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Friday, 26 April 2013 00:00

Kent Primary School OFSTEDs greatly improved, Medway still a shocker; and then there is Maidstone

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! ........

 

Comparison of OFSTED Reports for Kent, Medway & Maidstone Primary Schools
since September 2012
 
Total
Inspected
Outstanding Good
Requires
Improvement
Inadequate
Up Down
Kent
87
4%
55%
34%
7%
42
9
Medway
22
8%
40%
32%
20%
5
5
Maidstone
9
0%
0%
89%
11%
0
2
Kent without
Maidstone
78
4%
62%
28%
6%
42
7

With some 20% of all primary schools having been inspected over this period the results are a good indication of the level of improvement, but a better one is the number of schools that have improved their individual grading since the last inspection. Here the  massive improvement in performance by Kent primary schools can be seen clearly, with almost half of the 87 schools inspected having improved their OFSTED rating, two of which, Sandown Primary School in Deal and Temple Ewell Primary School in Dover, improved by two grades from 'Inadequate' to 'Good'. Just three are Outstanding: Chevening St Botolph's CofE VA Primary School; Cobham Primary School;and Sheldwich Primary School. Compare these much improved figures with previous ones I have quoted, reproduced below. One of KCC's recent policy documents: 'Delivering Bold Steps for Kent'  sets a high target for the improvement in school OFSTED results. Kent is not there yet, but is clearly on the way. 

Unfortunately, Maidstone continues to spoil the picture for Kent, not one of the nine schools having been inspected this school year attracting a 'Good' OFSTED. Back in 2011 I wrote: "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";. Sadly there has been no improvement whatever over the past eighteen months and this view still stands. You can find the full list of Maidstone primary school outcomes for the past three years here. A new Senior Primary School Adviser has been appointed by KCC this week, and it is clear where one of his priorities needs to be. 

In Medway, a first glance suggests an improvement there, but this appears to be because the schools inspected were already some of the better schools. However, a fifth of OFSTED inspections fail the schools involved, almost the same as over the past three years. Further, in clear contrast with Kent, there is no improvement whatever in the overall standards of these schools, with just 5 improving their grade and 5 slipping back. One long awaited achievement is that Medway has secured its first 'Outstanding' OFSTEDs in three years, two schools: St Nicholas CofE Infants, Strood; and St Thomas More Catholic Primary School, Chatham. To balance that, astonishingly the Medway primary school with surely the best socio-economic catchment, St Mary's Island CofE VA Primary School is one of the schools placed in Special Measures. Almost inconceivable and a disgrace for all involved. Not surprisingly, Medway Council is abdicating responsibility by actively pressuring those schools it has failed to become academies.  Sherwin Knight Junior School is a frightening examplar. It was failed by OFSTED in November 2012, who found it had serious weaknesses. This ought to have been the signal for Medway Council to pour in appropriate resources to improve standards. However, when OFSTED came back in February 2013 to carry out a Monitoring Inspection, their conclusion was: "The school’s improvement plan is not fit for purpose.The local authority’s statement of action is not fit for purpose";. In other words, Medway Council has failed its children once again. In a Medway Messenger Report on a Medway Council Meeting in January, which has to be read to be believed, the Education Portfolio holder, Councillor Les Wicks refused to accept any responsibility for these failures on behalf of the Authority, claiming they were solely down to headteachers and governors. One wonders how he can explain away the OFSTED finding: "The local authority’s statement of action is not fit for purpose". Medway Council's motto is "Serving You". Sadly, having seen 25% of all Medway primary schools failing an OFSTED over the past three years, they are clearly not serving Medway's children, have not been serving them for years, and appear to be determined to go on failing to serve them, apparently being happy to blight so many young lives of the children for whom they are responsible.   

Comparison of OFSTED Reports for Kent & Medway Primary Schools,
March 2010- July 2012, against national figures by percentage
 

Outstanding

Good

Satisfactory

Inadequate

Kent 6 35 45 13
Medway 0 34 44 22
Maidstone 5 21 59 16

National

14

49

32

6

Last modified on Monday, 31 August 2015 08:51

1 comment

  • Comment Link Thursday, 09 May 2013 12:32 posted by Maberly

    I cannot think why an educational professional would attack their colleagues in such a way. Those schools graded good/ outstanding often trade on a reputation and were inspected under a less rigorous system, in some cases 8-10 years ago! It is a concern that Maidstone schools are not yet graded as good despite the hard work of staff in schools. This is often based on historical data. I fear heads are being made the scapegoat where the problems lie further up the food chain. PETER: I have of course already sent a courteous and lengthy factual reply to your impassioned private email to me. However, to repeat, when fewer than one in five OFSTED Inspections out of the 44 most recent in Maidstone (all less than three years old - none have a current OFSTED 8-10 years old as you allege), are found to be good or Outstanding, with none since September, a period when over two thirds of OFSTEDs in the rest of Kent are found to be at least good, there must be something wrong. I don;t believe you can find anywhere in the above article, where I have "attacked" teachers in Maidstone as you allege; indeed at present I don't know what is causing the problem that is producing such poor results in Maidstone. If you read the article again, you will see it is mainly one of praise for the work of Kent schools. Hardly an attack on what I know to be a hard working profession, and although retired, I still have family and friends doing a great job as teachers, some in equally difficult circumstances. However, if you can point out where there is an attack on teachers, I will gladly apologise and rephrase my comments. Please note that I am not responsible for comments by others in the media.

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