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Tuesday, 15 March 2016 23:10

Kent on Sunday: Oversubscription and vacancies in Kent Secondary schools on allocation for September 2016.

This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar and non-selective schools,  the latter town by town. Pressure points such as Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, one of the most academically successful schools in the county, followed by St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices turned away, second lowest performing school at GCSE in the county.

For further information on the story visit here for grammar schools and here for non-selective schools.

High vacancy rates, threatening a vicious circle of financial losses, which have led to the closure of four schools in the past three years, need to be tackled by Astor College, Castle Community College, Hayesbrook School, High Weald Academy, New Line Learning, and Swadelands School, all with over a third of their provision empty in Year 7.

Kent has seen an extra 704 places put into its secondary schools above the numbers planned for admission this, to meet rising rolls in several areas. As a result, the number of pupils offered their first choice rose by 363, and the number being offered none of their four choices fell by 213 children to just 428, the lowest figure for some years. However, this made little difference to the pressure on popular schools which has never been greater.'''

GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
Dartford Grammar School, the most oversubscribed school in the county,  turned away 226 grammar qualified pupils soaring up from 127 last year, with 81 of its 150 places going to out of county (ooc) boys. Sadly, because the school has recently introduced a cap of 90 on the number of local boys, places going to the highest scorers, many grammar qualified Dartford boys have been rejected from their local school, in spite of protestations when the new system was introduced that this would not happen.

Second most popular grammar school was Tonbridge Grammar with 142 first choices turned away, up from 77 in 2015, followed by Dartford Girls Grammar with 119 up from 95, again sadly with a number of local girls turned away, but letting in 65 ooc girls, having increased its capacity by extra 20 girls.

The other two grammar schools in Dartford were also both well oversubscribed, although both changed their admission rules to give priority to Kent children for most of their places, with Wilmington Grammar Boys turning away 49 first choices and the Girls Grammar 34. The number of out county boys to Wilmington fell sharply from 91 to 32 as a result of the changes, with Wilmington Girls’ fall from 105 to 91.

It was very pleasing to see that The Judd School in Tonbridge, 97 first choices oversubscribed, has also changed its admission rules to give priority to those living in the locality for all but 20 boys. As a result, the number of Kent children to be admitted is rising to 141 out of 155, up from 114 in 2015. However, the ooc pressure on The Skinners School in Tunbridge Wells which has no such rules, increased to compensate up to 45 out of county boys from 26. Still in West Kent, Weald of Kent Grammar was oversubscribed by 55 grammar qualified first choices, even though it has increased its number of places by 55 to 230 girls, in preparation for its expansion into the Sevenoaks Annexe next year. The surge in applications to the two Tonbridge Girls’ grammars has been very much at the expense of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Girls.

Other popular grammar schools were: Maidstone Grammar Boys’, 38 first choices oversubscribed, although 11 down on 2015, and Sir Roger Manwood’s at 32, which had four vacancies last year at this time.

The myth that Kent grammar schools are always oversubscribed is definitely not true, with nine of the 32 having vacancies at this time, although many of the empty desks will fill through appeals. The schools with more than 10 spaces are: Maidstone Grammar for Girls; Chatham & Clarendon; Dover Boys’ (following a late increase in admission number of 30); Barton Court; and Borden.

NON-SELECTIVE SCHOOLS
The District sections below describe the picture on allocation day March 1st. Between now and September, many more places will become available after successful grammar school appeals.
 
THANET
Most popular non-selective school was St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices rejected, just up on last year’s 150 when it topped the list for all schools in the county. This is in spite of it being one of the lowest performing schools at GCSE in the county indicating the unpopularity of some of the other choices open to parents. Thanet is one of a number of Kent Districts where there is pressure on places, with just 14 spaces across the six non-selectives at present. However, there is enormous polarisation as families chase the three most popular schools, St George’s, King Ethelbert 72 first choices oversubscribed and Charles Dickens 30. At the other end, the new Royal Harbour Academy, which has absorbed the now closed notorious Marlowe Academy, has been allocated 56 children who were not offered any of their choices out of the 196 who were offered places, and Hartsdown Academy with 43 allocations. Between them these two schools have absorbed nearly a quarter of the Kent children with no school of their choice.
 
GRAVESHAM
Second most popular non-selective school in Kent is St George’s CofE School in Gravesend, with 123 rejected first choices, a giant leap up from last year’s 63 when it was 12th in the popularity list. Gravesham has come under enormous pressure this year, with an additional 76 places being created in three schools, but still leaving just 5 empty spaces in the Borough. Second most popular school here was St John’s Catholic Comprehensive, 40 first choices oversubscribed.
 
MAIDSTONE
Third most popular school is Valley Park, turning away 116 first choices, even though it has expanded yet again, by 30 places to 270. The only other school significantly oversubscribed is St Simon Stock, Catholic at 36, but two schools appear to be in trouble, New Line Learning, with 96 vacancies for its 210 places, not including 12 Local Authority Allocations, and Swadelands in Lenham that has recently been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, with 74 of its 150 places empty. I hear that Swadelands is to be taken over by Valley Invicta Academy Trust, which is also sponsoring the proposed new six form entry Maidstone School of Science and Technology, although there appear problems here as no news has come out of the proposal for at least six months and surely construction ought to be beginning soon for a 2017 start. This will pump an additional 180 places into Maidstone which could well finish off one of the two vulnerable schools; ironic if it were to be Swadelands!
 
SWALE
The next two most popular schools are in Swale - Fulston Manor and Westlands, oversubscribed by 97 and 91 places respectively, most of the pressure coming from the Isle of Sheppey as aspiring families seek to avoid the struggling Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy which, as a result has 65 vacancies even after 53 children were allocated to it who didn’t apply there. To be fair, this is Kent’s largest secondary school (along with Homewood in Tenterden) with a planned admission number of 390. 
 
ASHFORD
The Wye Free School, smallest intake in Kent at 90 children, opened three years ago against the will of Kent County Council, but is proving very popular with parents, situated as it is in a lovely rural village, drawing off children from the large Ashford schools, and with 51 children oversubscribed. As a result, The North School, still not recovered from its Special Measures and take over by Swale Academy Trust, and the Towers School in neighbouring Kennington, are both suffering, with 42 and 67 vacancies respectively. Meanwhile the good and improving John Wallis Academy is now oversubscribed for the first time having shed a previous reputation. 
 
CANTERBURY
There has been pressure in Canterbury since the closing of Chaucer Technology School two years ago, eased this year by the addition of 70 places in three Canterbury schools. This still leaves no places in any school except struggling Community College Whitstable with 67 vacancies even after 25 Local Authority Allocations of children who did not apply for the school. Canterbury Academy, Herne Bay and St Anselm’s Catholic are the most oversubscribed, with 76, 48 and 46 first choices rejected, respectively.
 
DARTFORD
Dartford has been under pressure since the sudden closure of Oasis Hextable Academy last year, with the three schools of the Leigh Academy Trust being collectively oversubscribed by 253 first choices, Leigh Academy having been the most popular school in Kent for some years. Three years ago it accounted for 235 first choices rejected on its own; but this year, the Academies popularity has waned considerably, with Wilmington Academy looking the most popular, having added 40 places to its previous 200, and still being 27 oversubscribed (but 94 in 2015); Leigh Academy itself turning away 49 first choices.
 
DOVER
This comes at the other end of the scale, with Dover District having a quarter of its places empty and just one school oversubscribed, Sandwich Technology at 77 first choices turned away. Many of those rejected will be families unable to secure schools in Canterbury, or trying to flee unpopular schools in Thanet and Deal. Most vacancies occur at Astor College, 86 and at Castle Community College, Deal - 68, which has had a torrid time since its fall from grace as an Outstanding school just three years ago, straight into Special Measures.
 
SEVENOAKS
As with Wye Free School, the Trinity School, opened at the same time, has proved hugely popular with parents and is about to transfer into new buildings, being 51 first choices oversubscribed for its 120 places. It competes with the much larger Knole Academy, also very popular, being 67 first choices oversubscribed, attracting 35 children from across the County boundary in Bromley.
 
SHEPWAY
The proposed closure of Pent Valley School this summer has been alleviated by 57 new places being opened at Brockhill Park and Folkestone Academy, although 34 children have still applied for and been offered places at Pent Valley, who will now need to be allocated elsewhere. school of choice is Brockhill, with 62 disappointed first choices, Folkestone Academy, until recently one of the most popular schools in Kent, just filling. 
 
TUNBRIDGE WELLS
All three schools in the town remain oversubscribed, in spite of a collective injection of 106 additional places, St Gregory’s turning away 34 first choices. 47 of Bennett’s places go to children from East Sussex. The three rural schools in the District all have vacancies, the high performing High Weald still having half its 150 places empty, despite having reduced from 180 in 2015.
 
OTHER SCHOOLS
Holmesdale Community College in Snodland is as usual the school with the largest ooc contingent, attracting 41 children from Medway, but still has 47 empty spaces. 

Two of Kent’s highest performing schools at GCSE, Hayesbrook and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, are far less successful at attracting students, with 84 and 75 vacancies respectively, both with an Admission number of 150.

OUT OF COUNTY
As always, there was much media publicity for the 803 out of county children taking up places in Kent schools, many of which are identified above. There is never notice of the 460 going out of Kent to other Local Authorities. These include 165 to grammar schools in Medway, Bexley and Bromley, and 78 to the four large neighbouring comprehensive schools in East Sussex.


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  • Provisional GCSE Results for Medway 2017

    Last year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths was scrapped, being replaced by two new assessments, Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. Government has made amendments to further reflect policy, which has the unintended effect in Kent and Medway of further rewarding the top performing grammar schools and diminishing those with a higher proportion with lower abilities.  

    These Provisional results are issued at this time to enable families to be better informed when making secondary school choices. Last year a number of schools saw a small improvement in results in the final version to be published  in January.Unfortunately, once again, there has been such little publicity given to them that most families are not even aware of their existence. 

    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, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Medway above average at 0.04, against a National average of -0.03. Victory Academy is the only non-selective school to split the six grammars at the top, with Greenacre next.   

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Medway just below the National average of  46 at 45.5, although there is a variety of other statistics to choose from to suit your case. 

    Further information below, including the performance of individual schools, and a look at another measure, the English Baccalaureate ......

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 16 October 2017 16:29 Be the first to comment! Read 270 times
  • Provisional GCSE Results for Kent 2017

    Update on Simon Langton  Boys below

    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. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. 

    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, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, 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 ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case. Both measures have had their methodology changed to suit government priorities and the new grading system for English and maths. As a result, numbers are not directly comparable.  

    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. Both Oakwood Park and Chatham and Clarendon come below the national average, along with one provisional result for a school which failed for technical reasons, as explained below.   

    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. All these three are wholly selective on religious grounds, and at the top also in attainment. 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. As last year eight schools were below the government floor level with well-below average progress  facing government intervention, five the same as last year. 

    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. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables.

    Orchards 1

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

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 18:11 2 comments Read 439 times
  • Kent Test Results 2017: Initial outcomes

    I now have initial information regarding the Medway Test, happily provided promptly, posted here.

    Kent Test results have now been published with the pass mark the same as last year. An automatic pass has again been awarded to candidates scoring 106 on each of the three sections - English; maths and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 320. This total will again be around 21% of the total age cohort across the county, with further details to follow as I receive them.

    An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, usually around 6% of the total. You will find full details of the whole Kent Test process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 26% of Kent children in the age cohort.  

    One important and welcome change is that KCC are now making individual test scores available to parents who registered online from 5 p.m., so there will no longer be the anxious wait or chasing up of primary schools for results of previous years.

    As last year, I  shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC. 

    You will find initial figures released by KCC below, together with further information and ways I can support you. I find that the information articles on the website (RHS of this and every page) with links below, answer the majority of questions I receive. 

    As usual there are hysterical and grossly misleading headlines in some online newspapers about the shortage of grammar school places, which have whipped up a torrent of unnecessary fears on some of the more neurotic online forums (often driven by out of county families). Although KCC cannot guarantee every Kent child who has passed, a place in a Kent grammar school (not necessarily of their choice), there have been no reported cases in recent years of Kent children not getting in who are looking for a place, although a few have had to go to appeal. Further thoughts below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:23 4 comments Read 1871 times
  • Medway Test Results 2017

     I am rarely caught out completely by admission matters, but events at the two Chatham grammar schools for entry in September 2017 have completely amazed me. These are compounded by the Medway Test results this year, when the built in bias towards girls’ success has completely vanished, as explained below.

    The Medway Test outcomes, in summary, have seen 23% of the Medway cohort this year found suitable for grammar school before Reviews take place, which is exactly on target as in 2016. However, the annual gender differential stretching back for years, which saw 25% of girls passing the test as against 21% of boys in 2016, has disappeared, with 23% of both boys and girls passing for admission in 2018.

    Both Chatham grammar schools have been suffering from a shortage of pupils in recent years: in 2015, Chatham Girls admitted just 93 pupils with a planned admission number of 142; and Holcombe Grammar (previously Chatham Boys) 106, PAN 120. This September Chatham Girls has admitted over 180 pupils, Holcombe over 150.

    The main reason for this dramatic surge in numbers is the influx of London children who, uniquely in Medway are grammar qualified for the two Chatham’s by virtue of success in the Kent Test. For September 2018 entry, there were 659 out of county passes, including 263 from London Boroughs (the largest number as always were the 381 from Kent).

    So, what do these remarkable outcomes offer for 2018 entry? Some thoughts below, together with further analysis of Medway Test results. You will find further information on the Review process and its implications for appeals, here, which will answer most queries.

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 19:36 2 comments Read 559 times
  • Unlawful Grammar School Admissions: Holcombe (Medway); Maidstone Girls; and Invicta

    The DfE has now ruled, as I forecast in my article entitled ‘Shame on Holcombe Grammar School and Medway Council’, that actions such as those of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) in placing pupils registered with Holcombe Grammar School at another school for their education are unlawful.  This illegality has been supported by Medway Council in yet another failure by them.

    As a result, the pupils are now being placed back at Holcombe, but not until Term Two, although they have known of the decision for over a week already and could surely have been moved much earlier if the pupils’ interests were any sort of priority.

    Chatham Boys 3

     

    This is the third such case relating to school admissions locally in less than a year, where the DFE, and in one case the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), has ruled the schools’ practices unlawful; but sadly the arrogance of these institutions has seen no semblance of apology from any. It is clear that the extent of accountability only covers ensuring that wrongdoing no longer happens to other children, and damages confidence in the large majority of reputable schools.

    This article focuses primarily on events at Holcombe/Invicta Academy, but also looks at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls’ response to the LGO finding of their unlawful actions, and consequences of the Invicta/St Olave’s scandal. 

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:38 Be the first to comment! Read 285 times
  • Medway Council Fails the Medway Test Yet Again

    Update: From around 10 p.m. Monday, emails from Simon Harrington (Student Services Manager, Medway Council), informing parents whether child (no name) has passed the Medway Test or not, but no scores. Closing date for Review is next Monday, 19th October, so day lost in short time scale. At least he is trying!

    Following the 2016 Medway Test debacle, when wrong scores were sent out to some families whose children had taken the Medway Test, there is tremendous frustration this year, as the online system is failing to work at the time of writing (9 p.m., 9th October), results supposed to be available from 4 p.m.

    The Medway Council Twitter account offered a typically useless response, at 4.14 p.m, after which everyone appears to have gone home:

    “We're experiencing technical difficulties with our telephone lines. Apologies for any inconvenience caused”

     

    Naturally no mention of the online service not working. Who do they think they will fool!

    Update, 8 p.m from Medway Council:  

    We know that sometimes there is a delay through service providers but please be assured they have all been sent.

     

    How unfortunate that all the service providers in the system had a delay of at least two hours!

    At present the Council appears to have provided no further information, although I understand that the pass mark this year is 495, and that results have been sent in the post, hopefully to arrive tomorrow, Tuesday. You may find that your child’s headteacher is willing to divulge the score earlier tomorrow.

    As with last year’s failure, I would have thought it worthwhile deploying an officer after 5 p.m. to solve the problem, but ‘Serving You’ clearly does not extend to this.

    Medway Council Logo 

    Those not caught up in this situation may be unable to comprehend the angst caused to families who have been waiting anxiously for outcomes that may decide their children’s future education path, but I can assure them it is very real, and unfortunately typical of Medway Council’s incompetence.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 09 October 2017 21:09 1 comment Read 444 times