Update and Correction Saturday 17th December
There is a sea change in measuring performance in primary schools this year with parents facing a barrage of statistics to assist in school choice and the factors outlined in a BBC article leading with “Parents are being urged to ignore the latest school league tables, after "chaotic" changes to tests in England.”
Nevertheless, there is important information amongst the mass of data which will enable a high proportion of schools to claim they are performing well by one measure or another and I attempt to point up some of this below, with a strong warning about reliability.
Government has now developed two key measures, firstly about the progress achieved between the age of 7 (Key Stage 1) and 11 (Key Stage 2), measured around a National Average of 0 (zero). Secondly achievement measured by the percentage of pupils in the school reaching a standardised score of 100 in mathematics, English reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG).
The good news in the Kent table is that overall pupils achieved above average progress in each of the three elements, and that 59% of children reached the standardised score across the board, against a National Average of 53%. This is way up on 2015's statistically absolutely average performance.
For Medway, the table shows that pupils achieved below national average progress in reading and maths, and average progress in SPAG, leading to a below National Average attainment score of 49% in attainment. It is unclear at this stage whether this is an improvement on last year's bottom place in the country.
Further details of the county figures below, with some interpretation, together with a look at some individual schools. I conclude with attempting some advice for parents looking for a primary school for their child in September 2017 based on this data.
Kent Primary schools have continued to produce a very high pattern of OFSTED outcomes above the national averages since my previous report in February, with 3 more schools ‘Outstanding’, and 12 Assessed ‘Good’ out of the 19 schools inspected, with none failing. Even more pleasing for the families concerned, 10 of these have improved their rating, as against just 4 declining. The three ‘Outstanding’ schools are: Chiddingstone, Sevenoaks; St Martin’s CofE, Folkestone; and Wickhambreux CofE, Canterbury.
Special mention to St Martin’s, together with Kemsley Primary Academy in Sittingbourne and St Francis Catholic in Maidstone, which have each leapt two categories, Kemsley and St Francis (see below) up from Special Measures to ‘Good.’
In Medway, things also look much better with its first two ‘Outstanding’ schools for two years out of the eight assessed - The Pilgrim Primary in Borstal, and Cliffe Woods Primary, an Academy so independent of Medway Council, both up from "Good" on their previous assessment. The other six were all assessed as ‘Good’ and, although one has slipped from Outstanding, two others have improved, so overall some improvement on previous results.
At the foot of this article, is a table of the relevant data for both Authorities in 2014/15, compared with the most recent national figures, and you can compare them with 2013/14 via the link here.
Whilst not a primary school, I am also happy to congratulate here Five Acre Wood Special School, Maidstone, on its recent Outstanding OFSTED Report, joining seven other Outstanding Kent Special Schools out of a total of 20, eleven of the others being graded 'Good'.......
I now have a full breakdown of Kent primary school allocations for admission in September, following my previous post of preliminary information. Headlines are:
There appears to be a crisis in provision of primary school places in a number of Kent towns, with Dartford, Folkestone, and Sevenoaks each with NO vacancies in any school on primary school Reception age allocation last month. Ashford, Gravesend/Northfleet, Maidstone, and Tunbridge Wells have 2% vacancies, with Broadstairs/Ramsgate 3%. In addition, rural Sevenoaks also has just 2% vacancies. KCC has a target of there being at least 5% vacancies which is broadly achieved in each of their twelve Districts that each embrace both town and country.
The most oversubscribed primary school is Sandgate Primary with 67 first choices turned away.
It is followed by: Michael’s CofE Infants, Maidstone 60; Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE , Margate 58; St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet 48; Priory Infant, Ramsgate 47; Great Chart, Ashford & Brunswick House, Maidstone 45; Cobham, Gravesham 44; St John’s Catholic, Gravesend 43; Fleetdown, Dartford 38; and Chilton, Ramsgate 34. all but one of which are in or adjacent to these towns. Claremont Primary, Tunbridge Wells, which has receive much media attention because of its oversubscription, only comes in at 13th, at 32. Just four of these ten schools are the same as 2014 admissions, showing the difficulty in forecasting demand.
Thirteen schools will be at least half empty in their Reception year in September, headed by Lower Halstow at 77% with just seven of its 30 places taken up, and Charing at 70%, with six of its 20 places filled. Again, such is the changing pattern of admissions, that just four of the thirteen were in the same plight in 2014.
Fuller details on all individual districts highlighting individual areas and schools under pressure below.....
Good news for most Kent and Medway parents as the proportion of children in both Authorities to be offered places later today in a Reception class at a school of their choice, and also in their first choice school, has risen compared with 2014 figures and the against the national trend.
The headline figures are that:
- All overall statistics for Kent and Medway are an improvement on 2014 figures.
- Kent has 85.81% of children awarded their first choice school, up nearly 1% on 2014, Medway 87.08% over 1% higher than 2014.
- Number of children placed in Kent is 17,415, up by 318 on 2014, in Medway by 200.
- Seven new primary academies are opening in Kent in September, creating 240 additional places.
- Sadly, 724 Kent and 126 Medway children have not been offered any school of their choice.
Kent primary schools have overall had an excellent first half of the year with regard to OFSTED Inspections, with 5 schools Outstanding, 15 Good, 8 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures. More importantly, of the 28 schools inspected an impressive 13 have improved their rating, with just 3 declining. One school, Warden House Primary in Deal has leapt two grades to Outstanding.
Warden House Primary School
Sadly, Medway continues to limp along at the bottom, although with just 6 schools inspected this is too small a sample to draw any hard conclusions. Whilst 4 Good, 1 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures sounds reasonable, and is above the national average, not one of these have improved their assessment and 2 have got worse.....
Kent has continued its steady increase against national norms, with 79% of schools achieving Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in reading, writing and maths, the same as the national average – in 2013 Kent was 1% below, and in 2012 2% below. 19 schools had 100% of their pupils achieving this level up from last year’s twelve, details below, with particular mention for Bodsham CEP School who also came top of the county table for percentage of pupils achieving Level 5.
Kent is also performing above the national norm: by counting Level 5 scores; and with the proportion of pupils achieving Level 4b in each of reading, writing and maths; and also in the average point score. Well done! There are also some very welcome improvements at schools I have previously criticised, such as Tree Tops Academy and Molehill Copse Primary School, details below. Eight schools are below the government Floor Standard of 45%, a fifty per cent reduction on last year’s 16 schools although, worryingly, all but one one of these has declined in performance on last year.
Medway, at 75% remains 4% below the national average, the same as 2013, when it was 144th out of 150 Local Authorities, and 6% below in 2012 when it was in last place, although it has now crept up to 140th, so there is improvement. What is pleasing in Medway is that there is just one school, Phoenix Junior Academy, below the Government Floor Standard of schools achieving 45% at Level 4, whereas last year there were two. Top school is Chattenden Primary, 100% Level 4s and top of the Level 5 Table.
One has to approach the whole Key Stage 2 outcomes with caution, remembering the enormous pressure on schools to deliver, with headteachers’ jobs at stake. I talk to many Year 6 parents in state schools in the summer term each year, and habitually ask if their children have done anything interesting in school. Consistently the answer is “No, they have been practising SATs”. I doubt it’s that bad, but it is a strong indicator. The consequence is that KS2 results may be partially a reflection of the proportion of time and the coaching skills employed, rather than the real quality of the school. Nevertheless, with this caveat, KS2 results are an important indicator, published in time for primary admissions. Sadly, this year two Kent schools have seen their KS2 results suppressed by the Standards and Testing Agency for alleged cheating, such is the pressure to do well.
Further details below………
IMPORTANT UPDATE 13th December at top of "Further Information" below
Cllr Kelly Tolhurst, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Educational Improvement in September:
“It is pleasing that results at primary level are increasing each year and parents can be assured of a good start in their children’s school life”.
To no one’s surprise, except Medway Council’s, Medway has come well bottom of the national league table for OFSTED outcomes, published today. Medway Council came 152nd out of 152 Local Authorities, one place below last year’s appalling results, with 53% of its pupils in Good or Outstanding Schools, down 6% on last year’s 59%. Nationally, the figure is 82% up from 79%. This decline, both absolute and against the national trend, was absolutely predictable although not apparently to Medway Council, as my previous OFSTED article shows, with 11 schools declining in performance, against just 4 improving, and no Outstanding schools at all this year.
This dire performance follows many previous years of dreadful results, with Medway Council betraying an astonishing complacency year on year.
Kent primary schools have improved slightly in position from 132nd to 130th, with a few more schools improving their grading than declining. However, a shocking 18 schools failed their Inspection. Again, fuller details here. However, for Kent the future is looking much brighter, as Key Stage 2 results this year, as yet unconfirmed, show a positive picture, every measure being improved on last year to around the national average.
The paradox of poor primary OFSTED results and good secondary results, underlined by examination performance at Key Stage 2 and GCSE, continues with Kent secondary schools coming 37th in the country on OFSTED outcomes (up from 54th in 2012/13) and Medway 41st (down from 25th). Now that every Medway secondary school is an academy, and over two thirds of those in Kent, the Local Authority has much less influence in performance
I have now included an update on published OFSTED Inspections this year, at the foot of this item, Kent improving, guess what about Medway!.......
The complete set of OFSTED Reports for 2013-14 have now been published and they confirm the very different fortunes of primary, secondary and special schools across Kent and Medway. I published the outcomes of secondary and special schools in a previous article and this one now looks at underperfoming primary sector. Another article highlights failings in both Authorities part way through the year.
Leaders of both Authorities are fond of quoting the combined results of the three sectors, as they hide the gulf between the excellent performance of secondary and special schools which are mainly academies, independent of the Local Councils, and the disappointing, in some cases shocking outcomes of primary schools as a whole, mainly run by the Local Authorities. In response to a previous article on disappearing primary headteachers, the KCC representative falsely claimed that the 80% Good or Outstanding Inspection results this year proved that KCC’s policy was working. In fact, with 81% of 26 secondary schools, 80% of 10 special schools and 54% of the 128 primary schools achieving Good or Outstanding, the overall figure is just 60%, well short of the claimed figure.
A full set of statistics is given below, with a KCC analysis, consistent with the results in this article, available here. OFSTED results for every Kent and Medway Primary School are also provided on the website.
First the good news......
You will find an expanded version of this item in an article I wrote for Kent on Sunday published 21st September 2014
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. In May I wrote articles on primary allocations in Kent and Medway, identifying some of the pressure areas as: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the problems. These are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place.
In 2012 KCC drew up a Commissioning Plan which developed a strategy for creating the 10000 new places needed by 2016. This is already creaking at the seams and the overarching principles set down to guide it appear a distant memory.
I am not sure what, if any, strategy is being followed by Medway Council.....
I now have further information on Primary school allocations to individual schools, to expand on my previous article on allocation day, 16th April 2014.
Most popular primary school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants School in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50), reflecting the very difficult pressures in the Borough.
Next come: Slade Primary in Tonbridge (47); West Hill Primary in Dartford, Madginford Park Infants in Maidstone and Priory Infants in Ramsgate all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE in Tunbridge Wells (38). St Joseph’s Catholic in Northfleet, last year's most oversubscribed school (36) brings the total up to 9, with tenth place being shared by: Brent in Dartford; Palm Bay in Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant, Westgate on Sea, Thanet and St James CofE VA Infants in Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.
You will find a list of last year’s most oversubscribed schools here. Below, you will find a brief analysis of the most pressured districts: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge.......