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Thursday, 21 January 2016 23:02

Kent on Sunday: 2015 GCSE and A Level results for Kent and Medway

State school educated children in Kent and Medway both maintain their above average performance at GCSE and A Level. Nationally, 57.1% of children achieved five GCSEs Grades A-C, including English and maths, up from 56.6% last year. However, both have slipped this year, Kent from 58.1% down to 57.3%, whilst Medway has declined from 58.8% to 57.8%.

At A Level, a range of measures is available each of limited value, with Kent above national average  on point score per A Level entry, and below on percentage of students achieving three A Levels. In Medway, measures are generally slightly below national averages.

The Government twist on the GCSE story that any school below the government floor target of 40% of children gaining 5 Grades A-C including English and maths is failing is simply not valid in a selective county such as Kent. This is because on average 25 children out of every hundred all of whom should have reached the floor target are taken away from our non-selective schools. Simple arithmetic shows that removing these brings the floor target for non-selective schools down to 20% and by that measure, all but four in Kent are succeeding. My bigger concern is that too many selective schools are under achieving.

For me, the outstanding Kent highlights are: High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, at 59%, up from 31% in 2014, seventh best non-selective in Kent, still suffering from unfair lack of popularity with parents, dating back to its pre academy status as an OFSTED failed school; Bennett Memorial in Tunbridge Wells, at 72% still regularly highest performing non-selective school in Kent, Folkestone School for Girls, one of just two grammar schools with 100%, with Chatham Grammar School for Boys, on 99%, best performing Medway grammar, but in Special Measures just two years previously.  Dover Grammar School for Girls, the highest performing school in Kent at A Level, by point score per student comes above all the prestigious and super-selective grammar schools....

Grammar Schools
My rule of thumb is that all grammar schools should average at least 98% 5 GCSEs A-C, with an occasional dip as low as 96%, allowing for issues with individual children such as illness. At the top come Dartford Grammar and Folkestone School for Girls with 100%, followed by another ten with 99%: Chatham Grammar School for Boys; Cranbrook; Dartford Girls; Invicta; Judd; Rochester; Skinners; Tonbridge; Tunbridge Wells Girls; and Weald of Kent. Shockingly, eight grammar schools have achieved less than 95%: Borden Grammar (consistently); Barton Court (one off); Sir Joseph Williamson’s (one off) all on 94%; Dane Court Grammar (second consecutive year), Dover Grammar School for Boys (not above 94% for at least the past five years), Sir Roger Manwood’s (for the past three years) 92%; Oakwood Park Grammar 91% (one off); and Chatham Girls 88% (another one off).
 
 
Non-Selective Schools
As usual the Kent table is dominated by three faith schools: Bennett Memorial Diocesan 72%, (although on a steady decline over the past four years from 86%; St Simon Stock Catholic, 66%; and St Gregory’s Catholic, also down from an average in the 70s over the previous four years, at 64%. Next are a much improved Hayesbrook School, together with Hillview Girls at 61%; followed by Westlands on 60%, High Weald 59% and Valley Park on 58%. Wrotham School is on 57%, two schools with good improvement being Dartford Science and Technology College, also 57% and Skinners Kent Academy on 56%. In Medway Thomas Aveling improving year on year is top with 59%, with Hundred of Hoo on 54%

Non selective schools have received a double whammy as government no longer counts students who have improved their grades by repeating subjects (an important incentive for students for whom success may not come naturally) and no longer counts some practical and creative subjects (often taken by students with aptitudes here) forcing a focus on academic subjects only. Sadly, this will act as a disincentive for too many young people whose aptitudes lie outside formal study.

The struggling schools nearly all show a sharp decline over the past few years: Marlowe Academy, 6% (now closed); St George’s CofE Foundation, Thanet, one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county, 12%; Pent Valley Technology College, almost certainly closing this summer 15%; Spires Academy 17% all fall below my adjusted floor target. Other schools below 25% are: Ellington and Hereson now renamed Royal Harbour Academy at 23%; followed by The North and Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy.

The North placed in Special Measures two years ago when at 42% has sadly declined ever since to 24% under new management, whilst Sheppey has actually improved over the previous year when it was second worst in the county at 19%. Robert Napier on 26% is the lowest performing Medway school at 26%.

 

A Level
One of the problems with comparing A Level scores and pass rates is that they are so dependent on the entrance level to the school, as too many schools keep raising this in terms of GCSE grades to be achieved, in order to recruit the students most likely to get good grades. This reduces opportunity and is true both of many non-selective schools as well as grammars, so that students capable of achieving A Level passes albeit at lower grades are deprived of the opportunity. The traditional alternative route via Further Education Colleges has now been closed completely by some Colleges, including Mid Kent and North West Kent.

With this constraint in mind, the best performing schools measured by A Level points per student are: Dover Grammar School for Girls; Invicta; Highsted; Judd; and Mayfield, with Rochester Grammar some way behind  top in Medway.

For the non-selectives, some high scoring schools may have benefited by a small number of entries, but others have almost caught the lowest grammar schools, Dover Grammar Boys, 741 points per student entry, and Gravesend Grammar 748.8 tied with Duke of York’s Royal Military School. Next comes Rainham school for Girls with 742.6 Bennett Memorial with 731.6, followed by Mascalls; John Wallis CofE; Knole Academy; Westlands; and Hillview Girls. 

Last modified on Friday, 27 May 2016 23:07

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  • Kent and Medway School Transport in September

    Government Policy
    It is our plan that all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term.

    I wholeheartedly support the principle and the schools working incredibly hard to deliver it, but one of the many intractable Covid-19 related challenges facing some secondary schools and families when re-opening in September is that of pupil transport. Some Kent schools are vulnerable, for the county is rural in places with pupils having to travel long distances to their nearest school, whilst many faith and grammar schools also have pupils who travel considerable distance by public transport. Most readers will have seen or encountered the publicly accessible double-decker buses packed with pupils on their way to and from school in the past, but this won’t be the situation in September. For social distancing rules reduce the number of passengers on each bus by at least a half and there is not the spare capacity at this time to increase bus numbers to compensate.

    Most secondary schools will have worked out plans to manage a full pupil attendance if there are no further spikes in Covid-19, taking into account staggered starts and finishes to the school day, setting up year group bubbles, year group zones, staggered lunches and break times, year group entrances and exits, crowded corridor behaviour, cancelling assemblies and other large gatherings, strategies to deal with children or staff exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, PPE policy, cleaning, more cleaning, deep cleaning, etc, etc. All this on the twin assumptions that all pupils will turn up and there will be no spike in Kent cases.

    However, we are just four weeks away from the start of term and there is no sign of a solution to the transport difficulties, although I am not sure what it would be. KCC considers that: ‘the financial impact on bus services and operators has been significant so it could be that more services than usual are subject to change or cancellation. In addition, at the moment, operators are only able to let about half of the usual numbers of passengers on their buses and if this remains the case, then providing enough space for all passengers could be a problem, and so students that can travel in a different way should do so at the moment’. This will inevitably have major knock-on effects with a sharp increase in private traffic on the roads at key times.

    Written on Friday, 07 August 2020 19:47 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Comprehensive Future Knowingly Re-Publishes False Data about Grammar Schools and Pupil Premium

    Two years ago, Comprehensive Future published as a fact that: When asked how many pupils were admitted through these priority policies 80 schools responded, revealing that just 574 disadvantaged pupils were offered admission out of their 12,431 available places... there were 22 selective schools who responded to say they had failed to admit a single disadvantaged pupil through their policies’.  This claim was picked up by the media including the BBC. Unfortunately, this is twice completely false, as I demonstrated in an article last month after the organisation publicly attacked me for querying the data, repeating it in the process. False firstly, because the organisation had quoted completely the wrong data column from their own database, and secondly because the whole database is self-evidently rubbish, see below. As I wrote then, a prime example of the ICT mantra Garbage in, garbage out.  

    I have now been informed by CF’s Chairman, Nuala Burgess, that CF is not prepared to discuss the matter further, the bogus claims remain on their website and that of the BBC and so this must cast doubt on any other claims made by CF on data they have harvested to forward their aims.

    Written on Thursday, 06 August 2020 15:25 2 comments Read more...
  • The Kent Test 2020: Throwing down the gauntlet

    I had an extended interview on Radio Kent last week about the unfairness created towards ‘children of ordinary families’ in the Kent Test for this extraordinary year. At the conclusion, Julia George who was interviewing asked me to ‘throw down the gauntlet’ with KCC over my deep concerns, repeated several times over recent months. I did this by simply challenging the Council to respond to the recently published Government Guidance to Admission Authorities, Kent County Council being one of the largest in the country. KCC’s response to the BBC over the challenge wrongly dismisses the guidance because it ‘will cover individual schools and consortia which test far fewer children’. More importantly, it completely ignores the main part of the guidance and my concern, which focused on the unfairness created for lower-income families in Kent, as explained below.

    At about the same time, Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education at KCC replied to a letter from Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, which echoed my concerns. This response covers somewhat different territory, but again completely ignores any strategy for promoting fairness for disadvantaged families as laid down by the government advice. Moreover, he dismissed my idea for creating flexibility in these increasingly uncertain times and of supporting ordinary families, or any alternative, having set up a false description of it to dismantle!

    Written on Wednesday, 05 August 2020 10:35 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • The Struggling Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Appoints its Fourth Leader in Seven Years.

    Oasis Academy Trust is trying once again to reverse the inexorable decline in the fortunes of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIOS) by bringing in a new Executive Principal over the head of Tina Lee, the current Principal.

    Oasis Sheppey

    Ian Simpson, currently Principal of Oasis Academy Lister Park in Bradford, makes the eighth leader since the school became an academy in 2009. Most of his predecessors have been moved on after failing to turn the school round. Both of the previous two post holders were appointed from within the school only after the Trust failed to attract anyone from outside, despite extensive advertising. Both have been a disappointment. It is not clear if the role of Executive Head is permanent or just a short term firefighting job.

    All this is taking place in the context of a forecast crisis in the provision of non-selective places in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, which will come to a head in 2021, if it has not already arrived. 

    Written on Friday, 31 July 2020 06:45 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Government 'Expectation' on Managing Selection Test Arrangements in Kent and Medway

    Hot on the heels of Kent County Council's confirmed arrangements for the Kent Test, as reported in my previous article, the government has now released its formal advice on assessment processes for selective school admissions. This is quoted extensively below in blue and italics. It greatly expands the frameworks set out by KCC and Medway Councils, urging admission authorities to look closely at minimising disadvantage for protected groups, socially and economically disadvantaged children and children who are unable to attend the test centre, as I had hoped KCC itself would. The current KCC proposal heavily discriminates against lower-income families who can't afford private education or extensive private tutoring.  It remains my conviction that, if KCC were to adopt a model such as the one I have proposed before, it would go a considerable way towards meeting the requirement to minimise this acknowledged disadvantage in the current circumstances which has not yet been addressed. However, there is still the flexibility to do so. Medway Council has a more structured procedure for assessing children, but no apparent will to change it as this document advises, so I have little hope that greater fairness will emerge there.  

    Several pieces of government advice, considered further below, relate to the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers which is likely to be magnified by their absence from school during the coronavirus outbreak’. In particular, ‘we therefore strongly advise that tests for grammar and partially selective schools are moved back into late October or to November if local admission co-ordination processes allow’. Along with the other recommendations below which now need addressing, this is considerably more radical than the KCC and Medway decisions which place the revised test dates in the first half of October and offer no further mitigation of disadvantage. 

    The immense logistical problems faced by KCC and, to a lesser extent by Medway Council, in providing facilities to test some 5,000 out of county candidates are also explored further below.

    Written on Saturday, 25 July 2020 11:59 3 comments Read more...
  • Education, Health and Care Plans in Kent

    Update: You will find an article exploring the government's announcement of 35 new Free Specia Schools to be set up here

    Further Update: KCC and government have announced the opening of a new secondary special school on the Isle of Sheppey for September 2022. 

    This article looks back at provision for children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for the year 2018-19 across Kent, success rates for those appealing against decisions, along with other related matters. The data shows a sharp rise of 80% in EHCPs awarded in under three years, with a corresponding increase in budget putting enormous pressure on KCC education finances.

    The data below shows that for nearly half of families requesting a statutory assessment of SEN this is not followed through for some reason, often lack of support from the school which may be for good reason. However, for most who get that far, the overwhelming majority were awarded an EHCP, so it is worthwhile persevering. I imagine that the difficulties of securing an EHCP over the past six months have been immense.  Those unsuccessful in securing an EHCP or one that is adequate for the purpose have the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, although large numbers starting down this route did not follow through, often where KCC decided their cases were not worth defending and concede the EHCP, as suggested by the data.

    The article also looks at placements of children with EHCPs, with 40% of primary and 30% of secondary pupils remaining in mainstream schools, along with the number of children being with EHCPs being de-registered from school for Elective Home Education, together with a brief look at the powerful performance of Medway Special SchoolsI also look back at a damning Inspection of Kent’s ineffectiveness in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 which took place in the middle of this period; consider the current situation and the financial pressures imposed by the increase in EHCPs; and the number of families taking up places in private schools, funded by KCC often after Tribunal. These include one which charges more than twice as much as Eton College. 

    Written on Friday, 24 July 2020 15:54 1 comment Read more...