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........... 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 800 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 2019, this website had 152,222 certified visits, from 90,007 different users, including over 42,000 from Kent, who carried out 353,657 page views.
This was in addition to the 690 email subscribers, along with an unknown number of  RSS subscribers, nearly all of whom are based in England. These include parents, schools, education officers, politicians and the media who each received the 68 News and Comment articles published during the year. 
Most Popular Page: Kent Grammar School Applications - total views since first publication 355,042 and 22,509 in 2019.  

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. 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. News items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule, for I run this non profit making site single-handed.

  • Kent Test 2020: Initial Results and Comment

    I was interviewed on Radio Kent on Friday morning, followed by the KCC Education Cabinet Member, Richard Long who provided some additional data reproduced below.  You can find the interview here, 1 hour 37 minutes in.  

    The Kent Test results have produced a pass mark with an aggregate score of 332, slightly higher than last year, with an additional requirement to score 108 on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning. This is slightly lower than 2019’s requirement for 110 on each paper. The level of pass marks is no indication of difficulty in the Test, rather a complex standardisation of raw scores against a national sample of children, comparing like ages with each other. The intention is to select 21% of the Kent cohort by this method for automatic selection along with another four per cent by Headteacher Assessment, as explained here, making up a target of 25%. In the event this year, 25.4% of the cohort, comprising all of Kent’s Year six cohort in primary schools, added to all Kent private school pupils who took the Test, were found selective, down from last year’s 26.6%.

    Although there was a fall of 522 in the number of children taking the Test overall this year, 194 additional children were found selective over the 2019 figure. This is purely due to an increase in the number of out of county passes, with 74 fewer Kent children found selective, details in the table below.  In addition, there was a worrying fall of 12% in the number of children being found selective by the HTA, with the great majority of HTA children coming from Kent.  

    The Test, taken a month later than planned because of the Coronavirus pandemic, will certainly have seen a slightly different profile of children passing, as explained in previous articles here, most recently here. However, until I get more detailed data on outcomes later this year it will not be clear how different. The KCC Press Release describing the Test carefully focuses on the view of Richard Long, Cabinet Member for Education that: ‘Kent has done everything in its power to ensure that families were given a fair and safe way to apply for Kent Secondary schools this year’ referring to this fact twice, but without mentioning what KCC had done if anything to make the Kent Test as fair as possible, the subject matter of the article. In his interview, Mr Long gave data showing that, unsurprisingly, the number of children passing the test from private schools rose by 12% to 862. Also, the proportion of children on Free School Meals who took part in the Kent Test assessed as suitable for Grammar School this year rose slightly to 23%  compared to 22.8% last year. However,  without knowing the numbers of children in both years, this doesn't yet add anything to the picture.

    Written on Thursday, 26 November 2020 11:31 6 comments Read more...
  • Needless School Closures and Coronavirus

     Update 24 November:   A full list of school closures I know about below, latest in blue. 

    Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director, Education and Young People's Services for Kent County Council, has managed to upset a wide range of Kent headteachers, with a comment as politically insensitive as Boris Johnson’s recent crass remark on Scottish devolution.

    He has told headteachers in a lengthy and somewhat patronising letter to make sure they understand coronavirus guidelines so pupils and staff are not sent home "needlessly".  "While it remains the case that decision making on the running for your schools is for you to take with your governing bodies and Trusts, it is becoming clear that there are considerable differences in decision making at a locality level, and that does cause some problems at community level, and for some families. Quite simply, it is perceived that some schools are closing when other local schools facing similar or the same challenges are not."

    It is an unfortunate coincidence that whilst part of his focus appeared aimed at Fulston Manor School, as reported in Kent Online, the school is in Swale which last evening was named as third most infected areas in England, and I am informed that other local schools may shortly follow suit in closing. I doubt this letter will discourage them. Other secondary schools currently closed for fourteen days include Dartford Science and Technology College; Greenacre; Howard, Hundred of Hoo, Rainham Girls, Robert Napier; Sandwich Technology School; St George's CofE Comprehensive, Gravesend; Sir Roger Manwood's School, Sandwich; and Strood Academy; along with Special Schools - Bower Grove, Maidstone; and Orchard, Canterbury; together with primary schools - Cobham Primary, Iwade Primary, Meopham Community Academy, Queenborough School, Sholden CofE Primary, Thistle Hill Academy. The multiple Year Group closures are too many to list.

    Written on Wednesday, 18 November 2020 00:04 9 comments Read more...
  • Dismissal of Kent Headteacher for Gross Misconduct

     Update 28th November: To few people's surprise surely, Mrs Aquilina's actions have led to a proposal for the KCSP to bring St Thomas Catholic Primary School into a cluster of West Kent schools. See below for details. 

    It was announced today that the Headteacher of St Thomas’ Catholic Primary School in Sevenoaks, Mrs Claudia Aquilina, has been dismissed for gross misconduct by her employers, the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership. This follows her suspension from the post earlier this year on June 17th. The decision to suspend was highly controversial amongst some Catholic parents as she had a loyal following who thought her wonderful. The record 89 comments attached to my initial article, which with its predecessor has now been read over thirty thousand times, indicate the depth of feeling she aroused, both positive and negative.

    St Thomas Sevenoaks 2

    Over the many years I have been commenting on Kent and Medway education matters, I have seen a number of headteachers removed from their posts, but cannot recall any dismissed as bluntly as this, indicating the seriousness of the case.

    Written on Monday, 16 November 2020 19:58 21 comments Read more...
  • School Appeals: Kent and Medway 2020

    This article looks at Year Seven and primary school admission appeals in Kent and Medway. 2020 has seen a very different way of conducting appeals because of coronavirus, which I have explored in several previous articles most recently here. In the event, the large majority were conducted in a paper hearing, without direct parental involvement. The number of appeals for both grammar and non-selective schools were very similar to 2019, although the success rates for both in Kent schools fell,  grammar from 29% to 22%, non-selective from 24% to 19%. The number of complaints against appeals has fallen, suggesting a level of acceptance about the different process. 

    There is no pattern with Medway schools, Chatham Grammar upholding an astonishing 94% of appeals, Holcombe Grammar one out of 53, and Rainham School for Girls putting all 37 appellants through after a group hearing.  

    The most difficult area to win a grammar school appeal is once again in North West Kent, although the two Thanet grammar schools have been very difficult this year. Highest success rates were as usual at Simon Langton Girls with 71% and Maidstone Girls with 69%. Not one of the 64 appeals at Wilmington Girls' Grammar was upheld.  For non-selective schools, success rates range from 0% at Bennett Memorial, Brockhill, Leigh Academy, Maplesden Noakes, St Augustine Academy, St Simon Stock, the new Maidstone School of Science and Technology, and Wye through to 100% at Skinners Kent Academy, Valley Park and Whitstable. Many appellants for non-selective schools are offered places before the appeal, usually as successes at grammar school appeals reduce numbers. This year 66 children were offered places at Valley Park in this way. 

    You will find further details below, including primary appeals heard by Local Authority Panels. There is appeal panel data (along with other information) for each secondary school in Kent and Medway here (currently being updated; please let me know if you need the information for a particular school).

    Written on Sunday, 15 November 2020 12:57 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Medway Test 2020: Initial results and analysis

    The scandal of the gross imbalance between opportunities for girls and boys at Medway grammar schools has reached its greatest height so far this year. It is created by a much higher proportion of girls passing in the Medway Test, a hundred unnecessary extra places provided for girls in the past three years, a useless Review process and a massively discriminatory appeals process also in favour of girls. In short, the admission process for Medway grammar schools is not fit for purpose.   

    The pass mark in the Medway Test for admission to grammar school in 2021 is an aggregate score of 483, with 23.06% of Medway state school educated pupils found to be of selective ability against a target of 23.0%. 812 Medway pupils passed the test, just four more than in 2019. However, the proportion of boys being found selective at 20.7% is well down on previous years, balanced by 25.6% of girls.

    The number of out of county children (ooc) passing the test has risen sharply by 146 to 1126. Last year there were 248 ooc children offered places in Medway grammar schools, nearly 20% of the total, with plenty of spaces to accommodate any excess if they are girls. 

    The council press statement on the Medway Test contains no mention of the inevitable effect of coronavirus on performance, which will have given a greater advantage than ever before to children from private schools and those whose families have invested heavily in private tuition, at the expense of 'ordinary' children and those attracting Pupil Premium. 

    The 2019 Review outcomes and 2020 appeal results reveal once again the negligible opportunities for boys in securing grammar school places this year if they had not secured automatic passes in the Medway Test. Meanwhile, the astonishing 94% success rate in appeals at Chatham Grammar underlines the large surplus of selective places for girls. 

    There is further analysis below, including a look at Review, Appeals and the situation for individual Medway grammar schools.

    Written on Tuesday, 03 November 2020 20:08 4 comments Read more...
  • What’s Happening at The Rochester Grammar School?

    A few years ago, The Rochester Grammar School was one of the most oversubscribed grammar schools across Kent and Medway, with a strong sixth form and proud of its Thinking Schools philosophy. It has been the only Medway or Kent grammar school to be awarded generous government funds of some £3 million in the past two years through the Grammar School Expansion Fund in spite of a large number of other local applicants. In order to secure this funding, used primarily to expand its numbers, the school completely changed its entry requirements to give priority to girls attracting Pupil Premium and local girls. You will find here a full analysis of the scheme I wrote two years ago, but which is still valid today, as the school appears not to have addressed the issues I identified. The school has scrapped A-levels completely in favour of the International Baccalaureate this year. 

    RGS

    Outcomes
    The proportion of girls joining the school in Year Seven in the first year of the scheme, who attract Pupil Premium for the school, has fallen by over a third from 9.2% to 5.9%. This is completely contrary to the aim of the funding. Even though priority is now given to local girls, only 165 of the 253 places offered for September went to Medway girls, so the school is NOT oversubscribed, except for out of county pupils who take up the spare places.   
     
    An even bigger shock is that only 46%, fewer than half of the school’s Year 11 girls in 2019-20, have stayed on into the Sixth Form this year, the second-lowest percentage of any grammar school in Kent and Medway. Even adding in students attracted from other schools, numbers have still plummeted from 87% in 2019 to 53%, with over 100 girls leaving to join the Sixth Forms of other local grammar schools.
    Written on Friday, 30 October 2020 05:09 10 comments Read more...