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.
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.
This article updates and replaces an earlier one covering provisional results published in October
This year the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths has been scrapped, being replaced by two new assessments, Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Both these are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, with Kent slightly below average at -0.04, in 80th place out of 152 Local Authorities, against a National average of -0.03.
Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent doing better than average with 50.4, against a National score of 49.9, ranked 60th out of all Local Authorities, although there is a variety of other statistics to choose from to suit your case.
Headlines: Grammar School progress dominated by West Kent and super-selectives; Oakwood comes below the national average. Top non-selective school is St Simon Stock, but remarkable performance by Meopham, Orchards Academy and Northfleet Technology College. Half the lowest performers are in the Maidstone area. Seven schools failed the government floor level requirement and will face government intervention. Top Grammar School attainment similar pattern to Progress, all five lowest performers are boys' schools, worst performance again Oakwood Park. Non-selective tale is led by three church schools and Duke of York's Boarding Academy, Bennett Memorial leading the way. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables: Hartsdown; Royal Harbour; Oasis Sheppey; Swadelands; and New Line Learning.
Further information below. including the performance of individual schools......
Kent’s secondary schools continue to show improvement at OFSTED with seven of the 27 inspected in the past year seeing their assessment rise up a level, against three that slipped. The new OFSTED framework that was introduced in September places an even greater importance on academic performance, so the gap between grammar and non-selective schools has widened. This has been reinforced by decisions about what government counts for GCSE performance. A number of vocational, or “lesser academic”, subjects have been cut out of the approved list, which, together with a decision to exclude re-takes, has benefited grammar schools even further and seen many non-selective schools slip in the league tables that feed OFSTED. In Medway, just one non-selective school was inspected.
However, pride of place must go to the Special School sector, with three of the six schools being awarded Outstanding status and three Good, four of these having improved their assessment.
This article covers all inspections published between September 2014 and July 2015, although there may be one or two late ones whose results won’t be published until later this month, in which case I will return and update the figures.
First the good news: Kent's secondary school OFSTED outcomes are well above national averages, with 90% of non-selective schools inspected this year being classified Good or Outstanding.
Then there is the primary news. In Kent, there are five outstanding primary schools, but 12 inadequate, over three times the national average. Overall, no improvement on low standards.
And finally: Medway primary schools dreadful again; 8 schools have been awarded a lower grade than before, just two better, none Outstanding........
The DfE GCSE/KS4 Performance tables for Kent and Medway give a wide range of statistics about schools in Kent and Medway which, combined with OFSTED reports, provide a very good understanding of their nature. The tables often show schools coming to the fore or disappointing, that are different to public perception. This is usually fairly accurate, as shown by popularity, but often lags a year or two behind the reality. For example, there is a case, as explained below, for The John Wallis Church of England Academy in Ashford to be regarded as the top school in Kent, for its students make the best progress between the ages of 11 and 16, no matter where their starting point. Other contenders are The Judd School, The Rochester Grammar School, and Bennett Memorial Diocesan School.
This article should be read in conjunction with my previous one, which gave the headline figures.
The tables also reveal, quite logically, a strong link between schools where there is persistent absence by students, and poor performance in examinations, a link far stronger than the number of Free School Meals.
The sections below only cover a selection of the measures used by the Department for Education to measure schools, but in my view some of the most important ones.....
This week, OFSTED has published its Annual Report on school performance, and the Department of Education has published its SAT Key Stage 2 results for schools across the country. For Kent and Medway, both brought dismal reading for parents. In the OFSTED league table, Medway ended up 151st out of 152 Local authorities. Kent was 133rd, a little better, but nowhere near good enough.
In Key Stage 2 SAT results, Medway came seventh from bottom in the country, with 71% of pupils achieving Level 4 in Reading, Writing and Maths, a slight increase on 2012 when Medway came jjk bottom nationally. Kent continues its fairly consistent position of being just below the National Average.
These appalling results, especially for Medway, contrast sharply with the secondary experience. Here, Medway came an impressive 27th in the national table of OFSTED outcomes and Kent 54th in 2012, both being success stories. At GCSE both Kent and Medway are well above the national average.
These pose the key question:.....
Both Kent and Medway are at the bottom of the OFSTED national league table of Primary School Inspection outcomes, published in today's OFSTED Annual Report on Schools.
Out of 152 Local Authorities in the country, Kent came 133rd and Medway 151st. At Secondary level, Medway came an impressive 27th and Kent came 54th.
The Cabinet Member for Medway in an interview with Radio Kent this morning is still unable to accept there is a massive problem in Medway and found nothing wrong with Medway's position in the primary table or in the quality of education provided. Indeed he began by claiming that any problem lay with the previous Labour government. He went on to suggest that what problems there were had been solved by getting rid of the previous senior management education team in the Council. My earlier article, below, also looks at the situation in both Kent and Medway since the summer, showing that the situation in Medway has, if anything, got worse. Of course, Medway primary schools were the absolute bottom Local Authority in the country in the most recent published SAT Key Stage two results for the summer of 2012, having been in the bottom five in the previous two years.
In my article, I forecast that Medway would also be absolute bottom in the country for OFSTED outcomes, but they have been saved by a slight change in the statistics methodology, calculating by the number of children in each Authority rather than the number of schools! However, one place from the bottom is hardly an improvement........
I now have official details of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries to take up secondary school places for 2013 entry and, as in previous years it gives a very different picture from the more lurid headlines on this issue. I have divided the cross border movement into four sections below: Medway; North West Kent; West Kent & South Kent. I don't have precise figures for which part of the county children live in so some of these figures are best estimates. The headline figures are: 589 children from out of Kent are taking up places in Kent secondary schools, with 436 going the other way, figures very similar to 2012. But don't jump to conclusions. Read the following:...
Article produced for Kent on Sunday: 24 February 2013, reproduced here (there are two items by me in this edition).
As this is the first article in a series, and I have tended to highlight the negative features of the education service in the past, I thought it would be appropriate to applaud a major achievement by teachers in Kent’s primary schools.
I have in the past been highly critical of the schools’ performance as measured by both OFSTED and Key Stage Two results at the end of children’s time in primary school, but recent statistics show a dramatic improvement in Kent’s OFSTED standard.
This follows a new strategy for improvement prepared by KCC last year, and I have now measured the change by comparing OFSTED Reports recorded since September with those of previous years. For the two and a half years until July 2012, there were 278 OFSTED Reports for Kent primary schools, of which just 41% were ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, the majority being ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Inadequate’ (making up the four possible grades), with an unacceptable 36 schools failing their inspection. Contrast this with the more recent performance by 51 schools, achieving 63% ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, an improvement of over half again on the previous figure.
This would have been even better were it not for the continuing dire performance of Maidstone’s schools, which have a record of being the worst performing district since I started keeping records, every one of the six schools being inspected since September graded ‘Requires Improvement’ the replacement grade for ‘Satisfactory’, not one of which improved its performance from the previous inspection.
Of the schools elsewhere in Kent, there is a massive improvement on each school’s previous inspection result, with 30 schools upping their rating and just four declining. Of course this has all been done at a cost, and the number of Kent primary headteachers leaving their posts mid-year appears anecdotally to be higher than last year.
This improvement could be partially down to the new OFSTED grading system being more generous than its predecessor, and we don’t yet have national statistics to compare but, given the uncompromising attitude of the Chief OFSTED Inspector, this would appear hardly likely. Instead, I believe it is because of a new positive attitude and higher expectations in Kent, which is bringing results. Congratulations to all concerned, but do spare a thought for the casualties, often school leaders who have given their very best for their schools, but have not been able to deliver for whatever reason.
For comparison, I also looked at the Medway figures. With just 12 schools inspected, this is a less reliable measure, but even here, there is a distinct upward movement, with 50% ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’, up from 34%. However, two schools failed the OFSTED since September, the same as in Kent, but with a quarter of the numbers. On the other hand, St Nicholas CofE Infant School in Strood deserves special mention, as the only Medway primary school to be awarded an ‘Outstanding’ OFSTED in four years, out of a total of 71 inspections. Kent has 20 in the same period, including Cobham Primary school and Sheldwich Primary school who achieved the same accolade since September. You will find a summary of each school’s OFSTED inspection result, together with further information on some individual schools, on my website, at www.kentadvice.co.uk.
In Kent as a whole, 88% of secondary school places are filled in Year Seven, although the target figure is 90-95%. Under previous governments, pressure was applied to Local Authorities to meet their targets, but now most secondary schools in Kent are academies, government relies on parental preference to see popular schools expand and unpopular ones to disappear. This battle of attrition is now affecting the seven Kent & Medway secondary schools which currently have fewer than fifty per cent of their Year Seven places filled, all having witnessed a sharp decline in their intake numbers over the past four years. For four of these, their unpopularity with families has been underlined by OFSTED failures over this time, ........