Bell Wood Community Primary; Molehill Copse Primary; Oak Trees Community (now reinspected and judged satsifactory - November 2011); Holy Family RC Primary; and St Michael's Junior. To make matters worse, the first four are all in South Maidstone, although Bell Wood, Molehill Copse and Oak Tress are being taken over by the Academies Enterprise Trust. In many ways it is not surprising that the Tiger Free School proposal is progressing, although I believe it is the wrong solution to the problems.
One can only have sympathy with parents such as the one who recently wrote despairingly to me: "All parents want is the best possible education for their children and the present system fails us. I am attending a consultation on Tiger Primary and hope for a positive experience, but as it stands the local schools and KCC have so far let us down and we have great hopes for the Tiger School. Would you want your children to go to schools placed in Special measures by OFSTED? He goes on: Although it (Tiger School) may not be the perfect solution, from my experience, KCC lack the passion and drive to improve current facilities which is a great shame for all concerned. Again, I appreciate your work and I certainly never thought that I would be in favour of the free school policy but having dealt with KCC, I can now see the benefit of taking these establishments out of council control, which in itself is a great shame but a sign of the times".
The full figures for recent Maidstone primary OFSTEDs compared with Kent and England are as follows:
Number of Schools
|Outstanding %||Good %||Satisfactory %||Inadequate %|
One has to ask why Maidstone children in particular are subjected to the worst standard of primary education in the county - this is hardly the most socially deprived town in Kent?! Indeed the problem in Maidstone is not just the number of failing schools but the paucity of Good or Outstanding schools. Across England, the proportion of Good or Outstanding primary schools is 52%, in Kent it falls to 41%, but in Maidstone it is an alarming just 18%. You will find full details for the Maidstone schools here.
Richmond Primary School in Sheerness has also been placed in Special Measures. what is particularly shocking about this assessment is that this is a school that was failed by OFSTED in 2010 and served with Notice to Improve. Under KCC's supervision, all that has happened subsequently is that standards have declined further. Excerpt from Report: "There is a lack of clear direction for improvement or coherent monitoring of the school’s performance. Too little has been achieved in establishing consistent strategies for improvement. Consequently, pupils’ underachievement has not been tackled quickly enough and hence achievement is inadequate. Pupils do not make enough progress and attainment is low in English and mathematics. Therefore pupils are not appropriately prepared for success at secondary school and beyond. School leaders track individual pupils’ progress and are aware of the widespread underachievement. However, self-evaluation is weak. Checks on teaching fail to identify the causes of inadequate progress, so the school’s leaders, including members of the governing body, are unable to pinpoint key weaknesses and draw up effective plans for improvement. Although improving, the quality of teaching and learning overall is inadequate. The weak teaching profile, combined with the inadequate use of assessment information, results in pupils making inadequate progress. Teaching fails to match work consistently to pupils’ needs and interests, to accelerate their learning and to raise their attainment. In addition, pupils are not consistently involved in their learning or the evaluation of it. Staff have positive and supportive relationships with pupils and this is reflected in pupils’ satisfactory personal development. Pupils’ behaviour and attitudes towards learning are satisfactory. Rates of attendance have been low. However, as a result of the very effective work of the family liaison officer and a member of the governing body with parents and carers, to raise awareness of how absence prevents pupils from fulfilling their potential, attendance has improved and is now average. Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage settle in quickly because they are satisfactorily prepared for their first years in school".
Its not surprising that KCC is so alarmed by these statistics that it is implementing a Kent Challenge for some 150 underperforming schools across the county - perhaps they should carry out a pilot in the County Town, housing the headquarters of KCC Education Department. Back in March, the Scrutiny Committee of Kent County Council set up an enquiry into primary school standards. The chairman explained that there was no particular concern- this was just a look at a section of the authority's responsibilities. We await progress, or has the investigation been quietly dropped as there were no concerns found?