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Peter Read

 Key Stage Two school performance for 2019 tables were published on Friday, with 68% of Kent pupils meeting the expected standard for the second year running, comfortably above the national average which was 65%. Medway was once again below average, although this year narrowing the gap, at 64%. Congratulations to Stowting CofE Primary School, Ashford, which was the top school in all the three major categories explored below: Progress, Achievement, and Proportion of pupils achieving higher grades. Also of special note is Royal Rise Primary School in Tonbridge, its most recent Ofsted placing it in Special Measures, but now taken over by Cygnus Academies Trust, and performed highly in both Progress and Achievement, to become the highest performing school in Tonbridge.  

Stowting Pic   Copy     Royal Rise   Copy

Government’s key measure is progress from Key Stage One (end of Infant stage at age seven) through to Key Stage Two, in Reading Writing and Mathematics. The best overall Progress performances were by: Stowting CofE, Ashford, 19.3; Oaks Primary (Academy), Maidstone, 17.2; Joy Lane Foundation, Whitstable, & New Horizons (A), Chatham, 16.9; Hernhill CofE, Canterbury, 16.7; St Mary of Charity CofE (A), Faversham; 16.5; and Kings Farm, Gravesend, 16.4. Six of the highest performers have been in Special Measures in the past five years which, although not recommended, appears to have acted as a spur - five after academisation. 

In Kent, five schools saw every pupil achieve the expected achievement standard set by government but, apart from Sibertswold CofE, Dover each of the others had small age groups of between seven and twelve pupils! Next came: Ramsgate, Holy Trinity CofE with 97%; St Margaret's at Cliffe, 96%; Chilton (A),  Ramsgate; and Temple Ewell CofE (A), Dover, both with 95%, again with a preponderance of East Kent schools, along with the next schools in the list.  Top performers in Medway by this standard were Pilgrim (A), Medway, and St Helen’s CofE, Cliffe, both with 90% of pupils achieving the expected standard.

There are plenty of opportunities for many schools to claim a top position in one or more of these categories, as shown in the following sections. For definitions and full details of performance consult the Government websites for Kent and Medway. The article concludes with some advice to parents trying to select a primary school for their children.....

For those who thought we had seen the last of the dreadful Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT)I enclose a copy of a letter sent by the Government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), which reports on the ESFA investigation into LSSAT.

LSSAT Logo

This tells us that the investigation concluded several months ago and that the ESFA intends to publish a final version of the report, so there is already an interim Report in existence about the investigation. The author of the letter, sent 9th October, apologises for the long delay in concluding the investigation, and records that the final Report will be published as soon as possible after fact checking has taken place. Clearly a robust process of fact checking that has taken more than two months already!

The letter concludes: ‘I cannot speculate as to exactly what enforcement action will be taken. However, I can assure you that the department will take robust action as appropriate to ensure that individuals responsible for financial mismanagement will be held to account’. In other words, some form of action will be carried out.

I posed the following education question on Radio Kent this morning to the five Tunbridge Wells candidates in the General Election:

Plans for a new six form entry non-selective school in TW have collapsed as no sponsor came forward to run it as a Free School. The three TW schools have each expanded by 60 pupils since the admission number set in 2018. In spite of this, girls from TW were allocated to High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and boys to Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge this year. For 2021-22 entry the latest KCC commissioning plan shows a shortfall of 6 forms of entry in TW. The land earmarked for the new school has been lost under government rules that state such land cannot be kept indefinitely. Suggestions?

Shockingly, not one of the candidates knew there was a problem, let alone the crisis that is currently upon local families looking for non-selective schools in TW. Several could only respond about the shortage of grammar school places, which is completely irrelevant to this crisis, or the abolition of selection at 11, with grammar schools not mentioned in any party manifesto. Conservative candidate, Greg Clarke, the previous Member who was also Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, had never heard of the issue or the collapse of the land deal, although it is explicitly described in the KCC Schools Commissioning Plan for 2018-22 (below).  He suggested I must be mistaken! Several candidates talked of long term plans for expanding school places in general without reference to Tunbridge Wells, presumably from the magic money tree on offer from all sides. In no way does this solve the local problem of short and long term need described by KCC whose solution is: ‘the strategic response to this demand is a proposed 6FE expansion of an existing school or a new school from 2021-22’. This after each of the three local non-selective schools has increased their intakes for 2019 entry by 60 places since the Planned figure for 2018, with no sign of where the additional capacity is coming from.

In other words, don’t expect any help from whoever wins tomorrow!

 

The number of children leaving Kent schools for Elective Home Education (EHE) in 2017-18   continues to increase sharply year on year, now up by 70% to 1310 over the past four years. Medway has seen its first fall in numbers for five years, to 226 families opting for EHE down from 278 in the previous year.

The figure of 830 Kent ‘Children Missing from Education’ (CME), with no known destination is way down on the 2292 of two years ago,  with larger figures in some areas caused by families returning to their homeland, notably in Gravesham and Thanet, both home to large numbers of Eastern European families, and by Traveller families.

The four highest EHE schools are the same as in 2017-18, and are four out of the top six the previous year, yet no-one appears to question what is going on in these schools. They are High Weald Academy, losing 4.8% of its statutory aged population (11-16); Hartsdown Academy 4.1%, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, 3.6%; and New Line Learning Academy 3.4%, all losing on average more than one child from every class last year to home education. There were no schools in Medway losing more than 2% of their statutory roll to EHE.

The following article may not be of direct interest to families but it identifies the chaos and machinations at the top of Turner Schools and as such I consider it is an important testimony. The consequences for schools operating under this level of leadership cannot be good.   

The mystery of the resignation of the Chairman of Directors and Founder of Turner Schools, Professor Carl Lygo, along with Dame Susan John and four other Directors continues to deepen in what appears to have been a meltdown amongst the Board of Directors back in  May. Amongst other developments below, the Trust has quietly announced the appointment of Mike Buchanan as the new Board Chairman in the middle of an article about building works, although completely forgetting to mention why another Chairman is needed, or to give any mention or credit anywhere to Professor Lygo, Dame Susan John, or Jenny King amongst others for their important contributions to the Trust.

TurnerSchools

Since I wrote my previous article, Folkestone Academy has had another set of poor GCSE results. Although it has improved on its record of awarding more than one in seven fixed term exclusions for the whole of Kent in 2017-18, the 2018-19 performance of being the third highest percentage in Kent is nothing to be proud of, nor are the high exclusion rates at Martello Primary and the Turner Free School. 2017-2018 had seen a mass exodus of staff, another large swathe going in July this year. Folkestone Academy has got through five headteachers since Turner Schools took over. Sixth form numbers have slumped, as has intake. The Trust has made multiple false claims about its ‘successes’ over the past two years to cover this record up. There is more to come before Christmas.

Following on from this article Schoolsweek has explored the situation including a reply from the KCSP which contains some very strange ideas, see below.
 
 
The Kent Catholic Schools Partnership,  an Academy Trust which runs 19 Roman Catholic primary schools, has instructed all these schools not to provide facilities for their children to sit the Kent Test in their own school. This means that those children will be disadvantaged by not taking the Test in familiar surroundings like other Kent children, and will have to travel to another venue arranged by KCC which could be miles away from their homes. This move to sectarianism would appear to be just bloody-minded to many. For the Catholic Church as a whole is clearly not opposed to academic selection, supporting three Catholic grammar schools in other parts of the country and providing many private Catholic academically selective schools for those Catholics and others who are wealthy enough to pay, both in Kent and elsewhere in the country. These two categories are also operating in clear contradiction of ‘the church’s social teachings’ as set out  below.
 
 KCSP Logo
However, as the following analysis shows, the only children this decision will actually affect are those frightened off from taking the test because of social disadvantage or lacking the confidence to take on the church, or else who fail the Kent Test solely because they have been disadvantaged by taking it in unfamiliar surroundings. How proud the Catholic Church must be.
 
This story was first aired by Radio Kent and I was happy to contribute. 
Thursday, 14 November 2019 05:26

Kent and Medway School Exclusions 2018-19

 'Teacher capacity and skill is (sic) the best antidote there is to exclusion of students'.
Folkestone Academy
 The same five secondary schools feature in the top seven fixed term excluders in every one of the last three years. Folkestone Academy, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey and Hartsdown Academy are high profile schools in trouble and entirely predictable. Between them they account for nearly a quarter of all secondary exclusions in Kent this year. Astor College, Dover, has also struggled, the fifth being John Wallis CofE Academy, Ashford. For primary schools there are just two schools to feature over this period, Richmond Academy and Martello Primary. You will find full lists and more details of the top excluding schools below.
 
There were just 43 permanent exclusions in Kent in 2018-19, spread across 31 schools, down again from last year’s record low. In Medway there were 36.  The only school expelling five or more students last year was Robert Napier in Gillingham, which features annually in this very short list, with ten pupils thrown out in 2018-19 (also fifth in Kent and Medway for fixed term exclusions).
 
Kent has had a very low rate of permanent exclusions since 2012-13, fifth lowest in England last year, with Medway consistently above the national average over the same period. Kent has also been below the national average for fixed term exclusions 2016-18, with Medway well above since at least 2009-10; see below. For Kent secondary schools, fixed term exclusions are up by 6% since the year before, whereas for primary schools it has fallen by 5%. 
Headlines:
The central headline of the year's Primary School Ofsted outcomes is that academies are considerably outperforming Local Authority schools,showing much stronger improvement. 
 
Overall, Kent and Medway schools inspected by Ofsted outperformed last year’s national level of 83% Good or Outstanding, aided by a strong performance from academies.
In Kent 19 of the 94 schools inspected have improved their grading, against just six that have declined; whilst in Medway five of the 22 have improved, and none deteriorated, the best performance for years.
19 of 24 schools that improved their category were academies, most having converted since their previous inspection.
 
This article focuses on Ofsted reports since March when I  published a half year report, since when there are two new Outstanding schools in addition to those listed in the previous article: Hawkinge Primary in Folkestone and Shatterlocks Infant in Dover (academy) schools.
Hawkinge 2      Shatterlocks
 
Five schools have improved their performance by two levels from Special Measures to Good after academisation: Barming, Maidstone; Brenzett CofE, Romney Marsh; St Edward’s Catholic, Isle of Sheppey; St Nicholas CofE, New Romney; Westgate, Dartford.
 
I look below at all the key outcomes across Kent and Medway. 
Saturday, 02 November 2019 09:50

Medway Review 2019 and the Medway Test.

I have now received more data relating to the Medway Test with its pass level of an aggregation of 495 marks across the three tests, following on from my initial article here.

It is clear that the Review process has once again failed Medway children with a total of 0.43% of children having Reviews upheld, against a target of 2.0% of the cohort. As a result, 45 children missed out  of being found of grammar school ability this year because of failure by the Medway process. The rules then state that such children cannot be considered at appeal unless they can show the process to be flawed! Of the 15 successful reviews for Medway children out of 147 submitted, 11 were from girls, over half of these being born in the first quarter of the year. Some might argue that the underlying reason for the very low success rate at Review is poor work produced by Medway primary schools, although it could of course be simply the annual  failure of Review Panels to follow the procedure! 

22.2% of boys and 24.1 % of girls in Year Six of Medway schools passed the Medway Test, meeting the overall target of 23.0%. Whilst this confirms the annual bias in favour of girls as demonstrated below, the gap is slightly lower since the introduction of the CEM selection Test in 2017. The Council has attempted to save money by banning late testing since 2018, which is unlawful as explained here, Year Six children moving into Medway late are therfore denied the opportunity to go to grammar school. 

There were 921 Out of County (OOC) successes in the Medway Test. Nearly half of these came from Kent. Many will be looking for places at Holcombe and Chatham Girls grammar schools as second or lower choices to schools nearer their homes. Last year just 246 OOCs were allocated Medway places out of 844 grammar qualified, many of whom would have subsequently dropped out after gaining more suitable places nearer home. 

Note: This is an update to a previous article, now deleted

At long last it looks as if the second part of the Sevenoaks grammar school annexe buildings will be built and occupied as originally planned, in response to a growing shortage of grammar school places in West Kent. A consultation document on the development of a separate annexe has now been published, which appears to provide a fairly straightforward progress to completion in 2021 for 90 boys in Year Seven, following approval of the girls’ annexe three years ago.

This will be an important increase in selective education places for West Kent. At present, grammar school qualified boys from the north of the District, who are not eligible for the super selective Judd and Skinners schools, have to travel up to 22 miles to TWGSB which is bursting at the seams as it keeps having to expand to meet local need.

Additional grammar school places are certainly needed to meet the increasing number of Kent children being assessed as selective due to a growing population. There is a forecast deficit of 242 places for boys and girls jointly by 2022-23 (see below). I have explored the non selective place issues several times previously, for example here.

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