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News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; 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 over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

Updated with Medway permanent exclusions 2014-15.

How much worse can it get for the children of Medway? My previous article recorded the dire statistic that Medway primary schools had the worst KS2 results in the country for 2015, and overall for the period from 2009 to 2015, whilst earlier in the year, Medway Primary schools published figures show that the Authority came bottom in the country in 2013-14 for OFSTED outcomes.

Now come the latest national figures on fixed and permanent exclusions, which cover the school year for 2013-14 and show Medway has the second highest percentage of primary school fixed term exclusions in the country. This is the equivalent of one fixed term exclusion for every 3.37% of the school population, over three times the national average and an astonishing rise of 34% over 2012/13.

A previous article I wrote about permanent exclusions showed that permanent exclusions in Medway rose astonishingly over the same period by over three times from 22 to an astonishing 70, the third highest proportion of the school population in the country. In 2009/10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway.

Couple this with the two most recent Inspections of local authority arrangements, the first for the protection of children in 2013, which were found to be Inadequate, the second for looked after children services in 2013, also Inadequate.

Surely, now there is now enough evidence for a full investigation into the quality of education and children’s services in Medway taking all these factors into account, followed by a replacement of Education and Children’s Services part of the Children and Adult Services Department which is clearly not fit for purpose, before the children of Medway suffer even more....


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Medway primary schools have come bottom nationally for Key Stage Two results in 2015 for the second time in four years. Medway is surely the worst Local Authority in the country in terms of primary school performance, having been in the bottom five out of 152 Authorities for every year but one since 2009, as shown in the table below. In the most recent figures available for the proportion of children in OFSTED good or Outstanding schools, Medway was also bottom in the country in 2013-14.

According to the Medway Messenger, Mr Mike O'Brien, Cabinet Member for Education, considers that a group of unpaid volunteers, "the Governors are responsible" for this perennial disgrace. He has promised to take appropriate action - and warned governors and teachers to "shape up or ship out". The consistent record of failure is apparently nothing to do with Medway Council or its failing and failed School Improvement Department, an utterly complacent and false position that has been adopted annually and recorded diligently on this website year after year......


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Three new primary academies this month, all new church academies in Kent. They are: Reculver CofE Primary, sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Canterbury; and two converter academies, St John’s Catholic (Gravesend) and St Mary’s Catholic (Whitstable) both joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, which is now the largest academy chain across the two authorities. Rivermead School, a Special School in Gillingham for children with complex needs, has applied to become a converter academy, the third Medway Special School to go down this route. St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Canterbury has also applied to be a converter and will be joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership in due course.  

You will find a full list of Kent and Medway Academies and academy proposals here, and Free Schools here.

Other news on academies, Free Schools and the Medway UTC follows……


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Oasis Academy Skinner Street in Gillingham continues and extends the tale of woe for Medway Primary Schools by receiving a Pre Termination Warning Notice Letter from the Department for Education.

oasis academy skinner street

This follows the receipt of a similar letter by Chantry Primary Academy in Gravesend last November.

The Pre-Termination Warning to Academies states that if standards do not improve, the schools could be closed, following the termination of funding. To put it into context, exactly 100 letters warning of the consequences of continued failure have been issued to academies nationally in the past three years, but just four of these are Pre-Termination Warnings, the second most serious category. One school was terminated, the Durham Free School, after failure to improve following a damning OFSTED.  Eleven of the of the other schools receiving Pre-Warning Notice Letters are also Kent and Medway academies, details below, a far higher proportion than the national average.......


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Singlewell Primary in Gravesend has 83% of its 30 reception class places awarded to siblings for September, the highest proportion in Kent, with just five ‘non-siblings’ awarded places on distance grounds, all living within 200 yards of the school. Another 25 children who listed the school in first place on their application form, most with a good expectation of a place in normal years, have been turned down. You will find a list of the other ‘sibling hot-spots’ further down this article.

Singlewell

 

The school with the smallest cut off distance this year, out of the 185 Kent primaries who use and have applied standard KCC oversubscription rules, at just 92 yards, is St Peter’s CofE Primary in Tunbridge Wells (Outstanding OFSTED. Eleven of the school's 20 places have gone to siblings, higher than the average which saw 43% of places awarded to siblings in oversubscribed schools.

St Peters TW

However, Tunbridge Wells also exposes a problem that arises from KCC’s use of temporary enlargements. Three TW schools have suffered from temporary enlargements each of 30 places for several years, followed by a subsequent removal of these places, which inevitably increases the proportion of siblings admitted whilst the number of children offered places on distance grounds shrinking. The most extreme example of this was at Bishops Down last year, when all 30 places went to siblings. Claremont and Pembury were also increased by 30 places each some years ago, but have now scaled back again to 60 places each. Bishops Down with 73% of siblings in 2015, has the second smallest catchment distance in the county with the five children who qualified through nearness all living less than 170 yards from the school. Fourth in the county on distance comes Claremont, with 67% siblings, the remainder all living closer than 181 yards from the school. Pembury, 16th tightest in the county on distance also has two thirds of its intake as siblings, those qualifying on distance all living less than 288 yards from the school. KCC was heavily criticised by the Schools Adjudicator in 2012 for using such temporary enlargements without working through the consequences…..


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Friday, 03 July 2015 19:42

Kent Advice School Appeals Consultancy

I regret to inform browsers and other enquirers that I am retiring from my appeals consultancy with effect from the end of this term. Whilst I have enjoyed a gratifying level of success, I have found the past year especially hard work, accompanied by personal health difficulties. Just two clients were unsuccessful in appealing for a school of their choice this summer, and over the past eleven years I have prepared more than 800 appeals, with a success rate of over 95% and learned a great deal about schools and the admissions and appeals process on the way. With regard to the success rate, to be fair I have only taken on clients where I have seen a chance of winning, and so have disappointed many enquirers where I have felt unable to deliver.

I fully intend to keep my other educational activities going, including this website offering information, advice, news and comment, together with my campaigns and telephone consultancy, with the latter also likely to provide limited support for appeals but constrained by time available.

The Telephone Consultancy service has mushroomed, although as a result I find I am having to be more selective in the areas of advice offered, focusing mainly on school admissions, again because of time constraints. A big area of my work now caters for advising expatriates coming to Kent, with several new clients every week.

As many of you will have noted, my website is not up to date in several areas, a situation I plan to rectify over coming months. In particular I have to remove references to my appeals consultancy. In the past year, it has proved more popular than ever, and attracted 193,432 certified visits from 116,376 users, 57% of which were new visitors.

A subsequent article will explain that I am expanding the website to offer advertising for those offering educational services, and I am now happy to receive enquiries about this service. The first advertiser, the tutoring company Bright Young Things, has seen 156 visitors to its webpage in the first two days it has been up.

The past year…


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OFSTED has published a critical Report into Medway Council's arrangements for supporting school improvement following years of underperformance, declining on an annual basis to last year’s nadir of being bottom Local Authority in the country out of 152 for primary schools in OFSTED assessments, although rising to the dizzy heights of 137th in Key Stage 2 outcomes. By contrast, overall Medway's secondary schools that are all academies and out of Medway Council control perform well on both counts.

The Council has a new school improvement strategy, but the Report records it does not: identify clearly enough what needs to change to drive improvement; show how significant gaps will be closed for underachieving schools; provide sufficient detail of targets for improvement to measure success; identify clearly enough how school improvement staff will be held to account for the impact of their work. Without these vital elements it is difficult to see how significant improvement can be achieved.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Good points include: the work of the early years team; recent school improvement work showing some results, but much of this is too recent to see its full impact; the work of the new interim assistant director for school effectiveness and inclusion, appointed a year ago, noting that her actions are starting to have an impact but limited by available expertise in Medway primary schools; School Leaders and governors who spoke to inspectors report a step change in the local authority's approach.

As a result, Ofsted will continue to monitor the local authority’s arrangements for school improvement. These arrangements are likely to be re-inspected within two years.

I look at the situation in more detail below, including the effect on some individual primary schools........


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There has been an effective increase of 50 Reception places in Medway Primary schools for admission in 2015, although with an increase of 144 in the number of pupils admitted there is further pressure on spaces. However, my perception is that there are actually fewer issues this year, as parents have perhaps chosen more realistically and spread their preferences across a wider range of schools. Indeed, I reported earlier this year on the overall picture which saw more Medway children gaining their first choice than in 2014. Of course, none of this helps the 126 children who have been offered none of their choices, over a third of them in Strood.

Pressure is greatest overall in Rainham, with just 6 spaces in its 7 schools.

St Marys catholic Gillingahm       

Most popular school in Medway is St Mary’s Catholic Primary, turning away 32 first choices, followed by: Hilltop (29); Brompton-Westbrook and The Pilgrim both 25; Balfour Infants and St Margaret at Troy Town CofE, both 24, All Faiths Children Community (23); and Cliffe Woods (22).

All Hallows Primary Academy has 67% of its spaces empty, followed by the new Hundred of Hoo Primary Academy with 50%, Twydall Primary 32% and New Horizons Academy in Chatham with 30%.

You will find a picture of the 2014 situation here.

I look more closely at each district below....


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