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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.

Whilst a few students leave grammar schools at the end of Year 12 of their own accord, for a variety of reasons, eleven Kent grammars lost more than ten students last summer, the list headed up by Invicta (26), most of the rest being coastal grammars and in North West Kent. There were another twelve schools with more than ten the previous year, Invicta again with 26 students lost. In Medway, I don’t yet have the 2016 figures, but in 2015, the two super-selective schools, Rochester Grammar (24) and Rainham Mark Grammar (22), headed the lists. Of course, this is not a problem unique to grammar schools and many non-selective schools aspiring to be high fliers, carry out the same illegal cull. The difference is that I can pinpoint grammar school fall-out via school censuses, as all (usually) pupils will be on two year A Level courses. However, with many students at non-selective schools on one-year courses it is impossible to draw conclusions. I will not have a statistical view of the summer 2017 picture in Kent and Medway, until the Autumn schools census becomes available at the end of the year.

It is important to stress that this regulation only applies to state schools and academies. Colleges and Sixth Form Colleges are subject to a different set of rules that allows removal, and private schools are subject only to their own decisions.

The Association of School and College Leaders, the professional association for heads and deputies, has published advice on this matter for their members, which again makes clear that expulsion from Year 12 for non-disciplinary reasons is not allowed, so there can be no excuse for ignorance of such actions.  It does go on to say that students can be ‘encouraged’ to look at other institutions, but the school cannot force the issue.

The difference between 2016 and 2017 is the media interest that has been stirred up by the St Olave’s case. I appear to have been at the centre of it, being recognised as the first to point up the issue back in January, and gave interviews to three national newspapers, live interviews to national and local radio and, most exciting of all a live interview with the BBC Television News Channel from a field in rural France on my way home from holiday!

As a result of all this exposure, the government regulations are now far more widely known and I have reports of students in different parts of the country successfully challenging school decisions. However, I suspect that this year, many other of what I estimate to be thousands of students illegally excluded across the country, will slip through the net with careers blighted.

Other schools will soon follow the example of Invicta Grammar School which had for 2016 entry posted unlawful academic requirements for progress into Year 13 on its website.  These have now been removed, an implicit recognition that the school belatedly acknowledges the legal situation, and I have had no enquiries about Year 13 Admission this summer.

So why do it? Schools that have typically placed the unlawful entry requirement on progress to Year 13, are obsessed with A Level League positions, and willing to sacrifice students to that aim. A letter to new parents from the headteacher of Invicta Grammar school this week states: ‘I am particularly pleased to find that we are once again, the top performing grammar school in Maidstone at GCSE Level and A Level. Our A Level results were particularly impressive in that we were considerably higher than the other local grammar schools. This is a fantastic achievement and one which I am sure our students will be very proud of’. No mention there of the 15% of Invicta pupils who left voluntarily or were forced out between the end of Year 11 and the end of Year 12, the highest net loss of any Kent grammar school, in order to achieve this boast, who presumably don’t share that pride.

There will be many other students in both Kent and Medway that have been equally sacrificed at the end of Year Twelve for the school to achieve high examination results at A Level. My advice is certainly to return to the school armed with the Government regulations and challenge them. You may wish to consult my website www.kentadvice.co.uk where there is fuller advice for students in this situation. In the end, if the school refuses to budge, it can take time to achieve success, by which time it may be too late to rejoin having missed time at the school. I think this may well become a goldmine for the education legal profession, as schools are taken to task for ruining young people’s careers.

I don’t anticipate the situation will be anywhere near as serious in the future, as the media furore this summer means that the law is now widely known, not least by schools who will want to avoid legal actions by families.

Some misconceptions were highlighted in comments made in radio interviews. These included that it was important schools should be able to weed out underperforming pupils, who would otherwise waste their time in the school. This completely misses the point. Whilst high fliers may be aiming for the most competitive universities, the lower pass grades provide admission to many other higher education institutions as well as (and increasingly importantly with the high cost of a degree) apprenticeships and training courses that require A Level passes and lead on to good careers. It is crucial to remember that schools exist for the benefit of their pupils and not vice versa.

Secondly, was this part of a wet philosophy that argues all should win prizes? No, for any A Level has to be earned, the distinction between grades qualifies students for a different choice of range of work or study, and for many a Grade E pass is a real achievement and it behoves no one to denigrate it. This is in spite of the media hysteria driven by school ambitions that focuses on A and B Grades only, a real put down for those who have worked hard and achieved their potential at a lower level. And yes, some students fail.

On Radio London, Vanessa Feltz produced one of the most telling points, identifying the down side of this exposure, when schools can’t expel the lower grade students in the future.  Expect those that are most obsessed with grades to put up the academic requirement to enter the sixth form in the first place, which is perfectly legal, but can only happen after a consultation, so the first consequential changes will be for entry to Sixth Form in 2019, as 2018 entry is already settled.

Sadly, alternative routes to A Level are vanishing rapidly under the financial pressures on Sixth Form provision. The number of less popular courses in grammar schools is being reduced; three of the four Further Education Colleges have abandoned A Level, the fourth being in the far West in Tunbridge Wells, and a number of non-selective schools are closing their Sixth forms. The latter include St Edmund’s Catholic in Dover and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook that only announced this to shocked students last week. The question has to be asked: is it deliberate policy to make life even more difficult for post sixteen students, or is this just different ideas and economies coinciding accidentally?

Published in Newspaper Articles

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.

Published in Newspaper Articles

Updated with Medway permanent exclusions 2014-15.

How much worse can it get for the children of Medway? My previous article recorded the dire statistic that Medway primary schools had the worst KS2 results in the country for 2015, and overall for the period from 2009 to 2015, whilst earlier in the year, Medway Primary schools published figures show that the Authority came bottom in the country in 2013-14 for OFSTED outcomes.

Now come the latest national figures on fixed and permanent exclusions, which cover the school year for 2013-14 and show Medway has the second highest percentage of primary school fixed term exclusions in the country. This is the equivalent of one fixed term exclusion for every 3.37% of the school population, over three times the national average and an astonishing rise of 34% over 2012/13.

A previous article I wrote about permanent exclusions showed that permanent exclusions in Medway rose astonishingly over the same period by over three times from 22 to an astonishing 70, the third highest proportion of the school population in the country. In 2009/10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway.

Couple this with the two most recent Inspections of local authority arrangements, the first for the protection of children in 2013, which were found to be Inadequate, the second for looked after children services in 2013, also Inadequate.

Surely, now there is now enough evidence for a full investigation into the quality of education and children’s services in Medway taking all these factors into account, followed by a replacement of Education and Children’s Services part of the Children and Adult Services Department which is clearly not fit for purpose, before the children of Medway suffer even more....

Published in News and Comments

Permanent Exclusion numbers in Kent and Medway are heading rapidly in different directions, with an alarming rise in exclusions in Medway. In 2019-10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway, climbing to 22 in 2011-12. Just years later, it has soared to 71 pupils in 2013-14, of which fourteen were exclusions by Bishop of Rochester Academy, under its previous sponsors, Rochester Diocesan Board of Education.  Just 9 of the Medway exclusions were of primary school children, that is 10%, against 26, or 30%, in Kent.

Bishop

Meanwhile in Kent, the welcome news is that the reverse is happening as the number has fallen equally dramatically to a total of 87 in 2013-14, just a few more than Medway, although with 6 times as many children at local schools. An earlier article recorded that 203 children were permanently excluded from Kent schools in 2011 – 12, with 250 in the previous year. 

However, the number of SEN statemented primary aged children permanently excluded in Kent after a dip to 5  in 2012-13 has returned to its 2011-12 figure of 19 which is now 69% of the total of 26 primary exclusions, all but two of the others also being on the SEN register. By contrast in Medway no primary pupils with statements were excluded, out of just 9 primary exclusions in total. 

These are surely three very startling and contradictory outcomes in Kent and Medway for permanent exclusions overall and for primary and also primary statemented children.

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 19 January 2012 17:38

School Exclusion Appeals: Radical Change

I am appalled by proposed changes to School Exclusion Panel procedures, which hand over enormous powers to schools, and especially academies, to get rid of undesirable  children.

Consultation is taking place on these proposals until February 17th. 

A Panel of School Governors will remain to uphold or overturn a headteacher's decision to permanently exclude (expel). Some governing bodies approach this task independently, but many will act to uphold the headteacher's decision as an action of support. Up until now there has been a check - an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) which includes a serving or recently retired headteacher to ensure the other two members understand the issues. It is proposed to scrap IAPs  and replace them by a Review Panel. For an academy, this can run by the Academy Trust which is hardly independent. 

The powers of the Review Panels are limited to three courses of action: they can....

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 12 January 2012 20:56

Permanent exclusions in Kent

Kent County Council is today debating a paper submitted which provides alarming figures for permanent exclusions in Kent, and especially for children with statements of Special Education in Kent.  Of course there is nothing new in this paper for browsers of this website or readers of Kent on Sunday, for last June I published an article highlighting these issues, although I did not at the time have end of year figures. As a result of my article, Radio Kent headlined the issue and Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, was interviewed on the BBC Politics show where he described the figures as unacceptable. 

Seven months later, ........

Published in News Archive
There has been considerable debate about the article I wrote for Kent on Sunday, based on figures I  found through FOI, for the very high number of Kent children permanently excluded, especially those with Statements of Special Education Need. The BBC 1 Politics Show for viewers in the South East (not London) is featuring the issue on Sunday at 11 a.m., including.......
Published in News Archive

The following item served the basis for an article in KOS on 11 June 2011, and also triggered the front page news story.

A Freedom of Information request I submitted has revealed a number of alarming features in the pattern of permanent exclusions (expulsions) in Kent schools.

The first two new style academies created in Kent top the list of permanent exclusions between September and Easter, headed by Westlands School in Sittingbourne with 11. Next is Canterbury High School with nine permanent exclusions.

Both these schools previously had outstanding Ofsted reports, so it is difficult to believe they have difficult disciplinary problems.

Other schools with high numbers of permanent exclusions over this period are: Chaucer Technology School, also in Canterbury (nine); Hartsdown Technology College (converting to an academy – eight) and the Marlowe Academy both in Thanet (seven); and Astor College for the Arts in Dover (seven).

The total over this period is rising alarmingly already being almost the same as for the whole of 2009-10.

In general, an excluded child does not just go away, they are moved to another school to be given a fresh chance but, as this will usually be one of the few with vacancies in the area, it just heaps the problems on a possibly struggling school.

Of particular concern is the number of children  with statements of special education needs (SEN) who continue to be permanently excluded, in spite of government policy that “schools should avoid permanently excluding pupils with statements, other than in the most exceptional circumstances”.

While I don’t yet have figures for this year, in 2009-10 out of a total of 168 secondary exclusions 22 were of statemented children, a further 68 being of other children with SEN, together over half of the total.

However, the most astonishing and alarming statistic in this whole survey is that nearly all of the 34 Kent primary school exclusions in the last school year were of children with Special Education Needs, with 13 statemented children and another 18 with SEN.

 

So much for Kent. Meanwhile up in Medway there is a remarkably different picture. The council reports that there were just three permanent exclusions from Medway Secondary Schools in 2009-10 (none statemented), and none from primary schools. For 2010-11 the reported figure is currently zero, although Medway Council has subsequently claimed it is unaware of at least three permanent exclusions from Bishop of Rochester Academy, even though it would have responsibility for those children, so this figure needs to be treated with some caution.

 

This all begs many questions. Firstly, why are the pictures in Kent and Medway so very different?

Medway may only have around one sixth of the children being educated in Kent, but this does not come close to explaining why some Kent schools resort to formal exclusion proceedings so often, whereas Medway can avoid a dramatic, stressful and bureaucratic process so effectively.

Medway schools have always co-operated well over what are called ‘managed moves’ to a fresh school, although whether this will continue when all are independent academies remains to be seen.

How can Kent primary schools exclude children with statements in such numbers, compared to a negligible number of children without special needs, in direct contradiction to the government imperative that this should only happen in exceptional circumstances?

Why does Kent but not Medway have so many exceptional circumstances?

Once again KCC is seeing children who surely deserve the highest standard of care, at the bottom of the pile (see last week’s Kent on Sunday).

Another factor to add to KCC’s Scrutiny Committee investigation into primary school standards.

What is special about Westlands and Canterbury High apart from the fact they are outstanding Ofsted schools, that they need to take this extreme action, effectively forcing these children to less popular and successful schools, whereas others, often in far more difficult situations, appear to be able to manage better? Are they showing the future for academies?

What happens to the schools that become ‘dumping grounds’ for children excluded by other schools better able to cope with them?

Above all, why does KCC not look at Medway’s procedures to learn how to improve these dreadful figures?

Published in Newspaper Articles

Latest News & Comments

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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 220 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