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Tuesday, 07 March 2017 06:24

A Parental View of Medway Council

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I have received the following plea from a parent who moved to Medway last year and who sought my advice about primary schools. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to offer significant support, but I did work through the dreadful interaction she endured with Medway Council (Tagline - Serving You) school admissions department. Sadly she is not alone and only this week I have been advising another family which has been given the run around by the same department with different officers offering completely opposite advice with no particular expertise apparent.

Medway 

 However, there appears little hope when only last week the Medway Council Cabinet Member responsible for Primary and Secondary Schools commented on the sharp fall in the percentage of children receiving their first choice secondary school, and the near doubling of the number being offered none of their six choices. He considered in the thinnest of press releases, that it was 'great news that a vast majority of children have been offered a place at one of their top preference schools' His more senior colleague carrying the whole Children's Service's Portfolio was more circumspect observing that 'I'm pleased many children have been allocated a place at a school they preferred' clearly dodging the worsening statistics and the near doubling of those who hadn't. Is it  that these senior politicians aren't being told the truth by their officers, or that they simply  don't care? By contrast, in Kent where the Local Authority has been working hard to identify additional school places, the Education Cabinet Member provided the reality: 'As we predicted, this has proved Kent’s most challenging year due to record numbers of applicants' about a slightly worsening situation with a rising population, but nowhere near as bad as that in Medway. 

Whilst following up another issue on the website, I made the perhaps astonishing discovery that two thirds of the twelve the most visited news items featured the failings of Medway Council all clocking up between 32 and 65 thousand hits (see below)!

Parental Letter to Medway Council (slightly edited for clarity)  

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We have moved to Cuxton from Bromley November last year. The area attracted us with beautiful views, nature and peace and quiet. We are first time parents so have not done much research on schools assuming that our 5 year old will easily get a space at Cuxton Infant School, like he would in Bromley. 

To our horror we discovered that not only Medway council is desperately struggling with school admissions (process took us way beyond normal period) but also that the area overall has problems with primary schools - many of them are inadequate or require improvement. There is clearly a primary school crisis in Medway that is not being addressed. 

My son ended up having to go to a school 3 miles away from where we live (I do not drive so lost any opportunity to drop him off or collect him and interact with his school) and we had to settle with the school Requiring Improvement as we were given no choice by Medway council. 

You SHOULD NOT be even considering building any residential housing on Sundridge Hill, along Station road or near cinema complex until you: 1) sort out your school admissions process - you have to employ more competent, honest people following the process!! we had your staff lie to us just to get rid of us and not do their job, 2) improve primary schools - there is clearly a shortage of good schools, 3) make everyone moving into this area aware of the dire situation that primary schools are in before they move. 

I am considering writing to Ofsted and Local Government Ombudsman about my concerns - I believe they should monitor the situation and prevent you from building housing without creating the right infrastructure (schools, GPs, roads), and include a warning in capital red letters for anyone considering Medway/ Cuxton that schools are in a horrible state and people should consider moving elsewhere. 

As much as I enjoy living in Cuxton, I am now considering moving elsewhere and do regret leaving Bromley - as my little one's school situation was so much better before moving. You are not doing your job in respect of primary schools and so should absolutely not increase population in this area without considering improving existing/ creating good schools, creating new GP surgeries, expanding roads and addressing the rest of the infrastructure. You are creating a mess otherwise and not developing the area. 

I will update this item as and when the complainant receives a response.

 

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 Both Kent and Medway are subject to government pressures to expand house-building development programmes, but appear to have a different approach to providing the infra-structure to support these, especially with regard to schools. Kent has a well publicised and comprehensive School Commissioning Plan up dated annually that currently sets out its proposals for new provision over the next few years, 2017-2021. It accompanies this by a pro-active approach to looking for ways to create additional places year on year. Medway Council certainly had one for 2011-16, as required by Legislation, but this is no longer a statutory requirement and I can find no further trace of any such plan, although a number of ad hoc decisions on expanding provision. As an idea perhaps they should think about planning for the future, or at the least share their thoughts with their constituents.

The performance of Medway's primary schools has been appalling for as long as I can remember, current 'strategy' being to get rid of them all as academies as soon as possible, which does of course do nothing to improve the standards of those that remain with the Council.

Both these issues feature strongly in the list of the nine most visited news and blog items since 2011 that refer to Medway Council. Clearly the older items have had greater opportunity for visits: They are: What Can I do about Medway Council? - a remarkable coincidence (2013, 65,165); Five shocking OFSTED Monitoring Reports for Medway controlled school (2014, 62,209);  What can I do about Medway Council? - Continued (46,353); Medway’s education problems mount as OFSTED Inspections carried out (44.235); Medway Test 2013 & last year's debacle (2012, 44,102); Medway Council (sort of) reports the appalling fall in the standards of its primary schools, as measured by OFSTED. (2013, 37,132); Medway Test and Review both discriminate sharply against boys and younger children (2013, 37,018); OFSTED Annual Report: Medway worst but one of the 152 Local Authorities in the country; Kent 133rd. (2013, 32,824). There are of course newer articles continuing to identify the Authority's failings coming up on the ratings which you can if you wish find on my search engine.

 

 

Read 436 times Last modified on Friday, 10 March 2017 06:55

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