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Peter Read


report in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday was headed 'MoD accused of covering up abuse claims at top Army School'. It reports that “Kent Police has launched a review into the force's alleged failure to investigate dozens of criminal allegations at The Duke of York's Royal Military School near Dover, and at least one detective inspector has been disciplined. The force has set up a dedicated team to review claims about the school". There was a follow-up story on Monday

Duke of Yorks 1

The school website notes

School statement regarding recent inaccurate reporting
Following inaccurate and misleading reports in the Telegraph, the School wishes to make it absolutely clear that it is not under investigation by the police. In addition, the School is taking action against the Telegraph’s deeply flawed articles

It is reported that it is incorrect for the school to state that it is NOT under investigation by the police; the existence of an investigation being publicly confirmed by the suspension of Police Officers. 

The school appears to be facing a crisis of numbers, with just 12 places offered at secondary transfer in March, compared with 36 at this stage in 2016, and 38 in 2015. Whilst numbers do rise through the year as explained below, it would appear that the school is suffering badly from its reputation and one must now question the financial viability and demand for this school in its new £25 million premises.   

Jane Robinson, headteacher of Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School, has resigned following an intensive four month Investigation into her actions by a former Interim Director of Education for the County, Professor Ian Craig, which reported three weeks ago. A KCC Press statement states that ‘Following his review of the findings the Chair of Governors considers that a number of actions should be put in place.’ These actions will no doubt have been instrumental in her decision to go, effective from 30th April. 

Simon Langton Girls

You will find a copy of Chairman's letter notifying parents here, completely devoid of any thanks for Mrs Robinson's services, a failure echoed by the Press Statement, which speaks volumes. I understand that if she had not resigned, she would be facing disciplinary action. It is not at present clear if there has been any financial settlement, but it is likely according to precedent. Mrs Robinson has been absent from the school for about two weeks, leading to speculation that she has been suspended and it is unclear, although surely unlikely, if she will return to the school before her resignation becomes effective.

In a brilliant initiative the University of Roehampton, which was formed out of an amalgamation of the four Colleges for Teacher Education Digby Stuart, Froebel, Southlands and Whitelands Colleges, has decided to award all traceable holders of Certificates in Education awarded before 1980, with an Honorary Degree. The application procedure is explained here and applications need to be submitted by Friday 24th March. If you know of anyone who may qualify, please pass the following details onto them.

Roehampton University 2 

This article looks at way the plans of the government to invest £320 million in new free schools including possible grammar schools might impinge on Kent and Medway. The proposal is to fund  an initial 30 free schools including some grammar schools in the life of this parliament, as well as helping with the pre-opening capital costs of some of the remaining 110 free schools due to open later. The investment is on top of the current commitment to 500 new schools. 

With all new schools being required to be Free Schools under current legislation, most of this money should be targeted at areas where there is most pressure on provision, although until now this has not always been the situation. One can only hope that government will work more closely with Local Authorities in the future to ensure that new schools are only provided where they are needed.

There are clear areas of present interest in Kent for this limited extra funding. However, on the scale of the investment one can see no more than one or two of the following being taken forward: a possible new grammar school in Herne/Bay Whitstable; additional grammar provision to meet the expanding pressure from London families for places in North West Kent and now Medway grammars; the limited provision of grammar school places in the Wealden area ; the single sex-grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks; the strange proposal to turn Meopham School into a grammar; a range of non-selective pressure areas where new schools are planned (previous funding) or could make sense; together with Primary and Special Schools in a number of areas. Then as always there is Medway…..

Tuesday, 07 March 2017 06:24

A Parental View of Medway Council

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)!

The increasing numbers of Kent and Medway children applying for secondary school places has created different outcomes for children in the two Authorities. Whilst Kent has seen nearly 300 more children offered their first preference school and a total of 743 new places above the final Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) of 2016 (see below), there is still a slight dip in the number of  successful first preferences, by 0.9 per cent to 85%  Sadly, 616 children did not get any of their choices which, whilst more than last year, is still better than 2015 and most previous years. KCC has been working hard negotiating with popular schools to admit additional pupils with considerable success, in what they describe as “a challenging year”. The number of out of county children being awarded Kent places has hardly changed from 2016, settling at 810, although some of these will drop out as local alternatives present themselves.

The picture is very different in Medway although it is hard to be precise for, as always, their data and press release are very skimpy, the latter also being ridiculously upbeat and positive. However, the bottom line is that there is a fall of over 5% in the proportion of children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 142 children (approximate figures I have calculated from the percentages given). According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter “This is great news”!

As well as more information, and the tables of outcomes below, you will find a District by District survey of the information I have at present, required scores for super-selective schools, and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

I will update this article as I receive further information. As always, when I get a school by school breakdown, I shall publish a fuller analysis, the 2016 articles for Kent grammars here, non-selectives here and Medway schools here.  

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 20:37

Website Review of the Year 2016

This article looks back on the website and my services over the past year (and a bit) since January 2016.

The year again proved very busy with 114,608 different browsers making a total of 181,752 visits. I published 72 news and comment items, the most popular being “Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions”, with an astonishing 20,511 hits in the six weeks since publication last month. Next was “Kent Reception and Junior School Allocations  2016: Oversubscription and Vacancies”, the 14 most popular pages being listed below.

Much of the information accessed from the right hand side of each page has been present and regularly updated since this version of the website was launched in 2010. Unsurprisingly the most popular page provides information and advice on ‘Kent Grammar School Applications’ with a total of 255,106 visitors since then.

In addition, the site now has around a thousand subscribers, including most importantly the many parents for whom the site is primarily intended. It is also tracked by local and national media, state and private schools, local and national government officers, and politicians. Further information about the website, stories I have covered, and other matters below.

I have now decided to retire completely from my Personal Appeals Advice Service begun in 2003, but am continuing with my telephone consultancy which offers an advisory service for school appeals and other education matters, as explained here.

The website will continue and expand as time permits. As you can see, I have now started to accept appropriate advertisements and welcome enquiries.

This article covers the opening of ten new primary academies, with a further eleven primary school proposals to become academies in Kent and Medway over the past five months.

I also look at academies under pressure because of falling rolls – Swadelands, Hayesbrook, New Line Learning and High Weald; more secondary headteachers lose their jobs – together with the numbers crisis at Kent’s first UTC.

Two new secondary schools are now on the stocks in Maidstone and Dartford, and the number of all through academies for pupils aged 4-19 is doubling to four, with Kent's two St George's CofE secondary schools expanding to take in at primary age.

I also cover a range of grammar school issues in Maidstone, West and North West Kent, and Chatham......

Update (Friday 10th): The Gravesend Messenger this week has published a three page article about Jane Porter, including the front page, as well as an internet comment section further back. 

Jane Porter, formerly Executive Headteacher of Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend, has been found guilty of Professional Misconduct.

Jane Porter 2

The Professional Conduct Panel of the National College of Teaching and Leadership published the decision on Friday, taken on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education.

Ms Jane Porter is prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against her, I have decided that Ms Porter shall not be entitled to apply for restoration of her eligibility to teach” (although she has right of appeal to the High Court within 28 days).  

Whilst being in temporary post as Executive Headteacher of Kings Farm Primary School, at the same time as substantive head of Whitehill Primary in Gravesend, the Panel found that “it is evident that throughout her time at the school, Ms Porter had a cavalier disregard of key rules and procedures…Throughout these proceedings, Ms Porter showed no remorse for her actions and demonstrated a lack of compassion”. The panel found that Ms Porter "Having engaged in sustained and serious bullying, whilst failing to manage the running of the school the results of which included breaches in health and safety and safeguarding"…

 Some of the many issues are explored further below; others are contained in the series of articles I have previously written on this website........

Saturday, 28 January 2017 06:07

Medway GCSE results 2016: Final

This article updates and replaces an earlier one covering provisional results, published in October

This year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths has been 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. 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 0.05, against a National average of -0.03. 

Rochester Grammar 

Headlines: Whilst the Rochester Grammar School heads up both tables, non-selective schools take the next highest Progress score places, as distinct from Kent where the grammar schools dominate. Second is The Thomas Aveling School, followed by Brompton Academy and Rainham School for Girls, all above the national average and unsurprisingly all heavily oversubscribed for admission. Next highest grammar is Chatham Grammar School for Boys (now Holcombe Grammar School).  Bringing up the rear in both tables is St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive. No Medway secondary schools are below the floor target, which may trigger government intervention (there are seven in Kent). For Attainment 8, all the six grammar schools are unsurprisingly in the top spots, led by the two super-selectives, Rochester Grammar and Rainham Mark, although Fort Pitt, is at the foot of the grammars in both tables. Highest non-selectives are again Rainham Girls and Thomas Aveling, this time joined by The Howard.  

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

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