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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.

  • Maidstone Grammar School Ofsted: Down from Outstanding

    Wrong link corrected below

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

    MGS3

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

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

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    Written on Tuesday, 12 February 2019 06:56 1 comment Read 244 times
  • A Level Performance: Kent and Medway Schools 2018

    Note: you will find GCSE performance here for Kent and Medway.  

    This article looks at A Level performance for Kent and Medway schools in the summer of 2018. It is difficult to make comparative judgements at this level as schools vary so much in the pattern of their intake into Year 12 that the Achievement tables in particular are of limited value. However, Progress from GCSE to A Level can be revealing, with good non-selective schools tending to better than many grammar schools for their students, so may be a useful contribution to decisions on where to follow one's studies. 

    The highest performer is Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School followed by, in order: Valley Park; St George’s CofE, Gravesend; Longfield Academy; Bennett Memorial; Herne Bay; Oakwood Park Grammar; Holcombe Grammar; and Weald of Kent Grammar. QEGS is one of nine schools whose students who have made 'Above Average' progress over the two years in the Sixth Form. 

    Dane Court Grammar has the lowest grammar school performance and is the only selective school in the ten graded 'Well Below Average' for progress. 

    There are four alternative  measures for determining attainment. Highest across the board in all four measures is The Judd School. Then come Tunbridge Wells Girls, Skinners and Rochester Grammar; with Norton Knatchbull by some way at the bottom of the grammar schools list. Four schools top the non-selective list, unsurprisingly Bennett Memorial and St Gregory’s, along with two Gravesend schools: St George’s CofE; and St John’s Catholic. These four are amongst the six church schools in the top ten non-selective schools.  

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    Written on Monday, 28 January 2019 20:12 Be the first to comment! Read 391 times
  • GCSE Performance for Medway Schools: 2018

    The key measure of GCSE Performance 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 15). Attainment 8 (full table here) has Medway just below the National score of 46.5, at 46.0.

    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 the non-selective Sir Thomas Aveling. 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 and Rainham Girls score above Average Progress grades. 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 622 times
  • Turner Schools: What were they trying to hide?

     For another point of view try  Shepway Vox. The two articles have much in common but there are important differences. 

    I now know why Turner Schools tried to block my FOI asking for School Census details for their four schools, following my successful complaint to the Information Commissioner. The relevant data is as follows: 

     Turner Schools intakes: decline from 2017 to 2018
     
    PAN
    Year 7 
    Sept 2018
    %
    Vacancies 
    Year 7
    Sept 2017
    Decline
    2017/18
    Folkestone Academy 270 198 27% 267 26%
    Turner Free School
    120
    120
    100%
    N/A
    n/A
    Martello Primary 30 22 27% 28 21%
    Morehall Primary School 60 14 77% 29 52%

     Note: PAN is Published Admission Number

     The information now extracted which you will find in full here, identifies a number of worrying features for the Trust.  
    All three established schools have seen a sharp fall in intake, with Morehall Primary having the largest proportion of empty spaces in the county in Year R. Overall, there are just 68 vacancies across Folkestone’s 14 primary schools, with Martello and Morehall accounting for 79% of them.
     
    At secondary level, the opening of Turner Free School has caused a sharp fall in intake at Folkestone Academy, in spite of illogical assurances by the Trust it would not be affected. The recent decision by the Trust to increase the intake of Turner Free School by another 60 places to 180 for 2019 admission will have an even deeper effect on numbers. Meanwhile, Year 12 numbers have fallen by an astonishing 45% in two years.  Overall, the school roll fell by an astonishing 268 students or 12% of its total in the past year, which will have a massive impact on school finances.
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    Written on Saturday, 19 January 2019 17:51 3 comments Read 597 times
  • GCSE Performance for Kent Schools: 2018

    The key measure of GCSE performance 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 below the National Average of -0.02, at -0.08. Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent above the National score of 46.5 at 47.1 although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case, as explained below... 

    Wye

    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 and Highworth Grammars, but with Bennett Diocesan Memorial (selecting on religious grounds), in third place. 

    The bad news is that 15 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 figure of six schools, with four present in all three years of the new arrangements.  Government also has a measure of 'Coasting Schools', those with poor progress for three years, and Kent has 11 of these, including perhaps surprisingly five Ofsted 'Good Schools': Archbishop's; Homewood; Hugh Christie; North; and Sandwich Technology.  

    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 2018 data for all Kent secondary schools is listed here, along with several other measures.

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    Written on Friday, 19 October 2018 10:46 4 comments Read 1369 times
  • Elective Home Education & Children Missing from Education 2017-18: Kent and Medway

    Channel Four Documentary about Home Education on February 4th at 10.15 p.m., called: Skipping School: Britain's Invisible Kids.

    I have been involved in its production and appear in the programme, being interviewed by the Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, OBE,and am preparing a second article setting out my views on this. 

    The number of children leaving Kent schools for Elective Home Education (EHE) in 2017-18   has increased sharply by 20% to 1113 over the past year, but is still less than the peak year of 2013-14. Medway has seen an even larger increase by 62% to 278, and much greater than 2013-14.

    The three schools in Kent to lose most children to ‘home schooling’ come as no surprise,  each featuring at the top of this list year on year. These are: High Weald Academy, losing 6.4% of its statutory aged population (11-16); Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, 3.9%; and Hartsdown Academy 3.4%, all losing on average more than one child from every class last year. I look at these schools in more detail below. One common factor is that, for different reasons, most families have no other local alternatives to these schools. Some children who have left may have moved to other schools, been transferred to Pupil Referral Units or are Children Missing from Education (CME) without trace.  Highest for EHE in Medway was Strood Academy with 3.1%.

    The figure of 950 Kent children who went missing with no known destination has been swollen by families returning to their homeland, notably in Gravesham and Thanet, home to large numbers of Eastern European families.

    I also look below at off-rolling, a practice whereby schools encourage pupils to leave in the final years before GCSE and A Levels, in order to boost their examination outcomes. The data that suggests where such practices operate is headed by two schools that also regularly feature in these pages: Ebbsfleet Academy (GCSE, 17% loss) and Holcombe Grammar in Medway (A Level, with an astonishing 30% of students departing halfway through the A Level course).  

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    Written on Monday, 05 November 2018 06:38 Be the first to comment! Read 507 times