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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.
Aspects of the current situation with regard to the Kent Test are that:
  • The date for the Kent Test is still currently set for September. To change it would require government approval. KCC is in discussion with government about an aspect of the Kent Test, presumably about a possible postponement.
  • There is no guarantee that any change of date would see the county free of Coronavirus, or schools operating normally.
  • There are no arrangements in place for children who are: unable to take the Kent Test because their schools are not open, or cannot provide facilities; or whose parents or schools judge it is unsafe to participate; or who are ill in large numbers. 
  • The School Admissions Code of Practice requires Admission Authorities to ‘take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications on 2nd November so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school’.
  • The five thousand out of county children who normally take the Kent Test each year still need somewhere to sit it where it can be independently invigilated. In the past this has taken place in obliging Kent schools.   
As of today (19th May), Kent County County Council has provided no further information about the date of Testing. This is not a criticism as I don't see how they can with the current uncertainties. Registration for the Kent Test remains for a month from 1st June.

 This article looks at Kent and Medway primary school Ofsted outcomes for the current school year. The headline news is the strong improvement in Academy levels in the past few years, both in Kent and Medway, whereas at best Kent County Council Local Authority (KCC) schools are standing still, with 20% of those inspected seeing a drop in level since September.

Ightham

 

Just one local school, Ightham Primary in Sevenoaks District, has been classified as Outstanding since September and none found Inadequate. 

I look at all the changes in primary school Ofsted assessments across Kent and Medway below, along with the performance of The Education People, responsible for performance in Kent Local Authority schools. .

Update on Kent Appeals 13th May, here.

Letter from Kent Primary Head on Consequences of Schools Re-Opening here

Some issues relating to the Emergency Regulations for School Appeals are now resolving, but the large majority of Local Authorities appear still to be struggling to come to a view. My previous article concluded that these proposals are unworkable in most cases, especially where there are large numbers of appeals or grammar school appeals. This is now the fifth article exploring the situation as it has developed, looking at how it has been interpreted, the previous four all containing considerable detail, along with advice for appellants. I propose to update it as I receive more information, the dates of the latest update being recorded at the top of the article. 

I continue with my view that the Government emergency regulations appear to be solely for the benefit of bureaucrats and show little interest in the challenges faced by families, panellists, clerks or schools. A parallel set of rules published by the Welsh Office was in complete contrast to this and placed families first, but the relevant section appears to have mysteriously vanished, see below!  

There are three approaches allowed for hearing remote appeals. These are: video conference, telephone conference, and written submission of cases and evidence. There is no indication that these different types of hearing can be mixed for a single school’s appeals, but no specific ban, and I have already been told of several schools that are planning to go this way.

In my previous article, written nearly two weeks ago, I described a ‘chink of light’ in an omission by the regulations to be prescriptive about the written submission process. I was delighted to learn yesterday that KCC has just sent out appeal invitations to grammar school appellants using this to the full. I don't know yet if it will be applied to non-selective schools, but anticipate this. Some Kent appeals for other types of school are being heard by audio-conferencing, with clerks establishing whether appellants can manage this. If not there is a fall back to a written submission hearing. 

Further details on all these matters below, including some Local Authorities which have now made decisions (please feel free to add to these).

Overall, there has been little change in Medway primary school admission data since my 2019 article, with an extra 94 children offered local schools bringing the total to 3447, and 45 additional places created.  The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has remained at 97.4%, coincidentally the same percentage as two out of the last three years. Overall, 12% of places are unfilled, down from 13% in 2019.  

Cliffe Woods Primary has shot up in popularity to become the most oversubscribed school, turning away 50 first choices, edging out last year's leader Barnsole Primary with 49 disappointed first choices. They are followed at some distance by the Academy of Woodlands and All Saints CofE. Barnsole, along with Swingate are the only two of the ten most oversubscribed schools to feature in each of the past three years.  There are eight schools with 15 or more first choices turned away (down from 10 last year), spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. The most remarkable difference is for St Margaret's Infant School in Rainham, which has turned away 24 first choices for this September, but did not quite fill in 2019.

 Cliffe Woods       Barnsole  St Margarets Infant

 

 I have explored the changes at Greenvale Infant School and Phoenix Junior Academy below , as they have both become all through primary schools, giving an increase between them of 15 places for September. In Chatham, Walderslade and Wayfield primaries have seen their intake double from 30 to 60 places, Two other schools have minor changes in their intakes.  

I look more closely at each Medway area separately, below, links as follows: Chatham; Gillingham; Hoo Peninsula; Rainham; Rochester; Strood, together with the situation for Junior Schools, here 

If there are sections or individual school details that need amplification, please let me know…….

This article looks at three communications from Kent County Council to headteachers, addressing issues about  grammar school admissions and appeals at this time of Coronavirus.

The first is a letter sent to schools regarding the timing of the 2020 Kent Test for grammar school suitability in 2021, currently planned for September. 

I also look at two separate items relating to grammar school places for this September for some children. The first of these is about problems at appeal regarding unsuccessful Headteacher Assessments caused through the crisis; the second looks at late applications and testing.

Rather belatedly, this article looks at the government decision to overturn Paul Carter’s veto on a new secondary school in Thanet, originally explored here. This decision was received by KCC in a letter on February 13th.

As a result, the new school, provisionally called Thanet Skies Academy, will built on the somewhat restricted site of the old Royal School for the Deaf in East Margate. It is planned to open in September 2022 as a six form entry 11-16 Free School, sponsored by the Howard Trust based in Medway.

There is good news for most Kent families applying for reception class places in primary schools this year although, with 88.3% of families offered their first choice school, this is the lowest proportion since 2016.  However, 97.4% of families have been offered one of their three choices, coincidentally the same percentage as in 2019 and 2017. Sadly, that still leaves 457 children with no school of their choice. Altogether, the number of Kent pupils offered places through the scheme is 17,411, up by 125, but less than 1% on the 2019 figure. These details are contained in the Press Release

In Medway, more than 88% of children have again been offered their first choice school, with 97.9% being offered a school on their application form, both figures similar to 2019. 74 children were offered no school of their choice, again, almost the same as in 2019, when there were 75. In total there was an increase of 78 pupils offered places from 2019,   with a total of 3491. Most of these details are contained in the Press Release

This year is of course very different from any other because of Coronavirus, with all schools currently closed.  As a result you will probably not be able to contact them directly to raise concerns over admissions. Nevertheless,  you should still accept the school you have been offered. It can do you no damage if you then pursue places elsewhere. Then follow as normal the advice below on what to do if you have not received a school or any school of your choice and wish to be reconsidered at one or more of these. 

You will also find information and advice on appeals below and  here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, I am afraid that chances of success are negligible. 

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. A major cause for this is an increase in the total pass rate for grammar selection from 25.7% in 2019 to 26.6% for 2020 entry. 

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