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........
Mike Whiting is the biggest Conservative casualty in yesterday's election for the Kent County Council, losing his seat for Swale Central. Politics apart, I believe he will be sorely missed and Kent school children will be the losers by his going. Mike only became a County Councillor at the last election in 2009, and when he was appointed Deputy Cabinet Member and then Cabinet Member for Education in short succession, both in 2011, I feared that his lack of education experience would be a setback. However, he mastered his brief rapidly and in the last 12 months we have seen many initiatives that are down to his drive that have improved the quality of education for our children.
The shortage of places in both primary and secondary schools last year was a debacle, but was minimised for 2013 admissions through a robust approach to creating additional places .......
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:......
Article produced for Kent on Sunday: 24 February 2013, reproduced here (there are two items by me in this edition).
As this is the first article in a series, and I have tended to highlight the negative features of the education service in the past, I thought it would be appropriate to applaud a major achievement by teachers in Kent’s primary schools.
I have in the past been highly critical of the 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 OFSTED standard.
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 two and a half 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.
This would have been even better were it not for the continuing dire performance of Maidstone’s schools, which have a record of being the worst performing district since I started keeping records, every one of the six schools being inspected since September graded ‘Requires Improvement’ the replacement grade for ‘Satisfactory’, not one of which improved its performance from the previous inspection.
Of the schools elsewhere in Kent, there is a massive improvement on each school’s previous inspection result, with 30 schools upping their rating and just four declining. Of course this has all been done at a cost, and the number of Kent primary headteachers leaving their posts mid-year appears anecdotally to be higher than last year.
This improvement could be partially down to the new OFSTED grading system being more generous than its predecessor, and we don’t yet have national statistics to compare but, given the uncompromising attitude of the Chief OFSTED Inspector, this would appear hardly likely. Instead, I believe it is because of a new positive attitude and higher expectations in Kent, which is bringing results. Congratulations to all concerned, but do spare a thought for the casualties, often school leaders who have given their very best for their schools, but have not been able to deliver for whatever reason.
For comparison, I also looked at the Medway figures. With just 12 schools inspected, this is a less reliable measure, but even here, there is a distinct upward movement, with 50% ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’, up from 34%. However, two schools failed the OFSTED since September, the same as in Kent, but with a quarter of the numbers. On the other hand, St Nicholas CofE Infant School in Strood deserves special mention, as the only Medway primary school to be awarded an ‘Outstanding’ OFSTED in four years, out of a total of 71 inspections. Kent has 20 in the same period, including Cobham Primary school and Sheldwich Primary school who achieved the same accolade since September. You will find a summary of each school’s OFSTED inspection result, together with further information on some individual schools, on my website, at www.kentadvice.co.uk.
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,......
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 .......
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......
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:........
(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......