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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

Medway Council has once again failed its children, this time the most vulnerable, as confirmed by a scathing Ofsted Report on its ‘services’ to children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities, published this week. The report concludes ‘Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) has determined that a Written Statement of Action is required because of significant areas of weakness in the local area’s practice’. I think that is putting it politely. There are strengths identified; it just happens that all these appear to be down to the health service and not education.

Concerns centre about chaotic management of the ‘Service’, resulting in failure to take necessary action. This can be seen from the following quotes: ’Medway’s education and service leaders do not share one vision and strategy for SEN and/or disabilitiesNo arrangements are in place to ensure effective joint oversight and clear lines of accountabilityLittle progress has been made in addressing several of the pressing priorities for improvement identified as far back as 2012Leaders’ understanding of what has and has not improved in the meantime is limited. I could have chosen many others.

Medway

'The collaborative work between professionals and children and their families to plan services and meet individual needs, known as co-production, is weak at both a strategic and individual level' This criticism is underpinned by the heavy criticism of the implementation of Education and Health Care Plans for children with the greatest needs, which are at the heart of Departmental work, and ‘A considerable number of parents shared concerns with inspectors that the needs of their children are not being identified and met sufficiently well’.

There is of course reference to Medway's record exclusion rates: ‘Although improving, rates of permanent and fixed-term exclusion are still notably higher for pupils who have SEN and/or disabilities in Medway than for similar pupils nationally, as it is for all pupils. Lack of specialist provision has brought serious consequences for pupils with severe SEN or disabilities travelling out of Medway daily on long and very expensive journeys.  


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Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

The new Interim Chief Executive of SchoolsCompany Trust has apologised in a letter to parents of pupils at the Goodwin Academy for ‘previous financial failings, which are unacceptable’.

Sadly, this has come as little surprise to me, as I foresaw issues as early as 2014, when I noted in an article that SchoolsCompany had contributed to the startling decline of the predecessor school Castle Community College (CCC), in Deal from Ofsted Outstanding to Special Measures in three short years. As a reward SchoolsCompany took over as sponsor of the school as recently as July 2016. The school was awkwardly renamed SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, presumably to advertise the name of the Sponsors as a priority, above creating a new school image.     

The Academy limped on for a period, after 2014, with the 'support' of SchoolsCompany,  unpopular with a third of its places unfilled, and underperforming, although there have recent strong signs of improvement under new school leadership. Unusually, eight of the eleven Company Trustees were paid a salary by the Trust, hardly an inducement for encouraging scrutiny. After the school received a Financial Notice to Improvefrom the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in October, seven of the Trustees resigned including the Executive Principal of the Company This left the school with just four Trustees including the CEO and founder of the company, Elias Achilleos, although he now appears to have been replaced by the new Interim Chief Executive.  The Trust has demonstrably failed some of the Financial Notice's requirements for improvement. 

Goodwin Academy

The school will clearly have a future in its new £25 million premises opened four months ago on October 6th, just three weeks before Trustees resigned en masse, but it looks increasingly likely it will not be with Schools Company. Indeed a more than doubling of first preferences to 173 for 2018 admission, shows confidence in the school and its leadership, achieved without obvious input from the few remaining Trust members. 


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As schools come under tighter financial pressures (never mind official news, but ask your local school how it is managing), pupil numbers become ever more critical as they generate the largest part of the income of each school. This article looks at a number of issues in Kent and Medway highlighted by the October 2017 schools census. 

Which seven Kent secondary schools have more than 40% of their Year 7 places empty for September 2017? 

Which four of these were more than half empty in Year 7 for 2016, with two over 40% for all of the past three years?

Which secondary school lost over a third of its cohort Years 7-11?

Which two secondary schools, one in Kent one in Medway, lost over a fifth of their cohort Years 9-11,
a pattern associated with off-rolling.  

Which six grammar schools lost over 20% of their pupils at the end of Year Eleven?

What happened after last year’s Year 12 expulsion scandal at Invicta Grammar and elsewhere?

Which six primary schools (two in Medway) failed to fill half their places for each of the last two years?

Answers to these questions and more below.


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Friday, 26 January 2018 12:46

Kent GCSE Results Final Outcomes

Medway Outcomes here

This is the second year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replace the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is slightly below the National Average of -0.03, at -0.11.

Meopham 2

Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent exactly equalling the National score of 46.3 ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case. 

Headlines: the Grammar School progress table is no longer the sole preserve of West Kent and super-selectives with four girls' schools  invading the top eight. Highworth, Invicta, Folkestone Girls' and Maidstone Girls have joined Tonbridge, TWGGS, and Dartford Girls', leaving Dartford as the only boys school.   

Top non-selective school is Bennett Memorial, one of six church schools in the top ten, the top three ever present also including St Simon Stock and St Gregory's. For the second consecutive year there are remarkable performances by Meopham School and Orchards Academy, neither of which have the built in advantages of other top performers. Six schools are below the government floor level with well-below average progress, down from eight last year, and so  facing government intervention. 

Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls'. These are the same schools as in 2016, balanced by five boys and one mixed grammar at the foot.  The Non-selective table is led by three church schools, Bennett Memorial leading the way above two grammar schools. Four non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables.

Orchards 1

Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......


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I make no apologies for this being the fourth consecutive news item about Medway on this site but, as my previous articles suggest, the education system in the Authority has become unstable, with self-interest by academy chains driving decisions.

Chatham Boys 3

The controversial proposal for Holcombe Grammar School (previously Chatham Grammar School for Boys) to become co-educational has just been turned down for the second time by the DFE. This was no doubt for sound reasons, including those I have identified previously, most recently here.  When the school first proposed the change, it made clear in its paperwork that it did not care about any damage a change would cause to Chatham Grammar School for Girls by increasing the number of girls' school places where there was already a surplus. It would also alter the balance of grammar school provision in Medway to just one heavily oversubscribed boys' grammar and three girls' schools, along with two mixed grammar schools.

This is one of the worst of a number recent proposals for change by Medway secondary schools, the reality being that neither Chatham grammar school was attracting enough local children to be viable in the long term at that time. 

BUT: Congratulations to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, which runs Holcombe Grammar School and features in most of my recent Medway articles, by being identified in a government analysis as the highest performing Multi-Academy Trust nationally in KS4 (GCSE) Progress 8 Assessment Tables

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Further update: Holcombe proposal to change to co-ed turned down

Update: Potential issues on the Hoo Peninsula expanded below, along with a different look at the numbers.  

This is my third article looking at school admission oversubscription rules that appear to be unlawful and open to challenge. The two previous articles focused on Invicta Grammar in Maidstone & The Rochester Grammar in Medway, and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, also in Rochester.

There is a unique situation rapidly developing in Medway, in spite of challenges by the Council in previous years with nearly all secondary academies appearing to rush like Gaderine swine this year to give admission priority to schools in their Academy Trusts and limit options for families. In Kent, where the Local Authority also keeps a close eye on such matters, there is no evidence of anything similar after Invicta Grammar School withdrew their proposal. 

In Medway, amongst the issues, it is proposed that pupils at over a quarter of all non-catholic primary and junior schools (excluding infant schools) and 38% of all primary and junior academies will be given priority for admission to specific grammar schools (some of these schemes are already in place). Pupils at half of all primary and junior academies will be given priority for admission to one or more linked schools, which poses an additional challenge for families choosing primary schools. Already fourteen of Medway's 17 secondary schools either have admission policies that give preference to children from named schools or are proposing to introduce them. 

Medway Council's policy of encouraging all its schools to become academies has obviously played its part in this undesirable outcome, and is bound to see numbers of the tied primary schools increase as more change status. Currently, 42 of Medway's 65 primary and junior schools are academies. 

I look below at the situation as it affects each of Medway's secondary schools and linked primary academies.………


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Update: See my new article here.
 
The Williamson Trust of six academies currently comprises: one grammar school, Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical school (SJWMS) in Rochester; one All Through School - the Hundred of Hoo Academy (HofH); and four Medway primary schools, All Hallows Primary Academy; Elaine Primary Academy, High Halstow Primary School, and Stoke Community School, three of whom are on the Hoo Peninsula.
                         ElainePA             HundredofHoo               
The Trust is a classic and certainly not unique example of the fallacy that a successful grammar school has the expertise to run other types of school with equal success. The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for the South East formally raised concerns about Elaine Primary in December 2015, following up with a wider Letter of Concern about poor standards at Elaine, All Hallows and Stoke in January 2016. Then in April 2017, the Trust was issued with a Pre-Termination Warning Notice for Elaine Primary threatening to close the school by cutting off its funding.
 
Earlier this week, a Public Relations Company employed by the Trust sent out a Press Release, not mentioning any of this, but explaining in glowing terms how wonderful it is for Elaine Primary to have the opportunity to transfer to a small London Primary Academy Trust. No mention of the appalling education provided for its pupils for the last five years, and indeed further back under Medway Council.
 
This article looks at the issues around this decision in more detail along with a closer look at the Hundred of Hoo Academy and the Williamson Trust.

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Medway academies update: 14 out of 17 Medway secondary schools giving priority to selected primary schools for admissions.

Skinners School update: The headteacher has sent out a letter explaining the rationale behind the school's proposals. This confirms the driving forces, I have referred to below: Pressure on West Kent grammar places for boys; and the financial advantages to improve facilities.  

Schools that operate their own admission rules are now publishing proposals for admission in September 2019 for Consultation, where they are making changes. Details for Kent primary and secondary schools that have posted their proposals here, and Medway here

This article looks at the far-reaching changes proposed for The Skinners School in Tunbridge Wells which will give priority to Kent boys, and the failed attempt by Invicta Grammar in Maidstone to give priority to schools run by the Valley Invicta Trust.

Skinners (2)               invicta

A previous article looked at proposed changes at The Rochester Grammar School, again giving priority to its own schools, but now called into question by the Invicta situation, as explained below, and which has exposed a much greater issue in Medway, details to follow shortly. 

Rochester Grammar

A future article will look at other proposals including a number of schools extending priority to children on Free School Meals or attracting Pupil Premium (a slightly more comprehensive group).......


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