Medway Council launched its second major initiative to improve school standards in three years the first having sunk without trace. I shall be surprised if this one fares any better, for the reasons explained in that article.
This year, just one of Medway’s 67 primary and junior schools, Chattenden Primary, a converter academy away from the control of Medway Council, achieved a100% pass rate at the Level 4 assessments, another six schools achieving 90% or more. It may be of interest that four of these six are Catholic Primary schools: English Martyrs; St Benedict’s; St Thomas More; and St Thomas of Canterbury. The other two are Barnsole and Woodlands Primaries. All seven are regular high performers over the past four years. One school still in Special Measures, Twydall Primary, did well to score 70%.
Government has a floor standard, with all schools expected to achieve 65% Level 4 passes, but Medway has 13 schools below this level. Leaving aside Phoenix Junior Academy which had its results annulled (see below), half of the others are also academies, all but one having failed when under Medway Council control, and clearly faring little better under their new management. 31% of Medway primaries are academies.
22 Kent primary schools achieved a 100% performance at Level 4 in the three key subjects, most notable being Rodmersham School near Sittingbourne, which has scored 100% in each of the past four years, with two others, Bodsham CofE, near Ashford and St Thomas’ Catholic, Sevenoaks achieving the feat three times.
Especially impressive are the ten rural East Kent primary schools with 100%: Bodsham CofE, Ashford; Elham CofE, Canterbury; Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE; Pluckley CofE; Rodmersham, Sittingbourne; St Joseph’s Catholic, Aylesham, Canterbury; Saltwood CofE and Seabrook CofE, both Shepway; Sholden CofE, Deal; and Temple Ewell CofE, Dover. Just three of these are academies, from the total of 29% of all 432 Kent primaries.
Also of note are the three schools in Dover and Deal in this list, the Kent district with the best record in 2014/15 of success at OFSTED Inspections, although certainly not the most obvious one.
Temple Ewell CofE Primary possibly deserves most praise, having been placed in Special Measures in 2012, but reclassified as Good just over a year later.
At the other end of the scale 23 Kent primaries are below the government floor standard of 65%. Those 11 not already academies are therefore at high risk of enforced takeover as sponsored academies, although the performance of their academy companions is hardly conducive to anticipate improvement. A significant number of these schools have featured elsewhere in this website: Chantry, (23%, lowest in Kent and Medway), an academy already suffering from having been taken over by a failed sponsor, although one informed parent of a child at the school told me this morning of the radical and welcome changes taking place at the school under new sponsors Greenacre School. Chantry is one of five Gravesham schools on the list (three academies), Gravesham also having the highest number of failed OFSTEDs; St John’s CofE, Canterbury (33% second lowest), having had a very chequered recent past and, with a critical Monitoring OFSTED Inspection is surely reaching the end of the line; Kings Farm and Whitehill (see below), both damaged by bad leadership, but both now recovering since the removal of the problem; Dame Janet Primary Academy, Drapers Mills Primary Academy, and Salmestone, all in Thanet and part of the disastrous TKAT Academy chain, described here and in other articles; Molehill and Tree Tops Primary Academies, apparently doomed for ever to be failures in spite of their takeover by Leigh Academies Trust after AET failed with them; Cranbrook Primary; and Lydd Primary, now a sponsored academy. In all 12 of the 23 have been placed in Special Measures in recent years.
Sadly, some schools and headteachers are turning to cheating in the tests, the penalties for which can be severe, although the scale of the problem is only just emerging. It is often in the interests of all concerned to cover up the misdemeanours, the example of Phoenix Primary Academy in Medway this year being an exception, where the Academy Trust reported the problem itself and saw the school’s KS2 results annulled this year. In 2014, Kings Farm and Whitehill Primaries in Gravesend, both run at the time by the Executive Headteacher of Whitehill Primary had their results annulled after teachers at Kings Farm exposed the problem. The Headteacher of Whitehill is currently on ‘leave of absence’ pending further investigation. There had previously been speculation in the town about the high KS2 performance of the school, so the annulment came as no great surprise. The crash from 2012 (89%), and 2013 (88%) to this year’s 47%, the eighth lowest percentage in the county, after exposure of the problem, is an indication of the potential level of any wrongdoing which could have taken place.
Sadly, this won’t be the last school to be tempted to falsify exam performance and what is not known is how many carry out the deception without being found out.