Supporting Families

........... to the Home Page of Kentadvice.co.uk, where you will find the latest news and comment directly below this introduction. The website contains over 600 pages of information, advice, news and comment on school matters that affect families in Kent and Medway, which you can access through the index on the right of this page, or the search engine above. You can receive regular news and blog items as they are published via the email notification, also on the RHS of the page, or by RSS. To find a list of all news items, go to "MORE NEWS", at the very bottom of the page, where you will also find a list of archived items and articles by me published in the media.  

Please note that with great regret I have now retired from my individual advisory service, as explained here.  I am currently updating the relevant pages. 

If you need more general information please email peter@kentadvice.co.uk. For specific advice issues please go to the Contact page.    

For the year 2018, this website had 170,346 certified visits, from 99,274 different users, who carried out 360,125 page views.
This was in addition to the 958 email subscribers, along with 1.752 RSS subscribers, nearly all of whom are based in England, with 1,456 in Kent . These include parents, schools, education officers, politicians and the media who each received the 97 News and Comment articles published during the year. 
Most Popular Page: Kent Grammar School Applications - total views since first publication 330,544 and 31,554 in 2018.  

Latest News & Comments

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 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • School Appeals and Coronavirus: Part 2

     I am pleased to report that government has now released an initial statement on how appeals should be organised this summer, looking at three different approaches to setting up arrangements. If there is a choice it will be the most appropriate for each school’s individual needs, but  I believe most Kent and Medway schools will opt for decisions to be made on the basis of written evidence submitted by families and the school itself. Further, it appears to me that this option can already be made legitimate with a few tweaks as explained below, according to the government’s own School Admission Appeals Code.

    The success of the scheme in this unique year will depend even more on the volunteer panellists who will still be needed to make it work, and so arrangements to suit them, as well as parents, are critical. It remains possible, if there are insufficient volunteers, that some appeals will not take place until September if at all.

    Further details are promised soon, so it is good to see that most cases are likely to be heard this school year. Currently, appeals have to be heard by June 15th but government is looking to extend this deadline.

    I look at the government statement and its implications below.

    Written on Sunday, 05 April 2020 13:00 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Grammar Schools 2020

    Note on Coronavirus: There are various references to school admission appeals in this article, based on normal expectations . At the time of writing there is no information about  the procedure to be adopted this year, except that it has to be very different from normal, as explained here

    The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year Seven pupils has risen by 70 places overall since last year, to 5,540, with a total increase of 610 over the past five years.  The main changes are 30 additional places at each of three North West Kent grammars, Gravesend and Wilmington Boys & Girls grammars, together with a reduction of 30 places at Tunbridge Wells Boys (but may well be reversed at appeal time). The number of places offered before appeals is 5,417, up by 195 from 5,212 in 2019.  

    Around 400 of the Kent grammar school places offered, or 7% (down from 8% in 2019) of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with 154 Kent pupils (down from 223) going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 150 ooc pupils coming in were offered places at the two Dartford Grammar schools with the pressure on places at these two schools continuing to rise inexorably.  Dartford Grammar School had an astonishing 409 grammar qualified first choices turned down for its 180 places, up from 336 in 2019.  The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar, and Wilmington Boys, in the same order as 2019. The number of vacancies has fallen sharply from 217 in 2019 to 123 this year across six schools.     

    Chatham House 2   Dane Court 

    Thanet is a surprising black spot for grammar school applications, with Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon turning down 79 grammar qualified first choices between them. At least 47 of these had no alternative local grammar school to meet their needs. This follows a sharp raise in the proportion of Thanet children being assessed selective from 19% in 2018, to 23% this year. 

    I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. you will find full details of the 2019 Kent selection process here

    Written on Friday, 27 March 2020 19:27 3 comments Read more...
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Non-Selective Secondary Schools 2020

    This article looks in some detail at the allocation of secondary school places in Kent for September 2020. Particular themes are: the pressure on places in Ashford, Canterbury, Gravesham, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells; the increased polarisation of choices, especially in Dover, Sittingbourne and Thanet; and the provision or otherwise of new schools to meet rising pupil numbers. For unexplained reasons, Kent County Council is no longer taking planned housing into account when considering future provision. This decision will inevitably create further pressures in years to come. 

    Valley Park 2 

    The four most oversubscribed schools are the same as in the two previous years, again led by Valley Park, Maidstone, which turned down 172 first choices. It is followed by King Ethelbert and St George’s CofE in Thanet, then Fulston Manor in Sittingbourne.  There are 494 vacancies across 17 schools, over half of which are in just four, headed up by Folkestone Academy with 86, way ahead of Oasis Isle of Sheppey (66); Astor College (63); and High Weald Academy (54)There were 938 Local Authority Allocations (LAA) which refer to Kent children offered schools they did not apply for. Royal Harbour and Oasis Isle of Sheppey academies each had over a hundred LAAs. Three schools have seen their number of first choices increase by more than 50, headed by two Swale Academy Trust Schools: Whitstable with 86 & Sittingbourne 55, followed by Knole Academy with 51. Going the other way were: St George's Broadstairs losing 62 first choices (but still third most oversubscribed school in Kent); Mascalls (59) and Trinity (50)  

    I look more closely below at the situation in each District, along with the most oversubscribed schools and those with most vacancies, together with the impact of out of county offers. 

    Written on Friday, 20 March 2020 06:15 6 comments Read more...
  • School Appeals and Coronavirus

    Update: 5th April: Government statement and further analysis here

    II have recently given an interview to BBC SE on the subject of GCSE and A Level, in which I found my self saying for the first time that this is one of those rare occasions when we must put the needs of the nation against the welfare and life chances of the individual. We will need to accept (much easier when you have no personal stake) that whatever decision is reached there will be great unfairness and damage to life chances of too many young people.

    There is an urgent need to resolve potential and pressing problems brought about by the Coronavirus, relating to school admission appeals .  Although this is not high up the priorities in the great scheme of things, it is of great consequence for many thousands of families across the country whose children have been offered schools they consider unsuitable and who fear their children's life chances will be seriously damaged as a consequence. Last year there were 3,153 secondary admission appeals in Kent and Medway, of which 855 were successful. Arrangements for appeals in 2020 are already being drawn up by many schools. 

    I look below at five options for managing the changed circumstances, but the only piece of advice I can give for parents at present is to carry on as far as possible to prepare for an appeal happening, although I do not see how any form of appeal can take place unless there is considerable change in the regulations. There is also the additional problem caused by the likelihood of schools closing in the near future, which will deprive many families of their support and the opportunity to collect documentation and other evidence to support appeals. 

    Written on Tuesday, 17 March 2020 15:11 6 comments Read more...
  • Medway Non-Selective Allocations for September 2020

    The major news is that Medway non-selective schools have rallied round to support local children by offering an additional 135 places for September, for one year only, to meet exceptional demand. This was needed because the opening of two new schools, originally planned to come on stream for September 2020, have both been delayed until 2021. As a result 2527 places have been offered in total, 122 more than the 2019 figure.  There were just 36 places left vacant at one school. The background is explained in more detail in my introductory article on secondary allocations, which should be read in conjunction with this one.  Because of the additional places, 83% of pupils placing a non-selective school first on their admission application form were awarded their first choice. This is up from 80% in 2019. Sadly, another 6.1% of pupils were offered none of their choices, although this is down from 9.3% in 2019. You will find a table  showing the allocation details for each school below.

    Brompton Academy

    The most oversubscribed school is once again Brompton Academy, setting a record for any non-selective school in Kent or Medway by turning away 249 first choices, over half of those who put the school in first place. It is followed by Thomas Aveling with 56 children disappointed. 

    Written on Sunday, 15 March 2020 06:41 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Holmesdale Debacle Re-Emerges as KCC Director of Planning and Access Post Deleted

    Kent County Council has recently carried out an external led inquiry into events at and around Holmesdale School in 2018, which I have written about in two previous articles. The first of my articles was in March 2018 after the school had plunged from Ofsted Good to Special Measures in four years under KCC control, although I produced evidence throughout this period that it was going downhill rapidly. The second was in January 2019 based on a series of email exchanges that had been sent me under FOI. These contained serious allegations about KCC actions that amongst other matters left the school without support for much of the previous year, and also attempted to block the appointment of a new headteacher and staff.

    Swale Academies Trust has now been running the school since November 2018 and it is greatly improved as a consequence, as explained below, offering a decent education to its children. Those whose education and life chances suffered under KCC control will not be compensated in any way.

    KCC has proposed an organisational restructure in the Children, Young People and Education Directorate, following its failures in SEND provision as identified in a highly critical Ofsted Report in January 2019. The post of KCC Director of Director of Education Planning and Access will be deleted, and replaced by two new Directorships. As a result Keith Abbott, the current Director, is being made redundant and leaving his post at Easter. Although Mr Abbott was heavily involved in the Holmesdale debacle, I have been asked by a KCC spokesman to make clear that there is no connection between the two events. In practice there looks to be no real change in structure, with the new Director - Education taking over Mr Abbott's role and the Assistant Director Disabled Children & Young People Services role being simply upgraded to full Director.

    Written on Thursday, 12 March 2020 18:10 7 comments Read more...