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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

This article looks at the practice of off-rolling in Kent secondary schools, whereby some schools encourage some pupils to leave the school before GCSE. This may be an attempt to try and secure better GCSE results for the school.Last month, Ofsted’s Director of Education asked his Inspectorial team to look for Inspection evidence as to whether schools are off-rolling students before GCSEs are taken, which will in future count against them in any Inspection judgement.

The schools with the highest number of off-rolled students by number or percentage before the 2016 GCSEs are: Sittingbourne Community College and Westlands School (both part of the Swale Academies Trust); Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey; Charles Dickens School; and High Weald Academy. Pent Valley School, at that time being managed by Swale Academies Trust has now closed.

I also look more closely at the influence of Pupil Referral Units on this situation, especially at the Swale Inclusion Unit, and issues at Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy.  

Isle of Sheppey Academy 2

The grammar school with the highest number of off-rolled pupils is unsurprisingly Invicta Grammar in Maidstone! 


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The Press releases of both Kent County and Medway Councils celebrate the good news that record proportions of pupils have received  offers of Primary School places meeting their preferences. Unfortunately,  both omit to mention this is because of a sharp fall in the number of children in their current pre-school cohort.

 Kent County Council's Press Release regarding Primary School allocations this week rightly acknowledges the good news for most families:'A record number, 97% of Kent children will be offered one of their preferred primary schools on Primary offer day 18 April. This is the highest recorded percentage achieved since coordinated primary admissions began'.  

  You will find a full breakdown of the data for 2017 and previous years below. Whilst this is no consolation for everyone, it is still excellent news for most with the proportion of first choices at 89.1% being above the national average of 88%.

Medway Council (Serving You) as usual has sent out an opaque press release on allocations, this year even thinner and vaguer than usual. With so little to go on, I have only been able to quote general percentages in the table below. Once again the Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, said: 'It is wonderful to see so many children in Medway offered a place at one of their preferred schools, and such a high number at their first preference school'. A great pity he forgot to mention that this improvement in the percentage of pupils gaining schools of their preference is purely down to a reduction of 162  Medway children looking for places.  

I will publish further details on oversubscription and vacancies at Reception Level and at Junior schools in Kent and Medway when I receive them, hopefully next week, but you can see a flavour of the situation from my 2016 article on Kent oversubscription and vacancies here, and for Medway here

The continuation below begins with some advice on next steps if you have not received the school of your choice. You will find informaion and advice on appeals here.


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Wednesday, 12 April 2017 22:47

Eleven New Kent and Medway Free Schools

Government has today announced approval for eleven new Free schools in Kent and Medway, amongst 131 nationally. These “exclude those meeting a need identified by Local Authorities”. They contain some familiar names, and some wholly new to Kent or Medway. You will find a full list here.

The prospect of one or more becoming grammar schools is signalled by the government statement.

I look further at the individual schools below and will update this article as I learn new information. The article concludes with an explanation of the distinction between the terms 'academy' and 'free school'. 


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This article looks at the key oversubscription and vacancy situation in Medway non-selective schools, following secondary allocations at the beginning of March.
The headline figure for all secondary allocations shows a seriously worsening picture, with a fall of over 5% in the proportion of Medway children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 145 children. According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter in a press release, “This is great news”! See my previous article for initial figures.
 
There were just 14 additional places created above the final intakes for 2016, all at Strood and Thomas Aveling Academies. However, with a hundred extra children accommodated in Medway’s non-selective schools, this produced a doubling of children being offered none of their choices, instead becoming Local Authority Allocated Children (LAAC) at schools with vacancies.

Most popular non-selective school is once again Brompton Academy, disappointing 177 first choices, well up on 2016’s figure of 108.

Brompton Academy

Five of the eleven non-selective schools had vacancies, most at Victory Academy with 30% empty spaces, in spite of having 30 children allocated who were given no school of their choice.

  
After allocation, there were 140* empty spaces in all, a just manageable 5.6% of the total thanks to a net outflow of 60 children. However,  more vacancies will be created through successful grammar school appeals and considerable churning will follow as the more popular schools refill.
 
There is now a sharp polarisation of popularity in Medway, with families clamouring for places in the three most popular schools, the three at the other end accepting 106 LAACs between them.

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This article looks at the final outcomes of the Medway Test and its effect on individual grammar school allocations in March.

Last year I wrote an article exposing the failure by Medway Council to set the Medway Test pass mark correctly in 2015, and for some years previously, revealing the fact that some 70 Medway children were deprived of grammar school places by a miscalculation. This produced a success rate after Reviews were taken into account of just 23% for Medway children. Perhaps it was article that produced a change in practice and this year the success rate has risen to 25.1%, almost exactly the target level. However, just 25 Medway pupils were found selective after Review, as against a target of 68. There is yet again serious bias towards girls and older children.

The increase in the success rate has produced an extra 125 pupils eligible for grammar school (an increase in pupil numbers contributing to this) placing enormous pressure on the capacity of all Medway grammar schools, so that there are just 6 vacancies in just one school, in spite of an extra 70 grammar places being added.  

The headline figure for all secondary allocations, including non-selective schools, shows a seriously worsening picture, with a fall of over 5% in the proportion of Medway children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 145 children. According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter in a press release, “This is great news”! See my previous article for initial figures.

Most oversubscribed school is Rochester Grammar, turning away 87 grammar qualified first preferences even after expanding its intake by 25 girls. The pressure for grammar school places from children living in London Boroughs, with 64 being offered, continues as explained below. I also look more closely at individual grammar schools and the Medway Test analysis.


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 This article looks across Kent to the main oversubscription and vacancy situations in non-selective schools District by District. Thanet is the area under most pressure, with not a single vacancy in any of its six schools on allocation of places on 1st March. 166 Thanet children have no school of their choice, over a quarter of the county total. The District also contains two of the county’s three most oversubscribed schools, St George’s CofE Foundation and King Ethelbert’s Schools. The other is Valley Park, Maidstone.

    St Georges Foundation   Valley 2

Five other Districts have just one non-selective schools with vacancies: Dartford; Sevenoaks; Shepway (two spaces); Swale; and Tunbridge Wells. It is not surprising that Roger Gough, KCC Cabinet Member for Education described this as a 'challenging year' for secondary school allocation.

At the other end of the scale, Dover District has a quarter of its Year 7 desks vacant and six schools in the county have over a third of their places unfilled. 

I look at individual schools below, mixed in with various news items and a look at cross border movement both in and out of Kent. 


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 This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar schools. The main pressure point is in North West Kent with applications from SE London and north of the Thames growing annually and strongly. Dartford Grammar leads the way the number of grammar school qualified first choice applications oversubscribed soaring to 257 (226 in 2016). It is followed by Dartford Girls with 188, again up sharply from 119 in 2016. These two are now the most oversubscribed schools of all types in Kent and Medway. 

dgs            dggs 2

Then come the three West Kent super selectives: Tonbridge 151 (142 in 2016); Skinners 143 (119); and Judd 102 (97). This is followed by a large gap down to Wilmington Girls at 58 first choices turned away. At the other end of the scale, eight grammar schools in Maidstone and the East of the county had 240 vacancies amongst them. Kent has seen an additional 192 places (net) put into its grammar schools this year, to meet rising rolls in several areas.

I look more closely at individual schools below, and you will find my preliminary article on allocations published at the beginning of March here, including cut-offs for super-selective grammars, and for 2016 here. You will find a similar article on non-selective schools here, with Medway schools to follow.


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FURTHER UPDATE: Kent County Council has appointed a replacement headteacher at the troubled Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School in Canterbury, after the resignation of Mrs Jane Robinson. He is Dr Matthew Baxter, current Headteacher of Simon Langton Boys, who is to become Interim Executive Headteacher until August 2018. He has sent a letter to parents, which you will find here, setting out his initial approach to the task. This appears a very welcome development, and should provide space to resolve any outstanding issues and prepare for the future.

UPDATE: The comments at the foot of this article give a wide range of perspectives about the issues. 

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.


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