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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.

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.


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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.....


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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. 


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NOTE: You will also find a briefer variant of this in my blog

The government’s new Green Paper, headed ‘Schools that Work for Everyone’, does nothing to make sense of the country’s fractured education provision, seen at its most prolific in Kent, but instead seeks to increase the kaleidoscope of school types by adding even more variations.

One of its stated aims is the delivery of a diverse school system to enable all children to achieve their potential. Certainly, one can be sure that these proposals will increase diversity.

I do not propose to examine the Green Paper in depth here, but look with bewilderment at proposals to allow faith schools to proliferate and tighten their grip on school admissions. Church schools already add up to around a third of the country’s schools.

The Green Paper explicitly refers to the current large influx of children from Catholic familiesinto the country and county’s schools, this being one of the driving factors of this aspect of the government proposals. The Catholic church refuses to open new schools unless they are given control of 100 per cent of the intake, as distinct from the current 50 per cent ruling for new schools. As a result, government is now seeking to change the rules to get them on side by allowing ALL faith schools to give priority to their followers over 100% of places.

InPoland where many of the new Catholic children originate, 89 per cent of children attend secular state schools, with just 11 per cent in the private Catholic schools. Why therefore should a desire to offer Catholic schools for all drive English education, extending it to all faith schools? Surely, it makes no sense to allow more religious segregation at a time when racial and religious tensions are at their greatest in this country for many years.

Much has been written on the bizarre plan to allow new types of grammar schools to spring up or convert from non-selective schools apparently without regard to their effect on other schools or on those children left behind, or else to expand using unidentified rules to improve social mobility, so I don’t propose to add to it at present.  UPDATE: See article on Meopham School.


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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 at the bottom of the page. Please note that the 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. 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. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Kent Provisional GCSE Outcomes 2019

    GCSE Results for Kent published last week show that Kent schools were below the National Average of -0.03 in the governments key measure Progress 8 at -0.11. However, they were ahead in Attainment 8 at 47.2 against the national figure of 46.6, as explained below. The table is finalised in January, allowing for various adjustments. 

    Girls’ schools make a clean sweep the top eight places in the Progress 8 table, the government’s key measure of performance, with Bennett Memorial Diocesan and seven grammar schools. Highworth shows the greatest consistency being second for the past two years.

    highworth Grammar      Bennett Memorial 3

     

    Bennett continues to dominate both non-selective tables, ahead of 28 grammar schools in Progress 8, followed as usual by St Simon Stock, and in the past three years Meopham. The only new non-selective school arriving in the list of best performers is the previously struggling Cornwallis Academy. Biggest turnaround is by Holmesdale (see below).

    Borden Grammar is by some way the lowest performing grammar school at Progress 8, being Below Average, and also at the foot of the Attainment 8 table. Worryingly, there are 20 non-selective schools Well Below Average and below the government’s Floor Level of -0.50, up from 15 in 2018. At the foot of both tables comes Hartsdown Academy, lowest performing Attainment 8 and fourth lowest school at Progress 8 in the country. The 20 schools below Floor Level include many regularly low performers, but also now: Thamesview; Archbishops; Fulston Manor; Hayesbrook; Hugh Christie; and St Augustines. 

    Who could not have got it more wrong when he said on his school website: 'We are celebrating our best ever year for results at GCSE in Year 11''? Answer below. 

    You will find performance tables and further information and analysis below.

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    Written on Saturday, 19 October 2019 07:47 Be the first to comment!
  • Kent and Medway School Appeal Outcomes: 2019

    This article looks at Year Seven and primary school admission appeals in Kent and Medway, conducted by Kent County Council, Medway Council and a number of private providers. There is a sharp rise in the number of secondary school appeals from the 2018 figures, with grammar school numbers rising from 2027 to 2255, and non-selective appeals from 678 to 867. Anecdotally, there is also a sharp rise in the number of secondary appeals in year and taking place outside the normal dates.

    The headline statistic for the second year running is for Holcombe Grammar, a school that once saw a decent success rate as it recognised academic potential in local Chatham boys, but oversaw a shambles in the appeals of 2018, and now had just one appeal upheld in 2019 out of 53 heard.

    As usual, there is no obvious pattern amongst non-selective schools, although I look at outcomes in each District below. The four Dartford grammars had just 18 successful appeals between them, out of 426, with Dartford Girls for the second time in three years having none. Dane Court and Dartford Grammars had the most appeals heard, at 130 each. The highest success rates at Kent grammar school appeals in 2019 are led this year by Highsted at 86% of appeals upheld, followed by Simon Langton Girls at 70%, and Maidstone Girls Grammar at 66%.

     Further details below, including primary appeals heard by Local Authority Panels. You will find 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).

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    Written on Friday, 18 October 2019 19:57 Be the first to comment!
  • Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe: Expansion Proposal to Include Boys.

    At long last it looks as if the second half of the Sevenoaks grammar school annexe building may be built and occupied as originally planned, and in response to a growing shortage of grammar school places in West Kent, forecast to be a deficit  of 242 for boys and girls jointly by 2022-23 (see below).  A letter from the Headteacher and Chairman of Governors at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys has been sent to parents informing them of a Consultation to expand the school into Sevenoaks.

    This would be an important development for selective education in West Kent. At present, grammar school qualified boys from the north of the District who are not eligible for the super selective Judd and Skinners schools have to travel up to 22 miles to TWGSB which is bursting at the seams, as it keeps having to expand to meet local need.

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    Written on Friday, 18 October 2019 06:51 2 comments
  • Kent Test 2019; Initial Results and Comment

    Kent Test results have been published with the pass mark somewhat higher than last year. This is no reflection on the difficulty of the Test as the pass marks will have been set as always to identify 21% of Kent children to be automatically selected. This year an automatic pass has been awarded to candidates scoring 110 on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of at least 330. Further details will follow as I receive them, but you will find for reference a full analysis of the 2018 Kent Test here. An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, targeted to be 5% of the total cohort. You will find full details of the whole Kent Selection process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 25.2% of Kent children in the age cohort.

    Although there is an overall fall in then number of children taking the Kent Test, this will certainly be down to a sharp fall in Out of County (OOC) candidates. For, whilst there is a rise of exactly 300 in the number of Kent children being assessed as suitable for grammar school for 2020 over last year, there has been a fall in the number of  OOC children passing for the first time in many years . I explore this further below, along with sections on Sources of Information and Advice on admissions and appeals, Out of County Children, and Pressure PointsIn a second article below, I look at implications of the change of pass mark, especially any impact on super selective schools.  

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    Written on Thursday, 17 October 2019 06:00 1 comment
  • Change of Pass Scores in the Kent Test for entry to Grammar School in 2020
    The scores for achieving success in the Kent Test have risen substantially this year, the biggest shift since the new Test was introduced in 2014.
    To be awarded an automatic pass, candidates will have had to have achieved a score of 110 on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of  the Test. The change of scores will make NO difference to the number of children passing, as the pass mark is set to achieve a target of  awarding 21% of children an automatic place and there will be no difference this year, as I will be able to confirm later when further details are available.
     
    For children applying to those schools that select some or all of their pupils by high scores, the effect of the change is unpredictable (so please don’t ask) although I explore this further below.
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    Written on Thursday, 17 October 2019 05:00 1 comment
  • Medway Test 2019: Initial results and analysis

    Note: This article contains important advice which may assist those considering requesting a Review.

    The pass mark for the Medway Test for 2020 admission is an aggregate score of 490, selecting a total of 23% of Medway children, according to target. You will find an information article on Review and Appeal here. Data for individual Medway schools, including oversubscription levels and appeal outcomes are published here.

    Whilst 808 Medway pupils passed the test, 35 more than in 2018, the number of out of county children (OOC) passing has continued its inexorable rise to 980. There will be far fewer girls' places available for OOCs at Rochester Grammar as explained below, but an overall surplus for local girls and probably OOCs across the area. By contrast the intense pressure on places for boys in Medway grammar schools is increasing because of the continued machinations of Holcombe Grammar, as explained below, with just one successful appeal out of 53 in 2019 as the school attempts to raise its academic entry profile by chasing higher performing London boys instead of those from Medway. The farce of the Review process will probably continue, with 2018 seeing 0.12% of the Medway cohort or just 4 out of the 202 applications for Review successful, with none from outside Medway or at private schools, against a target of 2%.  Of course this could change for 2019!   

    Shockingly, Medway Council introduced a ban on late Testing last year when it was unlawful. Therefore, children moving into the area who miss the admission deadline cannot qualify for a grammar school place. 

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    Written on Wednesday, 09 October 2019 12:34 Be the first to comment!