is that the primary schools are mainly controlled by the Local Authorities, whilst most secondary schools are academies. However, there are too many examples of good Local Authorities whose primary schools perform well, and too many high performing Kent controlled secondary schools for this to be the explanation. Controversially, it could be that the selective system in both Kent and Medway does provide better overall outcomes, but to me there is a third explanation that best meets the bill.
Quite simply, the quality of the Local Authority is responsible for the performance of the schools they run, and in the case of Medway it is producing arguably the worst outcomes in the country. None of this takes away from the many excellent headteachers and teachers who are running great primary schools.
However, to take a closer look at the two authorities KS2 results.
Kent had 12 schools in which every child achieved Level 4 in reading, writing and maths: Chiddingstone CofE; Cobham; Hoath; Milstead and Frinsted CofE; Monkton CofE; Rodmersham; St Augustine’s Catholic (TW); St Margaret’s at Cliffe; Saltwood CofE; Sandgate; Speldhurst CofE VA; and Sturry. The three in West Kent as against eight in East Kent suggests that success does not inevitably come with prosperity. Just three of the twelve achieved the higher standard of minimum 4B’s: Hoath; Milstead and Frinsted: and St Augustine’s, again just below the national average in each measure.
At the bottom end of the scale, comes Tree Tops Academy with 15%, fourth worst in the country. Given the Department for Education’s decision this week to close one of the first Free Schools in the country because of poor performance (Discovery New School in West Sussex), Tree Tops must be greatly at risk. I wrote a previous article on the school in January recording its dismal performance before and after it became an academy sponsored by the controversial Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), and there appears to have been no improvement at all. An OFSTED Inspection a year ago slated the school, so I am astonished there appears to have been no further visit by OFSTED yet. Next lowest is the new St John’s Cof E Primary at 21%, opened in September 2012, formed from Kingsmead Primary, then in Special Measures, and Diocesan and Payne, a relatively successful school. Parents whose children were at Diocesan and Payne must be wondering what the point was!
Then there is King’s Farm Primary on 23%, a struggling Gravesend Primary, shortly to be taken over by Gravesend Grammar School as a sponsored academy, Nonington CofE Primary (the perils of a school with an intake of 12 where the small number of children produces widely swinging outcomes), and then Molehill Copse Primary school on 34%, a second academy run by AET.
Almost certainly a more important measure than levels achieved is the table of progress from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 in Reading, Writing and Maths combined. It will often pick up on comfortable schools coasting. The top ten Kent schools are: Speldhurst Cof E VA (TW); Milstead and Frinsted CofE; St Bartholomew's Catholic, Swanley; Sandgate, Folkestone; Whitehill, Gravesend; Dartford Bridge Community; Teynham Parochial CofE; Otford; Blean; and Ightham. Bottom is West Kingsdown CofE VC; followed upwards by Istead Rise (Special Measures); Archbishop Courtney, Maidstone (Special Measures); St Edward's Catholic, Sheppey (Special Measures); Richmond, Sittingbourne (now out of Special Measures); St John's CofE, Canterbury (see above); St Peter's CofE, Aylesford; Tenterden CofE Junior; Molehill Copse, Maidstone (see above); Tree Tops, Maidstone (see above). I have been criticised for my comments about performance of Maidstone Primary schools, but four out of the bottom ten speaks volumes!
No school in Medway saw all of its children achieving 100% Level 4s in reading, writing and mathematics. Top school was St Helen’s CofE in Cliffe, with 96%, in spite of its recent ‘Requires Improvement’ OFSTED Grade, followed by Wainscott (93%), Horsted Junior (92%), and Cliffe Woods (91%) – two Hoo Peninsula schools in the top four is itself notable. At the bottom end are: Saxon Way (23%) –since taken over as an academy by the Griffin Trust; Phoenix Junior Academy (29%) – run by the Fort Pitt Grammar School Trust; Warren Wood (37%) – several times in but now out of Special Measures, surely ripe to be taken over by an academy group; and Skinner Street Primary – since taken over by the Oasis Academy Trust.
Medway has just three schools with the same high level of progress as the top ten in Kent, hardly surprising as the Authority is only one sixth of the size. These are: Woodlands, Brompton-Westbrook and Cliffe Woods. At the bottom comes Sherwin Knight Junior (now closed and incorporated into Sherwin Knight Infants School); Phoenix Junior Academy (see above); Burnt Oak Primary; Walderslade (see article); Cuxton Community Junior (Special Measures in September); Twydall (OFSTED Good in 2012); Gordon Junior (failed OFSTED in September with Serious Weaknesses); Spinnens Acre (failed OFSTED in 2009 and 2010, now closed and part of Swingate Primary); and Warren Wood (see above).
Medway Council Labour Party's Education spokesman said "If Medway Labour Party is pleased with these results, what hope is there for change, or have I really misread the facts I have provided?
As I commented in my article on OFSTED outcomes, soon most of the low performing primary schools will cease to be the responsibility of the Local Authorities who have let them down, but this analysis suggest that becoming an academy certainly offers no guarantee that the school will be any more successful. At present the small proportion of primary academies, which include several highly successful schools, is too low to have a major effect on the overall SAT tables, but soon Local Authorities will be able to dismiss them and show they are improving as a result.