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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: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.
Monday, 26 January 2015 16:22

Kent Test Results 2014: Girls on top

As in previous years, I have prepared a variety of statistics relating to the Kent Test, published below along with my comments. 

Headlines:

  • Overall, 28% of girls and 25% of boys across Kent were assessed as of grammar school standard, a considerable shift in favour of girls' success over previous years, when the two figures have been very similar. 
  • 20.6% of children in the "selective areas" of Kent gained an automatic pass, close to the target figure of 21%. The new Kent Test for 2014 saw considerable change in the pattern of passes, with children required to reach a standardised score of 106 in each of the three assessments of reasoning, English and maths, with an aggregate score of 320. You will find further details here. More girls than boys took the test and more girls than boys passed. The figures for 2014 entry showed a bias towards boys success in the test, but the introduction of English has tilted it the other way. 
  •  Another 6.2% of children, attending linked primary schools in these areas of Kent, secured selective assessments through Headteacher Assessment, target 4%.
  • 49% % of Head Teacher Assessments were successful. As usual, the proportion of referrals and the percentage of passes is highest in the East and lowest in the West of Kent. Also as in previous years, many more girls than boys were found of grammar school ability by this route. With the girls also coming out on top in automatic passes, there is a fall of 82 in the number of boys  passing in spite of an increase of 165 in the number of boys attending  Kent state maintained schools in Year 6, and a rise of  141 girls passing against a decrease of 114 in the number of girls in Year 6. 

Note: All these statistics come with a health warning, as the number of children in private schools is not always known (possibly 6% across the county), and such schools are often omitted from statistics.


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Tuesday, 24 February 2015 13:36

Furness School closure update

“We are scared"

Radio Kent interview with the parent of a child living in Folkestone who has only been offered one appropriate school for her son if the closure of Furness School goes ahead

a private Boarding School in Shropshire!

 Sadly, this family is not alone, for if Furness Special School closes, there is little alternative appropriate  provision for the high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children for whom the redesignated school was set up in September, just six months ago. 

Breaking News (Wednesday afternoon)
 1) I have just received a letter from Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, following an informal KCC Cabinet Meeting on Monday. This makes clear that the closure of Furness School is not a foregone conclusion and that other avenues are to be explored, as there was a general view that  there were many good reasons to try and retain such specialist provision. It was agreed that this view should be articulated at any public meeting.
 
2) The comment at the foot of this column suggests that Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education, who presumably was present at the above informal Cabinet meeting, is advising parents they do  NOT need to look at schools or accept offers until the end of the Consultation. Many parents are indeed scared, these are families who have had to fight for proper provision for their children from an early age, not just in education, and are often highly stressed. Whilst this may be of considerable comfort it cannot take away the uncertainty. One parent who has visited a private school this week has been told they have to accept the place that has been offered, the next day or it will be lost. What should they do? I am not sure how I could answer them.   

 

The article continued (before the above items arrived)....

This article is an update on my previous articles about the proposed closure of Furness School following gross mismanagement by those responsible for the school and its children.  The school currently has just 31 pupils out of a capacity of 60, of whom 20 are high functioning ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) children who have joined the school following the bright future heralded last June in its redesignation as a school to cater specifically for their condition. 

A meeting for the public and parents about the proposed closure took place last night; summary below.......


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Wednesday, 18 February 2015 22:14

Closure of Oasis Hextable Academy is announced

UPDATED: 20th February 2015

The Oasis Academy Trust has agreed with government that it can close the Oasis Hextable Academy because the school is failing to attract numbers. The reason it is failing to attract numbers is that the two neighbouring and competing schools, Wilmington Academy and Longfield Academy to the north and east have been turned round from being very unpopular, and have now become two of the most oversubscribed schools in the county.

In addition, Orchards Academy in Swanley to the south, once the failing Swanley Technology School, has also improved with steadily rising numbers, with Knole Academy further south in Sevenoaks, picking up some aspiring families who can’t get their children into Wilmington or Longfield.

Oasis Hextable

Sadly, Oasis Hextable, for which I used to do admission appeals regularly a few years ago, has gone the other way, certainly in terms of parental perception. I now talk with families for whom Oasis is a last or no choice, across a patch where nearly every other school is full, apart from one with which Oasis vies in unpopularity. There was an upturn in numbers for the 2014 entry, with the school being taken out of Special Measures when a “Requires Improvement” assessment  in 2013 was achieved  after Alan Brooks, Executive Head of Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, had overseen major improvements at the school. Unfortunately for the Hextable children, he left after a year, for Oasis to take over. It appears that 2015 admissions due out on 2nd March, will offer no solace.

Kent County Council has made clear its view that the school should not be closed, as the increase in population over the next few years will certainly increase demand for places across the District. However, KCC has no voice in the decision, nor in the future of the site, with the premises on a 125 year lease to Oasis, who could decide to use them for different purposes........


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I am very disappointed there has been no response from KCC to my previous article on Furness School, considering the important issues of finance and integrity it raises. Neither has there been even an acknowledgment of my formal request for the evidence supporting the unlikely assertion that parents of high functioning ASD children are spurning Special School places in favour of Units attached to mainstream schools, critical to the closure proposal, but completely ignored in the closure Consultation document.

The failure of the Local Authority to carry out a proper Equality Impact Assessment, according to the Equality Act, places the whole closure proposal in legal jeopardy.  

I have now written the following letter to Mr Patrick Leeson, KCC Corporate Director of Education and Children's Services:

Dear Mr Leeson,

Like me, you must be both concerned and embarrassed by the two mutually contradictory documents produced by KCC Officers about the future of Furness School, accompanied by the failure to produce an adequate and legal equality impact assessment. 

The situation is made much worse by the fact that the first of the two documents, the Complete Proposal for the re designation of Furness as a Special School for high functioning ASD children left out crucial information whose absence will have misled KCC Education and Children's Services Cabinet Committee members and would surely have affected their decision to approve the proposal.  In particular, the financial crisis that is the prime factor behind the proposed closure of the school just seven months later, would have been starkly evident back in July and so should certainly have been presented to members to make a reasoned decision, whereas there is no mention of finances whatsoever.

My immediate concern is that parents have been invited to a meeting to discuss the consultation document on 24th February, and are surely entitled to answers to the following questions to enable them to understand the issues. Many of the issues are amplified in my article, which I am sure has already been referred to you as a matter of grave concern………


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I have previously recounted the story so far here, and with previous links. To summarise:

KCC removed the headteacher of Kings Farm primary at Christmas 2013, and replaced him with the headteacher of Whitehill Primary on an Executive basis. This proved a disaster and the Executive Head was removed by KCC in September 2014, leaving a school that had degenerated into chaos. A consultant headteacher was appointed, the Headteacher of Ifield Special School appointed to oversee progress, and although an OFSTED Inspection in October placed the school in Special Measures, it both recorded the mess into which Kings Farm had been left by the previous leadership and the subsequent excellent progress in the school. A spokesman for the Government Standards and Testing Agency subsequently stated: Following an investigation into the administration of this year's Key Stage 2 tests at King’s Farm Primary, in Gravesend, the decision was made to annul all tests results for all children. Any instances of maladministration of the tests are completely unacceptable.” A parallel investigation took place into the Whitehill results with the same result.  

Kings Farm has now had its initial Monitoring Inspection following the Special Measures finding. Now free of the malign influence of Whitehill, the Report is the most positive assessment of any Kent school I have read at this stage, and my congratulations to all concerned. There can now be no doubt where the initial responsibility for the disaster lays.

Meanwhile, KCC had rewarded Whitehill Primary, the most unpopular primary school in Kent with parents, according to one measure, by allocating another 24 children places in the school at the last moment, raising its Reception Class numbers to 114, making it by far the largest all through Primary school in the county……


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Tuesday, 03 February 2015 17:43

A Level Results in Kent and Medway schools

The 2014 Kent and Medway A Level results have a familiar look to them, with The Judd School once again topping the league table of state and private schools with 62% of its students attaining at least 2 A Grades and a B Grade.

judd

The only other state school in the top seven is Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar, with 41%.

There are a number of tables available, showing different schools to best advantage, but for schools with a lower percentage of top grades, a better measure is the average point score per A Level entry, although Judd is still top again on 257.0. On both measures, Bennett Memorial is as usual the top non-selective school on 212.2 (7% AAB), closely followed by St Simon Stock, 208.9 and then St George’s CofE, Gravesend with 204.6. Bennett is above 7 of Kent’s grammar schools……….


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Thursday, 29 January 2015 12:59

Kent and Medway GCSE Results

GCSE results published last week show the effects of government changes in results coming into play, as explained below, which have hit many of Kent’s non-selective schools disproportionately. The effect on many private schools offering the IGSE instead of GCSE is to see their results discounted completely, so there is no sensible measure of performance in the private sector. You will find government league tables here.

Overall Kent state school students have once again exceeded the national average as they have for many years with 58.0% succeeding at 5 A-C grades, including English and maths, against a national figure of 56.6%. Medway students have done even better, with 58.8% of students having achieved the standard, as always underlining the disparity with Medway primary school performance.

The top of the table is not surprisingly dominated by the grammar schools, although Skinners is the only one to emerge with 100% success at 5 A-C grades, including English and maths. At 99% come most of the usual suspects: Dartford Grammar Girls; Dover Grammar Girls; Folkestone Girls; Invicta Grammar; Judd; Maidstone Grammar Girls; and Weald of Kent Grammar; along with The Rochester Grammar and Sir Joseph Williamson’s in Medway. Lowest performing grammars are: Simon Langton Boys and Tunbridge Wells Boys at 93%, along with Chatham Grammar Boys in Medway; Sir Roger Manwood’s at 92%; Borden Grammar 91%; Dane Court at 90%; and Dover Grammar Boys at 85%.

For non-selective schools, top performers as always are Bennett Memorial (CofE), 78% and St Gregory’s Catholic, 72%, both Tunbridge Wells. Then come: St George’s Cof E, Gravesend and St Simon Stock Catholic 67%, closely followed by St John’s Catholic, Gravesend on 64%. The highest performing non-church schools are: Hillview, Tonbridge, 62%; and Wrotham 59%.

At the bottom end, the effect of the government changes can be seen to full effect as many non-selective schools have seen the strategies they used to promote their academic performance discounted. Wholly unsurprisingly, they are headed up by The Marlowe Academy, eighth lowest performing state school in the country at 13%.  Others are: Hartsdown Academy and Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy at 19%; Pent Valley Technology College at 21%; St George’s CofE Foundation, Thanet, and Sittingbourne Community College on 22%. Every one of these has seen a sharp fall in performance since 2013, ranging from a 15% drop at Marlowe, through to 32% at Hartsdown. Lowest Medway performance is better, with Strood Academy on 28% (a 15% fall on 2013).

There is considerably more detail below, including a closer look at Thanet which has attracted media attention over the disappointing results of many of its schools........


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In 2013 KCC made the decision to close The Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury, as the intake had fallen sharply every year but one since 2009 from 202 to 85, with a forecast intake of 57 for September 2014. During that period, the school had reduced its capacity from 235 to 150, but this would still leave at least 62% of places empty in Year 7.  I now have the school census figures for September 2014 and this shows four secondary schools in a worse situation than Chaucer with regard to empty desks.  What is more alarming is that that in 2013 all these four schools again had the highest vacancy rates, all more severe than Chaucer, whilst  in 2012 the only school that separated them was Walmer Science College which KCC closed at the end of that year because of falling numbers.

 Three of these four schools, Marlowe Academy, Oasis Academy Hextable, and High Weald Academy, are probably safe from direct KCC intervention because of their academy status, but must all have problems of viability, including financial pressures and the ability to offer an appropriate curriculum - for example a proper range of courses at GCSE, as the low numbers work through. All three have previously been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, but have now earned their way out, although still clearly suffering from their reputation.  The fourth is Pent Valley School, Folkestone which actually possesses a ‘Good’ OFSTED assessment, but whose troubles include expansion by more popular neighbouring schools......


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