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Saturday, 01 April 2017 22:17

Kent and Medway Secondary School Allocations 2017: Kent on Sunday 1st April 2017

This article is based on four more comprehensive ones, elsewhere in this website: Kent Grammar Schools; Kent Non-Selective Schools; Medway Grammar Schools; Medway Non-Selective schools. 

The allocation of secondary school places took place at the beginning of March and this article surveys some of the consequences of the decisions taken.

The two biggest pressure areas appear to be in Thanet non-selective schools and North West Kent grammar schools, but there are plenty of others.  

The problems in Thanet are caused both by an influx of pupils and a massive polarisation of popularity with every one of the six non-selective schools full on allocation. Many parents try to avoid two schools, Royal Harbour and Hartsdown Academies and as a consequence these two were allocated 166 children who had no school of their choice, more than a quarter of the total in the county. These will include a large number of Children In Care, dispatched by London Boroughs; others are children from the EC and refugees, all bringing their own challenges to the schools. As a direct consequence, three schools are massively oversubscribed, with St George’s CofE, King Ethelbert and Charles Dickens (last Inspection – Special Measures proving no obstacle!) turning away 186, 126 and 53 first choices respectively. The first two are the first and third most popular non-selective schools in Kent, split by Valley Park in Maidstone, which turned away 179 first choices.

At the other end of the county, the pressure on North West grammar schools is intense, brought about through London families looking to secure grammar school places. The six schools have offered 280 out of county (ooc) places between them, including some from north of the Thames, with a further 62 at four Medway grammars. Dartford Grammar School, has placed a limit of 90 places for local boys, selecting those with the highest scores. It has offered places to 79 ooc boys, with many grammar qualified children being denied places at their local school. Dartford Grammar school has gone down the same route, allocating 100 places to local girls, alongside 55 oocs. 

There is heavy oversubscription at all four Dartford grammars, with Dartford Boys, the most popular school in Kent, turning away 257 grammar qualified first choices, by some way the highest number in the county, followed by Dartford Girls with 188. Next come three West Kent grammars: Tonbridge (151); Skinners (143); and Judd at (102), and then Wilmington Girls (Dartford) at 58.

Polarisation of parental choice is seeing the most popular schools receiving ever more applications, at the expense of those at the bottom of the pile. This trend has already seen the closure of four schools in recent years: Chaucer Technology School, Canterbury; Marlowe Academy, Thanet; Oasis Hextable Academy, serving Dartford; and Pent Valley School, Folkestone – all areas where there is now a critical shortage of places. The evidence suggests these will not be the last. The Chaucer and Pent Valley sites are planned to see replacement Free Schools.

There are three new provisions for September 2017, the first being the Weald of Kent Sevenoaks Annexe for girls, providing 90 new places. Many other grammar schools have expanded, with the super-selective Judd School adding 60 places over the past five years (now 180). Tunbridge Wells Boys has added 30 places to complement the girls’ increase in the annexe for West Kent children.

Cranbrook School, the last 13-18 grammar school in the County has at last begun a tentative change to entry at age 11, with 30 of its 90 day places (it also has 30 boarders) now being reserved for 11 year olds. I was surprised to see just 24 first choices turned away.

The third new provision appears almost accidental. The Leigh University Technical College, for 14-18 students choosing a vocationally oriented school, has failed to attract 50% of its planned intake in any of its first three years since opening, dropping to 25% in 2016. The rescue plan is to ditch the core philosophy and recruit at age 11, so the Inspiration Academy at Leigh UTC has rapidly come into being, proving a popular choice and attracting its full complement of 120 places. This has damaged Ebbsfleet Academy  for, although performing well, it has never been popular and now has 40% of its new Year Seven places empty, the only non-selective school in Dartford with vacancies.

The only completely new school approved so far is Maidstone School of Science and Technology, a Free School with an intake of 180 pupils, to be opened on the campus of the sponsoring schools, Valley Park and Invicta Grammar schools due to open in 2018.  This will coincide with extensive housing developments in the District, but threatens the survival of nearby New Line Learning Academy which had just 96 pupils choosing it, fewer than half of its Admission Number of 210. These were topped up with 50 Local Authority allocations, two thirds of the children in Maidstone with no school of their choice.

The urban myth that all grammar schools are oversubscribed, happens to be true for the first time ever in Medway, partially as a result of the London effect. This is in spite of four of the six grammars adding a total of 70 new places between them. Four schools are heavily oversubscribed, the most popular being the two super-selectives, Rochester Grammar (87 turned away), and Rainham Mark Grammar (62).

Altogether there is a net increase of 192 grammar school places across Kent for 2017, together with 70 in Medway. One puzzle is the £4 million investment by KCC at Maidstone Grammar to create another 30 places for boys, although the school is not oversubscribed this year. More importantly is the damage this has done to Oakwood Park Grammar in the same town, which has lost 30 boys as a result, leaving it with 65 vacancies. Meanwhile Maidstone Girls’ Grammar has 42 vacancies and Invicta Grammar has just filled by virtue of reducing its Admission Number by 20 girls. Plenty of room in Maidstone, contributing to a total of eight grammars in Kent having vacancies. 

Altogether there are six schools with over a third of their places empty, headed by Duke of York’s Royal Military School, a boarding Academy in Dover, having recently completed a £25 million building project built for an Admission Number of 104. The school carries a highly controversial reputation that has seen its intake dive to 12 pupils at this stage although historically this figure increases considerably with children transferring in at older age groups.

The other five also have a history of low admission numbers and will tend to lose further children as the system shakes down in coming months:  SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, Walmer (43% vacancies – now out of Special Measures); Holmesdale Technology College, Snodland (42%); Ebbsfleet Academy (40%); Astor College, Dover (40% - until this year run by the same leadership as Duke of York’s); and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook (38%).

In Medway, there is also a growing pattern of polarisation, with Brompton Academy, as usual being the most oversubscribed school turning away 177 first choices, followed by Thomas Aveling with 53. Three schools account for over 100 of the Local Authority Allocations: St John Fisher RC; Victory Academy and Robert Napier, but all are over 70% filled.   

Last modified on Thursday, 27 July 2017 16:23

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  • Medway Council Scraps Testing for Late Applications to Grammar Schools

    Some children of families who are amongst the many re-locating to Medway,  and local children who are late developers, may be denied  grammar school places this year as there is no facility to sit the Medway Test late, contrary to previous practice.  This is because the Council quietly changed its selection procedures last year so that only children who are registered at the correct time can ever sit the Medway Test, which takes place in September.

    Medway

    Late applicants are therefore effectively barred from being considered for Medway grammar school places which require a Medway Test outcome for admission (the two Chatham grammars have a secondary route via the Kent Test). Most grammar schools have not made arrangements to put an alternative form of testing in place for admission this September, the combination being contrary to Medway's own co-ordinated scheme for secondary admissions.    

     The consequences of this decision by Medway Council are wide ranging and may well spell the end of the Medway Test as an objective standard for grammar school entry in Medway, with each grammar school defining the standard and setting its own test for entry, as explored further below.  

    Also, the Council has also been acting unlawfully for years in putting conditions on late admissions to other Medway schools, although these appear to have been withdrawn from 2020/21.

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 17 March 2019 20:33 Be the first to comment! Read 97 times
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2019: Initial Information and Advice
    The initial data for applicants for Kent secondary schools shows that 79.1% of  those from Kent were  offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least nine years. 837 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.7% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least nine years, up on last year’s 765 and up by 75% over the 2016 proportion of 2.7%. The proportion of children being offered one of their top two preferences at 90.3% is down on 90.7% in 2018, and again lowest for nine years. 

    17,959 Kent children applied for places in Kent secondary schools, 517 more than in 2018, with 79.1% of them being offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least nine years, a further 0.6% down on last year. 837 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.7% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least nine years, up on last year’s 765. I know that a number of additional school places have been created at pinch points across the county, but I anticipate hearing of some very difficult situations for some of the children with no school of their choice.

    In spite of the inexorable increase in out of county applications to Kent schools, up 225 to 3,514, exactly the same number, 818, were offered places, as in 2018. As always this  will have been partially balanced by around 500 going to schools outside Kent.

    You will find more information, including a look at some of the pressure points as they become apparent, below. These include North West Kent both selective and non-selective, and non-selective Swale, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.  You will also find required scores for super-selective schools (all information on both situations welcomed) together with the tables of outcomes

    There is initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. 

    There is also a link to the limited telephone advisory service I now offer. 

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 01 March 2019 06:05 3 comments Read 2471 times
  • Meopham School Outstanding Ofsted - And then there is Holmesdale

     Swale Academies Trust (SAT) has secured a second Ofsted Outstanding school, after Meopham was found Outstanding in January (published earlier this week). This makes KCC’s decision to block SAT from taking over the failed Holmesdale School for most of 2018 look even more shocking as the school blundered from bad to worse under its control during the year. 

    Meopham School had suffered from poor leadership for as long as I can remember, culminating in 2012 when it was placed in Special Measures. An ‘Anywhere but Meopham’ cry was regularly made to me by parents seeking advice on how to avoid the school. SAT took it over the following year. It has rapidly improved ever since, with a ‘Good’ Ofsted Report just two years later, followed by a Short Inspection last year. Meopham has been delivering excellent GCSE results for its pupils for the past three years, being the second and third best performing non-selective school in the county at Progress 8 and in the top seven for Attainment 8 in each year. Rightly it has now seen last year’s Short Inspection converted to Outstanding. Not surprisingly, it has become heavily oversubscribed with 224 first choices for its 140 places for September. A new Chair of Governors was appointed last September, Diana Choulerton, an Education Consultant who until recently was one of Her Majesty's Inspectors. Swale Academies Trust doesn't take chances!

    By contrast, after Holmesdale School was placed in Special Measures a year ago, the school and its pupils were disgracefully hung out to dry by Kent County Council. KCC refused to hand the management of the school over to SAT even though it had been selected as the Sponsoring School when Holmesdale was served with an Academy Order and left it devoid of proper support until grudgingly yielding it to SAT at the end of November.

    As well as further details below, I also look at the performance of Swale Academies Trust in an attempt to see why KCC was so strongly opposed to them  being involved with Holmesdale School. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 21 February 2019 18:45 3 comments Read 502 times
  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2019: Initial Information and Advice

    The 2019 Medway Council Press Statement on secondary school allocation appears to cover up a large fall in the proportion of pupils offered a place at one of their preferred schools. This is accompanied by another fall in the proportion of children being offered their first or second choice.

    All we are allowed to learn is that all 3300 Medway children who applied for secondary school places received offers, that 89% of them received a first or second choice, with over 90% receiving one of their preferences, and that 736 children from outside Medway were considered for places.

    For 2018 entry, the equivalent statement recorded that over 95.5% (actually 95.6%) of Medway children received a preference, so this appears to be a sharp and worrying fall, with nearly one in ten Medway families being allocated to a school they did not choose.

    Medway

    Once again, the council continues its attempts to hide the facts from local residents (not serving you), but the Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services is ‘very pleased that many have been allocated a place at one of their preferred schools’. Unfortunately, too many have not! He continues: ‘it a testament to the team’s hard work that the majority of families receive offers at one of their preferred schools (an ‘is’ would have been helpful from the Council’s education leader), both statements suggesting the great disappointment that these figures imply. This follows on from the scandal of the Medway Review I highlighted recently.

    There is initial advice at the foot of this article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. There is also a link to the limited telephone advisory service I now offer.
    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 02 March 2019 15:39 Be the first to comment! Read 649 times
  • Medway Test Analysis for 2019 Admission: Review fails Medway children again

    The problems with the Medway grammar school selection process just keep recurring, with the Medway Review procedure proving yet again to be not fit for purpose. You will find an analysis of outcomes below. 

    The headline is once again the failure of the Review procedure, with  the Council announcing as always that up to 2% of the cohort of Medway children would be successful at Review, in addition to the 23% who passed the Medway Test directly. In the event, just four children from 159 hopeful Medway families that went to Review were successful for 2019 admission, just 0.12% of the cohort. What a farce, being short of the target by 63 children, but a very sad one for all those who falsely thought they were in with a chance. Not one of the 43 candidates from local private schools or outside of Medway was successful at Review.  

    It is also an indictment of the work of Medway Primary schools according to the Review Panels which are made up of local secondary headteachers, who found work submitted by local primary schools to be so poor that almost no further children were found worthy of a grammar school place through the process from the 159 considered. 

    Sadly, it gets even worse for those families. The School Admission Code of Practice rules that children who are unsuccessful at a Review process cannot have an appeal upheld unless there has been unfairness in the process (rarely proven). There are a few exceptions as explained below, but for the majority of the 155 families unsuccessful at Review, there is now no chance of winning an Appeal.

    The two areas of bias in the Medway Test remain: older pupils do much better than those born towards the end of the school year; and girls do better than boys.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 04 February 2019 12:11 2 comments Read 391 times
  • Maidstone Grammar School Ofsted: Down from Outstanding

    Update (11/3) Oakwood Park Grammar has also had a recent Inspection and seen its Outstanding lost to Good probably because of disappointing GCSE results, although the Report acknowledges the great improvement for 2018, as reported below, in spite of its two Outstanding categories, compared with the MGS one. I understand that a third Kent school has also lost its Outstanding status, although not yet published., 

    Maidstone Grammar School (MGS), one of Kent’s flagship selective schools, has lost its Outstanding Ofsted status following its recent Inspection with Report published yesterday. The Inspection was presumably triggered after 'legitimate concerns' (according to Ofsted below) had been expressed about the decline in its academic performance.

    MGS3

    The headlines of the Report, published in January, refer to disappointing GCSE results in 2017. However, they choose not  to mention that those for 2018 were  considerably worse. These saw the school delivering the fourth lowest Progress 8 score of any of the 38 Kent and Medway grammar schools, the government’s preferred measure of performance. It was eighth lowest for Attainment 8. The results come from a school that selected most of its pupils by setting a high pass score in the Kent Test, and yet still performed worse on both d than the other local grammar, Oakwood Park which recruits a significant number of pupils from appeal.  You will find an article on performance of  Kent grammar schools here including details of MGS relative performance, and background to Maidstone Grammar data here.

    This Report also comes with a mystery, as explained below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 12 February 2019 06:56 8 comments Read 1266 times