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.
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........
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.
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 ......
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 Kent slightly below average at -0.04, in 80th place out of 152 Local Authorities, against a National average of -0.03.
Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent doing better than average with 50.4, against a National score of 49.9, ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics to choose from to suit your case.
Headlines: Grammar School progress dominated by West Kent and super-selectives; Oakwood comes below the national average. Top non-selective school is St Simon Stock, but remarkable performance by Meopham, Orchards Academy and Northfleet Technology College. Half the lowest performers are in the Maidstone area. Seven schools failed the government floor level requirement and will face government intervention. Top Grammar School attainment similar pattern to Progress, all five lowest performers are boys' schools, worst performance again Oakwood Park. Non-selective tale is led by three church schools and Duke of York's Boarding Academy, Bennett Memorial leading the way. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables: Hartsdown; Royal Harbour; Oasis Sheppey; Swadelands; and New Line Learning.
Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......
Update: I have been asked by a number of Year 12 families about any advice I can offer to current students who fear for their chances in Year 13. See new heading towards foot of the article.
|You will find a feature length article in Kent on Sunday here, widening the debate. It includes a quotation by Julie Derrick, headteacher of Invicta Grammar School: "This is an 'interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate". The host of testimonies at the foot of this table, and in the media, suggests she is out of touch with reality.|
Please visit comments at the foot of this page, from twenty young people or their parents, who come across as thoughtful, full of commonsense, concerned for other victims, and well educated by their school. All support the facts denied by Invicta Grammar. Please note that whilst some have chosen to write under a nom de plume, nearly all have identified themselves to me and appear to be genuine. This webpage has been unprecedented in its popularity with 9239 visitors on its first day of publication, indicating the importance of the issues raised, having subsequently soared to a total of 18676 at the time of the latest update (Saturday).
The pressure to achieve results has resulted in the two girls’ grammar schools in Maidstone both adopting apparently unlawful tactics to secure top A Level grade performance, at the expense of the future of some students. OFSTED considers both high performing schools are Outstanding, so there is no doubt about the excellent quality of education offered for those young people who stay the course.
However, at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the school suddenly introduced a new and unlawful provision for selecting external students for admission to the Sixth Form in September 2016, illegally picking those predicted to achieve highest GCSE Grades by a process not in the school’s admission rules.
At Invicta Grammar School, 22 students ‘voluntarily’ left the school half way through their A Level course, refused permission to carry on into Year 13, a total of 26 through the year, the highest number and the second highest proportion of any Kent grammar school. This was because their grades at AS level were insufficient to be confident of the high A Level performance of which the school is so proud, Given no alternative to stay on, this amounts to expulsion although there is no lawful provision for students to be removed mid-course by schools in this way.
Further details on the situation at both schools below, along with other grammar schools which have a high departure rate. There appears a particular problem in Medway, where four of the six grammar schools saw a loss of more than 10% of their cohort between Years 12 and 13 this year.
Each year, I am contacted by a number of young people, mainly but not exclusively in grammar schools, who are not admitted to Sixth Forms although fully qualified according to the school admission criteria, or who are forced out at the end of Year 12 because the school only wants the highest performing students for the sake of their league table position. However, these two cases are the most extreme I have come across.
Too many students, capable of fulfilling their potential by achieving A Level success, albeit sometimes at a lower level than schools wish to see, therefore see their career chances thwarted...
Update: Ms Porter's case has been heard by the National College and she has been prohibited from teaching indefinitely. For full details, see my later article here.
Jane Porter, ex Executive Headteacher of Whitehill Primary School in Gravesham, is facing a Teacher Misconduct hearing in front of the National College for Teaching and Leadership beginning on Monday for two weeks. The NCTL can recommend to the Secretary of State for Education sanctions up to and including prohibition from teaching indefinitely.
Other cases being heard over the same fortnight are for some of the teachers and headteachers involved in the 'Trojan Horse' scandal in Birmingham....
The nine Lilac Sky Academies in Kent and East Sussex have just two more days before the unlamented Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) closes down by Government Instruction and the schools are handed over to other Academy Trusts. The Trust Website still records the Board of Directors as those who saw the Trust to its financial ruin and were then removed, being replaced by Regional Schools Commissioners appointees six months ago.
Puffed up to the end, until just before the end of term, individual Trust Websites were self-congratulatory about their schools’ achievements with not a word about the change of Management apart from a brief notice buried away last July which reads– “Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust has decided that in order to serve the needs of our children we should seek an alternative Trust to take over the running of some of our schools” – perhaps an odd way to describe events.
The Trust carried a two million pound deficit at the end of 2014/15 (this year’s account still to come), which was originally reported as debts to be passed on to the successor Trusts, but I am now told the final sum will be absorbed by government; if so there will have been no incentive to save in the final year.
LSSAT probably reached its acme in November 2015, when it boasted on its website that it had won a Department for Education contract to support Regional Schools Commissioners in eight RSC Regions, including the South East, which would probably have come in very handy as the latter included all nine LSSAT Academies except that Government never activated it (see below).
The Contract Brief
- advise open academies on effective improvement strategies;
- assess and advise on Free School/UTC/Studio School applications;
- assist the RSC’s in securing suitable sponsorship solutions for relevant maintained schools.
This would have been invaluable as it was surely a major conflict of interest. In the event, it appears that government belatedly realised there was an issue and no services were requested, the Contract being terminated in November 2016 (response to FOI Request). The FOI request also reveals that ‘the EFA is reviewing financial management and governance at the trust. This work is currently ongoing and we have no further comments to make at this stage’......
UPDATED: 22nd December
Since I wrote a month ago about the second Consultation launched within a year by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) to turn the boys’ Holcombe Grammar School (HGS) into a co-educational school from September 2018, the school has published further documentation which only serves to underline four key propositions.
Firstly, in a crowded field, I believe this may be the most disgraceful proposal for a change of school status I have come across.
Secondly, The Letter to Parents, Consultation Document, and Notes of Meetings on 10th November and 1st December contain many errors of fact, misleading statements, innuendo and untruths most of which appear to be deliberately inserted to strengthen a very weak case.
Thirdly, the content of these documents point to a key purpose being behind its publication. This is the undermining of another grammar school, Chatham Grammar School for Girls (CGSG).
Fourthly, the proposal is put forward purely for self-interest with no thought for the local community, its schools or the reduction in pupil choice.
The Consultation follows hot on the heels of Government turning down a previous identical proposal just four months ago, in August and ends on 2nd January, so it is important that views are expressed by then, using the form provided. The school claims it can apply again as it is demonstrating a solution to the previous reasons for rejection. My previous article demonstrates that all five of the new reasons put forward for the new proposal in a letter to parents are either false or invalid.
Update and Correction Saturday 17th December
There is a sea change in measuring performance in primary schools this year with parents facing a barrage of statistics to assist in school choice and the factors outlined in a BBC article leading with “Parents are being urged to ignore the latest school league tables, after "chaotic" changes to tests in England.”
Nevertheless, there is important information amongst the mass of data which will enable a high proportion of schools to claim they are performing well by one measure or another and I attempt to point up some of this below, with a strong warning about reliability.
Government has now developed two key measures, firstly about the progress achieved between the age of 7 (Key Stage 1) and 11 (Key Stage 2), measured around a National Average of 0 (zero). Secondly achievement measured by the percentage of pupils in the school reaching a standardised score of 100 in mathematics, English reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG).
The good news in the Kent table is that overall pupils achieved above average progress in each of the three elements, and that 59% of children reached the standardised score across the board, against a National Average of 53%. This is way up on 2015's statistically absolutely average performance.
For Medway, the table shows that pupils achieved below national average progress in reading and maths, and average progress in SPAG, leading to a below National Average attainment score of 49% in attainment. It is unclear at this stage whether this is an improvement on last year's bottom place in the country.
Further details of the county figures below, with some interpretation, together with a look at some individual schools. I conclude with attempting some advice for parents looking for a primary school for their child in September 2017 based on this data.