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Saturday, 01 April 2017 22:17

Kent and Medway Secondary School Allocations 2017: Kent on Sunday 1st April 2017

This article is based on four more comprehensive ones, elsewhere in this website: Kent Grammar Schools; Kent Non-Selective Schools; Medway Grammar Schools; Medway Non-Selective schools. 

The allocation of secondary school places took place at the beginning of March and this article surveys some of the consequences of the decisions taken.

The two biggest pressure areas appear to be in Thanet non-selective schools and North West Kent grammar schools, but there are plenty of others.  

The problems in Thanet are caused both by an influx of pupils and a massive polarisation of popularity with every one of the six non-selective schools full on allocation. Many parents try to avoid two schools, Royal Harbour and Hartsdown Academies and as a consequence these two were allocated 166 children who had no school of their choice, more than a quarter of the total in the county. These will include a large number of Children In Care, dispatched by London Boroughs; others are children from the EC and refugees, all bringing their own challenges to the schools. As a direct consequence, three schools are massively oversubscribed, with St George’s CofE, King Ethelbert and Charles Dickens (last Inspection – Special Measures proving no obstacle!) turning away 186, 126 and 53 first choices respectively. The first two are the first and third most popular non-selective schools in Kent, split by Valley Park in Maidstone, which turned away 179 first choices.

At the other end of the county, the pressure on North West grammar schools is intense, brought about through London families looking to secure grammar school places. The six schools have offered 280 out of county (ooc) places between them, including some from north of the Thames, with a further 62 at four Medway grammars. Dartford Grammar School, has placed a limit of 90 places for local boys, selecting those with the highest scores. It has offered places to 79 ooc boys, with many grammar qualified children being denied places at their local school. Dartford Grammar school has gone down the same route, allocating 100 places to local girls, alongside 55 oocs. 

There is heavy oversubscription at all four Dartford grammars, with Dartford Boys, the most popular school in Kent, turning away 257 grammar qualified first choices, by some way the highest number in the county, followed by Dartford Girls with 188. Next come three West Kent grammars: Tonbridge (151); Skinners (143); and Judd at (102), and then Wilmington Girls (Dartford) at 58.

Polarisation of parental choice is seeing the most popular schools receiving ever more applications, at the expense of those at the bottom of the pile. This trend has already seen the closure of four schools in recent years: Chaucer Technology School, Canterbury; Marlowe Academy, Thanet; Oasis Hextable Academy, serving Dartford; and Pent Valley School, Folkestone – all areas where there is now a critical shortage of places. The evidence suggests these will not be the last. The Chaucer and Pent Valley sites are planned to see replacement Free Schools.

There are three new provisions for September 2017, the first being the Weald of Kent Sevenoaks Annexe for girls, providing 90 new places. Many other grammar schools have expanded, with the super-selective Judd School adding 60 places over the past five years (now 180). Tunbridge Wells Boys has added 30 places to complement the girls’ increase in the annexe for West Kent children.

Cranbrook School, the last 13-18 grammar school in the County has at last begun a tentative change to entry at age 11, with 30 of its 90 day places (it also has 30 boarders) now being reserved for 11 year olds. I was surprised to see just 24 first choices turned away.

The third new provision appears almost accidental. The Leigh University Technical College, for 14-18 students choosing a vocationally oriented school, has failed to attract 50% of its planned intake in any of its first three years since opening, dropping to 25% in 2016. The rescue plan is to ditch the core philosophy and recruit at age 11, so the Inspiration Academy at Leigh UTC has rapidly come into being, proving a popular choice and attracting its full complement of 120 places. This has damaged Ebbsfleet Academy  for, although performing well, it has never been popular and now has 40% of its new Year Seven places empty, the only non-selective school in Dartford with vacancies.

The only completely new school approved so far is Maidstone School of Science and Technology, a Free School with an intake of 180 pupils, to be opened on the campus of the sponsoring schools, Valley Park and Invicta Grammar schools due to open in 2018.  This will coincide with extensive housing developments in the District, but threatens the survival of nearby New Line Learning Academy which had just 96 pupils choosing it, fewer than half of its Admission Number of 210. These were topped up with 50 Local Authority allocations, two thirds of the children in Maidstone with no school of their choice.

The urban myth that all grammar schools are oversubscribed, happens to be true for the first time ever in Medway, partially as a result of the London effect. This is in spite of four of the six grammars adding a total of 70 new places between them. Four schools are heavily oversubscribed, the most popular being the two super-selectives, Rochester Grammar (87 turned away), and Rainham Mark Grammar (62).

Altogether there is a net increase of 192 grammar school places across Kent for 2017, together with 70 in Medway. One puzzle is the £4 million investment by KCC at Maidstone Grammar to create another 30 places for boys, although the school is not oversubscribed this year. More importantly is the damage this has done to Oakwood Park Grammar in the same town, which has lost 30 boys as a result, leaving it with 65 vacancies. Meanwhile Maidstone Girls’ Grammar has 42 vacancies and Invicta Grammar has just filled by virtue of reducing its Admission Number by 20 girls. Plenty of room in Maidstone, contributing to a total of eight grammars in Kent having vacancies. 

Altogether there are six schools with over a third of their places empty, headed by Duke of York’s Royal Military School, a boarding Academy in Dover, having recently completed a £25 million building project built for an Admission Number of 104. The school carries a highly controversial reputation that has seen its intake dive to 12 pupils at this stage although historically this figure increases considerably with children transferring in at older age groups.

The other five also have a history of low admission numbers and will tend to lose further children as the system shakes down in coming months:  SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, Walmer (43% vacancies – now out of Special Measures); Holmesdale Technology College, Snodland (42%); Ebbsfleet Academy (40%); Astor College, Dover (40% - until this year run by the same leadership as Duke of York’s); and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook (38%).

In Medway, there is also a growing pattern of polarisation, with Brompton Academy, as usual being the most oversubscribed school turning away 177 first choices, followed by Thomas Aveling with 53. Three schools account for over 100 of the Local Authority Allocations: St John Fisher RC; Victory Academy and Robert Napier, but all are over 70% filled.   

Last modified on Thursday, 27 July 2017 16:23

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  • 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......

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    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 18:11 2 comments Read 219 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. 

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    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 17:23 4 comments Read 1441 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.

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    Written on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 19:36 1 comment Read 371 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. 

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    Written on Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:38 Be the first to comment! Read 201 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.

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    Written on Monday, 09 October 2017 21:09 1 comment Read 427 times
  • Ombudsman confirms Maidstone Girls' Grammar has operated unlawful Sixth Form Admission rules for years

    Back in January, I published an article reporting that the Maidstone Grammar School for Girls (MGGS*) Sixth Form Admission process was unlawful, along with the now demonstrably unlawful actions of Invicta Grammar in expelling Year 12 students not on target to achieve the highest A Level grades. MGGS head Deborah Stanley reportedly said in a statement issued to local media: "I would like to make it clear the comments about our admissions are unfounded. As a school we adhere to and have admitted students into our sixth form in accordance with our admissions policy."

    Maidstone GSG

    The Local Government Ombudsman has now carried out an investigation, following a complaint by me on behalf of one of the students affected, and has published his findings. These make clear that Mrs Stanley’s reported statement is untrue, that the admission process has been unlawful for some years, that MGGS now accepts their process was unlawful, and that the KCC Panel hearing at the heart of my complaint was so seriously flawed that panellists are required to undertake further training.

    It is not possible to quantify the number of students affected, as it is likely that most turned down by the illegal process did not pursue their applications and were lost to the school. 

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    Written on Friday, 29 September 2017 22:49 1 comment Read 527 times