Update: I have been asked by a number of Year 12 families about any advice I can offer to current students who fear for their chances in Year 13. See new heading towards foot of the article.
|You will find a feature length article in Kent on Sunday here, widening the debate. It includes a quotation by Julie Derrick, headteacher of Invicta Grammar School: "This is an 'interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate". The host of testimonies at the foot of this table, and in the media, suggests she is out of touch with reality.|
Please visit comments at the foot of this page, from twenty young people or their parents, who come across as thoughtful, full of commonsense, concerned for other victims, and well educated by their school. All support the facts denied by Invicta Grammar. Please note that whilst some have chosen to write under a nom de plume, nearly all have identified themselves to me and appear to be genuine. This webpage has been unprecedented in its popularity with 9239 visitors on its first day of publication, indicating the importance of the issues raised, having subsequently soared to a total of 18676 at the time of the latest update (Saturday).
The pressure to achieve results has resulted in the two girls’ grammar schools in Maidstone both adopting apparently unlawful tactics to secure top A Level grade performance, at the expense of the future of some students. OFSTED considers both high performing schools are Outstanding, so there is no doubt about the excellent quality of education offered for those young people who stay the course.
However, at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the school suddenly introduced a new and unlawful provision for selecting external students for admission to the Sixth Form in September 2016, illegally picking those predicted to achieve highest GCSE Grades by a process not in the school’s admission rules.
At Invicta Grammar School, 22 students ‘voluntarily’ left the school half way through their A Level course, refused permission to carry on into Year 13, a total of 26 through the year, the highest number and the second highest proportion of any Kent grammar school. This was because their grades at AS level were insufficient to be confident of the high A Level performance of which the school is so proud, Given no alternative to stay on, this amounts to expulsion although there is no lawful provision for students to be removed mid-course by schools in this way.
Further details on the situation at both schools below, along with other grammar schools which have a high departure rate. There appears a particular problem in Medway, where four of the six grammar schools saw a loss of more than 10% of their cohort between Years 12 and 13 this year.
Each year, I am contacted by a number of young people, mainly but not exclusively in grammar schools, who are not admitted to Sixth Forms although fully qualified according to the school admission criteria, or who are forced out at the end of Year 12 because the school only wants the highest performing students for the sake of their league table position. However, these two cases are the most extreme I have come across.
Too many students, capable of fulfilling their potential by achieving A Level success, albeit sometimes at a lower level than schools wish to see, therefore see their career chances thwarted...
The Big Grammar School Debate organised by the BBC took place last night at St Stephen’s Junior School. I was invited and described somewhat to my surprise as ‘our Educational Expert and Official Adviser’ (unpaid!). There is currently a video of the whole debate here (when I played it through there were unfortunately several periods when sound was lost). An excellent Panel with diverse views led the discussion comprising: Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council; Vince Maple, Labour Leader on Medway Council; Alison Colwell, Principal of Ebbsfleet Academy; Jim Skinner, leader of the Grammar Schools Association; Jo Bartley, founder of Kent Education Network and parent of school aged children; and Peter Hitchens, the wild card, from Mail on Sunday. The debate was chaired by Julia George form Radio Kent.
The audience also included a number of invited representatives from education and business organisations who formed part of the 80 strong audience, but what follows below is very much my personal take and comment on the evening's discussion, which included strong audience participation, especially from the Hackney contingent.
The discussion was very wide ranging and, apart from one contributor, was conducted with courtesy and respect for listening to speakers with different views.
The owner of the Kent Education Network (KEN) website has recently provided sites for two other small campaigns against academic selection at Local Equal Excellent (LEE) for residents of Buckinghamshire and 11+ Truth, which involves KEN, LEE, from Maidenhead”, both registered in September. The last named apparently represents campaign groups as: “A joint effort by groups in selective areas around the UK”, although I am not sure that four meets the description of 'many', and looking at their output it is clear there is a long way to go.
The focus in 11+ Truth on its trashing of Kent schooling is appalling, with many false allegations, wrong data and misleading conclusions as illustrated below.
Parts of this article have been rewritten as a result of comments by the three organisations, which have enabled me to focus on the more important features. Whilst I have cut out some other valid illustrations of my theme, this is because of their limited relevance to Kent.
Below I look at some of the false claims on 11+ Truth, and a closer look at the Kent Education Network and its claims...
Meopham School in Gravesham, a non-selective mixed academy that has achieved excellent GCSE results this year, is proposing to change its status to become a mixed grammar school from September 2018.
This school, with a current intake of 160 students and run by the Swale Academies Trust, has published a Consultation document about the plan. This outlines the proposal if the recommendations of the recently published government Green Paper allowing non-selective schools to convert to grammar schools are approved. Current students at the school would be able to continue on their present courses.
I can see there would be strong demand for such a school if it came into being, as outlined below, but there are also massive problems for non-selective children in an area where there is already enormous pressure on non-selective places.
This is just the first proposal nationally to become public, and gives rise to speculation about several other possibilities of a similar nature across the county.
Please note: What follows are my initial reactions to breaking news today, but I will return to it, with a more measured response and updates as they arise.
There has been considerable press coverage, following the claim in the Sunday Times that there will be a new school on the Sevenoaks annexe site for boys.
It is of course not that simple. Quite simply, there are no regulations at present in place to allow any such development, not even a boys’ annexe.
Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has driven the project from its beginning and now appears to have his vision fully vindicated, appears quite clear that buildings will be constructed over and above those for the girls' annexe. There is a fall-back position in that it is reported that if no school or annexe is allowed, alternative short term use is being planned.
It has been clear for years that Mrs May, even as Home Secretary was in favour of expansion of grammar schools, possibly by creation of annexes, as I wrote in November 2014. Her current ideas are clearly proving very controversial, and I see no point in adding to the debate.
However, as I also wrote in May 2015 after the General Election, about a possible boys’ annexe in Sevenoaks to balance the one being built for the girls of Weald of Kent Grammar: “the pressure to sort this one could become irresistible!” It is starting to look that way.......
A BBC news item last evening (Monday), reporting on the recommendations of the Grammar Schools and Social Mobility Committee of KCC (see previous article), contained the startling opinion that, in order to meet the objectives of the Committee, another 700 grammar school places would need to be created.
Although not mentioned, this would be spread across the five years of compulsory secondary education and so, capping the secondary transfer rate at the current 29%, including all three routes to selection, the Committee is looking at just 120 more places for high performing children on Free School Meals in Kent’s 32 grammar schools each year, fewer than 4 children per average grammar school with an intake of 150 students
In fact, there is no suggestion or intimation whatever in the Committee’s recommendations that a single new place should be created, which would of course increase the current 29% of the school population attending grammar school, an idea for which there appears no political will.
The Committee main thrusts are as follows:……
For update, go to here.
Kent County Council has published a draft Report on Grammar Schools and Social Mobility, prepared by a Select Committee of County Councillors to be approved at a final Meeting of the Committee on June 6th before going to full Council. There is widespread agreement that the proportion of able children from disadvantaged families gaining access to grammar schools in Kent is too low, although once the children are admitted there is clear evidence they perform almost as well as the whole cohort of grammar school entrants. This Report establishes some important principles and recommendations to be put to full County Council on 14th July for approval, as set out below, and it is hoped that KCC will agree to promote these for the sake of those children.
For me the key statistic is that just 57.4 % of children on Free School Meals Ever (FSE, my preferred measure) who have achieved a commonly recognised grammar school standard of two Levels Five Plus in their Key Stage 2 Reading, Writing and Maths, begin grammar school, compared with 78.7% of similar ability children not in this category. This has to be wrong, especially as many of the reasons behind this disparity lie in the education sector itself………
This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar schools. Main pressure points are in West and North West Kent, led by Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, followed by the three West Kent super selectives and Dartford Grammar School for Girls. There is then a sharp fall to the next most popular school, Wilmington Grammar School for Boys but still at 49 first choices rejected. At the other end of the scale, ten grammar schools have vacancies on allocation. Medway schools here.
Kent has seen an extra 91 net places put into its grammar schools, above the numbers planned for admission this year, and 244 more than in 2015, to meet rising rolls in several areas.
The Daily Mail has published an article claiming that the proposed Sevenoaks Annex is being blocked because of legal issues.
The article asserts that the legal problems are such that, even if the Secretary of State were to approve the scheme, it would be overturned by a legal challenge in the courts. Fear of a Judicial Review was likely to put a stop to the proposal going ahead.
The current scheme is the fourth to be proposed since the satellite grammar school was first proposed three and a half years ago, planning permission for the new annex has been granted, and builders are waiting to move in. Meanwhile on the same site, the new buildings for the Trinity Free School are already in progress.
The article gives no clue as to what the legal obstacles might be and, whilst they were evident in each of the three previous schemes, it is harder to see what is now suggested to be blocking the proposal.
Whatever, we are left wondering if this is just another of the myriad of rumours that have swirled around this project from the start, as confirmed by any internet search for "Sevenoaks Annex". In particular (updating five days after the original Daily Mail article) it is curious that no other media outlet has picked up the story, or is it just they have been burned before....
KCC has filed a new letter with Sevenoaks District Council, reproduced below, relating to its Planning Application for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe and Trinity Free School. This sets out a refined version of the case for the annexe, including KCC’s continued commitment to find a solution to the problems previously covered here.
Probably the most significant paragraph is the penultimate one, which refers to an invitation to submit further proposals from an interested school. I presume this refers to a local single-sex grammar school, but following previous conclusions it would probably also need to become co-educational......