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Peter Read

I was interviewed this afternoon by BBC SE with regard to expansion of grammar schools and the new £50m growth fund, for which applications are due in tomorrow, to be broadcast this evening.

A previous article I wrote in January sets out clearly the expansion in numbers of grammar school places since 2012, without the use of any such incentive. It is expected that some half dozen Kent grammar schools out of the total of 162 will have applied, and I considered these in a subsequent article in May following the announcement of the growth fund. Time will tell how these fare. 

I was also on KMTV, the online TV station earlier this month talking about two other subjects,

Wednesday, 01 August 2018 15:09

Gravesham Maths Festival

Just before the end of term, three Gravesham primary schools, Kings Farm, Lawn and Whitehill, took over Community Square, the central space outside the Civic Centre, on a Saturday afternoon to present the Gravesham Festival of Mathematics, as part of a sponsorship by The Goldsmiths’ Company of London.

Maths Festival 2

The event was designed to enlighten the local community about mathematics in schools, with children explaining their activities to visitors and engaging them in mathematical games and competitions, following a Mathematics week in each of the three schools. 

The three pupils who shared the Goldsmiths Award for Excellence in Maths have been rewarded with a visit to Oxford to take in a tour of the University followed by a maths workshop run by current students and staff at the University. They will be accompanied by ‘bright disadvantaged’ peers across the three schools.

Saturday, 28 July 2018 13:02

Disappearing Headteachers in North Kent

This article currently has the fastest growing number of hits of any this year, with over 5000 in less than two days, along with my 10,000 subscribers!

Three North Kent primary headteachers went missing or lost their jobs before the end of term, all having had a difficult time at their schools.

The schools are: Fairview Community Primary School, Gillingham; Tunbury Primary School, Walderslade and Copperfield Academy, in Northfleet. All three heads were fairly recent appointments, the first two introducing ‘robust’ new approaches at previously successful schools. Copperfield Academy is now suffering from poor Academy Trust management according to Ofsted, having lost seven heads in the past five years at the end of nearly two decades of mismanagement.

Although it is too easy to write off high staff turnover at each school as collateral damage, these will include careers and vocations destroyed at a period when the country has a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention. I have long maintained that failure to treat professionals with respect or to support and develop new entrants are the prime reasons for the crisis rather than teacher pay. The damage to the children and their education caught up in such events, with teacher after teacher arriving in front of them, is incalculable, but seemingly ignored. 

I am delighted to report that the first of my four complaints to the Schools Adjudicator about admission arrangements for Medway schools has been upheld

To be fair, Brompton Academy, on receipt of my complaint recognised the validity of my arguments and withdrew their proposals,  so this formal decision is just  confirmation of their actions. I also submitted complaints relating to three other academies at the same time, but aspects of these are still contested and as the matter is currently sub judice I am unable to comment at this time. A previous article entitled 'The Unique Medway Secondary School Admission Lotteryset out my previous concerns and resulted in four academies withdrawing all, or part of their proposals, as explained here.

Brompton Academy

The big question to ask is where is Medway Council in all this? As far as I know they have not even expressed a view, although the subsequent actions of these schools as described in my second article already show recognition of the unfairness of the proposals. Medway Council, which operates under the utterly unjustified slogan 'Serving You', has once again failed to take action or even comment in the interests of its taxpayers and families, as illustrated so often previously in these pages. Surely it should not all be left to me! Is there no-one on Medway Council prepared to challenge the actions or inaction of the education service? 

Note: As this item has attracted considerable attention, I have transferred it from my blog to 'Latest News'

The failure of accountability for Academies is exposed yet again following the Independent Inquiry into the illegal expulsions of 17 Year Twelve Sixth Form students on grounds of academic performance, at St Olave’s Grammar in Orpington, a Voluntary Aided School maintained by the Local Authority, in the summer of 2017.

The Inquiry, commissioned by Bromley Council, confirmed: the exclusions were illegal; the excluded students were regarded as ‘collateral damage’, the headteacher had resigned; the pupils offered reinstatement (although several were so disgusted they chose not to take up places, some having completed their A Levels at an Independent School in Rochester); and an apology was to be issued to all who were affected.

invicta

 

Previously, I had exposed the practice as illegal, following the 2016 AS Levels when 22 girls were forced out from Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone, an academy in the Valley Invicta Academy Trust. To this day there has been no response from the school acknowledging any fault, in spite of wide publicity on the issue, merely a demonstrably false claim in a local newspaper by the headteacher that every one of these students had left voluntarily .

Sunday, 22 July 2018 18:45

Kent Test: Out of County Appplications

Kent County Council has sent its annual letter to out of county families registered for the Kent Test for admission to grammar schools in September, as many are not familiar with the Kent scheme. This year it warns them that because of ever increasing numbers, the Council is unable to offer all candidates a Test Centre in the West or Centre of the county, as they are having difficulty finding schools willing to host them. As a result, some may have to travel to East Kent (Canterbury or Thanet) to take the test, in order to meet demand. The letter goes on to provide sensible and objective advice to these families, including noting that large numbers never turn up, costing time, money and resources.

This has produced a torrent of negative comment on the 11 Plus Exams Forum website for Kent, predominantly from just one contributor, one of the few who actually lives in Kent. Even though the Forum is dominated by out of county (ooc) families, many acknowledge and support the points being made by KCC, although others pursue the familiar and false lines that are so misleading. 

One of my major concerns about this Forum section is that I am regularly contacted by Kent families who have been misled into thinking that the views expressed are widely held across the county. On the contrary, they predominantly come from a small atypical group wanting to maintain maximum access to Kent grammar schools for children right across London, at the expense of local children.

I have described in previous articles how twelve boys who appealed for places at Holcombe Grammar School in Medway, and were found to be of grammar school ability by the Appeal Panel,were neither awarded places nor allowed on the waiting list as would have happened in Kent. They have today learned that they can now be placed on the school waiting list, after a month of contradictory and confusing information from Medway Council. 

Unfortunately, this does not get them a place at the school even now, but I anticipate that a few spaces are still likely to arise over the summer holiday, to be awarded to those living nearest, and so likely to be from these twelve.

The information comes in a letter from the school, which throws a new light on the whole situation. This shows that responsibility for the foul up lies squarely with Medway Council which was blocking this decision, even as late as yesterday.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018 15:16

Holcombe Grammar Appeals Still Unresolved

Update Friday: Holcombe Grammar School has written to the 12 families whose sons were denied places on the waiting list by Medway Council, and invited them to join the list. This is explained in a further article published today (Friday 20th July).    

Over a month on from the Holcombe Grammar school appeals, and two days from the end of the school year, distressed families whose sons were found of selective ability by the Holcombe Appeal Panel are still waiting to learn if they are to be placed on the waiting list. This follows eight months of worry leading up to the appeal process. I have worked with many families in the past waiting and planning for school admission appeals, and know the enormous stress this places on them, as they believe their child's future depends on their performance at appeal. This extra and unnecessary dragging out of the decision, with the mistakes, misinformation  and  confusion that surround it, can only pile the pressure on.  

The mystery of why and how Holcombe Grammar misrepresented Medway Test scores in its case to the Appeal Panel is no clearer in spite of an FOI by me asking these two questions, and an Internal Review into the process whose outcome also fails to answer the questions, itself offering a response that is clearly untrue. Along the line the school has put in writing repeated demonstrable falsehoods, as explained below, most of which it has not even acknowledged. I now have copies of the appeal notes of a number of the appeal cases that confirm the parental version of events, proving the school’s versions in its role as Admission Authority are false. 

I look at two of the central issues below, events up to this point having been explored in two previous articles, most recently here

Friday, 13 July 2018 14:46

Turner Schools Revisited

Greatly Updated 21st July. 

American Guru on short visit to Folkestone
Compares it to American Rust-Belt cities!

The Turner Schools relentless PR campaign to promote its Folkestone academies drives on with a lengthy article in the TES (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) about another American pedagogue introducing his views to the teachers of the Trust. He finds surprising and false parallels between the coastal towns of Kent and the American ‘Rust Belt’. These are surely unrecognisable by local residents who should be up in arms about the comparison with US towns in the previously industrial North East, with their rusty, disused, failed factories and falling populations where 'Most people who are economically viable are moving to places like New York City'. Sadly, he also reiterated some of the fallacies put out previously by the Trust as he paces around the auditorium at Folkestone Academy in Kent, impeccably dressed in a cream jacket, chinos and rimless glasses’. He is reported as addressing teachers of the new Turner Free School, although it doesn't appear to have any apart from its Principal and three Vice Principals (see below)!

TurnerSchools 

This is my second article about Turner Schools Academy Trust and you should read the first before this one, as what follows is primarily an update on the situation described there, along with an analysis of the TES article and an exploration of the 'Magic Pupil Pot'. 

In between, I have had an exchange of letters with Dr Jo Saxton, CEO of the Trust,  after I had challenged her claim that I made numerous factual errors in my previous article about Turner. Fortunately, in the end there appeared to be just one minor error, now corrected of course, but she has now failed to respond to several questions I put rising out of the correspondence. Update 21 July: I have now belately received a response to my letter which includes reference to my questions, included in the updates below.  

In addition, I have uncovered other issues below, including a refusal by the Trust to answer an FOI on the number of teachers leaving Folkestone Academy as ‘Publication would be or would be likely to  prejudice commercial interests'.  (I am told the number of leavers is 25 teachers!). I am not sure what the commercial interests are that need to be kept secret.

The remainder of this article is divided into five Sections: The Mystery of the Magic Pupil Pot; Individual Schools (items not covered  elsewhere); the TES Article; Correspondence with Dr Saxton; my Four Questions

 The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen to 97.6%, the highest proportion for at least six years. This is a result of a reduction of 27 in the number of Medway school places taken up by children from the Authority and outside, together with an increase of 80 places in local schools. As a result, there are 524 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 14% of the total available, up from 12% in 2017.

Most vacancies are in Rainham (last year just 3% places empty) and the Hoo Peninsula, with 11% of places empty. At the other end is Rochester with 21% of all places left empty in five of its eight schools. Most popular school is once again Barnsole Primary which turned away an astonishing 72 first choices turned away, followed by All Saints CofE and Walderslade primaries with 23 disappointed first choices. There are eight schools with 15 or more first choices turned down, spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. 

Barnsole     All saints chatham   Walderslade Primary 2

Twelve schools have over a third of their places empty, up from eight in 2017, but headed for the third year running by All Hallows Primary Academy, with 73% of its Reception places empty (up from 70% in 2017), and looking increasingly non-viable as a stand-alone school. Altogether 36 schools, over half of the total of 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 79 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council, 48 in Chatham schools.  

I look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools

If there are sections that need amplification, please let me know…….

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