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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.

  • Academies in the News: Turner Schools; Delce Academy; Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey

    The National Schools Commissioner, on visits to Folkestone Academy and the Turner Free School is reported to have praised the progress of the two schools without apparently noticing the many failures documented on this site. These amount to nearly 10% of all the academies he has visited since he was appointed last September out of a total of  8,678. In a fresh controversy, it has now been alleged that  the Turner Free School lost a Vice Principal, in employment for just eight weeks from the opening of the school last September, who left the school and teaching in part because of alleged homophobia by his employer.

    I wrote about the Ofsted Inspection that placed Delce Academy in Special Measures, in June, describing what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism on the part of the school and the Castle Trust which ran it. I concluded: ‘This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body’. Last week the Trust wrote to parents to tell them the school was being transferred to the Inspire Academy Trust.

    Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was once again found to Require Improvement in its recent Ofsted inspection, but what specifically caught my eye was the  phrase: ‘however, recent changes to the support available for vulnerable pupils have led to a reduction in fixed-term exclusions’. Hardly consistent with my recent FOI request that found a further increase from the previous year when Oasis had the second highest number and proportion in Kent! The inspection took place shortly after a fundamental structural change for September was announced which will see all Year 7 to 11 pupils taught on a single site, the current two bases being nearly two miles apart. This positive decision is only made possible by a remarkable decline of 550 pupils on roll since Oasis took over in 2013, a loss of over a quarter of the total since then. 

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    Written on Sunday, 04 August 2019 19:42 3 comments Read 499 times
  • Further Analysis of Kent Test Results for Admission in September 2019

    I apologise to the many browsers who have asked over the past six months when this annual article was to be published. There have been a multitude of delays and I have only recently received the authorised data from KCC. 

    The table below shows that almost exactly 25% of Kent children were found selective by the Kent procedure, with the pass mark presumably set to fit in with the expected 6% of children found selective (nearly a quarter of the total) through the Head Teacher Assessment procedure. 

    Possibly the main news headline should be that for the best chance of success at the Kent Test from a state school, you should be a girl living in Canterbury or a boy living in Sevenoaks. 7 schools saw over half of the cohort found selective, the highest proportions being at St Thomas' Catholic Primary, Sevenoaks (68%), followed by Gateway Primary Academy, Dartford (61%), Ethelbert Road, Faversham (60%); Blean, Canterbury (57%) and Selling CofE, Faversham (56%).  
           Gateway               Sheldwich 4
     
    For the first time in many years the proportions of boys and girls being found selective are almost identical, 25.3% and 25.0% respectively, girls being on top for several years previously.

    Canterbury has by some way the highest proportion of successful HTAs at 11% of the whole cohort, driven by 14% of all girls being found selective in this way, almost half of the total grammar assessments in Canterbury at 30% of the cohort. 

    There is a further increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium being found selective to 10.3% of the total. 40% of these are via HTA, as against 25% for all pupils showing that the system is supportive of those children, contrary to some views expressed elsewhere. Further details on PP below.  

    40% of the 427 children with Pupil Premium were selected through Headteacher Assessment, having not reached the automatic pass mark. Government policies to improve the PP rate of grammar school selection by lowering the pass mark are therefore irrelevant in Kent (but not Medway)

     The number of Out of County children tested and the number of passes continue to rise inexorably, by 330 this year to 3065,  but with a number of Kent grammar schools reprioritising  to give preference to Kent children, the number eventually being offered places for 2019 admission fell to 399, down from 454 in 2018.

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    Written on Monday, 22 July 2019 05:02 Be the first to comment! Read 397 times
  • KCC cancels School Support contract with Swale Academies Trust for The North School at short Notice

    Update: The Schools Week website has followed up on this story. Also contains further updates

    Kent County Council is pulling out of its management agreement with Swale Academy Trust for The North School, Ashford, at very short notice, formally serving that notice on 22nd July that the contract would end 31st August. Until that point it had  providing no formal reason for its action, leaving considerable uncertainty about arrangements for September. This follows a similar decision by KCC last year at the Holmesdale School in Cuxton, which proved highly controversial, created chaos and which I covered extensively here and here.

    Swale Academies Trust has managed The North since early 2014, after the school was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted in December 2013, although there is a considerable background  to this as described here. Swale took the school back up to Good less than four years later, although managing to overspend some £200,000  pounds per year to achieve this, reducing a financial surplus of £244,000 to a large deficit of  £768,357 at the end of this financial year, which now needs to be paid back. The Trust took robust actions to achieve the strong performance, its usual style and although the school  suffered a slump in popularity, with for example the large staff turnover, it has now recovered this following the successful Ofsted Inspection.

    The North 2

    There is no doubt that the school and the Swale Trust are now integrated to a considerable extent through: staffing - some teachers being Swale employees; school support; and the Swale culture, through combined training events for staff, etc It could be that this is just a money saving decision, saving £150,000 per annum management fee, although there has been no such suggestion put forward, but there is surely a contract between the two parties in place. To tear this apart at such short notice will be immensely damaging to the school. Whatever, there will be no £200,000 extra to spend next year which is going to lead to considerable economies.  According to Schools Week, SAT’s chief executive Jon Whitcombe has warned staff that the possibility of the school joining SAT is “now in doubt”. 

    It is reported that shockingly no information has been sent to parents about this damaging situation. 

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    Written on Thursday, 18 July 2019 23:31 1 comment Read 1270 times
  • Collapse of the Hadlow Group of FE Colleges

    I do not normally extend my coverage of news and information about Kent and Medway schools to look at the world of Kent Further Education. But for those not aware of the ongoing scandals most recently swirling about  the Hadlow Group of Colleges, you should know that these dwarf anything seen in school education.

    The FE Commissioner has heavily criticised the Group, currently comprising West Kent College, Ashford College and Hadlow College together with six subsidiary businesses (including Hadlow Rural Community School) for a ‘corporate failure of leadership, financial management and governance’ .  The link article is an excellent outline of the Group's structure and the cause of the problems. He has recommended that it be broken up and split between North Kent College and East Kent Colleges Group (which itself recently took over struggling Canterbury College), a small part concerned with animal management going to Capel Manor College in Enfield. A follow up letter from the relevant Minster in the DfE refers to the College as being in a perilous position. 

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    Written on Sunday, 14 July 2019 06:50 Be the first to comment! Read 413 times
  • Delce Academy in Rochester - Ofsted Special Measures - Castle Trust Not Fit for Purpose

    Just two weeks ago, when I published an article on Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Primary Schools for September 2019, I was so concerned about the self-evident mismanagement at Delce Academy, that I devoted a special section to the school, the only one I picked out in this way.

    It was therefore no great surprise to me that yesterday Ofsted published a Report on an Inspection which placed Delce Academy in Special Measures concluding that: ‘Since the last inspection, leaders and those responsible for governance have been ineffective in ensuring that pupils have received an acceptable quality of education’

    Delce Academy

    Just two years ago, a previous inspection concluded that the school Required Improvement, down from Good, but in this latest verdict there is no indication that the school or its leaders, including the Local Advisory Body for the school and the Directors of the Castle Trust, have drawn lessons from this or have any clue how to improve matters.‘Parents and carers told inspectors that they had lost faith in the leadership of the school. Parents are deeply concerned by high staff turnover, standards of behaviour at the school and the lack of communication from the trust and school leaders’.

    This indictment surely goes some way to explain why numbers applying for places at the school have fallen away so sharply in both the Junior and controversial new Infant sections but, as always it is the children that pay the price, in stark contrast to the school motto: 'Learning Towards a Brighter Future'.  Those responsible for this totally preventable disaster will as usual walk away unscathed. 

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    Written on Tuesday, 25 June 2019 00:04 Be the first to comment! Read 1172 times
  • Copperfield Academy and Twydall Primary School Issued with 'Minded to Terminate' Notices

    Update: Copperfield Academy has been issued with a remarkable and very positive Ofsted Monitoring Inspection Report, described here

    Both schools have been issued with tough letters from the Regional Schools Commissioner, threatening to remove them from their current sponsors, REAch2 in the case of Copperfield Academy in Northfleet, Gravesham, and Rainham Mark Education Trust in the case of Twydall Primary in Gillingham, Medway.

    Copperfield Academy  for Website

     The letter for Copperfield is rightly the more brutal for I have recorded the misfortunes of the children of this school many times on this site, first in 2011, although a more recent article traces them back to around 2003 and there is currently no let up. This letter notes that: ‘the persons responsible for leading, managing, or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school’ and sets five specific conditions for improvement, including: that pupil performance improves by the end of 2018/19 (the recently taken SATs); that the next Ofsted Inspection removes the Inadequate label; and that no other REAch2 school from the 13 in the local region fails its Ofsted.

    The Twydall letter was written in November 2018, before the 2018 Key Stage 2 results were published (see below), which show the school making rapid improvement from a troubled history that was topped off by a Serious Weaknesses Ofsted Inspection Report in June 2018. A Monitoring Inspection Report in April 2019 is wholly positive.  

    You will find more details about Copperfield and Twydall below

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    Written on Sunday, 09 June 2019 19:46 Be the first to comment! Read 1904 times