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Wednesday, 03 September 2014 00:00

Medway Primary Schools: 46% of Reception children start school in "struggling schools"

The dire outcomes of Medway primary schools performance are once again in the news, with the Medway Messenger publishing a front page article last week, highlighting the results of an FOI by Labour Councillor Tristan Osbourne. This reveals that “With 30 out of 65 primary and infant schools in Medway ranked either as requiring improvement or inadequate by Ofsted, 46% of children will be going to struggling schools”. This will not come as a surprise to browsers of this website, as I have highlighted the consistently dreadful OFSTED outcomes of Medway primary schools for some years.

I am very conscious that this is not news that parents want to read this week, as their children take up places in their new schools, but the bottom line is that the figures are a disgrace and something has to be done to improve these schools. Stage One is for Medway to acknowledge the depth of the problem which it has steadfastly refused to do so far.

Apparently, the article was badly received by the Council and followed up by a press release lauding the improvement in Medway’s Key Stage 2 SAT results, which although not confirmed claim to show a significant improvement in results compared to national figures.

The press release (below) reveals that the improvement is measured by a rise of 4 places in the national league table which has to be good news, somewhat tempered by the fact that last year Medway came 144th out of 150 Local Authorities, so it has now reached the heady heights of 140th. However, this certainly does show consistent improvement, up from 150th in 2011 and 149th in 2012!

More details below..........

OFSTED Outcomes

You will find full details of this year’s Medway primary OFSTED outcomes by school, here, along with several individual stories in news items over the year: go to “more news” at the bottom of the front page. There are just a few schools who had OFSTED Inspections in July with reports still to be published, but otherwise the overall outcomes are as follows:

Medway Primary School OFSTED
Outcomes: 2013-14 and 2012-13 
  Outstanding Good
Inadequate Total Up Down
0 0% 11 41% 11 41% 5 19% 27 3 11
2 6% 12 34% 16 46% 5 14% 35 7 6
7 6% 52 47% 35 32% 17 15% 111 29 31
National Oct 2013
-March 2014
  8%   54%   32%   5%      

There are a number of shocking figures revealed in this table, the most serious I believe is that, of the 27  Primary School Inspections, just 3 schools have improved their rating, whilst a frightening 11 (over a third of the total) have actually declined. This is in an Authority that last year came 149thst out of 150 Local Authorities in the country and ought to be straining every muscle to show an improvement.  As always, the reported comments by councillors show a complacency that belies this performance. The national percentage for Good or Outstanding schools is running at 62%, with Medway at 41% (Kent is better but still poor at53%); for failing schools - national 5%  - Medway a truly awful 19%, nearly four times the national average (Kent is only a little better with 15%).

It is almost superfluous to observe that, for most of the year I have been keeping a note of what are called Section 8 OFSTEDs. These are mainly follow up inspections of schools that are assessed 'Requires Improvement', or 'Inadequate' and should be for schools where Medway Council has invested high resources to improve standards, having previously been found wanting. Incredibly, half of the 14 Section 8's I have tracked have been found to be 'Unsatisfactory' primarily because of failures by the Council to provide appropriate support. In Kent, the figure is around a quarter, which I still consider not good enough. I am told there is a School Improvement Service. I wonder what the service has been doing with these 14 schools to produce such a dreadful return. 

If Medway parents are unhappy about their children starting in a failing school, as they should be, they also need to be asking questions about why Medway Council is failing so many of their children.

Primary School Vacancies in Medway

As the Medway Messenger article refers to the vacancy situation in Medway’s primary schools this year, parents may wish to look back at my article on vacancies and oversubscription projections following allocation of places in April. This reveals that if parents are unhappy with the school to which they are allocated, there is actually very little they can do about it in nearly all cases. Sorry.

Key Stage Two Results for 2014  

Medway Council Press Release: 1st September 2014

Medway primary pupils showing fast improvement

Primary school pupils in Medway are improving faster than others across the country, new results show. 

Key Stage 2 provisional results are showing significant improvements with Medway moving up the league table. 

Results show: 

  • The increase at level 4 (reading, writing and maths) is 3% for Medway, the same as the national increase
  • Medway is improving faster than the national improvement rate in some areas
  • Boys have done exceptionally well. Their improvement is faster than the national improvement rate at level 4 and level 5. Girls have also improved in most areas
  • Medway has moved up the league table by four  places

Cllr Mike O’Brien, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said: “I am very encouraged by these latest provisional results which show a marked improvement at Key Stage 2 level. “It is a testament to the hard work going on in our primary schools by staff and pupils and our aim has always been to see a continued improvement each year.”

Cllr Kelly Tolhurst, Portfolio Holder for Educational Improvement, said: “It is pleasing that results at primary level are increasing each year and parents can be assured of a good start in their children’s school life.”

The provisional results in the press release above, certainly show an improvement on 2013’s awful placement of 144th out of 150 Local Authorities in the league table quoted in the release, but the new 140th place is definitely not sufficient to justify Councillor Tolhurst’s extravagant and wholly unrealistic claim that “parents can be assured of a good start in their children’s school life”. Indeed, Medway appear to have worked very hard on the presentation of a small improvement, to produce this rosy picture. Whilst I am sure that Medway is improving faster than the national improvement rate in some areas – which? Is it that there other areas, perhaps more important, where there is no such improvement? It is good to see that boys have done well, although we are not told how well compared to the national situation – surely if it was that good, a statistic should have been quoted to justify the term 'exceptional'. And where are the girls – how have they done compared to national figures? 

The answers to all these questions will only become evident when the full data is published in November. For the sake of Medway’s children I hope it is more positive than this press release implies. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 20:15

1 comment

  • Comment Link Thursday, 04 September 2014 15:44 posted by mr dan

    And where is Cllr Tolhurst when this news came out? She's on holiday. Typical tories

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