Update and Correction Saturday 17th December
There is a sea change in measuring performance in primary schools this year with parents facing a barrage of statistics to assist in school choice and the factors outlined in a BBC article leading with “Parents are being urged to ignore the latest school league tables, after "chaotic" changes to tests in England.”
Nevertheless, there is important information amongst the mass of data which will enable a high proportion of schools to claim they are performing well by one measure or another and I attempt to point up some of this below, with a strong warning about reliability.
Government has now developed two key measures, firstly about the progress achieved between the age of 7 (Key Stage 1) and 11 (Key Stage 2), measured around a National Average of 0 (zero). Secondly achievement measured by the percentage of pupils in the school reaching a standardised score of 100 in mathematics, English reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG).
The good news in the Kent table is that overall pupils achieved above average progress in each of the three elements, and that 59% of children reached the standardised score across the board, against a National Average of 53%. This is way up on 2015's statistically absolutely average performance.
For Medway, the table shows that pupils achieved below national average progress in reading and maths, and average progress in SPAG, leading to a below National Average attainment score of 49% in attainment. It is unclear at this stage whether this is an improvement on last year's bottom place in the country.
Further details of the county figures below, with some interpretation, together with a look at some individual schools. I conclude with attempting some advice for parents looking for a primary school for their child in September 2017 based on this data.
Primary School Key Stage Two test performance tables were published yesterday which, along with last week’s Annual OFSTED Report, confirm yet again that Medway Council is responsible for running the worst primary schools in the country. The Local Authority has again come bottom of the National Key Stage 2 League tables, having been in the bottom five every year bar one since 2009, and with a lower proportion of children in Good or Outstanding OFSTED schools than any other of the 153 Local Authorities in the country for the second consecutive year.
Kent has fared much better this year, starting from a very poor base-line four and more years ago, and is now around or above the national average by both measures, having successfully adopted tough actions to improve standards.
My Nominations for Best Performances at Key Stage 2, as explained below
The article below looks at performance in the two Authorities in greater detail, along with notable performances from local schools, both strong and weak......
Kent primary schools have overall had an excellent first half of the year with regard to OFSTED Inspections, with 5 schools Outstanding, 15 Good, 8 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures. More importantly, of the 28 schools inspected an impressive 13 have improved their rating, with just 3 declining. One school, Warden House Primary in Deal has leapt two grades to Outstanding.
Warden House Primary School
Sadly, Medway continues to limp along at the bottom, although with just 6 schools inspected this is too small a sample to draw any hard conclusions. Whilst 4 Good, 1 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures sounds reasonable, and is above the national average, not one of these have improved their assessment and 2 have got worse.....
KCC informed parents of children at Stansted CofE Primary School, at a meeting on Thursday, that the school was being considered for closure following a series of poor OFSTED Reports, declining numbers as children were withdrawn from the school and sent elsewhere, and consequent financial difficulties. Stansted is in the Malling area of Kent.
This decision has comes as no surprise, as anticipated when I wrote my previous article below just a week ago, following the latest OFSTED Report, with OFSTED reporting the number of children having fallen to 35 at the time of the Inspection (it is 34 now). Sadly, the decision to consider closure is the consequence of bad management and governance at the school, with parents losing confidence with a series of temporary headships, turn-over of teachers, poor teaching, seeing other children removed and overall poor reputation.
KCC has now offered each of the remaining children a place in another school, making the decision to close inevitable. Parents have two weeks to accept or decline the offer. ……..
Kent has continued its steady increase against national norms, with 79% of schools achieving Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in reading, writing and maths, the same as the national average – in 2013 Kent was 1% below, and in 2012 2% below. 19 schools had 100% of their pupils achieving this level up from last year’s twelve, details below, with particular mention for Bodsham CEP School who also came top of the county table for percentage of pupils achieving Level 5.
Kent is also performing above the national norm: by counting Level 5 scores; and with the proportion of pupils achieving Level 4b in each of reading, writing and maths; and also in the average point score. Well done! There are also some very welcome improvements at schools I have previously criticised, such as Tree Tops Academy and Molehill Copse Primary School, details below. Eight schools are below the government Floor Standard of 45%, a fifty per cent reduction on last year’s 16 schools although, worryingly, all but one one of these has declined in performance on last year.
Medway, at 75% remains 4% below the national average, the same as 2013, when it was 144th out of 150 Local Authorities, and 6% below in 2012 when it was in last place, although it has now crept up to 140th, so there is improvement. What is pleasing in Medway is that there is just one school, Phoenix Junior Academy, below the Government Floor Standard of schools achieving 45% at Level 4, whereas last year there were two. Top school is Chattenden Primary, 100% Level 4s and top of the Level 5 Table.
One has to approach the whole Key Stage 2 outcomes with caution, remembering the enormous pressure on schools to deliver, with headteachers’ jobs at stake. I talk to many Year 6 parents in state schools in the summer term each year, and habitually ask if their children have done anything interesting in school. Consistently the answer is “No, they have been practising SATs”. I doubt it’s that bad, but it is a strong indicator. The consequence is that KS2 results may be partially a reflection of the proportion of time and the coaching skills employed, rather than the real quality of the school. Nevertheless, with this caveat, KS2 results are an important indicator, published in time for primary admissions. Sadly, this year two Kent schools have seen their KS2 results suppressed by the Standards and Testing Agency for alleged cheating, such is the pressure to do well.
Further details below………
Most of the cases of “disappearing primary school headteachers” who have been removed by Kent County Council, sometimes in an inappropriate manner, cannot be reported as the headteachers sign agreements not to speak out in exchange for inducements to ease their departure. I have written several previous articles about this situation.
However, one has surfaced this week where Simon Webb, an officer of KCC, is reported to have acknowledged in writing that the Authority did not have the powers of intervention to carry out the initial suspension of a primary headteacher and also his wife, both employed at St Francis Catholic Primary School in Maidstone. The allegations are carried in the Kent Messenger.
Also below, I cover the case of a headteacher who cannot be named because she has signed a termination agreement, whose suspension also appears to seriously break employment law and procedures; and catch up with the story of St John's CofE Primary in Canterbury.
Kent County Council's justification for the unreasonable way they have treated so many of their primary school headteachers, often appearing to go outside employment law, appears to be that there is no other way of forcing up standards and indeed KCC reports that Key Stage Two standards have risen this year to match national standards. Good news indeed,after so many years of poor overall performance in the county but at what price? Is the removal of around 5% of Kent's primary headteachers leaving many of the schools in a state of disruption really the central factor in school improvement across the county, with all the other initiatives by Kent to raise standards not playing a part.......
This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........
In 2012, Kent County Council, worried about the low performance achieved by our primary schools, laid out its strategy to improve standards in “Delivering Bold Steps for Kent”. This document set as a central policy aim for 2015:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. This article explores some of the unintended consequences of that aim.
Just a year off the target date, OFSTED outcomes for Kent primary schools have actually fallen, compared both to previous performance and also to national norms over the same period. Since September 2013, 16 Kent primary schools have failed their OFSTEDs out of a total of 103 inspections, three times the national average. There is a fall in the proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected by OFSTED from last year’s dire figures which placed Kent 133rd out of 151 Local Authorities to a new low up to the end of May. In 2012, 61% of Kent’s Primary schools were classified as Good or Outstanding, a figure that the Document described as “clearly unacceptable”. One wonders therefore how the Authority will describe the current shocking figure of 53%, (down again from last year’s 56%) compared to a national average of 59%. 30 of the schools inspected have even seen the grade assessed declining from last time around, with half a dozen of these declining by two grades.
National Key Stage Two SATs have been published this week, producing predictable overall figures for Kent and Medway. The tables provide a wealth of statistics but of particular important are the number of children in each school with a Key Stage Two Level Four in Reading, Writing and mathematics.
Medway continues with its dreadful pattern of being at the foot of the National Table, a slight improvement (of which they have made much) to sixth from the bottom in the whole country out of 152 Local Authorities from the absolute bottom in 2012. Kent continues to be consistently just below average.
The paradox is that at KS4 or GCSE, the most recent results show that Medway with 61.2% of its students scoring 5 GCE Grade C’s including English and maths or better, against a national average of 58.8% and Kent at 61.3% are both well above the national averages. These pose the key question: why is it that, in both Kent and Medway, primary school outcomes are so poor overall, compared with very good progress in our secondary schools? This difference is equally strongly emphasised by looking at my previous article on the recent annual OFSTED Schools Report and in a recent article in Kent on Sunday.
One key difference....
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,......