex in Maidstone, but the annex would still not reflect the gender make-up of the existing school. There would need to be a single Published Admission Number to cover both home school and annex, and parents would not be able to specify a preferred site as proposed at Invicta. There are organisational issues, as explained in the individual letters below.
Contrasting the two, it is clear that the Weald proposal came nearest the requirements of the relevant legislation. In particular .....
Revised: 3 December. This article looks further at the implications of the letter from the Secretary of State for Education, Mr Gove, to Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks, published below.
The letter makes clear there is a legal difficulty about the opening of the proposed new grammar school provision in Sevenoaks, depending on whether it is classified a new school or an expansion. I have now had a closer look at the issues and am becoming increasingly convinced the proposals on the table amount to a new school under the rules explained when discussions about the proposal began.
This would be a great setback to KCC’s plans to expand grammar school provision in the area to meet the forecast need. Even if Mr Gove upholds the proposal, there are likely to be legal challenges that could delay implementation for years. In a recent interview on Radio Kent, Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, said that if Michael Gove was minded to turn the proposal down on the advice he was given, he should instead be prepared to change the procedures to enable it to go forward. Certainly there would be considerable support from his own party, including such notables as: Michael Fallon, a Government Minister but more importantly MP for Sevenoaks and champion of the satellite; and Boris Johnson. Paul Carter may have reason to feel aggrieved if the proposal is in jeopardy, for not only has he allowed the Trinity Free School to go ahead on the site without dispute and encouraged the development of several other Free Schools (one of Mr Gove's key projects), but perhaps more importantly Kent Conservatives are under considerable threat from UKIP at the next general election. UKIP is committed to grammar school expansion and a defeat for the satellite would be a powerful fillip for them.....
Recent correspondence between Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks and Michael Gove, Secretary of State, appears to suggest that any decision on the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks is far from clear cut.
Meanwhile, grammar school provision at Dartford Grammar looks set to increase, targeted at the ablest pupils from South East London.
Proposed Satellite Grammar School in Sevenoaks
The letter from Michael Fallon, dated 7th October, once more makes the case for the satellite, but finishes “I urge you to make a speedy decision”. Quite rightly, as time is passing, and the target date of opening in September 2015 relies on the building being mainly completed within the next 19 months. Planning permission may be working through, but not a brick can be laid until the decision is made, and any legal challenges resolved.
Mr Gove replied on 24th October: “Thank you for your letter of 7 October, about the provision of school places. I understand the difficulty pupils and families face in securing a suitable school place, and the distance many have to travel. Primary legislation prohibits the introduction of new selective schools and we must judge the proposals carefully to test whether they represent new schools or expansions.The Education Funding Agency (EFA) is assessing the proposals and will present its findings to ministers shortly. We will notify each school in writing as soon as a decision has been reached. In reaching our decision, we will consider all the evidence that has been presented through the process, and in correspondence with each academy trust. Thank you for writing to me on this important matter”.
Clearly, the central issue holding up proceedings is the one picked out by Mr Gove’s underlining: is the proposal for a new school or an expansion? ........
A statement from Judd issued 29th October.
Additional Form of Entry in September 2014
Kent County Council have repeated the request from last year for The Judd School to admit an additional form of entry to Year 7 (155 students, not 125) in September 2014, as it is anticipated that there will again be a shortfall of selective places for boys. The Governing Body has agreed to accommodate the class as it will hopefully enable more parental preferences to be met. At the same time, with government funding falling rapidly, the additional class will increase the revenue stream to the school.
This will come as a relief to many families in West Kent as it eases the pressure on boys’ grammar school places, with families looking to Tunbridge Wells Boys’ Grammar also benefiting. We don't yet know what Skinners is proposing, but I assume that Kent County Council has made the same request to them. I have been told the school has indicated to some parents that Skinners is planning to go down the same route but has not yet made a decision. This would reproduce the situation of last year, with all qualified local boys being offered a grammar school place (local means all boys in the TWGSB named parishes and three mile range), and a number from further away. I also anticipate that Tonbridge Grammar will follow the same route, providing as last year a small surplus of girls’ places.
The decision to offer the extra form now is important to families, as with closing date for secondary admission forms not until 5 November, those with marginal scores for Judd can make an application with more confidence. It would be good if Skinners were also able to publish their decision on the matter before that date......
UPDATE (22nd October): It is becoming very apparent from Telephone Consultations and other enquiries, that Trinity School, the Sevenoaks Christian Free School, is likely to be considerably oversubscribed for 2014 entrance. Also, its distance measurement to determine priority for the 60 places awarded on nearest distance is taken from the centre of the Knole East proposed school site to the child's home.
Kent County Council has agreed with the Trinity Free School and the Secretary of State for Education that the Free School should share the old Wildernesse School with the proposed new satellite grammar school from September 2015. This would be conditional on the Secretary of State actually giving approval for the satellite, although this is starting to look a given. At a public meeting last week, outline plans for the two schools were revealed.
|The site of the old Wildernesse School|
With all three parties supporting the proposal, this would avoid the potential costly legal battle that threatened if the two schools were in competition for the same site, as initially seemed likely. Whilst the Trinity School has consistently supported the idea of site sharing, KCC was initially opposed but now clearly recognises this is the sensible way forward.
I have written a number of previous articles which analyse issues such as the potential source of students and describe the story as it has unfolded. If you put Sevenoaks in my search engine, or pick up the tags at the bottom of this page you should find all of them.
One potential obstacle still exists to the plan, assuming the Secretary of State approves it. For the interpretation of the law that allows the setting up of a mixed satellite by a single sex grammar school remains open to legal challenge, and there are still interested parties who would be happy to see it fail, although their threat appears to be diminishing......
Arrangements for the Kent Test to be taken in September 2014 have now been announced. Kent County Council has only awarded a one year contract, with an option to be extended, because of the uncertainty over some schools choosing to rely on their own tests in the future which may call for a re-assessment of the process. KCC's press release reads:
The contract for the county’s Kent Test (11+) for September 2014 has been awarded to GL Assessment.
GL Assessment has provided the county’s Kent Test papers for many years, but the new contract will introduce some changes intended to deliver a more sophisticated assessment process while reducing the burden of testing for primary schools and children.
Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education said: “We are pleased to be working with GL Assessment, which has a proven track record of helping the council deliver assessment decisions within a tight time frame. We are also excited about the potential for flexible development offered by the new process, which will give us a wide range of assessment information without requiring children to spend longer in exams.”
Discussions with the test providers will begin shortly to determine the finer details of the new process, however the main elements are:.....
Back in July, I reported the proposal for an East Kent satellite grammar school sponsored by Barton Court Grammar school and based in Herne Bay.
The plan appears to have changed in principle and, rather than a satellite, the proposal is now for Barton Court to shift its base entirely to Herne Bay, replicating the plan put forward in the 1980s to address the shortage of grammar school places on the North Kent Coast. However, this is not just a change of site, the proposal is for Barton Court Grammar to expand to six forms of entry, with the support of the developer of the site on the old Herne Bay Golf Club land, one benefit of a grammar school being the likely enhancement of status for his housing development. The capital cost of the project would be part funded from sale of the current city centre site, part from the developer, although there would probably be a shortfall that may be the main issue. Canterbury City Council is highly supportive of the move, as it would remove a major source of the heavy traffic problems in the City, so it would fall to the school persuading KCC, Canterbury Council and or government to make up any funding gap.
Much of the background rationale for the move is explained in my previous article, although the proposal to move the whole school lock, stock and barrel is far more radical and raises fresh issues and benefits........
Government introduced new flexibility into the number of places each secondary school could offer for 2013, and many popular Kent schools responded positively with hundreds of families being pleasantly surprised to receive offers at schools they were not expecting.
For 2014, the situation has changed further and considerably, some of the changes being confirmed, others removed and more having made increases, or in a few cases decreases, in their numbers. Further, we can be sure that some schools will once again increase their admission number when and only when they see their application numbers.
I have identified below those changes that are confirmed, although several are subject to further change before March. There is also the additional factor for a number of non-selective schools which, knowing they may lose children in the post allocation churn, mop up any appellants before the appeals take place. See article on appeals below.
There are three major consequences of these changes:
1) Parents can’t be sure when making application decisions, if the number of places advertised for a school will be increased by the school after applications go in. This can only happen in the case of an academy, free school or a Foundation or Voluntary Aided School who are their own admission authorities.
2) This pattern both of uncertainty and lack of similar historical patterns makes it more difficult for parents in some areas to make logical choices.
3) For schools, government policy allowing popular schools to expand has the mirror consequence that those at the bottom of the pile are likely to spiral into further decline in numbers. I anticipate that as a result there will be closures within a couple of years.
A detailed breakdown of the known changes follows.....
Kent Eleven Plus decisions are now available for parents online, a hard copy being sent by post tomorrow.The decision is just one of pass/fail, with marks available from the child's primary school. The pass marks for the Kent 11 plus Test have been varied slightly from last year. Children must either have achieved a total score of 360, with a minimum of 118 in each paper, or alternatively found to have been selective on the Headteacher Assessment (HTA) The pass is set to select 21% of children attending Kent primary schools (in those parts of Kent that were once the traditional selective areas), the same requirements then being applied for all other children in Kent and out of county as well. The aggregate score of 360 is the same as for 2013 entry, although the minimum in each paper has been relaxed slightly this year from the previous 119, to produce the 21% target. As last year, the maximum score is 423. Approximately another 4% are found selective through the HTA process. If your child is found successful at the HTA they are classified as selective and will be treated equally with any other child at grammar schools that ask for a pass as the academic standard (i.e. except for the super-selectives). If parents wish to know the scores on individual papers, they will need to contact their primary school. The number of children passing the Kent test has risen slightly this year to 5370, although the number of Kent passes has fallen slightly; further details below.
I now have appeal outcomes for nearly every secondary school in Kent that held appeals in the past school year.
I don't proposed to publish individual outcomes as these can be very misleading and some change dramatically year on year; so are not a good guide to future appeal results. In any case, a successful appeal depends not only on the strength of the parental case, the defence put up by the school against admitting additional children, and the pressure on places, but also the way the appeal panel operates.
The majority of appeals held in Kent are heard by Independent Appeal Panels organised by Kent County Council who provide panels for community, foundation, voluntary aided schools, and academies. However 14 Kent non-selective schools, 15 grammar schools and all Medway secondary schools use appeal panels provided by other organisations or, in a very few cases, organised by themselves.
The following tables show the outcomes of independent appeals for these groups of schools, although there is a wide range of outcomes for individual schools, varying year on year.
|Kent & Medway School Secondary School Appeal Outcomes 2013|
|Kent County Council Appeal Panels|
|Type of School||
appeals of those
|Kent and Medway Appeals managed by other organisations|
Several non-selective schools set up appeals included in the above, but ended up offering places to all appellants, either because the schools expanded numbers or other children offered places dropped out probably after successful grammar school appeals. This movement creates what I call the churning effect as parents trade upwards, which has seen more movement this year than most. These schools included (but don't assume this will also happen for 2014 entry): Brockhill Park; Canterbury High; King Ethelbert; Rainham School for Girls; St Simon Stock; and Westlands and Wrotham.
At the other end of the scale,........
I have updated this item with a report on my blog, of a Parents Forum for the school held last week to discuss the Report and map out the future prospects of the school.
Chatham Grammar School for Boys has failed Its OFSTED Inspection carried out last June and been placed in the lowest category - Special Measures. In one sense It has been unfortunate, as the school failed only one category: "Leadership and Management", although the other three: achievement, teaching, and behaviour of pupils all "require improvement". This is only the second grammar school in England to fail an OFSTED (Stretford grammar being the first in 2009), although the school has achieved some of its strongest exam results ever this summer. The first and most significant casualty is David Marshall, who has been headteacher for nineteen years, but who has retired with immediate effect. He is replaced by Ms Denise Shepherd as Executive Headteacher, with Mr Stuart Gardner, as Interim Principal. A letter on the school website explains this. In one sense, whilst shocked, I am not surprised at the failure, both from The Rochester Grammar School (girls). A previous OFSTED Report in 2012 found the school 'satisfactory', but identified weaknesses in English, and in teaching, learning and achievement in some areas. Mathematics and science are seen as strengths of the school. OFSTED also specified areas where improvement was required. According to the new Report, these do not appear to have been addressed, so the school had to fail. A great strength of the school for many years has been Its strong sense of community and a phone in on Radio Kent today bore tribute to that, with many parents so supportive and proud of the school and bewildered at what has happened. Sadly, there is no recognition of this quality in the Report, although inspectors are required to take note of 'Parent View' a section on the OFSTED website where this shines through strongly. There was also concern for the future as the new leadership Is seen as coming from a school whose ethos does not sit well with the 'Chatham way'. We must hope they see a way to blend the best of both cultures.
Sadly, yet another Principal of Sheppey Academy has lost his job, joining a long list of headteachers who have failed to crack the problems of this, the largest and most problematic of all Kent secondary schools. David Day, who proved an excellent headteacher of Wrotham School (where he was described as "a committed and inspirational head teacher” by OFSTED) before moving to Isle of Sheppey Academy in September 2011, is leaving his post at the end of this month along with his two subordinate Executive Headteachers. In spite of his leadership of the academy, taking it out of its failed ‘Notice to Improve’ rating from 2011, this will be the fourth change of leader since 2009 when its predecessor, Minster College, became a sponsored academy, although the problems of the school reach back many years before (see below).
Possibly of even more significance, the current sponsors, headed by Dulwich College and supported by Kent County Council and the Anglican Diocese of Canterbury are also relinquishing their roles in January when Oasis becomes sole sponsor, taking on the role of lead sponsor from 1st September.
Kent County Council has cancelled its initial tendering process for a provider for the Kent Test over the next three years, and substituted a new process, but still working to the first test being taken in September 2014. You will the specification here, but need to scroll down to the bottom and use the link to ‘final tender document’.
The main change from the previous proposal is that KCC is now asking for tenders for a new Test for grammar school selection, for one year only, with an anticipated extension period of another twelve months.
This change of approach is partly the result of KCC being pulled in a variety of directions by its grammar schools, who are seeking different outcomes from the Kent Test as explained below.
A key principle behind the laid down process is that: “The Council and Kent’s grammar schools wish to reduce the capacity for coaching/ preparation to undermine the effectiveness of selection tests used in the process”. However, the means by which this aim is to be met is left to the tenderers and I am afraid I can't see how this it to be achieved.
The new specification tells us that the test will remain as multiple choice across two papers, designed: “to assess children’s ability in numeracy, literacy and reasoning skills in September (of Year 6) taking account as appropriate of National Curriculum expectations”.
This task poses a number of problems, the first being the assessment of literacy,.......
Now that Kent County Council appears confident the legal issues surrounding a satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks have been overcome, a second proposal has come forward for a satellite at Herne Bay in East Kent, although this idea has none of the problems that have beset Sevenoaks.
The plan has been initiated by Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, following discussions between himself, Barton Court Grammar School, Kent County Council and a property developer - Quinn Estates from Canterbury and replicates a similar scheme proposed a quarter of a century ago, whose failure to be implemented has left festering problems ever since. Children of grammar school ability in Herne Bay and Whitstable have had difficulties in securing selective places for many years, as the four nearest grammar schools: Queen Elizabeth’s in Faversham; and Simon Langton Boys, Simon Langton Girls and Barton Court all in Canterbury are all regularly oversubscribed. Indeed, this year QE was the most oversubscribed grammar school in Kent except for the “super-selectives” along the county boundary in the West of the county.
you may have heard a summary of my views, expressed in more detail below, on Radio Kent this morning (Friday). KentOnline, for the Kentish Gazette has written an updated article, providing the views of Kirsten Cardus, Headteacher of Barton Court, here. Sir Roger Gale's views are reported here, which appear very critical of the position of KCC.
OFSTED has carried out a follow up Inspection, after Chaucer Technology College was placed in Special Measures in April. I wrote an article at the time describing this as "an avoidable accident; waiting to happen". The follow-up inspection can only be described as one of further decline from its previous dreadful position. The headlines:
"The local authority statement of action is not fit for purpose; The school’s action plan is not fit for purpose; The local authority has failed to support governors and the acting principal effectively; Governors recognise that they have been negligent in their monitoring; proposals initiated by governors before the inspection to become a sponsored academy have stalled, owing to the sizeable budgetary deficit - Despite having secured a sponsor, the academy order has yet to be signed and it is unlikely that the target date of December 2013 will be met - This is because the local authority, the proposed sponsors, the Department for Education and governors have yet to agree on how the deficit will be fully eradicated - In the meantime, four out of the five new senior posts within the school, including that of principal are temporary duties; The local authority’s lack of urgency in this matter is unacceptable." .
Tuesday update to article below
Radio Kent this morning carried a live double interview between Philip Limbert, Chief Executive of Valley Invicta Academies Trust, and David Bower, Chairman of Governors of Weald of Kent Grammar School. Both made the case for their own institutions running the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks and agreed on a number of principles including an apparently comfortable acceptance of the fact that this has now become a competition. To quote Dr Limbert: “What is most important is that there is grammar school provision in Sevenoaks, not who runs it”. Roger Gough, the new KCC Cabinet Member for Education, and a Sevenoaks District Councillor, clarified the situation for the Authority. Whilst KCC had worked with Invicta in the early stages of the project, they will now work with both bids and it would up to Michael Gove to make the final decision. The contribution from the Sevenoaks Grammar School campaign continued to denigrate the Weald bid suggesting their approach is now becoming increasingly divorced from the declared aim (below).
Footnote: In an unbroadcast portion of my own interview, I used the term “morphed” to describe the process of moving from four to six forms of entry for the proposed satellite. I should have trademarked it, as it has now become Radio Kent language to describe the change!
Please note: the facts and issues outlined here are becoming immensely complicated. If I have made any errors of fact, please feel free to let me have the opportuntity to correct them. Opinions are my own!
I have never in over 40 years of working in education in Kent seen such an unpleasant battle as that which has now broken out over the proposed 6 form entry satellite grammar school on the Wildernesse site in Sevenoaks. As explained in a previous article, there are now two establishments vying to run the satellite if it actually comes about and that article provides considerable detail on the issues and background of what is a now four sided battle. The institutions are the Valley Invicta Academies Trust (VIAT) from Maidstone - incorporating Invicta Grammar School, and Weald of Kent Grammar School from Tonbridge. However, the site has already been provisionally promised by government to the Trinity Free School for September 2015, when The Knole Academy should vacate it to fully occupy its own new purpose built premises.
Warning: This is a very long article possibly written for my own peace of mind!
Back in September 2011, some 1600 Medway children took the Medway Test in around eight large centres, organised by Medway Council. The organisation in two of these was dreadful at a time when children’s futures were being decided, and created a news furore that Medway Council vainly attempted to play down. The facts as known at the time are fully reported here but, as explained below, I have pursued the matter further and gained a fresh understanding of the mismanagement and misreporting by Medway Council.
This shows that, in particular, at the Chatham Grammar School Test Centre, Medway Council misrepresented the facts and never backed down, in spite of many justified complaints by parents that their children had been disadvantaged in the Test.....
Update 2 Friday evening
In a dramatic development of the Sevenoaks annexe/satellite proposal, Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge has proposed an alternative scheme to the one out for consultation by the Valley Invicta Academies Trust based in Maidstone.
In a letter to parents, Weald headteacher Mrs Johnson stated that........
The introduction of the Kent Test by the two Chatham grammar schools as an alternative assessment to the Medway Test has caused considerable confusion to Medway Council. Success in the Kent Test is now a recognised qualification for entry to the two schools, so children who have taken the Kent test but not passed have the right to put in a late application to the appropriate Chatham grammar school. They would then be turned down on grounds of non-qualification and can then appeal directly to the school. As there are still spaces at both schools, if parents can provide appropriate evidence that their children are of grammar school standard, they stand a good chance of winning an appeal and therefore a place.
However, Medway Council officials have failed to understand the rules......
Kent County Council is currently considering tenders for its 11 plus test to be taken from September 2015 to September 2017. There are just two realistic possibilities, NFER and CEM. You can find the main contract detail for the new contract here.
The NFER has set Kent tests for many years, but there is a sense that this is time for a change, and the new specification gives a nudge towards CEM which I believe is the likely winner. I have recently come across a website that provides considerable detail about the 11 plus tests provided by CEM, the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University. Currently the Centre provides bespoke 11 plus tests for grammar schools in Bexley; Birmingham; Buckinghamshire; Shropshire; Walsall; Warwickshire, and Wolverhampton; together with Henrietta Barnet School in Hampstead and Chelmsford County High School (two super-selective schools).
The website is www.11plus.eu which has no connection with the CEM Centre in Durham, although its name was surely chosen deliberately.....
The Judd School in Tonbridge (grammar) has outlined the likely prospect of a Judd Entry Test for entry from September 2015, completely breaking away from the Kent 11 plus. The two Folkestone grammar schools have already introduced their own alternative to the Kent 11 plus to be taken this autumn and in following years. Both developments are described below........
The Medway Council Member with responsibility for Children’s Services, Mr Les Wicks, has lost his job in a reshuffle of the Medway Council Cabinet this week. His departure will be widely welcomed by the many families who have been dissatisfied with the quality of education provided by Medway Council, and Mr Wicks’ refusal to accept responsibility for those failures. The Council Leader may have been influenced by an 800 person petition to get rid of him, and regular demands from the Labour side for his resignation, but his dreadful performance at a Medway Council meeting in February will surely have been a more important factor.......
The following article triggered great media interest, being the main Radio Kent story for Wednesday 8th, and a major story on ITV Meridian that evening. It was also featured in a controversial article in the Kent Messenger.
When OFSTED published its annual Report back in November, there was strong criticism in the media of the woeful performance of Kent and Medway Primary schools, which I covered in a previous article.
This told the story up until August last year, when OFSTED introduced a new 'tougher' inspection regime. Amongst other changes, it replaced the 'satisfactory' category of Inspection outcome by 'requires improvement'. The 'inadequate' category still has two subdivisions: 'Serious Weaknesses' & 'Special Measures'. The change was preceded by a new policy from KCC, partly designed to force up Kent OFSTED standards. I have been keeping a record of OFSTED Inspection results since March 2010, and the comparisons seven months into the new regime make fascinating reading. The headlines are:
Kent OFSTED performance greatly improved; nearly half of Kent primary schools have improved their grading
Further failure by Medway Council and its schools
Maidstone schools continue their dire OFSTED record
Amongst other conclusions, the fear that the new 'tougher' OFSTED regime would see more schools failing OFSTED is clearly not true on present figures in Kent. What is sadly true in Kent is that whilst failing schools, and those now requiring improvement come under increasing pressure to become academies, the rise in Kent standards means that most of these changes should not have been necessary, as Kent now appears to know how to improve performance in its schools. A great pity it has taken so long! ........
Now including Updates on St Edmund's and St John Fisher
Two recent failed OFSTEDs at St Edmund's Catholic School (secondary), Dover and St Phillip Howard Catholic Primary School, Herne Bay have seen the schools heading in very different directions. Also, a question. Why does a struggling Catholic School in Medway set out to discourage non-catholics from applying?
St Edmund's, which was a Voluntary Aided School run by the Archdiocese of Southwark Education Commission, but coming under the aegis of KCC, is to be turned into an academy, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Southwark. Even before OFSTED Early action was taken by KCC, issuing a warning notice which saw positive changes noted by OFSTED. It is difficult to see why the Archdiocese should have more success with total control in view of their failure to act with partial control, but this is surely a question they need to answer.
The Archdiocese of Southwark Education Commission has recommended that St Philip Howard be closed and this proposal is out for consultation.....
I now have details of the popularity of individual primary schools in Kent & Medway for entry in September, headlines described below. This article is about Kent placements; a Medway one will follow as time permits.
Most oversubscribed primary school (above) is an OFSTED Outstanding Catholic school in North Kent
Kent County Council is to be congratulated on taking timely action in expanding a number of primary schools in areas of pressure, as distinct from trying the late inadequate fixes of the last two years. 653 additional places have been added, although this is partially balanced by the removal of 269 places from other schools, in most cases where there are surplus places. As a result, .........
It is no surprise that Chaucer Technology College has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED. Parents recognised some years ago that there were serious problems, and this once heavily oversubscribed, successful and popular school has seen applications slump over the past two years with only 90 of its current 235 Year 7 places filled. For next September, the school made the decision to reduce the number of empty spaces by the simple device of reducing the capacity to 150. However, at just 81 even fewer offers have been made for next September, including 8 allocated by the Local Authority; a figure that will surely shrink further as children bale out into places at more popular schools. Iworte about this in a previous article here.
GCSE performance, compared to other Kent schools has been declining annually for years, and for the past two years has been in the bottom 10% in the county.
School governors took belated action in January when the headteacher left the school with immediate effect, but the appointment of a new Acting Principal was insufficient to turn the school round in just over a month before the Inspection.
The sorry state of the school at this time can be seen from some of the comments in the Inspection Report:.........
The reallocation round operated by Kent County Council on behalf of Kent schools has now been completed, and parents should have received letters informing them if they have been successful. Medway reallocation letters are due towards the end of next week. .
The Judd School and Tonbridge Grammar School have both seen significant reductions in their cut off scores, probably a reflection of the additional class of entry that each school has admitted this year. There has been little or no movement at Skinners (but see below).
The Judd School, which initially offered places on scores of 417, has seen a sharp fall to.......
Parents of Kent primary aged children looking to enter school in September, or transfer from Infant to Junior schools have now received a letter informing them of the allocated school. All families who have not been offered their first choice school have also been told how to apply for waiting lists or submit an appeal.
The figures below show the outcome of a major planning operation by KCC following last year's primary school places crisis, producing the best figures for three years.At the time of writing, I am not aware of any local difficulties.
The headline is: the highest number and proportion of children being offered their first choice for three years; and the lowest number and proportion being allocated a place by Kent County Council after being offered no school of their choice - a fall of 20% over 2012. These very good figures are in spite of a steady rise in the number of primary aged children coming through the system. However there are still 661 children without a school of their choice. Kent and Medway parents who wish to seek my advice may like to consider using my Telephone Consultation to discuss options, so feel free to send me details of your situation and I will let you know if I have practical advice to offer. You will see from my Primary Appeals Information page, that sadly, for most schools chances of success at appeal are very unlikely.
Government has announced that Medway will be awarded a new University Technical College (UTC), possibly to be sited in the Chattenden Barracks area. This is one of 13 in the latest round of UTCs nationally, the previous round awarding another local UTC to be sited in the Ebbsfleet Valley. To quote David Cameron, University Technical Colleges are planned to "offer 14-19 year olds the opportunity to take a highly regarded, full time, technically-oriented course of study. They are equipped to the highest standard, sponsored by a university and offer clear progression routes into higher education or further learning in work". The Medway UTC will cater for 14-19 year olds, specialising in engineering and construction, "traditionally at the heart of Medway’s economy", and will be sponsored by the University of Greenwich, MidKent College, Medway Council and local employers. Medway Coumcil states: "work to get the college up and running will start immediately", surely a necessity as the UTC is planned to open in September 2014. As a stand alone institution this looks a sound, well-funded concept, designed to "fill the skills gap in the UK by providing high quality training for technicians and engineers", but.....
UPDATE: Mike Whiting, Cabinet Member for education at KCC has made a statement to the KCC Education Cabinet Meeting on 19th March.
Kent County Council has unveiled its Sponsor School for the Sevenoaks Satellite Grammar School and the proposal resolves a variety of potentially troublesome issues, as well as making a great deal of sense all round.
The sponsor is the Valley Invicta Academies Trust which manages both Invicta Grammar School and Valley Park School in Maidstone. Both schools have Outstanding OFSTED Inspections, key features of Invicta's success in September 2012 including: "There is an unyielding pursuit of excellence by the headteacher, senior leaders, middle leaders and governors; Achievement is outstanding across all key stages and in all subjects with all groups of students; The overall quality of teaching is outstanding and inspires, enthuses and motivates students in their thirst for knowledge". Valley Park's OFSTED is older, but this is the third most oversubscribed school of any type in the county, confirming its outstanding reputation, and possibly being the only non-selective school in Kent commanding a house price premium.
Thus we can be sure that the proposed satellite (preferred to annexe) grammar school will be outstandingly managed, an essential quality if it is to pick its way through the minefield ahead. In one leap it overcomes my own concerns about its organisation.......
Kent County Council has at last brought forward its plans for replacing the current Kent Test, which has been the subject of considerable criticism for a variety of reasons, notably the unfairness and skewing of outcomes because of the intensive coaching culture which has developed around the Test. A totally inadequate survey of headteachers took place over the Christmas holidays, that provided little useful information, although it is being used to justify the proposals below. You will find the Report to be discussed by the KCC Education Cabinet Committee here.
The main proposals are:......
Each year I carry out a survey of over-subscription and vacancies, together with a second feature on cross boundary transfers. For 2013 entry, the situation has changed dramatically, with an increase of 382 places, mainly in oversubscribed schools, some as part of a planned increase, others using new freedoms to expand places to meet demand when numbers of preferences are received by the schools. 113 of these new places are in West Kent grammar schools, described below, 86 in other grammar schools across Kent, 71 in West Kent non-selective schools, and 112 elsewhere. In addition, the three new secondary Free Schools will provide a further 270 school places which, if taken up, will attract children away from the schools listed below. Against this, one of the most undersubscribed schools in Kent has reduced its intake figure by a remarkable 85 children, but still features strongly amongst the group with most vacancies.
With an increase of over 3% in total provision, mainly in oversubscribed schools, it is unsurprising that the number of children without a school of their choice has fallen to 354, its lowest for many years, although as many as 20% of that total may come from one town!
It is also unsurprising that many schools popularity has changed from 2012, in the list below.
I have published several previous articles which you will find below, but this one covers vacancies and levels of oversubscription across Kent and Medway. You will find last year’s figures here.
The headmaster of the Trinity School, the new name for the proposed Christian Free School in Sevenoaks, has sent an email to parents who have applied to the school for their children, stating that government has awarded the site of the old Wildernesse School, currently occupied by part of the Knole Academy, to Trinity School as their long term permanent home for September 2015. This has been confirmed by a letter from the Department for Education to KCC although the latter is slightly hedged by "I am minded to excercise the Secretary of statee's powers", suggesting that there is still more time for persuasion. Trinity chool already has a temporary base until 2015 at Ryedale Court in Riverhead.
The email from the school states: "We will be on the Knole East site in Seal Hollow Road, popularly known as 'Wildernesse'. This is an existing school site with excellent sports facilities, a lot of green space, and plenty of parking for cars and buses. The existing buildings will either be replaced or refurbished so that they meet modern standards. As you probably know, Kent County Council announced in January their intention to use the Wildernesse site for the proposed Grammar satellite. Kent told us that they did not believe that the site could be shared with our school so we looked for, and found, a number of good alternative options. In the event, however, the Department for Education has decided that Wildernesse is the best site for Trinity School out of all the available options. The Department has therefore written to Kent County Council to express its intention to base our school at the Wildernesse site once it is vacated by Knole Academy. The Academies Act 2010 gives the Secretary of State for Education the legal powers to ensure this outcome. We continue to believe that the site is big enough for two schools and it may be that this will be the eventual result of these discussions.......
The Judd School has been knocked off its perch as the grammar school requiring highest scores in Kent by Dartford Grammar School which, after offering places to all local boys who have passed (living in a group of local electoral wards) requires an aggregate score of 418 in the Kent Test (not sure if that covers all 418s as they are bashful about the information). Last year 40% of their intake fell into this category. The additional places created in West Kent grammar schools have resulted in a general lowering of cut off scores in the area, the Judd School being highest with 417 (not all with this score being offered places). Their website records: 119 places went to students with a maximum score (423); 79% were from within Kent Local Authority; 68% coming from Maintained Schools. The Skinners School has seen a fall in its initial requirements to 411, with 88% of its intake coming from Kent, which I think is the highest proportion for some years. It notes that the average score of its successful candidates was 418. Tonbridge Grammar School has also seen a fall, but just in its 'Inner' girls, requiring 408, except for one who came in with 407. The 40 places offered to girls living outside the local area required an aggregate score of 415. Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School offers 14 Governors' places that went to girls scoring 411 or above. Most girls offered places at TWGGS qualified on distance grounds in what is likely to be the tightest catchment in Kent,.....
A separate article on Medway allocations appears below.
Good news for 12,754 Kent families who have been allocated to their first preference secondary school,at 84.2%, the fourth consecutive rise since I have kept statistics, the 2008 figure being just 70.5%. You will find previous outcomes here. Coupled with this is a dramatic fall in the number of children allocated places by Kent County Council over the same period. These are children who were offered none of their four choices of school. In 2008 there were 840 such children, but by 2013 this has fallen to just 357. Of course this is no consolation to the parents of those 357 children, but it is great news to see the much improved figures for both statistics. You may have caught my comments on these figures on both Meridian and BBC SE television.
The full data released by Kent County Council is as follows:
No. of pupils
No. of pupils
No. of pupils
Offered a first preference
Offered a second preference
Offered a third preference
Offered a fourth preference
Allocated by Local Authority
Total number of Kentpupils offered
Out of county applicants
Out of county offers
Updated Sunday 2nd March
I have now received most of the relevant statistics relating to admissions in Medway. Its press release figures for 2013 entry are: nearly 86% being awarded their first choice; more than 7 per cent their second place preference; and over 2 per cent their third preference. I also collected further information on the infomation relating to individual schools through an FOI , which has enabled me to complete the table below showing comparisons with previous years. I am awaiting another dealing with out of Medway children taking up places in Medway secondary schools. This will enable me to further separate out the data I have.
|Offered a first preference||2425||86.0%||86.7%||87.2%|
|Offered a place at one of their top three choices||2678||95.0%||97.7%||96.9%|
|Offered a place at one of their six choices||2730||96.8%||98.6%||98.1%|
|Allocated a place by Medway Council||90||3.2%||1.4%||1.9%|
|Total number in Cohort||2820||2949||
To be updated after 4 p.m. Friday
For 2013 entry, a record 84.2% of Kent children have been offered their first choice of secondary school on allocation, although this still leaves 2390 disappointed to a greater or lesser degree. However, I estimate well over half of these will be offered a higher choice of school through what I call the ’churning’ process. Churning happens as places are freed up by successful appeals elsewhere and children being offered places off waiting lists. Each successful move creates a further space at another school, and so the process trickles down over the summer months, with the least popular schools losing students without replacement.
So what should you do if you are not offered the school of your choice? First piece of advice is - don’t panic and don’t do something you might regret later. There is no advantage in getting your appeal in first so resist the temptation to dash off a letter to the school of your choice which may hinder what you want to say later.........
I have in the past been highly critical of Kent primary schools performance as measured by both OFSTED and Key Stage Two results at the end of children’s time in primary school, but recent statistics show a dramatic improvement in Kent’s primary OFSTED standards.
This follows a new strategy for improvement prepared by KCC last year, and I have now measured the change by comparing OFSTED Reports recorded since September with those of previous years. For the three years until July 2012, there were 278 OFSTED Reports for Kent primary schools, of which just 41% were ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, the majority being ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Inadequate’ (making up the four possible grades), with an unacceptable 36 schools failing their inspection. Contrast this with the more recent performance by 51 schools, achieving 63% ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, an improvement of over half again on the previous figure. You will find a record of every Kent primary school OFSTED for the past four years here, with Medway here, along with further information on some schools.
This would have been even better were it not for the continuing dire performance of Maidstone’s primary schools, which have a record of being the worst performing district since I started keeping records,......
Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, has argued publicly that government run academies in Kent are funded more generously than schools managed by KCC, placing the latter at a disadvantage. I have uncovered, with the assistance of Kent on Sunday, a further stiff financial penalty imposed on KCC for some schools seeking to become academies. A letter from the Department for Education, posted on the proposed Ebbsfleet Academy website (contained in the only news item on the website!) dated May 2012 states: “We are working with Kent County Council to resolve an issue relating to PFI funding, which the Department for Education is keen to resolve as soon as possible. The Minister recently wrote to the Council, highlighting that holding up the school’s transition to Academy status does not help the Authority’s financial situation and poses risks to students’ interests. We are sure this is not the intention”. As a result, there is currently no new academy, and Swan Valley Community School in Swanscombe has encountered a variety of problems partly caused by the delay, as described in a previous article I wrote.
What this really means is that KCC, which has responsibility for funding the Private Financial Initiative (PFI) contract for the Swan Valley Community school, is expected to still finance it if and when the school passes out of KCC control to central government. This in spite of the fact that as academies are fully funded by government, KCC would receive no income to pay what is called the “affordability gap”.......
OFSTED visited Medway Council in January, to inspect its arrangements for the protection of children, and found the Council to be Inadequate, the lowest category, in each of the four key assessments. These are: overall effectiveness; the effectiveness of the help and protection provided to children, young people, families and carers; the quality of practice; and leadership and governance. This shocking and worrying Report follows the departure of the Head of Children's Services, Rose Collinson, last summer and her replacement by Barbara Peacock. Whilst at the time Medway Council refused to comment on the reason for the departure of Rose Collinson, Lead Councillor for Children's Services Les Wicks now appears to be saying as reported in the Medway Messenger that early last year he recognised Children's Service were not improving fast enough and so Barbara Peacock was brought in. From which we can conclude that the previous Director was dispensed with because of failure to improve services. The OFSTED Report does identify some progress against weaknesses identified in previous inspections, but makes clear that the pace of improvement is too slow and the council has not yet succeeded in ensuring that weaknesses in core child protection work have been sufficiently addressed. For example, the council has been unable to demonstrate an effective strategic response to repeat referrals, which are exceptionally high.
Whilst this website is primarily concerned with educational issues, Education and Children & Adult Services are run by a single Director overseen by a single Lead Member of the Council, Councillor Les Wicks, who sails serenely on, apparently oblivious to the damage his department is causing to the life chances of Medway's children. Indeed ..............
At the beginning of January, I published here a critique of the appallingly designed headteacher survey on the current Review of the Kent test, carried out over the Christmas holidays. Paul Francis of the Kent Messenger has now obtained the results of the survey, which fully support my criticisms and suggest headteachers would have been better off concentrating on the Christmas turkey rather than wasting their time on this one.
Six of the seven questions were multiple choice with a yes/no response required and no opportunity to explain the respondent’s reasons. Only one of the six questions produced a clear opinion. Only one question, down at number four, allowed an open reply. This outlined the Kent Test make up and then asked "Should KCC change the tests in any other way (other than ‘what’ is not provided, so this becomes meaningless)". Because the question asked for possible changes, these were nearly all that were provided, and support for the status quo is negligible, contrary to the outcomes of the multiple choice answers. Only 56 respondents gave suggestions for change, out of a total of 135.
In other words, with just 10% of Kent’s headteachers putting forward proposals for change to a badly worded question, mostly just one suggestion across a wide spectrum of possibilities, this whole section is clearly invalid as an outcome and no conclusions should be drawn from it,
My main fear is .......
In Kent as a whole, 88% of secondary school places are filled in Year Seven, although the target figure is 90-95%. Under previous governments, pressure was applied to Local Authorities to meet their targets, but now most secondary schools in Kent are academies, government relies on parental preference to see popular schools expand and unpopular ones to disappear. This battle of attrition is now affecting the seven Kent & Medway secondary schools which currently have fewer than fifty per cent of their Year Seven places filled, all having witnessed a sharp decline in their intake numbers over the past four years. For four of these, their unpopularity with families has been underlined by OFSTED failures over this time, ........
For the second time this week, I have been on BBC SE and Radio Kent commenting on a Kent education story (also previous item below) as Government published the GCSE and A Level League tables. Not only do I have my reservations about the tables as a whole, there are several different ways of presenting them, to make particular points, for high and low performers.
Not surprisingly, in both Kent and Medway, the grammar schools dominate the top of each set of tables, with no non-selective school intruding on their positions. If one considers the % of students achieving 5 GCSE Grades A*-C or equivalent, including maths and English, just eight out of 39 grammar schools:.....
Both The Judd School, Tonbridge and Skinners School, Tunbridge Wells, have announced they are increasing their intakes by 30 places for entry in 2013, taking each of them to to five forms of entry, at the request of Kent County Council. You will find explanations for the two decisions on The Judd and Skinners School websites. KCC is planning to open its proposed Sevenoaks Annexe to accommodate four additional forms of grammar school entry (two girls & two boys) in September 2015, but this would stilll leave continued pressure on places for 2013 and 2014 entry. The above decision eases the problem for boys for 2013, and one can speculate it may well be extended to 2014.
Last year, there were major problems in West Kent, .....
Updated with outcomes of Buckinghamshire's solution to 11 plus issues
The pressures on Kent’s eleven plus testing procedures continue to increase as further evidence mounts to underline the East/West divide. At the bottom of this article you will find Buckinghamshire's (13 grammar schools) solution to similar problems. The main pressure is coming from the intensive coaching culture that pervades much of West Kent and which is responsible for seeing the Kent Test pass mark rise way above the natural level. Kent selects 21% of eleven year olds across the county, the imbalance ranging in state schools from 10% in Dover to 36% in Sevenoaks, statistics which underline the extent of the problem. This range would increase even further if private schools are included (I am waiting for the figures from KCC). This means there are able children in East Kent being deprived of a grammar school place even though there are vacancies, and some children in West Kent securing grammar school places not on grounds of ability, but through intensive coaching. West Kent children who have not been coached can lose out in two ways if they don’t make automatic selection, as statistics show it is harder to gain a place amongst the additional 4% added through headteacher assessment, and far harder to win a place on appeal than in the east of the county......
A new Free School in Wye, catering for secondary school pupils, was approved in principle by the Department for Education back in July. The Department of Education and United Learning, the Academy Group which has taken over the development of the Free School, have now destroyed the rationale for its existence. The proposal for a Free School was based on a vision that saw a College in the centre of the village, founded in 1447 for training the priesthood and which had served as an educational institution almost continuously since that date until 2009, be resurrected to serve the children of Wye.
By all reports, Imperial College who owned the premises, was sympathetic to the project which was to be run by United Learning, a charity already running 20 academies and 11 private schools, including Ashford School. One can catch a flavour of United Learning in an analysis by the admittedly critical Anti-Academies Alliance, here. I see no flavour of any appreciation of heritage here, and can do no better than quote excerpts from the excellent response by Wye and Hinxhill Parish Council to United Learning's consultation document.......
Kent County Council today announced that the proposed new Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe now has a preferred site on the old Wildernesse School site in the town. Kent County Council reports that detailed proposals for the new grammar school provision will be submitted to government in the next few weeks. The site is owned by KCC, but the provision is not at present vacant, being leased to the Knole Academy until 2015. Clearly Knole Academy is in no hurry to make the site vacant to a potential competitor school, and plans to "use its facilities more and more" whilst waiting for its own £18.3 million extension to be built. You will find much of the background this story here. Meanwhile,..........
Kent County Council is currently reviewing its 11 plus procedures, my previous comments appearing here. A Headteacher Review Group was set up to consider the process and KCC is now consulting headteachers to find out their views on the group’s recommendations.
As headteachers have not been sent the Review Group Report, it is difficult for them to make an informed response, but some clues as to the Group’s thinking can be found in the Headteacher Survey.
There are just two recommendations quoted, which are sketchily reported. These are:
1) Coaching. “The Review Group listened to concerns about the pressures related to coaching, which it was felt did not work to the long term benefit of children or the schools which admitted them. The group’s recommendation is to source tests which are as resistant to coaching as possible, and for which practice or familiarisation materials are not commercially available”.
2) Administration. –“The review group also recommended a process which is sufficiently robust to identify children as suitable or not suitable for selective education at a grammar school, but which takes less time to administer and would enable pupils from inside and outside Kent to be treated in the same way”.
That appears to be it! I must admit I find it difficult to believe this is the full import of the Review Group Report, and my own thoughts follow later in this article. KCC’s consultation was sent out in the last week of last term, the busiest of the year, responses required by Monday 7th January, the first day of term, suggesting the Authority is not looking for a big response on this important issue. Indeed, I was trying to get hold of a copy of the consultation the day before the end of term and several headteachers knew nothing about it......
Newer article published here.
(This article has proved one of the most read news items on this site, currently read by 5135 browsers)
Swan Valley School’s troubled past history appears to have returned after headteacher Nigel Jones, who has stabilised and slowly rebuilt its reputation since his appointment in 2003, resigned with immediate effect on 19th November 2011.
The Swanscombe secondary school was set to become an academy under the sponsorship of Hayesbrook School, Tonbridge, in September, but the process was suddenly postponed in June although the website, Ebbsfleet Academy, remains in place. The most recent news, posted on that website, and dated 1st June, includes a letter from the Department for Education, alleging that Kent County Council is holding up the school’s transition to academy status because of an issue relating to Private Finance Initiative. See below for more information on the background.
It is now seven months later, there is no progress reported, and it is rumoured that Hayesbrook School is cooling on the proposal because of the financial difficulties.......
UPDATED WITH ADVICE TO AFFECTED FAMILIES, BELOW, 18TH DECEMBER (and again!)
In a dramatic and far reaching determination on Friday, the Schools Adjudicator has ruled that the proposed Chatham Grammar School Tests planned for March 2013 cannot take place, as the two Chatham Grammar Schools failed to follow proper procedures when setting them up and the tests do not fulfil the requirements of the government's School Admissions Code. Both schools have agreed to make the changes immediately, as allowed to meet the requirements of an Adjudicator's decision. You will find the decision here. The two grammar schools introduced the procedures as a consequence of rapidly falling numbers of children in Medway over a number of years, resulting in a reduction of two non-selective schools in the Borough and large numbers of vacancies at Chatham Grammar School for Boys and Chatham Grammar School for Girls. This has been exacerbated for 2013 entry by the failure of the Medway Test procedure to select the full 25% of Medway children for grammar school entry, instead choosing just 23.7% of the cohort, an additional shortfall of 38 children which directly hits the two schools. You will find my original article on the introduction of the new tests here. You will find a letter from the headteachers of the two grammar schools here.
The consequences of this decision will be very worrying for many parents and children and the two schools, although I do offer advice on next steps below. However, the fact remains that ........
Medway primary schools continued their disgraceful performance standards with the worst Key Stage 2 results in the country in 2012. This follows the two previous years when they were also in the bottom five of all the 147 Local Authorities in the country. Just 72% of children achieved what is seen by government as the required minimum standard of Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in both English and mathematics, as against 79% in the country as a whole. Shocking indeed, but sadly wholly predictable. Back in April I wrote about the Council’s Report on Low Standards at KS2, where I described the proposals to improve standards and its appalling record with OFSTED Inspections as follows: “With these two sets of dreadful results one might expect to find a degree of introspection by the Council to reflect on why they, the only common factor linking these schools, are responsible for failing so many of the children in their care. Not a bit of it! 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”. You will find my article in full here. At the time of the Report, Medway’s Education Officer responsible for school standards said: “I don't think we are failing children but I think we could do better and we are working with the schools to do better”. I have news for her, which should come as no surprise. Medway Council is indeed failing the children for whom it is responsible, and damaging each one’s life chances. The full table of results is here..........
Update 23 November
On Wednesday, Kent County Council Education Cabinet Committee approved the merger of Castle Community College and Walmer Science College, although as explained below, it is apparent that this means the effective closure of Walmer. The two schools will be combined on the Castle Community site with a major PFI funding allocation of some £20 million for renovation, to provide new buildings, this being one of only two Kent secondary schools to benefit from this particular scheme this year. You will find the papers for the committee, including parental comments, together with a webcast of the debate will be found here. Understandably there is anger in Walmer......
The Annual OFSTED Report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, published last week, contains damning statistics on the state of Kent and Medway’s Primary schools for the year ended August 2012, which has rightly attracted considerable media criticism. I was on holiday in France and so unable to make a closer examination of the figures, which I have now completed, and somewhat to my surprise this analysis shows a much rosier picture. I have been collecting data on all OFSTED Inspections in Kent and Medway for nearly three years, and the primary figures up until August are as follows. All figures are given as percentages:
Comparison of OFSTED Reports for Kent & Medway Primary Schools,
against national figures by percentage
In fact the figures over three years together are far worse than the comparable data for 2011-12, showing that in both authorities, the last year has actually seen considerable improvement, albeit from a very low base.
Nevertheless, with Kent 10th from bottom in the whole country, with just 55% of primary school Inspections being Good or Outstanding for 2011-12, and Medway immediately behind at 54%, this improvement is nowhere near good enough, and reveals years of underachievement by schools in both Local Authorities.
These facts I knew, but because of personal circumstances have not been able to record OFSTED Inspections since September. However, this report has spurred me to do so, and I will over the next month incorporate them into the relevant pages on the website, at Kent & Medway. What the figures show is a much improved state of affairs in Kent, but no changed conclusions for Medway, because of the small number of new schools inspected........
This article covers a variety of new Kent Test related issues, including the forthcoming review, relative success of private and state schools, high scorers (including numbers of children with each high score in the Kent Test), and concluding with a note to posters on the eleven plus exams website forum. Please note that I do not publish pass rates in the Kent Test for individual schools, as I consider such league tables unhelpful, depending extensively on the calibre of the children being tested, and the amount of coaching undertaken by pupils from each school. State schools should have no influence on the performance of their children, except through the quality of maths teaching, which can perhaps be identified from the proportion of children achieving a Level 5 in Key Stage 2 SATS, as reported on the Education Department website, and through the consideration of work for a minority of children through the Headteacher Assessment. Some local newspapers reproduce such tables, but I am afraid I am unable to respond to requests about individual schools. There is also further information about test results in several articles below, including the most recent one......
Updated with Review results, 12 November 2012.
November 2013 update: It turns out that the Review figures supplied by Medway Council below below were incorrect. You will find the correct figures here.
I now have the results of the Medway Test taken in September, including results at Review given below. Unusually, Medway Council has not reached its target of 25% of the Medway cohort passing the Medway Test, automatic passes being 22.3% against a target of 23%, and Review successes being 1.4% against a target of 2%. This means that a possible 38 additional children could have been offered places and the Council still kept to the 25% planned for, the council presumably arguing that there were insufficient children with the required ability applying for grammar school places.
Currently in Medway there are 926 grammar school places available for next year's Year Seven entry, with just 694 qualified Medway children to fill them. Last year at allocation on 1st March there were some 100 vacant spaces in Medway grammar schools, so normally I would forecast more for the coming year, except that the Chatham Tests are likely to fill a quantity of these.
The full table is as follows,..........
Swan Valley School has had a very bumpy ride since it disposed of its previous Principal in November, when he left with immediate effect. A previous article covers some of the issues surrounding this, and has attracted a mixed batch of comments about the school and its actions. I have now had complaints from several parents about Swan Valley, shortly to become Ebbsfleet Academy under the sponsorship of the Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, about its heavy handed approach to forcing parents to sign the Home School Agreement agreement which appear to be completely counter-productive, and contravene government regulations. This latest controversy appears to be a prime example of unnecessarily heavy handed behaviour by the school in its attempts to introduce new disciplinary standards....
Medway Secondary Common Application Forms (SCAF) are due in by 31st October, the National Closing Date. For Kent - because of the half term break, KCC will accept SCAFs that are received by the Kent primary school headteacher by the morning of 7 November, or that are made online up to 23.59 on 5 November. I am not sugggesting you should leave them that late.
Some general thoughts and then a look at a few specific parts of Kent, where there may be changes developing ; .......
UPDATED 6th November
This article covers a range of 11 plus matters based on new statistics, including: the Review of the Kent 11 plus; coaching; statistics for the Kent Headteacher Assessment; a closer analysis of those out of county children who have passed the Kent Test and likely destinations; the pressures on North West Kent grammars; high scoring issues continued; Medway out of county issues; and today's article in the Sunday Telegraph. ......
I have now received the following preliminary information regarding Kent Test outcomes. This will be updated as I receive further information.
|Number who registered for Kent Test||11841|
|Number who sat Kent Test||11451|
Number assessed suitable for grammar school
starting September 2013
Number assessed suitable for grammar school,
starting September 2012
These figures include .........
The pass mark for the Kent 11 plus Test is the same as last year. Children must have achieved a total score of 360, with a minimum of 119 in each paper or found to have been selective on the Headteacher Assessment. The pass is set to allow 21% of children attending Kent primary schools through, although the pass standard is the same for all other children as well. Approximately another 4% are found selective through the Headteacher Assessment process, explained here, about half way down the page. If your child is found successful at the HTA they are classified as selective and will be treated equally with any other child at grammar schools which ask for a pass as the academic standard (i.e. except for the super-selectives). If parents wish to know the scores on individual papers, they will need to contact their primary school.
Kent maximum scores comment below updated 29 October.
The results of the Medway Tests were received by parents today, with an aggregate score of 509 being sufficient to secure a pass. More details below.
Soem children who have taken the Kent Test will receive a score higher than the previous maximum, although this will make no difference to the allocation of places as it is just a slightly different standardisation range to previous years. I can see only one grammar school in Kent where it is likely to be relevant. More details below.....
Kent's three new secondary Free Schools, Hadlow Rural Community School, Sevenoaks Christian School and Wye Free School are all accepting applications for September 2013, and places will be offered independently from the KCC process for admission in 2013. This means that parents may apply to the Free Schools as well as completing the Kent Secondary admission form which allows up to four maintained schools to be named, with confidence that neither application will be harmed by the other. Schools will not be told if children have received a second offer elsewhere, so that such children will receive two offers on March 1st if they qualify for a place at one of the free schools.
I anticipate that this additional opportunity will encourage many double applications, so that the new schools may be swamped, and some of those offered places may well not be serious candidates. The down side of this is that of course 240 Kent children will be holding two offers in March 2013, when offers are made; and schools will have no idea which way those 240 children will go.........
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:........
I believe there are more changes in the rules for prioritising applications to secondary schools in Kent & Medway for 2013 than any previous year I can recall. This article lists the changes as they affect individual schools. If a school is not mentioned, its rules remain the same as for 2012 entry (please let me know if I have left any out). See the Kent Secondary Admissions prospectus for more details of individual changes and also the criteria for the three new Free Schools.
A major change in the oversubscription rules for many Kent schools is the removal of the priority that read: “children resident within the same scheme of education as the school”. ......
UPDATE Feb 13: Dover Road Primary has just failed another Monitoring Inspection. Inadequate progress. Quote from "Context": "Since the previous monitoring visit the headteacher has left the school. An interim headteacher joined the school in January and is due to remain until August 2013. The Early Years Foundation Stage leader has left the school. Two part-time teachers are covering a vacancy and a maternity leave in the Nursery class. Two further classes are being covered by fixed-term supply teachers because of vacancies. One of the deputy headteachers is covering a further vacancy in a Year 6 class, created when a teacher recruited in December 2012 left the school in January 2013.Classes in Years 5 and 6 have recently been reorganised into ability groups for literacy and numeracy lessons. The school is pursuing conversion to academy status, which is planned to take place at the beginning of September 2013". How could it have come to this????
PREVIOUSLY: I have just come across a story in the Gravesend Messenger, stating that the headteacher of Dover Road Community Primary School in Northfleet left the school over Christmas. It reports that she has signed a "compromise agreement" with Kent County Council ending her employment and settling any disputes. Presumably there would be a confidentiality clause. A notice in the staffroom apparently warns teachers not to comment on this outside the school at risk of disciplinary action. Of course such agreements are not unusual in themselves, and usually cover a financial agreement for the headteacher to go without a fuss. Dover Road is in Special Measures, and the tenure of headteachers of failing schools increasingly look like that of Football Managers, but in this case, Mrs Smith had been placed in an intolerable situation by previous Kent County Council decisions, described elsewhere in this website.However, in summary,......
(Article in progress, updated 1 Oct 2012)
Kent County Council has quietly released a Commissioning Plan setting out its proposals for new school places across the county for both primary and secondary schools, on a district by district basis, looking at the consequences for individual schools. The main headline is that over 10,000 new places need to be produced by 2016. You will find the full plan here. The Commissioning Plan identifies proposals for creating 5194 places by 2014, and at present there are no clear plans for the remaining 5000 places - although there is time now to consider options.
A preliminary press release focused on 35 additional classrooms being added in the current school year, catering for the additional reception classes which were set up to cater for mainly unexpected demand.
I believe this is an essential document; it is just regrettable that when it was proposed in 2009, on the back of warnings about school place shortages, no action was taken, resulting in some of the temporary fixes we have seen in the past two years, described elsewhere in this website. Details follow below.......
The document looks at each District, and names the schools due for expansion and where new primary schools are to be commissioned in the next four years, I summarise these as follows, although you need to check the plan for the detail......
Furness School in Swanley is a special school which provides for boarding and day students who have behavioural, social and emotional difficulties. It has just 77 pupils, mostly boys, including 14 in boarding accommodation (one female) on site. All students have a statement of special educational needs and most students have previously experienced significant disruption to their education due to exclusion or non-attendance. Certainly Furness is a challenging school, but one that requires the highest standards for its children, many of whom have had seriously disrupted lives so far, and desperately need the stable education that other similar schools in Kent appear to be able to provide.
Kent County Council recognised there were problems back in February, and the headteacher was removed. However, in such a serious situation the consequences of losing the school figurehead need to be carefully managed, and insufficient thought appears to have been given to handling the fallout. KCC also removed the school governing body at the time, but did not follow the rules in doing so, and they were reinstated, only to be removed a second time - this time properly. The school was closed for three days in February, reportedly as it was out of control, and partially closed again later in the month. Since then KCC has been running the school directly using an interim leadership team and support from county officials. However, three months later, on May 15th and 16th, two of Her Majesty's Inspectors carried out an OFSTED Inspection which has produced the damning report published last week.
In particular this condemns the interim management and leadership of the school installed by KCC, including the following comments:.........
Hextable School has failed its most recent OFSTED, being served with Notice to Improve. The Report records that the school meets the Government floor standards, and yet the only area it fails is on pupil achievement. A closer reading shows that the problem is not actually levels of achievement, but limited progress after entry to the school. This is then qualified by noting that progress in maths and English in Years 10 & 11 is an improvement on previous years. Quality of teaching is satisfactory. The school clearly has a challenge in that "Students’ attainment on entry is consistently well below average and the proportion of more-able students is low". Most criticism appears to be levelled at past, not present, performance of students. Leadership is satisfactory and making improvements. This appears to be a reflection of the harsher judgements increasingly made by OFSTED, and an improving school, with an academically low intake has been punished for its failure to develop those students fast enough. The headteacher has left the school and .......
(Updated 13 August) Kent County Council has been heavily criticised by the Schools Adjudicator for failing to provide reliable information on admissions arrangements at schools in Tunbridge Wells from year to year, for failing to consult parents on changes and for using practices and criteria to decide Planned Admission Numbers which are not clear, consistent and objective. A debate I had on Radio Kent with the KCC Cabinet Member for Education did not see him disagreeing with my view that the situation is the shambolic conclusion of past mismanagement by KCC that has now left the Local Authority in an impossible situation. For, following a complaint by a parent, Kent County Council has been required to change back the Planned Admission Number for Bishops Down Primary School from the published 30 it imposed on the school this year, to the 60 it had been for the previous three years, although it claims this is impossible to implement.
KCC is now questioning the school adjudicator’s power to instruct it to reverse the decision to reduce the intake of Bishops Down from 60 to 30. If it should be successful, It is clear that that few local children are likely to be offered places at the school for the next four years unless they are siblings, and even then some siblings may miss out in some years. The reason for this is that there are now three large year groups of 60 children working through the school for the next four years. From experience of sibling patterns elsewhere, and indeed Bishops Down itself, with 22 siblings in at least one recent admission year even before the expansion, one can project that there are likely to be more than 30 siblings applying for the school in several years.
The Determination is particularly scathing about KCC policy in its new draft Commissioning Plan for school places, which states:.......
(UPDATED: 12 September)
Kent on Sunday published an abbreviated version of a prepared article last Sunday, on KCC's handing over of low performing primary schools to academy trusts; the full article being reproduced here.
What follows is an update and amplification of that article, carried out as time permits.
Kent County Council is quietly resolving the problem of low performing primary schools by handing them over to sponsors, mainly large academy trusts, in a dramatic change to the face of Kent education. Interestingly, in Kent on Sunday this week, in a comment on this article, a spokeswoman for KCC is reported as saying "school governors, through discussion with the Department for Education and KCC, make their own decisions to become an academy". Rubbish, as many governing bodies can testify. Government has made clear that low performing schools are required to become academies (no freedom for governor choice there, as made public by the case of Downhills Primary in London and many others); governors report that KCC has put pressure on them to convert; some headteachers who have resisted conversion have "left" their schools; some governing bodies have been removed - in any case conversion sees new governors appointed, sometimes with members who have nothing to do with the local community, usually with a reduction in the number of parent governors, sometimes to as few as one. All this too often without the knowledge of parents who have no right of consultation over the change.
A classic example is Dame Janet Community Infant School in Ramsgate, placed in Special Measures by OFSTED in January. A recent follow up OFSTED inspection is highly critical describing progress as inadequate. KCC ought to have.....
Various local media are currently featuring a story relating to the number of out of county candidates for the Kent 11 plus test. As regular browsers to this website will know, these figures grossly distort the reality as described here, several months ago, which provided figures quoted today in the media including the national BBC website. The figures used make great play with the number of out of county applicants taking the Kent Test, a total of 2345 in 2011, and rising annually. However, a large majority of these have no intention of following the test results up, or will not qualify for a Kent place ahead of local children. As a result just 273 of the 1306 out of county children who passed the Kent test were offered Kent grammar school places for entry in 2012 on 1st March, with over half of this total, 168, going into the three North West Kent grammar schools: Dartford Grammar, Wilmington Grammar Boys and Wilmington Grammar Girls. This is an increase on the 255 of 2011, and is 7% of the 3893 grammar school places offered in Kent in total. Following successful appeals at West and NW Kent grammar schools there are as far as I know no grammar school qualified children looking for places in North West Kent, and I also believe every West Kent grammar school qualified child who has pursued their application has been offered a grammar school place either locally or at Oakwood Park Grammar in Maidstone. So where is the problem? .........
In the past two months, three Kent primary schools, all in Special Measures have been re-inspected and found to have made inadequate progress. First was Dover Road Primary School in Northfleet. I wrote a previous article on the appalling management by KCC that managed to lose the opportunity for a new primary school nearby, on the grounds that Dover Road would suffer a loss of pupils, then forced an additional form of entry on the school for the next seven years, without any permanent accommodation. KCC's defence was that the school was unlucky to be placed in Special Measures. If this is the case, how come the school has failed an inspection a year on, for the second time. The report notes that "The local authority is providing support for the leadership of the school", but clearly not enough........
This week's published OFSTED Report on St Philip Howard RC Primary School in Herne Bay which places it in Special Measures is one of the most damning Reports I have read in recent years, the school being placed in the lowest category in all four measures considered by the Inspectors. Parents have clearly recognised this pattern of failure of recent years, as it occupies the lowest take up of any primary school in the county this year, with 76% of its reception places due to be left empty in September, just 7 children applying for and being offered places back in March out of the 30 available. For 2011 entry, it had the second lowest intake in Kent with 56% of its places being left empty. Overall, it currently has over half of all its places empty with just 100 children out of a capacity 210. Poor KS2 performance by the children may indicate one of the reasons for the lack of popularity of the school, it appearing in the bottom 5% of all schools in the county for performance in English & maths in 2011.
So what is the mystery, and why am I devoting space analysing this issue? In May, Michael Gove announced the names of the 261 schools to be awarded funds for refurbishment, including 14 from Kent. At the time I wrote an article expressing my bewilderment at some of the schools chosen, highlighting St Philip Howard, given the pressures on the many schools in need of critical improvement or even replacement. This latest news makes the decision even more bewildering............
LATEST (13/7): Kent County Council had its debate on the e-petition submitted by Bearsted parents on Thursday. The debate can be found in full at: http://www.kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/82135, 3 hours and five minutes into the meeting. There was unanimous praise for the leaders of the campaign (unique in my experience), although there was much discussion on county wide issues. KCC takes some pride in its place forecasting, although I would challenge that confidence, as we continue to see too many predictable crises in provision. Three important outcomes. The decision by the governors of St John's to expand to two forms of entry in September 2013, and to provide an additional Year One class for those children currently disappointed, will need to go out for consultation, and Department for Education approval, although there is a presumption in the School Admissions Code of Practice that such expansion will be approved. There will not be additional provision at St John's during the course of the academic year 2012-2013, so those children who have lost out this time round, will have to wait until September 2013, to amply to transfer into Year One. The problem for 2012 entry has been exacerbated by the large number of siblings, and this ought to be a factor tracked in the future.
Ther have been similar problems in the Kings Hill area of West Malling, and it appears this campagin has inspired parents there to set off on a similar trail. You will find a facebook page at: http://workingpartykingshill.blogspot.co.uk/.
Kent County Council has issued the following press release: "Primary school expansion in Grove Green brings welcome news to local parents......
The main secondary school appeals are now ended, although places are still being freed up, mainly in non-selective schools through movement in waiting lists. This article is an overview of the latest situation across Kent and Medway, although I am happy to be corrected on details or to add in additional items. In particular, information on non-selective school situations would be helpful.
For grammar schools, the main pressure area has been West & North West Kent for boys, with Tunbridge Wells Grammar school for Boys having 89 appeals, and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys having around 70. As a result Kent County Council came under considerable pressure from families whose sons had passed the 11+, but had no grammar school place. In the event, nearly all of these boys have been offered places off waiting lists or at appeals, with TWGSB taking 32 at appeal, Wilmington over 30, Gravesend Grammar taking in nearly all who had passed without the need to go to appeal.
Oakwood Park in Maidstone has also taken up a number of these and, after appeals, now has 164 places allocated, leaving its additional form of entry only part filled. As a result, this OFSTED ‘Outstanding school’ is surprisingly still welcoming applications from anyone who has passed and should be able to offer the vacant places without appeal. I believe that otherwise all these schools are now full, along with Skinners, Judd, Dartford Grammar Boys and Maidstone Grammar. Interestingly, admission authorities can accept a second appeal .......“because of a significant and material change in the circumstances of the parent or child”. For example, if your child comes up with two Level 5s in the recent SATs it may be worthwhile asking a grammar school with vacancies if it will consider a second appeal (it has an absolute right to say no). .........
I have been arguing with Kent County Council over the past two years about the status of children who did not pass the eleven plus, but who are found to be of selective ability by an Independent Appeal Panel for an oversubscribed grammar school. The Panel then has two choices: they can offer the child a place at the school, or else reject the appeal on grounds that other children have a greater claim to a place. KCC has argued in the latter case that such children are not eligible to go on the waiting list, but I have secured Ombudsman decisions permitting schools to place them on the list for that school only.
In the 2012 appeals for Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, once again.....
Medway Council is proposing a new three form entry primary school on the site of the old Chatham South secondary school, after the birth rate in Chatham shows a 21% increase since 2005, coupled with increasing migration into the area probably as a result of cheaper housing costs. This follows the proposal to close two primary schools in Chatham just two yeas ago because of falling numbers! One of those schools, Ridge Meadow, did in fact close but the other, St John's Infant School, was saved after a decision by the Schools Adjudicator overruled Medway Council's proposal. A further proposed closure of St Peter's Infant School in Rochester was dropped. For 2012 entry, St John's is full, St Peter's has just two empty spaces, and there are just 17 places vacant in the whole of Chatham, all at Luton Infants School.
This all shows that school place forecasting is a difficult science, and Medway Council acknowledges it can do better...
I have expressed my views elsewhere on the decision by KCC to reduce the intake at St James CofE Infant School (Voluntary Aided) this year from 90 to 70, in order to fill places in other local schools. It was obvious to me that this decision was unsustainable at appeal and so it has proved. Last week, 20 appeals were upheld. I think it unlikely that the totally unnecessary grief and stress this has caused the families concerned will impinge on those responsible for implementing the current unofficial KCC policy of providing sufficient school places in an area with no slack to allow for the levels of popularity of some schools, or for anyone unfortunate enough to move into the area mid year. There was a county policy published in the Primary Strategy for Kent in 2006 to maintain a surplus of 5% in each district of the county, and this is again to be adopted as county policy accordin to the draft Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent, which looks at forecasts in primary and secondary school numbers over the next five years. In the meantime, families in areas such as Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Dartford, Gravesham and South Thanet, are suffering, along with others in more localised areas, as the policy appears to have fallen into temporary and unauthorised abeyance.
So what is the effect of this policy on St James and the other local schools? ...........
STOP PRESS: The Independent Appeals Panel at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys has awarded an additional 32 places on appeal, after the headteacher indicated that the school was able, exceptionally, to cater for an additional 30 boys this year, if allocated by the Panel. Well done to all those who have won their appeals, but of course there are nearly 60 who were unsuccessful. We know that many of these are of grammar school ability as there were 61 on the waiting list just before the appeals.
Even before most appeals are heard, there are signs that up to 90 additional grammar school places are being freed up for boys in West & North West Kent, easing pressures on the many boys who have passed the Kent Test but currently do not hold a grammar school place. Both Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys are indicating to Appeal Panels that they are able to admit an additional class of entry (30 boys each), as large year groups passing through the schools free up additional space lower down, for one year only. An appeal panel would have difficulty in not offering this number of places as the school has indicated there is room. A few additional places will also be freed up .........
Cranbrook School is consulting on changing its age of admission from 13 to 11, for entry in 2014, as explained in a letter from the Headteacher to parents; a recommendation which in my view is long overdue.
First, a bit of background into why Cranbrook still exists as Kent's only 13-18 school......
Pressure continues to build over the shortage of reception class places in Bearsted, centred on Madginford Park Infants School, Thurnham CofE Infants School and St John's Primary School. At the recent meeting of Bearsted Parish Council, Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, listened to the concerns of many local parents whose children have no local school to go to, and has promised to do what he can to resolve the problem. One new issue is that at present, 43 of the 80 plus children without a school of their choice have been allocated places at St Paul's Infant School over two miles away. KCC is responsible for providing transport for those unable to make other arrangements, likely to be a minibus, driver as the only adult present, no seat belts, cost estimated at .......
After Medway Council came in the bottom five Local Authorities in the country for Key Stage 2 results for the second consecutive year, according to the BBC, the Council set up 'an in-depth review' of performance. On a measure of 5GCSEs Grades A-C including English and maths, Medway school pupils achieved an average of 68%, against a national average of 74% this year. The Medway officer responsible for school standards is quoted as saying " "I don't think we are failing children but I think we could do better and we are working with the schools to do better. Since 2009 we are up three points and we are aiming to maintain that improvement.", So Medway Council considers it is not failing pupils and that being in the bottom five is an improvement over 2009!. However, ......
Following a day of media coverage on Primary School pressures (see article below and Kent on Sunday article) when I gave interviews on both Radio Kent and BBC SE, KCC responded on both channels claiming the following (all of which I dispute):
1) KCC has put in an extra 120 places in Tunbridge Wells reception classes to solve any problems. I have once again looked at official KCC figures and can see the following: Langton Green Primary School, 10 places TAKEN AWAY from 2011 numbers; St James CofE Infants School 20 places TAKEN AWAY from 2011 numbers (at a parents meeting the school stated that they were happy to offer 90 places in total, but KCC pegged them back to 70 as "there were spaces in other schools"); 10 additional places in St Matthews High Brooms CofE (although these were actually offered outside the official structure in 2011 and so don't count). So the actual figures is a reduction of 30 places, or 20 if one wants to be generous about the St Matthew's situation. I therefore ask KCC where the 120 additional places are to be found? ...............
Gravesend Grammar School is the first grammar school to break ranks and offer places to most (if not all) of the boys on its waiting list. This will certainly ease the log jam in North West Kent and will ease the pressure on places at Wilmington Boys. It is not the first Kent school to do this, for Westlands made similar offers earlier in the year, as it did in 2011.......
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:........
A few snippets picked up mainly from parents, some confirmed on 11 plus exams website. Thanks for any information sent in, and to come.
Tonbridge Grammar School cut off for Inners has fallen sharply from 413 to no more than 409. No news yet on outers. Judd has seen some, but not all, 417s offered places, down from 418. Skinners has offered at least down to 412, from 414. Seven places offered at Tunbridge Wells Boys, a few at Wilmington Boys. There appears tohave been no movement at Fort Pitt and Rochester Grammar in Medway.
Now that the first reallocation has taken place, centrally organised by KCC, the process is delegated to individual schools who operate it from their own waiting lists, as places arise.....
To be updated. My previous article gives general figures on primary school admissions.
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:.......
Sicne I wrote my article on the new Tiger Free Primary School, to be set up in spare capacity in the New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone, I have had a steady stream of correspondents telling me my views were wrong. I still think it wrong that government money should be diverted in this way, when there is such severe pressure on capilta fo rschol improvements.
However, if I were a parent in that area of Maidstone, where the local schools are Bell Wood Primary, Molehill Copse Primary and Oak Trees Community Schools, or towards Loose which is oversubscribed, I would be giving thanks for the opportunity, even if it is completely untried. The prompt for this change of heart is ........
KCC has this afternoon agreed to pursue proposals to provide a new grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. The proposition: 'The recommendation is that in response to an ePetition, Kent County Council pursues proposals to provide 2FE of selective secondary provision for boys, 2FE of selective secondary provision for girls and 2FE of mixed non-selective provision for students resident in the Sevenoaks south area, that would meet legal requirements' was passed. Now the hard work begins. It is reported that KCC does not support the competing proposed Chrstian Free School, because of possible impact on the surrounding schools including the Knowle Academy.
As I confirmed on BBC News 24 this evening, there are actually 117 Kent children who applied for a grammar school place and were not offered one, and not the 60 claimed by KCC. This year, these are nearly all in West and North West Kent. KCC continues to claim there are only 60, but doesn't count those who put a non-selective school on their application form as a safety net and were offered this. For reasons explained below the majority of these will be boys. A total of 388 children who were grammar school qualified and put a West Kent Grammar School as first choice were rejected by that school.
now have figures for the outcomes of reception year school admissions for schools in Kent and Medway for admission in 2012
Rise in number of Kent children being offered none of their chosen schools, explained by rise in pupil numbers.
Sharp rise in proportion of Medway children not being offered first choice of school.
More details below........
In a shocking indictment of the governance and management of the Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate, it has failed its second consecutive OFSTED. In October 2010 the academy was given Notice to Improve. This verdict is failure, with a stark warning that the school must change. The Marlowe Academy was inspected a second time on November 17th and 18th November 2011, and I covered some some of the issues in a previous article in December, antipating the report's publication following leaks that the trustees were to be criticised. This is indeed the case, and one can only speculate what pressure there has been to soften the harsh criticisms which strike at the heart of the academy principle before a very delayed publication today, after more than four months (the norm between inspection and publication is about a month, Meopham, the last failed school was six weeks).
OFSTED's verdict is the lowest possible, the headline being:......
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.
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....
Which Kent and Medway Schools are the most popular? Which have most vacancies? Why has one school reduced the numbers it can admit? Why are there nine grammar schools with vacancies, whilst eight in West and North West Kent turn away an average of over 80 children who put them first choice? Why does one school annually top the popularity figures, rejecting nearly 200 children who put it in first place? Answers below.
Kent County Council figures show there was a fall of 200 in the number of Kent children transferring to secondary school this year, but an unwelcome increase of 30 children to 443 who were offered none of their choices. I have published four previous articles which you will find below, but this one covers vacancies and levels of oversubscription across Kent and Medway. You will find last year’s figures here.
The most dramatic finding has been featured elsewhere, the shift in children passing the 11+ from East to West of the county......
I now have official details of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries to take up secondary school places, and it gives a very different picture from the more lurid headlines which greeted the initial figures released by Kent County Council on 1st March. I have divided the cross border movement into four sections below: North West Kent; West Kent; South Kent; and Medway. I don't have precise figures for which part of county children live in so some of these figures are best estimates. The headline figures are: 560 children from out of Kent are taking up places in Kent secondary schools, with 477 going the other way. But don't jump to conclusions. Read the following:...
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