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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.
Excellent news for three Gravesend primary schools as The Goldsmiths’ Company, a major London Livery Company, has announced a major investment of £200,000 in the schools over the next four years. This will create a new maths programme in the schools that will teach, influence and inspire both their own pupils and the wider education community. 
Goldsmiths 1 
The consortium of the three schools, Kings Farm Primary, Lawn Primary, and Whitehill Primary was selected by Goldsmiths’ after a competitive interview and presentation. They will now deliver a programme based on the principles of ‘Mastery Maths’, a form of mathematics teaching inspired by a style used in Singapore and Shanghai. This will give pupils a richer, deeper, learning experience enabling them to become fluent in mathematics, and to reason and solve problems by applying their mathematics skills…..

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Index

 2017 has been a very good year for Primary school admissions in Kent with 97.4% of families being awarded a school place of their choice, up from 96.6% in 2016. This has been brought about by a combination of 267 extra places created since the 2016 allocations including 30 in one new school, together with a remarkable fall of 679 children or 3.8% in the total applying for places. Overall there are 11.1% vacant places in the Reception classes, rising sharply from 6.5% in 2016. This article follows on from my first look at the general data, here, and explores the pressure areas looking at oversubscription and vacancies across the county.

There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school; Ashford, two vacancies, apart from 14 in a school on the outskirts; Sevenoaks,  full apart from 18 places in one school on the outskirts of town; and Tunbridge Wells just one school with 24 vacancies. However, overall there is a far better picture than last year. Contrast these with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty in their schools. 

Once again the most popular schools vary considerably from last year, with just Great Chart, Ashford (3rd in 2016) and Fleetdown in Dartford (first last year) occurring in top 10s for both years. Most popular school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart with 41. You will find the full list of high preferences below.

Slade             Great Chart

At the other end of the scale, one unfortunate school with a Good OFSTED, and sound KS2 results had no first choices, and offered just one place (!), whilst another 17 schools have more than half of their places empty, a sharp rise on last year. As financial pressures mount in schools, such low numbers would become critical if repeated.

I look at each district in more detail below, with a brief note on admission to Junior Schools.  The outcomes for Medway primary schools will follow shortly…...


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Saturday, 15 April 2017 19:39

Kent & Medway OFSTED Reports to Easter

Kent primary school OFSTED Reports up to Easter show considerable improvement on an already strong position as shown in the summary tables below. Outcomes include 15 schools, a fifth of the 72 inspected, improving their assessment as against just 3 which declined. The proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected is well above the most recent national figure, with seven Outstanding schools.  Four schools improved their grading by two levels; Aylesford Primary; Chantry Community Academy and Tymberwood Academy (both in Gravesham), taking them out of Special Measures to Good; and Cliftonville Primary to Outstanding. Two other schools, Pilgrim’s Way Canterbury, and Copperfields Academy also in Gravesham, were taken out of Special Measures. All the last six are academies. By coincidence two of these, Chantry (Greenacre Academy Trust) and Pilgrim’s Way (Village Academy Trust) are advertisers on this website, both Academy Trusts taking over after previous failed conversions, the other four Trusts inheriting their schools directly from KCC control. 

Chantry             Pilgrims Way    

 Cliftonville

You will find a summary of the current position for Kent schools written by Mr Patrick Leeson, Director of Education, here, although it omits the most recent Inspections of schools that have become academies and not been re-inspected, following government practice. The Kent schools affected include 11 who were judged Inadequate in their most recent Inspection.

In Medway, just 8 primary schools were inspected with a slight decline in performance, and still well below national levels. One Medway Primary school was found Outstanding, Cliffe Woods Primary, for the second time. Gordon Children's Academy Junior School improved by two Grades to Good, matching the Infant School which retained its Good status. 

 
Of the  22 Kent and Medway secondary schools inspected, 17 were found Good, five Requiring Improvement, with just one change from the schools' previous assessments.

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A story on the BBC website features a Report that offers misleading and irrelevant data relating the Kent grammar school selection process, issued by Education DataLab (EDL). EDL has built this on information collected by the nebulous Kent Education Network (KEN), the link underlining the misuse of statistics by KEN in its passionate opposition to the existence of grammar schools in the county, so hardly an objective source of data. The title of the Report, ‘The 11-plus is a loaded dice - Analysis of Kent 11-plus data’, is itself highly pejorative based on the false claim in the document that there is an arbitrariness in who passes the Kent Test, although no doubt designed to capture headlines.

Education Datalab describes itself as a research organisation that produces independent, cutting-edge analysis of education policy and practice. Employing Joanne Bartley from Kent Education Network as one of the authors of the Report completely destroys any claim to independence or objectivity in this case.  


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This article looks at the practice of off-rolling in Kent secondary schools, whereby some schools encourage some pupils to leave the school before GCSE. This may be an attempt to try and secure better GCSE results for the school.Last month, Ofsted’s Director of Education asked his Inspectorial team to look for Inspection evidence as to whether schools are off-rolling students before GCSEs are taken, which will in future count against them in any Inspection judgement.

The schools with the highest number of off-rolled students by number or percentage before the 2016 GCSEs are: Sittingbourne Community College and Westlands School (both part of the Swale Academies Trust); Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey; Charles Dickens School; and High Weald Academy. Pent Valley School, at that time being managed by Swale Academies Trust has now closed.

I also look more closely at the influence of Pupil Referral Units on this situation, especially at the Swale Inclusion Unit, and issues at Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy.  

Isle of Sheppey Academy 2

The grammar school with the highest number of off-rolled pupils is unsurprisingly Invicta Grammar in Maidstone! 


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Wednesday, 12 April 2017 22:47

Eleven New Kent and Medway Free Schools

Update with sponsor for Maritime Academy

Government has today announced approval for eleven new Free schools in Kent and Medway, amongst 131 nationally. These “exclude those meeting a need identified by Local Authorities”. They contain some familiar names, and some wholly new to Kent or Medway. You will find a full list here.

The prospect of one or more becoming grammar schools is signalled by the government statement.

I look further at the individual schools below and will update this article as I learn new information. The article concludes with an explanation of the distinction between the terms 'academy' and 'free school'. 


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17/05: Coming Shortly: Oversubscription and vacancies in Kent and Medway primary schools 

The Press releases of both Kent County and Medway Councils celebrate the good news that record proportions of pupils have received  offers of Primary School places meeting their preferences. Unfortunately,  both omit to mention this is because of a sharp fall in the number of children in their current pre-school cohort.

 Kent County Council's Press Release regarding Primary School allocations this week rightly acknowledges the good news for most families:'A record number, 97% of Kent children will be offered one of their preferred primary schools on Primary offer day 18 April. This is the highest recorded percentage achieved since coordinated primary admissions began'.  

You will find a full breakdown of the data for 2017 and previous years below. Whilst this is no consolation for everyone, it is still excellent news for most with the proportion of first choices at 89.1% being above the national average of 88%.

Medway Council (Serving You) as usual has sent out an opaque press release on allocations, this year even thinner and vaguer than usual. With so little to go on, I have only been able to quote general percentages in the table below. Once again the Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, said: 'It is wonderful to see so many children in Medway offered a place at one of their preferred schools, and such a high number at their first preference school'. A great pity he forgot to mention that this improvement in the percentage of pupils gaining schools of their preference is purely down to a reduction of 162  Medway children looking for places.  

I will publish further details on oversubscription and vacancies at Reception Level and at Junior schools in Kent and Medway when I receive them, hopefully next week, but you can see a flavour of the situation from my 2016 article on Kent oversubscription and vacancies here, and for Medway here

The continuation below begins with some advice on next steps if you have not received the school of your choice. You will find informaion and advice on appeals here.


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This article looks at the key oversubscription and vacancy situation in Medway non-selective schools, following secondary allocations at the beginning of March.
The headline figure for all secondary allocations shows a seriously worsening picture, with a fall of over 5% in the proportion of Medway children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 145 children. According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter in a press release, “This is great news”! See my previous article for initial figures.
 
There were just 14 additional places created above the final intakes for 2016, all at Strood and Thomas Aveling Academies. However, with a hundred extra children accommodated in Medway’s non-selective schools, this produced a doubling of children being offered none of their choices, instead becoming Local Authority Allocated Children (LAAC) at schools with vacancies.

Most popular non-selective school is once again Brompton Academy, disappointing 177 first choices, well up on 2016’s figure of 108.

Brompton Academy

Five of the eleven non-selective schools had vacancies, most at Victory Academy with 30% empty spaces, in spite of having 30 children allocated who were given no school of their choice.

  
After allocation, there were 140* empty spaces in all, a just manageable 5.6% of the total thanks to a net outflow of 60 children. However,  more vacancies will be created through successful grammar school appeals and considerable churning will follow as the more popular schools refill.
 
There is now a sharp polarisation of popularity in Medway, with families clamouring for places in the three most popular schools, the three at the other end accepting 106 LAACs between them.

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