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Newspaper Articles

This page offers links to articles penned by me for local newpapers, mainly Kent on Sunday (KOS). Most were printed in full, several were the basis for informing news stories. I shall be adding archive articles as time permits.

See Original Article here

Back in 2014, SchoolsCompany had been advising the predecessor Castle Community College as it tumbled from Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Special Measures’ in three years, hardly an endorsement. It was difficult to pin down the history of the company owner, apart from establishing he had been involved in several companies which had folded. I was not alone in being surprised when Government decided SchoolsCompany should take on Goodwin Academy on the basis of it having run three small Pupil Referral Units in Devon for a short period. Although SchoolsCompany expressed its wish to expand its Academy business and there is a shortage of suitable sponsors around, Government has not seen fit to award it any other academy! Instead in 2017, the owner opened six new companies and was awarded a contract to build and run a Nigerian state government college, the Royal Academy for Construction and Fabrication.


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Please note: this is a copy of an article published in December 2017, reproduced here in the Newspaper Articles section to explain in answer to questions why there is no more from Kent on Sunday.  

Sadly, Kent on Sunday closed at the end of November 2017 as ‘it was no longer economically viable’.

Of particular interest to me and many browsers of this website was its focus on education as, often in conjunction with myself, it ran many educational stories in depth and conducted important campaigns.  

For KOS has surely been exceptional for a local free paper, in its willingness to provide such detail in its stories and campaigns, being prepared to devote up to three pages of news, analysis and political insight to an issue for the thoughtful reader, rather than go with the fleeting headline for those with a low attention span. Perhaps that has been its downfall but, on the way it has secured many prestigious newspaper awards, being the first free paper to win London and SE Regional Newspaper of the Year, UK Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year (six times) and, most recently in 2014, Regional Free Newspaper of the Year again.....


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UPDATE: Whilst this article draws on a number of previous articles on the issue, the most recent contains an important clarification by government of the law, leaving no room whatever for ambiguity, not available when the following was written.

You will find the original article in the Kent on Sunday Education Supplement here.  

Back in January I wrote an article for Kent on Sunday, about the illegal actions of Invicta Grammar School in permanently excluding up to 22 Year Twelve students for not achieving high grades in their AS Exams last summer. The parallel article on my website has attracted a record 24,722 hits to date, and a flood of comments from students affected. The school dismissed my concerns out of hand, the headteacher commenting: “This is an ‘interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate".  

In the last few weeks, a parallel case has arisen at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington where 16 girls were thrown out as covered in KOS last week. Several parents took legal action and the Department for Education, which refused to offer a view earlier in the year, issued the following statement: ‘Our regulations make clear that schools are not allowed to remove pupils from a sixth form because of academic attainment once they are enrolled. Excluding pupils temporarily or permanently for non-disciplinary reasons is unlawful’. As a result, the school relented and all the students were reinstated, if they wished to return.

Whilst this is no consolation for last year’s students from Invicta and some other local schools, many of whom saw their career plans ruined, it is a green light for the many students in similar positions this summer to challenge any exclusion. As one parent wrote to me this week: ‘What happened to our daughter has had a massive impact on her; she is still limping along. To be honest her confidence was so damaged we don't know if she will ever believe in herself in the same way again’. What an indictment of the practice, but certainly not alone, as career dreams are shattered.


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I find the criticism of a Labour Member of Parliament living in the selective county of Kent, for sending her children to grammar school when she disagrees with academic selection, quite bizarre especially as no alternatives are offered by her critics (the link is just one of many online articles). 

What follows is not, I believe, a political view but one that is purely pragmatic. In Canterbury, where this issue has arisen, 30% of the state school population go to grammar schools at the age of 11, well over the county standard of 25%. So, even the technically comprehensive church schools will have a limited number of children assessed to be of grammar school ability at that age, even assuming that a school whose philosophy is underpinned by faith is an option.


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Irrelevant Fact: This is the 1000th item of news and information posted on this website. 

You will find the original article on which this item is based, here

In 2009-10, Kent schools permanently excluded 126 pupils, rising to 210 two years later, but falling every year since then, to a low of 58 in 2015-16. Over the same period Medway school exclusions rose from just three pupils excluded to an appalling and record figure of 81 in 2015-16, up 35% on 2014-15. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

In both Local Authorities, the number of families ‘choosing’ Elective Home Education is astonishingly high, with Medway seeing an incredible rise in families taking their children out of school, soaring from 38 to 377 in two years. For some reason, Medway Council is desperately trying to hide the identities of the schools where the worst problems exist.

This article explores the reasons for the stark contrast in outcomes in the two Local Authorities. Government policy is to reduce the number of children excluded from schools, with permanent exclusion (expulsion) used only as a last resort.


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This newspaper article is based on a more comprehensive one, elsewhere in this website. 

2017 has seen a remarkable fall in the number of children applying for places in Kent primary schools, a drop of 679 or 3.8% of the total. As a result, there are 11.1% vacant places in Reception classes across the county, rising sharply from a figure of 6.5% in 2016.  

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 pressure points with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty across their schools.

The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, with just Great Chart, Ashford and Fleetdown in Dartford in the top ten both years. Most oversubscribed school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart, Ashford, with 41. Then come: Cobham, Gravesham with 35; Cecil Road, Gravesham, East Borough Primary, Maidstone, and St Mildred's Infants, all with 34 disappointed first choices; St John's CofE, Maidstone, 32; St Mary's CofE Primary Academy, Folkestone, 30 (a remarkable turn round from 2016 when the school had six vacancies); and Fleetdown and West Hill Primaries, Dartford, along with Langton Green Primary, Tunbridge Wells, all with 29.

At the other end of the scale, 18 schools have more than half their places empty, a sharp rise on last year.  Seven Kent primary schools have had at least two years being half empty or more.

KCC offered places to 404 children in schools they had not applied to as all their choices were full; known as Local Authority Allocated (LAA) children.


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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. 


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NOTE: You will also find a briefer variant of this in my blog

The government’s new Green Paper, headed ‘Schools that Work for Everyone’, does nothing to make sense of the country’s fractured education provision, seen at its most prolific in Kent, but instead seeks to increase the kaleidoscope of school types by adding even more variations.

One of its stated aims is the delivery of a diverse school system to enable all children to achieve their potential. Certainly, one can be sure that these proposals will increase diversity.

I do not propose to examine the Green Paper in depth here, but look with bewilderment at proposals to allow faith schools to proliferate and tighten their grip on school admissions. Church schools already add up to around a third of the country’s schools.

The Green Paper explicitly refers to the current large influx of children from Catholic familiesinto the country and county’s schools, this being one of the driving factors of this aspect of the government proposals. The Catholic church refuses to open new schools unless they are given control of 100 per cent of the intake, as distinct from the current 50 per cent ruling for new schools. As a result, government is now seeking to change the rules to get them on side by allowing ALL faith schools to give priority to their followers over 100% of places.

InPoland where many of the new Catholic children originate, 89 per cent of children attend secular state schools, with just 11 per cent in the private Catholic schools. Why therefore should a desire to offer Catholic schools for all drive English education, extending it to all faith schools? Surely, it makes no sense to allow more religious segregation at a time when racial and religious tensions are at their greatest in this country for many years.

Much has been written on the bizarre plan to allow new types of grammar schools to spring up or convert from non-selective schools apparently without regard to their effect on other schools or on those children left behind, or else to expand using unidentified rules to improve social mobility, so I don’t propose to add to it at present.  UPDATE: See article on Meopham School.


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Latest News & Comments

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 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Leigh Academies Trust and The Williamson Trust to explore merger

    Update at foot of article

    The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

    Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

    Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

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    Written on Thursday, 14 June 2018 11:47 6 comments Read 362 times
  • Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018

    There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

    A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

    Brent Outstanding 1

    There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

    East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

    The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

    I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

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    Written on Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06 2 comments Read 873 times
  • Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.

    Last Updated 29/05

    One of the Turner School Visions:

    We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,

    which we interpret as being the whole person.

    Turner Schools, an Academy Trust whose leaders have no problem with schools being profit making enterprises, appears to be heading for difficulty with each of its four Folkestone projects. Currently Folkestone Academy is the only non-selective school serving the town. It is to be joined in September by the Turner Free School, to be opened on the site of the old Pent Valley School. The Trust also runs two Folkestone primary schools acquired in January 2017 from the failed and now closed Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and both struggling to attract pupils.

    One problem I, and surely most enquirers, have with the website for the Trust with its sections for  each of the four schools, is that it appears to be aimed at an audience of academics and teachers. This is in contrast with every other school website I have visited which set out to be attractive to parents and potential parents, providing them with much valuable information rather than empty words and aspirations.  

    I look at all four schools in more detail below on separate pages, underneath a broader look at the Trust, with the following links to each school: Turner Free School; Folkestone Academy; Morehall Primary & Martello Primary You can see a fascinating variety of views in the comments at the foot of the page. 

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    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27 27 comments Read 4533 times
  • Grammar Schools, Faith Schools, and Non-Selective Provision in Tunbridge Wells

    Updated 13th May

    This item covers the government announcement of £50 million to provide new grammar school places and the relaxation of rules for admission to faith schools. 

    The first issue was discussed on Meridian TV News on Friday to which I contributed, having previously discussed both issues including a previous article from last year, that looked across the landscape. This was updated with more recent coverage of the now likely provision of a Coastal Grammar annexe at Herne Bay or Whitstable, and the extension of the Weald of Kent Annexe. The latter is currently for girls only, but with premises offering capacity for boys, so approval does not appear to be finance related and presumably can be granted simply by a change in regulations. There may also be proposals from some of the more assertive grammar schools to look at annexes across the county boundary in Sussex and Surrey. 

    The second part of the government plan has attracted fewer headlines, and indeed appears toothless, whilst promoting a new generation of  Voluntary Aided faith schools. However, any built under this proposal (which appears little different from current regulations) will evade the current limit on new faith Free Schools, who can admit just 50% of their intake for children who qualify through faith criteria.

    The crisis in non-selective places in Tunbridge Wells has been brought about by church schools operating under the previous regulations, as explained below. 

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    Written on Friday, 11 May 2018 14:12 2 comments Read 749 times
  • Medway UTC: Abject Failure -OFSTED

    Further update sentence in blue below.

    Updated: Tuesday 8th May. See important comment below by Ita Caufield.

    Ofsted has judged the new Medway University Technical College to have failed its Inspection on every count, some of its main criticisms being levelled at the members of the Governing Body who 'abrogated their responsibility'. Medway UTC is one of a new breed of 14-19 schools dropped in on existing school systems without thought for their impact elsewhere, with a horrendous record of success including five of the 26 inspected by Ofsted being placed in Special Measures. A further eight have closed through failure to attract students. The evidence below shows that Medway UTC is surely en route to be the eighth.

    The Medway UTC opened in September 2015 in £12 million purpose built premises, sponsored by local businesses, Higher Education Institutions and Medway Council.

    Medway UTC

    Ofsted found that: there is a culture of low expectation across the UTC; current progress in all year groups very weak; poor GCSE and A Level results last year as a result of weak teaching; the curriculum is too narrow; there is no provision for physical education or religious education in the school; behaviour in lessons is poor and sometimes disruptive. These are the consequences of: governors failing to offer sufficient challenge for leaders or training for leaders and teachers to carry out their duties effectively; of significant turbulence in staffing; leaders development plans being not fit for purpose; and failure by teachers to match assessment to the learning needs of pupils with the result that the most able, those with SEN, and the disadvantaged make very poor progress.

    I have never seen or read anything like the torrent of criticism heaped upon the quality of teaching in the school, as exemplified below. Frankly one would not expect such negative comments to be uttered about untrained instructors dropped in for their first term in a school. Academies and UTCs are not required to employ qualified teachers, and this report suggests they may have taken advantage of this loophole in full. I am astonished that Ofsted did not report on the issue, given there appears a complete breakdown in quality, with no redeeming factors identified.

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    Written on Saturday, 05 May 2018 11:25 9 comments Read 1166 times
  • Four Medway Secondary Academies abandon unlawful attempt to set Unfair Admission Criteria
    Update: Developments since the article was written are in blue in this introduction. 
    The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) and Holcombe Grammar School who are part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), together with Hundred of Hoo Academy from the Williamson Trust, have withdrawn the sections in their 2019 proposed Admission Criteria that gave priority for admission to children of staff members of any school in the Trust, rather than just of their own school which would have been lawful. Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School and The Thomas Aveling School have withdrawn all unlawful elements of their proposals. 

    This follows my previous article which made clear the proposals were unlawful (together with an objection lodged with TSAT), which is likely to have led to the change of policy. 

    However, RGS and Holcombe have retained a section offering priority to siblings of any child in a secondary academy of the Trust, rather than their own school which appears equally unlawful, as does Brompton Academy. 

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    Written on Tuesday, 17 April 2018 21:56 Be the first to comment! Read 471 times