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Newspaper Articles

This page offers links to articles penned by me for local newpapers, mainly Kent on Sunday (KOS). Most were printed in full, several were the basis for informing news stories. I shall be adding archive articles as time permits.

Update 15 November. I have now published my article looking across the whole of Kent and Medway, also containing a clarification of the Oakwood Park data.

I am in the process of producing a full article analysing school appeals across Kent and Medway, which will be published shortly. Some of the outcomes are posted on the Individual Schools section of my website. I shall get round to all, but am happy to post others on request.

A testing time for parents:

Column Heading

THE Kent Test, once the 11+, is upon us once more. What happens if your child fails? What happens if your first-choice secondary is oversubscribed? It can be a stressful time for parents. Between May and July every year, around 3,000 school appeal hearings take place in Kent, as families seek to change the schools to which their children were allocated. Some will be looking to win grammar school places, others in oversubscribed non-selective schools and a much smaller number trying again for the primary school of their choice. By way of illustration, 10 secondary schools in the Maidstone area held appeals this year, as follows. 

The Next Steps Magazine, published by Kent Messenger Newspapers is distributed across the county at the end of September. This article was used to set the scene at the beginning of the magazine. 

All Year 11 pupils across Kent and Medway schools need to make important decisions about their futures during the year, although many will not know their next step with certainty until after GCSE results. Young people aged 16-18 are required to remain in education, which not only includes full-time courses at school or college but also part-time college courses linking with apprenticeships and other types of scheme, such as volunteering.

Many choose to remain in their home schools if they achieve set grades. These include some three-quarters of pupils in grammar schools and nearly half in those non-selective schools with larger sixth forms. Last year a third of the 15,500 Year 11 pupils in Kent left school completely, a high proportion choosing full or part-time FE college education. For 2020 admissions several thousand pupils have already changed school at this stage. These include many at non-selective schools opting for a grammar school in the Sixth Form, and a surprisingly high number travelling in the opposite direction. There is a wide range of courses at the four Kent FE colleges focusing on vocational courses, with only West Kent College also offering A-Levels.

See Original Article here

Back in 2014, SchoolsCompany had been advising the predecessor Castle Community College as it tumbled from Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Special Measures’ in three years, hardly an endorsement. It was difficult to pin down the history of the company owner, apart from establishing he had been involved in several companies which had folded. I was not alone in being surprised when Government decided SchoolsCompany should take on Goodwin Academy on the basis of it having run three small Pupil Referral Units in Devon for a short period. Although SchoolsCompany expressed its wish to expand its Academy business and there is a shortage of suitable sponsors around, Government has not seen fit to award it any other academy! Instead in 2017, the owner opened six new companies and was awarded a contract to build and run a Nigerian state government college, the Royal Academy for Construction and Fabrication.

Please note: this is a copy of an article published in December 2017, reproduced here in the Newspaper Articles section to explain in answer to questions why there is no more from Kent on Sunday.  

Sadly, Kent on Sunday closed at the end of November 2017 as ‘it was no longer economically viable’.

Of particular interest to me and many browsers of this website was its focus on education as, often in conjunction with myself, it ran many educational stories in depth and conducted important campaigns.  

For KOS has surely been exceptional for a local free paper, in its willingness to provide such detail in its stories and campaigns, being prepared to devote up to three pages of news, analysis and political insight to an issue for the thoughtful reader, rather than go with the fleeting headline for those with a low attention span. Perhaps that has been its downfall but, on the way it has secured many prestigious newspaper awards, being the first free paper to win London and SE Regional Newspaper of the Year, UK Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year (six times) and, most recently in 2014, Regional Free Newspaper of the Year again.....

UPDATE: Whilst this article draws on a number of previous articles on the issue, the most recent contains an important clarification by government of the law, leaving no room whatever for ambiguity, not available when the following was written.

The original article in the Kent on Sunday Education Supplement has unfortunately vanished with the closure of the newspaper, but you will find the original article on my website here.   

Back in January I wrote an article for Kent on Sunday, about the illegal actions of Invicta Grammar School in permanently excluding up to 22 Year Twelve students for not achieving high grades in their AS Exams last summer. The parallel article on my website has attracted a record 24,722 hits to date, and a flood of comments from students affected. The school dismissed my concerns out of hand, the headteacher commenting: “This is an ‘interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate".  

In the last few weeks, a parallel case has arisen at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington where 16 girls were thrown out as covered in KOS last week. Several parents took legal action and the Department for Education, which refused to offer a view earlier in the year, issued the following statement: ‘Our regulations make clear that schools are not allowed to remove pupils from a sixth form because of academic attainment once they are enrolled. Excluding pupils temporarily or permanently for non-disciplinary reasons is unlawful’. As a result, the school relented and all the students were reinstated, if they wished to return.

Whilst this is no consolation for last year’s students from Invicta and some other local schools, many of whom saw their career plans ruined, it is a green light for the many students in similar positions this summer to challenge any exclusion. As one parent wrote to me this week: ‘What happened to our daughter has had a massive impact on her; she is still limping along. To be honest her confidence was so damaged we don't know if she will ever believe in herself in the same way again’. What an indictment of the practice, but certainly not alone, as career dreams are shattered.

I find the criticism of a Labour Member of Parliament living in the selective county of Kent, for sending her children to grammar school when she disagrees with academic selection, quite bizarre especially as no alternatives are offered by her critics (the link is just one of many online articles). 

What follows is not, I believe, a political view but one that is purely pragmatic. In Canterbury, where this issue has arisen, 30% of the state school population go to grammar schools at the age of 11, well over the county standard of 25%. So, even the technically comprehensive church schools will have a limited number of children assessed to be of grammar school ability at that age, even assuming that a school whose philosophy is underpinned by faith is an option.

Irrelevant Fact: This is the 1000th item of news and information posted on this website. 

You will find the original article on which this item is based, here

In 2009-10, Kent schools permanently excluded 126 pupils, rising to 210 two years later, but falling every year since then, to a low of 58 in 2015-16. Over the same period Medway school exclusions rose from just three pupils excluded to an appalling and record figure of 81 in 2015-16, up 35% on 2014-15. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

In both Local Authorities, the number of families ‘choosing’ Elective Home Education is astonishingly high, with Medway seeing an incredible rise in families taking their children out of school, soaring from 38 to 377 in two years. For some reason, Medway Council is desperately trying to hide the identities of the schools where the worst problems exist.

This article explores the reasons for the stark contrast in outcomes in the two Local Authorities. Government policy is to reduce the number of children excluded from schools, with permanent exclusion (expulsion) used only as a last resort.

This newspaper article is based on a more comprehensive one, elsewhere in this website. 

2017 has seen a remarkable fall in the number of children applying for places in Kent primary schools, a drop of 679 or 3.8% of the total. As a result, there are 11.1% vacant places in Reception classes across the county, rising sharply from a figure of 6.5% in 2016.  

There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school; Ashford, two vacancies, apart from 14 in a school on the outskirts; Sevenoaks, full apart from 18 places in one school on the outskirts of town; and Tunbridge Wells just one school with 24 vacancies. However, overall there is a far better picture than last year. Contrast these pressure points with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty across their schools.

The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, with just Great Chart, Ashford and Fleetdown in Dartford in the top ten both years. Most oversubscribed school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart, Ashford, with 41. Then come: Cobham, Gravesham with 35; Cecil Road, Gravesham, East Borough Primary, Maidstone, and St Mildred's Infants, all with 34 disappointed first choices; St John's CofE, Maidstone, 32; St Mary's CofE Primary Academy, Folkestone, 30 (a remarkable turn round from 2016 when the school had six vacancies); and Fleetdown and West Hill Primaries, Dartford, along with Langton Green Primary, Tunbridge Wells, all with 29.

At the other end of the scale, 18 schools have more than half their places empty, a sharp rise on last year.  Seven Kent primary schools have had at least two years being half empty or more.

KCC offered places to 404 children in schools they had not applied to as all their choices were full; known as Local Authority Allocated (LAA) children.

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.

  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2021: Initial Information and Advice

    This article is triggered by the Medway Council Press Release on secondary school Allocations, which as usual contains an absolute minimum of information.  In summary: Of the 3,431 Medway children offered places, more than 96 per cent have been awarded a place at one of their preferred secondary schools. 4,459 secondary school applications were processed, including 1,028 children from outside Medway.

    The major change in admission patterns this year is also referred to in the Press Release. This is the opening of the new eight form entry Leigh Academy Rainham for September, offering 240 places from 514 applicants, and well above its Planned Admission Number of 180, which will have a major impact on other schools situated in the eastern part of Medway, and explored below.  

    The other piece of information I have obtained recently is the performance of Pupil Premium children in the Medway Test, below, showing a fall of over a quarter in the number passing, which will follow through into grammar school allocations. You will find the parallel article about Kent secondary allocations here

    Written on Tuesday, 02 March 2021 15:45 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Rochester Independent College: Advertising Article

    ADVERTISING ARTICLE

    A personal View by  Leighton Bright Head of Lower School

    Non-selective & high performing Rochester Independent College offers a truly unique Secondary School experience for students from Year 7 upwards. We welcome students at any point of their educational journey and offer a variety of different educational pathways to suit each individual.

    English0325a

    The last 12 months have been some of the toughest I can remember as a teacher. At Rochester Independent College we have now twice seamlessly moved to our ‘RIC Without Walls’ provision, by which students have been able to enjoy their full timetable, taught face-to-face by our specialist teachers online. All of our students have adapted extremely well to this new way of working and are continuing to demonstrate their dedication, curiosity and love of learning. Our teachers have also developed a number of new skills and trialled new digital programmes in order to make their lessons as engaging and inspiring as possible, which has been great to see.

    Written on Monday, 01 March 2021 16:47 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2021: Initial Information and Advice

    Update: You will now find most Super-Selective school cut off levels below 

    Kent parents who applied online for secondary school places for their children are scheduled to receive decisions for 5 p.m. on Monday but, because of the large numbers, some usually come through an hour or more earlier, other families hear by post on Tuesday

    As with so many aspects of education in this extraordinary year, the data for Kent secondary school allocations, out today, presents a different picture from previous years after Kent County Council chose not to delay the closing date for applications until after the deferred Kent Test results were released. Instead, they increased the number of choices on the application form from four to six. The major effect was that the number of children being offered their first choice school fell sharply from 14,095 to 12,736, or 10% of the total, reflecting the large number who placed a grammar school in first place but were then found non-selective. There was an increase of just 120 Kent pupils applying for secondary places out of a total of 18,273, with 845 being awarded none of their choices, although many of these did not use up all six.  

    The number of out of county applicants offered places in Kent schools rose to 859, an increase of 5% over 2020 and the first significant increase for five years, although until I receive further data, I don’t at present know the reason for this. You will find the KCC Press Release here, along with much more information below, including a look at some of the likely pressure points, updated as they become apparent. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools inserted as I receive them (all information welcomed). 

    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. Although there is no quick fix, up to a thousand more families will secure a preferred school over the next five months, through reallocation, appeals and late applications, also considered in a recent article here.

    Written on Monday, 01 March 2021 05:30 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • School Admission Appeals and late Applications to Secondary School for September 2021 entry

    Update 25th February: I have added some 'secret' information regarding late applications to  Medway grammar schools here

    The government has extended last year’s temporary and amended arrangements for school admission appeals again, to run until 30th September 2021.

    My sense is that these arrangements worked well in 2020, with all sides appearing happy with the new procedures in the great majority of cases. There was a total of 3424 appeals heard for admission to Kent and Medway primary and secondary schools last year, of which just 751, or 22% were upheld, compared to 26% in 2019 for a similar number of appeals. You will find that my extensive report on the 2020 appeals process and outcomes looks closely at the way the new arrangements worked.

    As well as looking at appeals for admission to secondary schools in 2021, I also look below at late applications, both for families moving into the area and for those changing their direction, including for grammar schools.

    I will be reporting on the initial allocation of secondary school places in Kent and Medway, as usual, in a week's time. This will be followed within the next couple of weeks on a detailed breakdown of allocations, in what is regularly a group of the most visited articles on the site and which will provide a further indication on the chances of a successful appeal or late application.   

    Written on Wednesday, 24 February 2021 05:25 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Academy and Free School News, February 2021 (Part One)

    Six new Free Schools have opened in Kent and Medway since my previous Academy and Free School article in August: Bearsted Primary Academy, Ebbsfleet Green Primary School, School of Science and Technology Maidstone and Springhead Park Primary School; together with two Special Schools, Aspire School and Snowfields Academy. Folkestone Primary separated from the senior part of Folkestone Academy, as a new Sponsored Academy. The DfE has approved a new school, Chapelfield Primary in Maidstone, along with two more new schools in principle, the Gravesend Central School and Coningbrook Cof E Primary in Ashford. 

    New Converter Academies were: Eastchurch CofE Primary School, Sheppey; Holy Trinity CofE Primary School, Gravesham; Kingsdown & Ringwould CofE Primary, Marden Primary Academy, Maidstone; and Oaklands School, Medway along with the North West Kent Alternative Provision Service which is also a Sponsored Academy, all discussed in the August article.  

    Applications by Chartham Primary, St Stephen’s Infants and Worth Primary to convert have all been approved, with Fleetdown Primary in Dartford, Mundella in Folkestone and Sandwich Infants also having made applications. There is no current movement in Medway Schools. Whilst Holmesdale School and The North School appear to have cleared all obstacles to becoming Sponsored and Converter Academies respectively as part of Swale Academies Trust, there appears to be some form of blockage to the process.  

    The SE and South London Headteacher Board acting on behalf of the Regional Schools Commissioner has very surprisingly rejected an application by Fairview Community Primary School in Gillingham to join the Westbrook Trust.

    Leigh Academy Rainham is opening in Medway in September 2021. The school will be a mixed 11-18 comprehensive on the edge of Rainham in Medway. 

    Written on Tuesday, 16 February 2021 07:15 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Fairview Primary Parents Exceptionally Win Battle Against Academisation

    Update below (17th February): The Plot Thickens. I have made minor revisions to the article as a result. 

    The governors of Fairview Community Primary School in Gillingham, Medway, have scored a massive own goal by ignoring the wishes of parents, in their drive to academise the school within the Westbrook Trust. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the previous Chair of Governors, Kate Allen, is married to the CEO of the Westbrook Trust. After an earlier crisis at Fairview which saw the headteacher leave mid- term in 2018, and covered previously here, Medway Council brought in the Compass Partnership of Schools to provide leadership to the school, from January 2019. This proved an excellent and popular decision so, when Fairview governors decided to convert the school to become an academy, parents expected them to choose Compass, with its five primary schools, a strong record, and an Executive Headteacher who had restored confidence and stability to the school. Instead, they chose the Westbrook Trust.

     

    Fairview Community

    In a highly unusual move, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Headteacher Board has now turned down the governors’ application to convert the school, citing concerns that they were at odds with the school community and that Medway Council had formally raised concerns surrounding the governing body’s decision making, specifically around transparency and community engagement. Up until now, the pattern across the country has been for the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) to override such concerns in a drive to increase the number of academies, often very publicly and controversially, so this decision is very significant. It is quite clear that if governors had chosen the Compass Partnership which had restored the school’s morale and reputation, most parents would have been more than happy.

    Written on Monday, 15 February 2021 13:37 3 comments Read more...