Kent Primary schools have continued to produce a very high pattern of OFSTED outcomes above the national averages since my previous report in February, with 3 more schools ‘Outstanding’, and 12 Assessed ‘Good’ out of the 19 schools inspected, with none failing. Even more pleasing for the families concerned, 10 of these have improved their rating, as against just 4 declining. The three ‘Outstanding’ schools are: Chiddingstone, Sevenoaks; St Martin’s CofE, Folkestone; and Wickhambreux CofE, Canterbury.
Special mention to St Martin’s, together with Kemsley Primary Academy in Sittingbourne and St Francis Catholic in Maidstone, which have each leapt two categories, Kemsley and St Francis (see below) up from Special Measures to ‘Good.’
In Medway, things also look much better with its first two ‘Outstanding’ schools for two years out of the eight assessed - The Pilgrim Primary in Borstal, and Cliffe Woods Primary, an Academy so independent of Medway Council, both up from "Good" on their previous assessment. The other six were all assessed as ‘Good’ and, although one has slipped from Outstanding, two others have improved, so overall some improvement on previous results.
At the foot of this article, is a table of the relevant data for both Authorities in 2014/15, compared with the most recent national figures, and you can compare them with 2013/14 via the link here.
Whilst not a primary school, I am also happy to congratulate here Five Acre Wood Special School, Maidstone, on its recent Outstanding OFSTED Report, joining seven other Outstanding Kent Special Schools out of a total of 20, eleven of the others being graded 'Good'.......
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.
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,......
(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.....
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:........
Holy Family Roman Catholic Primary School joins the growing list of Maidstone primary schools failed by OFSTED, when it was given 'Notice to Improve' in October. Particular criticism is made of the "slow progress many pupils make, especially in Key Stage 2 mathematics; their attendance; and the school’s governance". The full list of failing schools in the town is: .........
With an increase of 25% in the number of children not offered any of their choices in Kent Infant Schools (even taking the predicted increased numbers into account), The general picture is outlined here. I am still unclear where all the major pressures are. KCC confirm they have put in an extra 354 places to help ease these, asserting that this is the result of advance planning. This is directly contradicted by the headteacher of Claremont Primary School in Tunbridge Wells, who states, as quoted on the front page of 'Your Tunbridge Wells' this week:
"The Local Authority have recently informed us that there has been an unprecedented and unexpected increase in the number of people seeking Reception places across the town this year. As a result they have asked us to take an additional class for September 2011 in order to meet their statutory duties. This is combined with increases in the number of admissions for three other Primary schools....
Poor leadership has been blamed after league tables revealed a “devastating” 10 per cent of the country’s lowest performing primary schools are in Kent and Medway. Of 200 underachieving schools highlighted in this year’s SATs league tables, 22 – including two from Medway – were in the county.
The Department for Education findings show the number of children who have reached the Level Four benchmark by the time they move on to secondary school. Although standards were up from last year by two per cent – with 70 per cent of children in Kent County Council run
schools and 67 per cent in Medway Council-run schools meeting standards in maths and English – results were still below the 73 per cent national average. And despite some schools excelling, such as the Pilgrim School near Rochester, which was named as the most improved in England, and 10 others which gained a clean sweep in the core subjects, others fell short.
About 190 schools in Kent and some 39 in Medway failed to reach the national average in the number of pupils achieving the Level Four target.
Gravesend-based education expert Peter Read called the statistics “devastating”. He said:“Ten per cent of the 200 bottom schools are in this county. Kent has a large infrastructure of officers supposed to be supporting these schools, but why is support not turning into action? “If you look at Ofsted reports there are concerns about leadership. What is clear is in a number of schools when good senior staff leave, standards fall. There is an issue with leadership here. There are
examples of where a school is failing and advertising for a new head. “Instead they need to bring in outside help to get the school back up to standard before advertising.” Mr Read said from his own personal experience, leadership is key. “My grandson goes to school in deprived Peckham, overlooked by Milwall FC, yet 98 per cent of children got Level Four in English and maths.“KCC may say some of its schools are in deprived areas, but I’m willing to bet that none of them is as deprived as Peckham. If a school there can deliver those standards, so can schools in Kent. It is down to outstanding leadership from the head.”
Education chiefs at KCC said they were pleased with improvements – including 42 of the 78 schools that achieved less than 55 per cent in English and maths in 2009 but had reached or exceeded the target in 2010 – but admitted the figures needed to get better in coming years.
Schools throughout the country took part in a boycott of the Key Stage 2 SATs last May after teaching unions claimed pupils suffer as a result of too much emphasis being placed on them during lessons. Cllr Sarah Hohler, KCC cabinet member for children, families and education, said: “There will continue to be intensive support for those schools below the target and partnerships between schools to help raise attainment.
“It is difficult to compare Kent with the national average this year. Only six per cent of Kent primary schools boycotted the tests, compared with 26 per cent nationally. “The results are what they are, but can we be absolutely confident that the national average is a true reflection?”
Schemes have been put in place by KCC to ensure children’s key learning skills are developed at school and home. The council also revealed that for a fifth year running children’s achievements at the end of reception year had improved, with 61 per cent reaching the expected level. Education bosses at Medway Council said they were pleased to see improvements in results, but said that the authority was committed to driving up standards.
Rose Collinson, the director of children’s and adult services, said: “It’s worth noting that, unlike many authorities, the vast majority of our pupils sat the tests this year.
“It’s not really possible to make comparisons between different councils as in some authorities more than 50 per cent of children did not take part. However, I know all of Medway’s primary headteachers will join with me in wanting to accelerate the improvements we have already made.”