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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.

  • Exclusions Kent and Medway 2017-18

     Kent permanent exclusions have fallen by a remarkable 40% from last year to 49 pupils permanently excluded in 2017-18, in sharp contrast to nationally rising rates. No Kent school has more than five permanent exclusions. In 2011-12 there were an astonishing 210 Kent pupils permanently excluded more than any other Local Authority in the country, whereas now it is one of the very lowest. 

    Other Headlines:

    For 2016-17, even before this fall, Kent had the lowest rate of permanent exclusions in the South East. Kent fixed term exclusions have risen slightly to 10,698, an astonishing 11% or 1211 pupils of which are from one school, the secondary department of Folkestone Academy. Next comes Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy with 786 exclusions. In 2016-17, the last year for which I have national comparisons, Kent fell below the national average for fixed term exclusions for the first time. 

    For Medway, one sixth of the size of Kent, the 2017-18 provisional number of permanently excluded pupil, is 58 (there may be additional exclusions to record),  down from the previous year’s final figure of 65. Five of Medway’s 18 secondary schools have more than five permanent exclusions, headed up by Brompton Academy with 11. I don’t yet have the Medway data for Fixed Term Exclusions.

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    Written on Friday, 02 November 2018 20:14 1 comment Read 253 times
  • Fixed Term Exclusions at Turner Schools 2017-18: Folkestone Academy and Martello Primary -An appalling double record

    Updates: There is more information relating to Martello Primary, below. I have now published an article setting out  exclusion data across Kent for 2017-18, which serves as the basis for this item. 

    Folkestone Academy had more than one in every seven of all fixed term exclusions across Kent’s 101 secondary schools in 2017-18. That is just under one exclusion for every pupil in the school. This shocking and startling figure,  is just the latest in a number of revelations about happenings in the school revealed on this website. It closely follows the news that the school has dropped in GCSE performance this summer to become the fifth lowest performer in both Progress and Attainment. In 2016-17 it was  in the top half of non-selective schools in the county.

    Folkestone Academy 2

    Meanwhile, the new Martello Primary, taken on by Turner Schools in January 2017, has the second highest Fixed Term exclusion rate out of all of Kent's 463 primary schools with one exclusion for every four pupils. . 

    These fly in the face of statements by the school’s Chief Executive in the TES that: Saxton agrees with Lemov that a structured approach to behaviour is a way of reducing exclusions. She says that prior to joining Turner Schools, Folkestone Academy was the highest excluding school in Kent, but it is now reintegrating pupils into mainstream education.’  Whilst the claim itself was false then, it is certainly true now, the 1211 fixed term exclusions being more than double any other school in Kent (with the exception of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey with 786).

    “Teacher capacity and skill is the best antidote there is to exclusion of students,” he (Professor Lemov) says. “The people who don’t work in high need communities often misunderstand that and think that order leads to suspensions and exclusions, but it’s the opposite. “Behaviours that lead to exclusions happen when students perceive there to be no limits and no expectations and no rules.”  So there you have it!

    It was 'education guru' Mr Lemov who, in a recent training session for the Turner Trust staff compared Folkestone with an ‘American Rust Belt City’, presumably in an attempt to explain the poor performances away.

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    Written on Saturday, 03 November 2018 11:21 3 comments Read 508 times
  • Kent and Medway School Appeal Outcomes: 2018

    Note: The 11 plus exams forum has removed any indirect mention of this article or website, presumably as it wishes to deny its followers the information. 

    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. Apart from a sharp fall in successful Kent grammar school appeals to 30% from 38%, other outcomes in Kent and Medway are very similar to the 2017 figures.

    For individual schools, by far the largest individual difference follows the shambles at Holcombe Grammar School, which also saw a fall from 76% to 7% of appeals upheld.

    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 17 successful appeals between them, out of 407, Dartford Grammar having most appeals heard, at 129, closely followed by Wilmington Boys at 125. The highest success rates at Kent grammar schools in 2017 have come down from last year, although still led by Invicta Grammar at 77% (down from the 89% of 65 appeals in 2017).

    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....

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    Written on Wednesday, 17 October 2018 17:19 2 comments Read 513 times
  • Provisional GCSE Results for Medway: 2018

    Note: To assist those looking for information on secondary school transfer, I have already published articles on 2018 outcomes for: the Medway Test; Kent GCSE outcomes;  the Kent Test; and 2018  Kent & Medway school appeals

    This is the third year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replaced the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. You will find an explanation of both measures in the parallel Kent GCSE article.

    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) .Under this measure Medway is slightly above the National Average of -0.02, at +0.02 (With just one school Well Below Average, contrasted with Kent's 16). Attainment 8 (full table here) has Medway just below the National score of 46.4, at 45.8 

    Highlights:  Three grammar schools have Well Above Average Progress Grades led by Rochester Grammar, followed by Chatham Girls. Holcombe Grammar is at the foot with an Average Progress Grade coming below two non-selective schools. Five of the six grammars have Attainment scores within three points of each other, again led by Rochester Grammar, with Holcombe  again limping along behind. Chatham Grammar Girls comes top for the percentage of pupils gaining Level 5 or better in English and Maths.

    Amongst non-selective schools, pupils at Thomas Aveling score above Average Progress grades, with Rainham Girls coming next, both above Holcombe Grammar. The only school scoring Well below Average is unsurprisingly, Medway UTC. Rainham Girls leads Thomas Aveling in Attainment, with Victory Academy at the foot, just behind Medway UTC.

    You will find all the individual outcomes for Medway schools here.

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    Written on Friday, 26 October 2018 06:40 4 comments Read 258 times
  • Provisional GCSE Results for Kent: 2018

    Note: To assist those looking for information on secondary school transfer, articles on Medway GCSE outcomes will appear shortly, with 2018 school appeals out now. You will find items on the Kent Test and Medway Test, previously published. 

    This is the third year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replaced the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. 

    The key measure is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is slightly below the National Average of -0.02, at -0.09.

    Wye

    Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent just above the National score of 46.4 at 46.8, although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case, as explained below.. Both key measures have had their methodology changed to suit government priorities and the new GCSE grading system  As a result, numbers are not directly comparable to last year, but appear to be of a very similar nature.   

    Headlines: The excellent performance of two of Kent's three Free Schools in their first GCSE cohort is a key highlight of the data. Girls grammar schools continue to dominate the Progress 8 table, with eight out of the top twelve schools all achieving Well Above Average Progress. The list is headed by Weald of Kent Grammar, but with Bennett Diocesan Memorial (selecting on religious grounds), in third place, followed by three boys super selectives. After these come two more non-selective schools, St Simon Stock and Meopham.   

    The bad news is that 16 schools have fallen under the government Floor Level, all with Well-Below Average Progress  and so potentially facing government intervention. This is more than double last year's final figure of six schools, with four present in all three years of the new arrangements.  

    Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls', exactly as in both 2016 and 2017.  The Non-selective table is again led by Bennett Memorial, followed by Trinity School (Free) and Skinners Kent Academy. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables. 

    Trinity 

    Further information below, including the performance of many individual schools. The 2017 data is listed here, 2018 to come for all schools. 

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    Written on Friday, 19 October 2018 10:46 4 comments Read 735 times
  • Kent Test Results 2018, Initial Outcomes and Comment

    Update: Important Advice - In response to multiple enquiries you cannot appeal the Kent Test Results; challenge the Head teacher Assessment or arrange a late HTA.  What you can do is apply for one or more grammar schools and then appeal against decision of the schools to turn you down if your child did not pass the Kent Test. Please note I am still working through 200 enquiries since I published this article, too many of which request information freely available on the site via the information pages on the right hand side.

    Please do not post comments about individual situations. This is not a forum.  Feel free to use my contact me form with full information as requested if you live in Kent or Medway and are seeking advice on Kent or Medway schools only. 

    24 hours since publication,  over 5000 hits, a record. 

    You will find the parallel article for the Medway test here

    Kent Test results have been published with the pass mark slightly higher than last year. This is no reflection on the difficulty of the Test as it will have been set as always to select the target percentage of Kent children going through at 21%. This year an automatic pass has been awarded to candidates scoring 107 on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 323. Further details will follow as I receive them.

    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 25.4% of Kent children in the age cohort.  

    KCC make individual test scores available to parents who registered online from 5 p.m. today, Thursday, so there will no longer be the anxious wait or chasing up of primary schools for results of previous years.

    As last year, I  shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC.

    The number of out of county children who have passed the Kent test continues to rise inexorably, with a further 11% being found selective over the 2017 test (contrast this to the 46% increase in Medway). However, the number being offered places in Kent grammar schools has stabilised and was even slightly lower at 465 for 2018 admissions (468 in 2017).  

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    Written on Thursday, 11 October 2018 10:31 5 comments Read 9851 times