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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.

Update: I have now received a copy of the (sketchy) Medway Press Release on Primary Allocations and have incorporated it below. 

Excellent news for most Kent and Medway families applying for primary school places.

A record proportion of Kent pupils who applied for Reception places at primary schools will be offered their first choice school today, at 89.5%Just 390 children have no school of their choice, a record low contrasting for example with 724 disappointed families in 2015. Unfortunately, the one page Medway Press Release is as usual almost content free, but informs us that over 97.5% of the 3347 Medway pupils were offered a place on their  application form, slightly up on last year's 97.4%.

The promising Kent figures have been achieved because of a fall in numbers of children looking for places for the second successive year, 94 fewer than in 2017, and 773 fewer than in 2016. All 2018 data is from the KCC press release. In Medway there has been an increase of 17 children offered places in local primary schools.

I am waiting for detailed oversubscription and vacancy figures at both Reception and Junior School level to be sent, both for Kent and Medway and will publish these as soon as possible. You may find the equivalent picture for 2017 allocations helpful.

You will find advice below on what to do if you have not received a school of your choice, together with a breakdown of offers for both Kent and Medway over the past four years. 

You will also find information and advice on appeals below and  here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, chances are negligible. 


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I have at last obtained comprehensive data for Permanent Exclusions and numbers leaving schools for Home Education across Kent in the school year 2016-17, in spite of spurious attempts by KCC to keep back the detail.

68 children have been permanently excluded from schools and Pupil Referral Units across the county, 19 of these being from the primary sector. Most exclusions from one school were the five from the Knole Academy, for the second time in three years. Three excluded children have Statements of SEN or EHCP Plans, a sharp fall from the 14 statemented children of 2015-16. For that year Kent had the lowest permanent secondary school exclusion rate in the South East, and the thirteenth lowest in the country, a comparison that is likely to stand up again for 2016-17 when figures are published.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of children leaving to be home educated from 770 in 2015-16, to 925 last year. Largest number is from Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, under Tough love new management at 44, more than twice the 20 of the previous year. However, the school with the highest percentage is Ebbsfleet Academy, also Tough Love, at 4.4% of its roll, or more than one child from every class. 

Altogether, 2,292 Kent children went missing from education at some time in 2016-17, 333 of whom were from Thanet. From the data of previous years, it is likely that some 500 were still missing at year’s end.

I am absolutely convinced that the large majority of schools in Kent work very hard to support children at risk of exclusion and try to avoid losing them through one of the reasons described below, as far as possible. 


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Note: This article includes the out of county information I have now received from Medway Council. This is much more significant for grammar schools, and I have also now incorporated this into my Medway Grammar School article.  

76% of children offered places in Medway’s eleven secondary schools on allocation in March were given their first choice school. All but 55 of the 1645 non-selective secondary school places available were filled a vacancy rate of just 3.3%, nearly all in two schools, St John Fisher Catholic and Hundred of Hoo Academy. This takes into account the net 30 places taken out of two schools since the 2017 allocations.

Brompton Academy

The most oversubscribed school was, as it has been for many years, Brompton Academy, turning away 193 first preferences or 47% of the total, the second highest figure across both Kent and Medway. Just four more of the eleven non-selective schools turned away children who put them first: Thomas Aveling school – 70; Strood Academy – 35; Rainham Girls – 17; and Howard School 15.

136 Medway children received no school of their choice and were allocated places in local schools (Local Authority Allocations or LAA) by Medway Council, 58 at St John Fisher Catholic and 41 at Victory Academy.

Further details below.


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Kent Primary Schools inspected by OFSTED since September have again produced excellent outcomes overall, way above the national figures. Although there is just one new Outstanding School, Hernhill CofE Primary near Faversham; 85% of all 61 schools assessed were found to be Good, as against 76% nationally. Three academies: Beaver Green CofE and Kennington CofE both in Ashford; and Lansdowne Primary in Sittingbourne all had their first academy Inspection assessed Good, although they had each failed their previous Inspection under KCC. Two schools were found Inadequate.

 hernhill 1 

Meanwhile, Medway schools continue to underperform, with just 60% Good, not including the one Outstanding School, Luton Junior, situated  in one of the most socially deprived parts of the Authority.  Although the current period includes a small sample of 10 schools, the percentage is higher than the same period of 2016-17 which was 50% Good, the higher figure wholly as a result of good performance by Local Authority schools, again with the one school Outstanding. Pleasingly, for the first time for many years, no Medway schools have been found Inadequate so far this year.

  Luton Junior

Further details for both Kent and Medway below.


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Index

92% of pupils offered places in Kent non-selective schools for September 2018 were given their first choice school on allocation in March. 44 of the 46 schools were full, although this figure will fall after successful grammar school appeals see some of the pupils pull out leading to considerable churning. Just 6% of the places available were left vacant, a fall every year since 2014’s 11% at this stage, the 543 new places since last year not having kept pace with the rise in pupil numbers.

St Georges Foundation       Valley 2

In some ways, the picture looks similar, although tighter, than 2017 with Thanet again having no non-selective places empty on allocation and two of the four most oversubscribed schools in the county: St George’s CofE Foundation School with 196 first choices turned away, and King Ethelbert’s School with 139. They are separated by Valley Park in Maidstone with 183 and Fulston Manor in Sittingbourne with 157. Shepway and Sevenoaks also have no vacancies in their schools, with five Local Authorities having spaces in just one school: Canterbury; Dartford; Gravesham; Swale; and Tunbridge Wells. All these situations still look critical for future years,  even though there are three new secondary schools in the pipeline.

Tunbridge Wells looks especially challenging, with KCC appearing to have little idea of where much needed extra places are coming from over the next three years, This in a town where over two thirds of places go to children from faith families, and some 80 are sent to schools in neighbouring towns, most with a 30 mile round trip!

 The number of Local Authority Allocations (LAA), children who had been given no school of their choice being placed in schools with vacancies by KCC, has risen by 12% to 739.

Seven schools would have more than a third of their places empty, but for the large numbers of LAAs as vacant spaces elsewhere dry up. They are headed up by: High Weald Academy, 64% spaces; New Line Learning Academy, 54%; and Oasis Academy Sheppey, with 43%

I look more closely at the most oversubscribed schools and those with most vacancies below, together with the situation in each District, along with the impact of out of county applications.


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It will come as no surprise to regular browsers of this website that Holmesdale School in Snodland has plunged from Ofsted ‘Good’ in 2014 to Special Measures, in four years. I have tracked its declining standards over this time, most recently reporting on the -0.7 measure in GCSE Progress 8 for 2017, classified as ‘Well below Average’, and also liable for government intervention.

The Report is withering, although acknowledging that the latest headteacher is now able ‘to accurately identify inadequacies in leadership, teaching and pupils’ outcomes’. She has been in post for over a year, and in the school for longer, so slow progress! A new governing body, appointed in January 2017, presumably as an action to improve matters, has failed the students of the school according to the inspection, with every single Ofsted measure found inadequate.

Holmesdale

 

My own key finding was that the current year 11 cohort has lost over a third of its pupils since Year 7, presumably as dissatisfied parents found alternatives, a percentage way above any other school in the county, utterly unacceptable and surely sending out the loudest signal of all.

The big question is, if so many of the indicators of poor performance were obvious back as far as 2015, when GCSE performance plummeted to a 29% A-C pass rate, and has never recovered, why was robust action not taken earlier, rather than just getting around to identifying weaknesses in the last few months.


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Update: I at last have the data for the significant number of places offered to pupils from outside Medway, and have incorporated this below.  

Kent Grammar Schools hereMedway Non-Selective places here.

157 new places have created in Medway grammar schools for entry in 2018 over and above original 2017 figure of 942, and 15% of the total. However, the 993 places allocated to children at the six grammars has fallen slightly from the 1003 of 2017, as explained below. Meanwhile the proportion and number of Medway children eligible for grammar school dipped sharply to 23.4% against a target of 25%, the gap totally explained by the failure of the Medway Review process. Just one school, Chatham Grammar Girls, has vacancies, with the number of offers for the school at this stage nearly halved whilst four other schools, headed by The Rochester Grammar School and Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, are heavily oversubscribed with first choices. I look at the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

Chatham Girls

Slightly fewer out of County(ooc) children were offered places at Medway grammar schools than in 2017, at 993, or 19% of the total. The majority of these were for Chatham Girls, Holcombe and Rochester Grammar, mainly coming from Kent, Greenwich and Bexley.  

Just 12 children attending Medway state schools were successful at Review out of the 161 who applied. This amounts to a total of 0.37% of the cohort against a target of 2% being added to the original 23% who passed directly, with none from private or out of Medway schools. This means that the this highly stressful and flawed process of Review is now becoming almost meaningless, and 52 Medway children have been deprived of grammar school places at this stage, the empty spaces being filled by out of county children. 

Rochester Grammar        SJWMS1
        

Strangely, Medway Council is unlawfully blocking Medway children who did not apply for grammar school places initially, from making late applications or taking the Medway Test. This shows clear discrimination against its own children, as it allows out of county children to do so, with a large amount of late testing currently taking place. Surely Medway Councillors must sometime take responsibility for the operation of the education department for which they are accountable, with so many failures documented on this site.


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 Article looking at Kent Non-selective schools to follow. Medway Grammar Schools here

The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year 7 pupils has risen by 236 since last year to 5449, with a total increase of 717 over the past five years. There are currently just 184 empty spaces for September, in eight grammar schools including three of the four Maidstone grammars.

465 of the 5265 Kent grammar school places offered, or 9% of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with 152 pupils going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 251 pupils coming in, over half the total, were offered places at the four Dartford grammar schools. As a result, the pressure on places at these four schools continues inexorably, led by Dartford Grammar School with a record 313 grammar qualified first choices turned away, up from 257 last year. The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, and Tonbridge Grammar.

dgs        dggs 2

As far as I am aware there are just two black spots for grammar school applications, firstly the district of Hartley and New Ash Green in NW Kent where at least a dozen boys have been offered no grammar school place, although most applied for two or three of the local schools. Secondly parts of Whitstable and Herne Bay, where again some boys have not been offered any of their three nearest grammar schools.

I look at the outcomes below in more detail, including levels of oversubscription, vacancies and a look at each school, by district.


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