Supporting Families
  • banner9
  • banner2
  • banner3
  • banner4
  • banner8
  • banner13
  • banner11
  • banner10
  • banner7
  • banner12

Welcome...

I began this website in 2006 both as a service to parents and to promote my business . I consider the educational system is often stacked against parents who have problems with individual schools or the education service and began my consultancy in 2003 to try and alleviate this somewhat in Kent and Medway.

Very soon I established that the need was far greater than I thought and my role (I do have a life outside education) became too full, to the extent that sadly, I have now had to  retire completely from my individual consultancy advising families. Before I stepped back, I worked with around 1000 families on preparing appeals for all types of school, and each year carried out many telephone consultations, all contributing to my wide experience of matters educational in Kent and Medway.

Back to the website. This began life with a few short pages that I was able to edit and update simply, but as time has gone on, the range of issues and the amount of material covered have spiralled almost out of control. The site was relaunched in a professional format in January 2011, but content revision is ongoing, especially at the time of writing when I have spare capacity (coronavirus emergency). Please let me know where further revision is needed, together with any errors or omissions (especially faulty links!) and I will give that high priority in my work. As with all aspects of the website, I am happy to include links to non commercial websites that support parents, and I am also happy to accept relevant advertisements.

Peter J Read

B.Sc., M.Phil., M.A., Dip.Gen.

peter@kentadvice.co.uk

                                                 

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.

  • Needless School Closures and Coronavirus

     Update 19 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; New Line Learning (4 Year groups); 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 7 comments Read more...
  • Dismissal of Kent Headteacher for Gross Misconduct

    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 13 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...
  • Kent and Medway Councils and Free School Meals

    Update: 30th October: To leave no doubt as to KCC's position, the Council has issued a progress report on its FSM Voucher Scheme, reproduced below

    KCC has just released the excellent news that the families of all Kent children on Free School Meals will receive £15 of vouchers per child during school holidays. You will find a copy of the Media Release below.

    Thanks to an initiative by Medway Council and Citizens Advice Medway,  free school meal children will be supplied with meals over the half-term holidays

    KCC has 65 Conservative Councillors out of a total of 81, so one might expect it to follow government policy which appears to be to resist pressure to follow the Marcus Rashford route.  However, the announcement comes after KCC Leader Roger Gough pledged that 'no child should ever go hungry during school holidays, or at any time'. Regular browsers of this site will know that I have been highly critical of KCC recently over policy aspects in the coronavirus pandemic, but I am delighted to welcome this decision for the sake of our disadvantaged children. The Conservative majority in the House of Commons voted against extending free school meals for pupils over the school holidays, up to Easter 2021. This included 14 Kent Conservative MPs, apart from Sir Roger Gale, who have a different view to KCC. The only Kent MP who voted in favour was Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield (Lab). 

    Medway Council has 32 Conservative Councillors out of 55, so again could have been tempted by government policy. Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: 'We are committed to supporting Medway’s most vulnerable children, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has caused further financial pressures for some families. We are therefore pleased to be working with Citizens Advice Medway to ensure no child goes hungry this half-term'.  Two of the three Medway Conservative MPs voted against the proposal, including Kelly Tolhurst who was previously an Education Cabinet Member for Medway Council. 

    There are certainly arguments for and against the policy, but the government decision not to support it is clearly against the popular and growing mood, with an increasing number of Local Authorities adding to the pressure. 

    This must be the most impressive goal scored by an England footballer ever, and an example to others.

    Written on Monday, 26 October 2020 16:42 1 comment Read more...