Supporting Families
  • banner4
  • banner13
  • banner11
  • banner10
  • banner9
  • banner2
  • banner12
  • banner6
  • banner7
  • banner3

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.

  • Kent County Council Elections and Education

    One of Kent County Council’s major responsibilities is education, so I have surveyed the local political parties literature to find out their priorities before Thursday's Council election. Of particular interest to me are the catch-up arrangements for children disadvantaged by Covid, the failed Kent SEND department as described in the 2019 Ofsted Report, the shortage of non-selective places in various parts of the county, the flawed grammar school selection process penalising disadvantaged Kent children, and policy with regard to the fresh government academisation drive.

    The Conservatives, in their eight-page leaflet consider that: ‘When development does happen, our infrastructure first policy means that schools, GP surgeries, open spaces and transport links are planned before housing’. Otherwise silence, although I have tried several times without response for more information such as a manifesto. In other words, and sadly, Kent Conservatives do not appear to think education important enough to ask voters to pass an opinion on their past record, nor on any plans for the future.

    Written on Saturday, 01 May 2021 10:40 2 comments Read more...
  • Further Change at the Top in KCC Education

    The following article is based on a contribution from a serving Kent headteacher.

    Who’s the Boss? may have been a sitcom from the eighties but, at the moment, we could be forgiven for trying to work out what is happening within Kent Education Leadership. 

    Headteachers used to the nature and level of support provided by David Adams whilst he was AEO for the south of Kent were, on the whole I believe, pleased to see him take up the position of Interim Director of Education when Keith Abbott moved on. However, they now have to learn the ways of a permanent post holder in the form of Christine McInnes. Christine, formerly Tower Hamlets Director of Education and Partnerships, with a background in Special Education, formally introduced herself last week along with Mark Walker, ‘recently’ appointed Director of SEND in the first of their joint newsletters.

    Written on Wednesday, 28 April 2021 07:57 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Non-Selective Schools September 2021

    Please Note: The front page of this website, at the time of publication of this article, contains the usual six articles but all about Medway matters. This is unique and purely a coincidence, with the large majority of items on subsequent pages relating to Kent schools and education issues, the county having six times the population of Medway. 

     The major news is that the new Leigh Academy Rainham (LAR) is opening in September offering 240 places, 60 more than the planned 180, whilst the second new non-selective (N/S) school coming on stream, the Maritime Academy to be based in Strood will, not open until at least 2022, several years behind schedule, see below.

    Leigh Academy Rainham 2

    As the new Rainham School is not in the Medway Co-ordinated Admissions scheme for its first year, many parents will have applied for and been allocated two schools, so there will be up to 240 vacancies appearing at the 17 existing schools for September, as parents release one of their offers. This is nearly 10% of the total, so that some schools, primarily the least popular and those in the east of Medway will see a large number of vacancies opening up. Add on to that, the 70 or so children likely to be successful at Medway grammar school appeals. What then happens next is what I call the ‘churning’ effect, where the more popular schools that lose pupils then fill up again from ones further down the line, probably working from east to west. It is therefore important that, if you haven't been offered your highest choice N/S school, you apply to go on the waiting list for this and any other schools higher on your preference list than the one you have been offered. Last year there were also 135 admission appeals heard at five Medway non-selective schools, 53 of those being successful, taking pupils from less popular schools

     I understand that Medway Council, which is also handling the process for LAR, has required parents to accept just one offer and is writing to those with two to require them to relinquish one. I believe the current table of offers below, although some way from the final outcome, still gives a reasonable guide to outcomes, identifying the schools at both ends of the range.

     I also look below at a range of other matters that have a bearing on the take-up of places, including ooc offers, appeals, fair banding, and concluding with a look at the outcomes for each individual school.

    Written on Thursday, 22 April 2021 10:34 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies in Medway Grammar Schools for September 2021

    The pattern of offers at Medway grammar schools for entry in September closely follows that for September 2020, which I looked at previously here. All schools apart from Chatham have filled. The main changes in popularity are the significant falls in first choices at Chatham, Holcombe and Rochester (all regularly featured in news items on this site). Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School (The Math) continues to be by far the most oversubscribed grammar school, turning away 108 first choices. There were also reductions in girls’ places at Rochester Grammar, which took some £3 million pounds from the Government Expansion Fund in 2018, to create additional places in exchange for a greater priority for children attracting Pupil Premium, and Chatham Grammar.

    SJWMS1

    By coincidence, the number of Medway children found selective after the Medway selection process for entry to grammar school in 2021 was almost identical to that for the previous year with 386 boys (385 in 2019) and 438 girls in both years found suitable for grammar school.  This continues the annual bias towards girls being found selective. In total there are 505 places for girls but only 355 for boys available this year in the five single-sex Medway grammar schools, as well as 235 at the co-educational Rainham Mark Grammar. There are places for every local Medway grammar qualified pupil but, as in previous years, chances at appeal for local boys in any school are likely to be very low. 210 children living outside Medway have been offered local grammar school places out of 1045 in total. This amounts to 20%, a fifth of all the places offered, see below.

    Written on Tuesday, 20 April 2021 18:28 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Halling Primary School: Latest Developments (Part Two)

    Update, 19th April: Welcome news: It appears that Mrs Woolmer,  the much-loved Head of Reception at Halling who left the school at the end of last term, has been persuaded to return by the new management. This morning, the first day of term, she opened the school gate for children. What an important signal that things are changing for the better. 

    I begin with an apology to all those followers who have no special interest in Medway primary schools, although my recent articles about Fairview and Halling both have considerably wider implications than for the two schools themselves. At Fairview, as far I can establish, this is the first time that a Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) has rejected an application for academy status anywhere in the country in recent years. It now looks increasingly likely that this decision was primarily because the RSC recognised a rogue Governing Body, as explained here.

    Halling

    However, this article is about the second school, Halling Primary, part of the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust. After the RSC had arranged for an investigation into the running of the school at the request of the Trust, this took place in the last week of the Easter Term and, on Friday last, parents were sent a joint letter from the Chairs of the Cliffe Woods Trust and of the Halling Governing Body. This letter informed them that the headteacher of the school ‘has taken some time away from school for personal reasons’, and the responsibilities residing with the headteacher position will be shared, at least through Term Five, by two other primary school headteachers.

    I have documented the issues through three previous articles, most recently here, and so this article unpicks some of the content of the letter. It is unlikely we will be told the precise reasons for Miss Selmi’s absence from the school, although we know it will be for at least the next term.

    Written on Sunday, 18 April 2021 16:59 11 comments Read more...
  • The Disgraceful Behaviour of the Governors of Fairview Primary School (Part Two)

     I have been given correspondence through an FOI request to Medway Council that shreds the competence and integrity of the Governing Body (GB) of Fairview Community Primary School. It shows that this would have been the central problem with the Fairview application to become an academy, as part of the Westbrook Trust, last year.

    This is best illustrated by the report of a School Challenge and Improvement Visit in March 2020, conducted by a Medway Council officer, although the issues recur in various emails. You will find the full report here, with a major excerpt below but, in summary, a meeting with 17 members of staff raised multiple issues about relationships between them and governors. These demonstrated that the GB was failing them, the school and the local community on all counts.

    Other correspondence covers matters such as conflicts of interest, failure to follow procedures to the extent that the Chairman was wrongly elected at a meeting that was improperly convened, and evidence of members of the GB trying to force the school to join the Westbrook Trust, all with an evident complete lack of interest in the views of staff and the local community. I have never before come across such a siege mentality, arrogance and level of incompetence as in the Fairview governing body. The continued failure to communicate with parents as promised emphasises this failure.  

    Remarkably, the school appears to continue to operate successfully and smoothly, run by its three leaders from the Compass Partnership of Schools, independently of the Governing Body, although all three are scheduled to leave in the summer when the Compass contract expires. 

    Written on Friday, 16 April 2021 07:14 5 comments Read more...