Supporting Families
  • banner10
  • banner2
  • banner6
  • banner8
  • banner12
  • banner9
  • banner11
  • banner13
  • banner7
  • banner3
Saturday, 19 October 2013 22:35

Article for Kent on Sunday on school admission freedoms, 19 October 2013

This is a summary of a more comprehensive article that appears elsewhere in this website, prepared for Kent on Sunday 

The face of secondary education in Kent is changing rapidly as government decisions allow popular schools to offer additional places to meet demand. In Kent, with 75% of secondary schools either academies or in the process of change, this freedom is producing dramatic results. 

In 2013, schools created an additional 352 places by temporary or permanent expansion, most high profile being the West Kent grammars, where Judd, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar and Weald of Kent Grammar each admitted an additional class of entry. Less prominent were Skinners Kent Academy (30 more children) and Bennett Memorial School (16 children). Most of these schools have not declared their intentions for admission next September, so parents are left uncertain of their chances of winning places at their school of choice. Parental choice is of course even greater this year as the Trinity Free School in Sevenoaks joins the Kent admission scheme. I anticipate that within two years this mix will also see the arrival of the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks.

The three new Free Schools, Trinity, Wye Free School, and Hadlow Rural Community School added a further 240 places, creating a total expansion of nearly 600 new places.

Not surprisingly, this saw KCC able to claim the highest proportion of satisfied families in recent years, with a record high of 84% of children getting their first choice school.

I anticipate that this trend will continue, as even more of the popular schools choose to admit more children, giving them additional finance and clout in the educational world.

Already for 2014 entry, with some of these schools making their enlargements permanent, and others joining them, I count 525 additional places confirmed since 2012, with another 140 probable and others expected to join this great monopoly game......

The fastest expansion is at Valley Park School, Maidstone, which has added 60 places in the past two years, the largest Kent school, Homewood School in Tenterden ensuring it keeps its crown by expanding its intake from 360 to 390 students over the same period.

Other major changes are at Folkestone Academy and Wilmington Academy, each increasing by 30 students. You will find a full list of changes at www.kentadvice.co.uk.

 Two consequences of these changes are, firstly that parents have lost a great deal of certainty about their admission choices, although with more getting their first choice there should not be too many complaints.

The classic case is The Judd School, which increased its intake to 155 last year, but has fallen back to 125 for 2014 entry.  As a result, many boys who did not expect a place at Judd found themselves with one in March or through reallocation in April. Others were cross because they didn’t apply, fearing the required score would be too high (it depends on the number of boys applying and their aggregate scores in the Kent Test, so is not known until March). There are several clues about the school’s intention and I believe they will once again admit the higher number of 155 boys, but it be that the school has itself not yet decided.

Secondly, whilst government policy allows popular schools to expand there is a mirror consequence that those at the bottom of the pile are likely to spiral into further decline in numbers. I anticipate that there will be closures within a couple of years. Kent has already seen one effective closure this year, with Castle Community College in Deal swallowing up Walmer Technology College because of falling numbers of applicants to the two schools.

Two other schools have already cut their admission numbers, Chaucer Technology College in Canterbury reducing its admission number from 235 to 150 in the last few years, and Pent Valley school, Folkestone, which has dropped from 240 to 180.

Over the border in Medway, which has now reached the bottom of a sharp drop in numbers, there is little change. The one school which increased its intake last year was Rainham Mark Grammar school, taking in an additional 30 children, but this is likely to be a one off releasing another class of children this year to the other grammars, three of which had vacancies for 2013 entry.

Whilst it may be difficult to predict precise outcomes  in terms of school places offered in Kent for the coming year, there is no doubt that once again the school landscape will look very different with new winners and losers. We mustn’t forget that in the middle of all this are the children!

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.

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.

  • Kent Test Results by Birth Month 2018-20: Sharp Decline through the Year

    Children born in the first quarter of the school year 1 September 2009 and 31 August 2010, have performed much better in the 2020 Kent selection procedure than those born in the fourth quarter between June and August.

    It is some years since I previously analysed Kent Test results by the month of birth of children sitting the Test and found little difference at that time between performance across different ages. Given the built-in disadvantages for some children brought about by the Coronavirus crisis this year, the decline in the pass rate was no great surprise, except that the difference was almost the same in 2018. The reason for the fall in performance is therefore not to do with Coronavirus as I initially suspected, but appears to be caused by inherent problems with the Kent Test age standardisation, which is surely neither fair nor acceptable.

    Written on Friday, 15 January 2021 18:32 1 comment Read more...
  • Sevenoaks School: Unlawful Selection Testing in School on Tuesday and Wednesday.

    The lockdown has forced schools to make radical changes in their procedures and activities, but some are subject to looser rules than others. For example, the private Sevenoaks School has received approval from the government to continue setting its admission examinations for eleven-year-olds over this week and the next, inviting candidates into school. However, I believe this is not just bending the rules it is unlawful!

    Sevenoaks School  

    A letter to parents indicates that even the school was astonished to be allowed to go ahead. It begins: ‘Unbelievably, we have just received notification from the Department for Education that we can continue to administer admissions tests for entry this September!’. What on earth are state schools supposed to make of this special treatment?

    The law is clear. The relevant part states: You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:………attend education or childcare - for those eligible.

    In my opinion, testing for selection is not education in any sense, nor do children and families in most cases even fit the criteria for eligibility to attend education if it were. The responsibility for this flagrant breach of the law lies with the government who have chosen to make this an exception and override their own legislation, not Sevenoaks School who were originally prepared to cancel the exams in line with lockdown.  

    Written on Wednesday, 13 January 2021 13:03 4 comments Read more...
  • Website Review of 2020

    Unsurprisingly the story of education locally in this extraordinary and memorable year has been dominated by Coronavirus, although I have focused in my coverage on events unfolding in Kent and Medway, leaving the national picture to others.

    Whilst this article reviews some of the many news items I  have published in the past year, I have not considered last week’s lockdown nor the litany of failed and crumbling promises in education matters, even as recently as last week,  offered by Boris Johnson and national government including the quagmire of U-Turns and storm of decisive impossibilities laid down by Gavin Williamson and the Department for Education, all of which have been ruthlessly demolished elsewhere. 

    The most read news story on this site over the past year is, surprisingly to me, the events leading up to the dismissal of the Headteacher of St Thomas’ Catholic Primary and the departure of the CEO of the Kent Catholic Schools Trust (See update below). Otherwise, and unsurprisingly, news items about the Kent Test and grammar schools dominate both my list of most-read articles and also the further set of information articles. Each of these is updated annually and headed up by the 2020 version of Kent Grammar School Applications. That article has now been read by 374,859 browsers over the past ten years, not including my 2250 subscribers. All information articles are listed in the right-hand column of this page.

    Just before the end of the year, I received census figures for Kent schools, some of which I have incorporated in the items below, a fuller article to come as it reveals some interesting facts about Kent and Medway schools as usual.

    Written on Wednesday, 30 December 2020 06:15 1 comment Read more...
  • Coronavirus Jottings

    23rd December: I tried to write an article speculating what would happen to schools in January, but have given it up as an impossible task. Happy Christmas and my sincere best wishes for 2021 to all who are responsible for delivering an education to Kent and Medway children.  

    The BBC has an excellent description of the chaos that is following the latest government knee jerk reactions to the beginning of a surge in Coronavirus cases. This particular U-Turn totally wipes out any rationale for the threats this week of legal action against schools and Local Authorities for closing schools early, and the issuing of fines to parents for keeping their children at home either through fear or to do their best to keep coronavirus free for Christmas. I cannot imagine what school leaders are going through as they grapple with the consequences over the 'holiday' (18/12).   

     Mass testing updates below (17/12, 18/12).

    By the time you read this, it will be out of date, as headteachers and Local Authorities grapple with a rapidly changing situation in wider society and their own schools. Large numbers of staff and pupils are often absent for periods sometimes repeatedly, either with covid itself or self-isolating. Decisions are made in the spotlight with parts of society, including government, very ready to blame schools for decisions at variance with their own ideas, and now controlling media.

    The Secretary of State for Education, in spite of his failures during the year, seeks ever tighter control of schools and has introduced new coronavirus related legislation, including the Temporary Continuity Direction. This enables him to force schools to remain open, yet another potential breakdown in relationships and trust and has enabled him to require Greenwich Council to backtrack on its decision to advise all local schools to close for the last four days of term. Islington and Waltham Forest councils have also told schools to move to remote learning and have been sent warning letters from the Department for Education, with the TCD to follow if they do not comply.

    Quite understandably the government is concerned about the effect of a fractured attendance pattern on children’s education and mental health, over the past nine months and into the indeterminate future. Unfortunately, it has forgotten three important lessons which should have been learned. Firstly that local situations are usually best delegated to local people, secondly that in a rapidly changing scene, rigid policies can be heavily wrongfooted, and thirdly that the Education Department has a track record of getting it wrong.

    The latest attendance figures released by the Department of Education show a frightening decline in attendance figures for last week, with just 55% of secondary aged pupils in Kent and 53% in Medway attending school according to the BBC, with primary attendance around 75%. An increasing number of schools have been forced to close through lack of staff able to attend. Whilst a major part of the absence is likely to be a direct consequence of coronavirus, many families are frightened whilst others are sensibly withdrawing their children from school early to give them a chance of a Covid free Christmas, some of whom have then been threatened with fines for non-attendance. There is nothing like goodwill at Christmas!

    Written on Wednesday, 16 December 2020 17:15 1 comment Read more...
  • Medway Review 2020 and Out of County Data for the Medway Test

    To no one’s surprise, the Medway Review process has once again failed the children of Medway for 2021 grammar school admissions. Instead of selecting the target figure of 70 Medway state school children, or 2% of the total cohort, who should have been successful at Review, there were just 12 children picked, which is 0.34% of the cohort. The rules for the procedure make absolutely no concessions for children whose education has suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic raging over the previous eight months, underlined by this being by the second-lowest percentage for many years. The additional penalty for many of the 127 Medway children who were unsuccessful at review is that, apart from at Chatham Grammar, the rules do not allow grammar school Appeal Panels to uphold their cases unless there is a fault in process, which there almost never is. Very few (less than five) of the 33 Review requests for children from outside Medway were successful.

    I have little new to say about this situation as I have been writing about the reasons why the Medway Test and Review process are unfit for the purpose for many years. Sadly, I have not generated any response whatsoever from Medway politicians about why they are content to let this travesty continue unreformed. However, I do explore further details of outcomes below and examine the sharp rise in Out of County passes.

    This article follows on from my initial analysis of Medway Test results here, which also highlights the scandal of the gross imbalance between opportunities for girls and boys at Medway grammar schools once again.  

    Written on Tuesday, 15 December 2020 17:26 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Sixth Form Courses in Kent and Medway Schools

    Three years ago I surveyed the movement of students between some schools to take up 6th Form courses and was surprised how often it happened. There appears limited advice to Year 11 students on what the options are so I have carried out a more extensive analysis this year, looking at all 38 grammar schools across Kent and Medway and those 37 non-selective (N/S) schools running 6th Forms with an intake of over eighty students in 2019. Somewhat to my surprise, I have discovered that over a quarter of 6th form students in both grammar and N/S schools were in different schools for Year 11, with a healthy 15% of the total 6th Form numbers in grammars having transferred from N/S schools.  There is no co-ordinated admission system for 6th Form admission, so students can apply for as many schools as they wish. Whilst the number of external students to be admitted is theoretically capped, individual schools interpret this limitation in different ways, with many never reaching the limit. 

    I believe this study is unique but is intended to encourage more young people to reflect and make a decision about what is best for them, rather than just carry on in the same school without making a positive decsion, although this will still be right for most.

    The school with by some way the largest 6th Form intake from outside is the non-selective (N/S) Canterbury Academy admitting 294 students from other schools, including 46 from grammar and private schools and 63 from abroad. It is followed in percentage terms by Simon Langton Boys Grammar, also in Canterbury with 160 external students including 86 from other grammar schools.

    I look at some of the issues below, including a look across the county by District, what I have long maintained are unlawful conditional offers for entry to school 6th Forms, and the sadly most newsworthy school of all, the debacle at The Rochester Grammar School. 

    Written on Tuesday, 08 December 2020 06:23 2 comments Read more...