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I was invited to speak at the National Tutoring Conference on 1st April 2015, to the title: "The Kent 11 Plus test was changed to make it less susceptible to coaching. What happened next?" The following is the script I planned to follow, but as those who have heard me speaking before will know. Do not assume I kept to it!

Kent is the largest Local Authority in the country, with 20% of the nation’s grammar schools, 32 in number, all admitting students through success in the Kent 11 plus. Around three years ago, the Cabinet Member for Education in Kent uttered those immortal words: “not fit for purpose” about the Kent Test. There were two main issues, firstly that tutoring was introducing an unfair skew into the outcomes, and secondly that the absence of any element of literacy in the assessments was allowing too many children who were unable to write properly through to grammar school.

I hope you will find that many of the conclusions in this talk apply to grammar schools in other parts of the country.......

Published in Newspaper Articles

Children who take the Kent Test have their results standardised against a national sample of children who have not been coached or prepared in any way.  The pass mark for 2014 entry was a minimum of 118 for each of the three papers, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and mathematics, together with an aggregate score of 360. This mark is set to select the top 21% of children by performance in Kent. By contrast, for the national sample a score of 113 is sufficient to become part of the top 21%.

So the pass mark is much higher than should be expected and I have carried out an analysis of marks on the three individual papers taken last September, to try and understand this, and have come to the following conclusions. An explanation of my analysis follows:

Conclusion One: Mathematics is by far the likeliest determinant of whether a child passes or fails the Kent Test, as children in general perform far better on their two reasoning tests, especially verbal reasoning, than on mathematics.

Conclusion Two: The only explanation I have as to why the pass mark has risen by five marks in each subject, over that expected of a child who has carried out no preparation, is because of coaching which is most effective in the two reasoning tests.

Conclusion Three: The Judd School is absolutely right to shift away from reasoning tests and focus on curriculum achievement. 

Conclusion Four: The new Kent Test to be taken in September may well dilute the problem somewhat with the introduction of an element of multiple-choice English, but does not address the central issue

Conclusion Five: Medway’s system of “Local Standardisation” eliminates the problem of Conclusion One.

Conclusion Six: If you can afford it, get some good coaching or other preparation........

Published in News and Comments

mayfield

I live in Gravesend and am regularly asked why Mayfield Grammar School has vacancies this year, a situation hardly improved when there were just 17 successful appeals  out of 39, although the school had 35 spaces going.

Actually there is no mystery as the explanation is quite straightforward and arises because of a gender difference in the town greater than anywhere else in Kent this year. In the current Year 6, Gravesham has 610 boys in local state schools but only 536 girls. The discrepancy was exacerbated by the children’s performance in the Kent Test where 23% of boys passed but only 21% of girls. This gave a total of 144 selective boys but only 115 girls.....

Published in Peter's Blog

 

The Judd School in Tonbridge (grammar) has outlined the likely prospect of a Judd Entry Test for entry from September 2015, completely breaking away from the Kent 11 plus. The two Folkestone grammar schools have already introduced their own alternative to the Kent 11 plus to be taken this autumn and in following years. Both developments are described below........

Published in News Archive
Friday, 08 February 2013 16:08

Headteacher Survey for Kent 11 Plus Review

At the beginning of January, I published here a critique of the appallingly designed headteacher survey on the current Review of the Kent test, carried out over the Christmas holidays. Paul Francis of the Kent Messenger has now obtained the results of the survey, which fully support my criticisms and suggest headteachers would have been better off concentrating on the Christmas turkey rather than wasting their time on this one.

 

Six of the seven questions were multiple choice with a yes/no response required and no opportunity to explain the respondent’s reasons. Only one of the six questions produced a clear opinion. Only one question, down at number four, allowed an open reply. This outlined the Kent Test make up and then asked "Should KCC change the tests in any other way (other than ‘what’ is not provided, so this becomes meaningless)". Because the question asked for possible changes, these were nearly all that were provided, and support for the status quo is negligible, contrary to the outcomes of the multiple choice answers. Only 56 respondents gave suggestions for change, out of a total of 135.

In other words, with just 10% of Kent’s headteachers putting forward proposals for change to a badly worded question, mostly just one suggestion across a wide spectrum of possibilities, this whole section is clearly invalid as an outcome and no conclusions should be drawn from it,  

My main fear is .......

Published in News Archive

Kent County Council is currently reviewing its 11 plus procedures, my previous comments appearing here. A Headteacher Review Group was set up to consider the process and KCC is now consulting headteachers to find out their views on the group’s recommendations.

As headteachers have not been sent the Review Group Report, it is difficult for them to make an informed response, but some clues as to the Group’s thinking can be found in the Headteacher Survey.

There are just two recommendations quoted, which are sketchily reported. These are:

1) Coaching. “The Review Group listened to concerns about the pressures related to coaching, which it was felt did not work to the long term benefit of children or the schools which admitted them. The group’s recommendation is to source tests which are as resistant to coaching as possible, and for which practice or familiarisation materials are not commercially available”.

2) Administration. –“The review group also recommended a process which is sufficiently robust to identify children as suitable or not suitable for selective education at a grammar school, but which takes less time to administer and would enable pupils from inside and outside Kent to be treated in the same way”.

That appears to be it! I must admit I find it difficult to believe this is the full import of the Review Group Report, and my own thoughts follow later in this article. KCC’s consultation was sent out in the last week of last term, the busiest of the year, responses required by Monday 7th January, the first day of term, suggesting the Authority is not looking for a big response on this important issue. Indeed, I was trying to get hold of a copy of the consultation the day before the end of term and several headteachers knew nothing about it......

Published in News Archive

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  • Fort Pitt, Holcombe and Rochester Grammar Schools: Schools Adjudicator Rejects Admission Criteria as Unlawful

    The Schools Adjudicator, responsible for deciding on school admission policy disputes, has ruled that the determined admission arrangements for 2019 for these three schools are in breach of the Schools Admissions Code and ordered them to be changed. This will ensure that the new rules are fairer to local children or, in the case of The Rochester Grammar School, that more appropriately qualified girls are admitted.

    Three other schools acknowledged the validity of my complaint at an early stage and withdrew their proposals. These were: Brompton Academy, Hundred of Hoo Academy and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School.

    Medway Council, with oversight of school admission rules published on its website, neither took action to block the unlawful proposals (if indeed they noticed them), nor bothered to express a view on their legality to the Schools Adjudicator when invited. There has been just one complaint about a Kent school's proposals since 2012 (relating to In-Year Admissions), as KCC monitors proposed changes. 

    To look at the decisions in detail follow the links: Fort Pitt; Holcombe Grammar; The Rochester Grammar, with my analysis below.

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    Written on Thursday, 13 September 2018 20:15 4 comments Read 2739 times
  • Academy News: September 2018

    I am afraid this regular update is well overdue because of pressures elsewhere. I will be publishing a second article shortly (I hope) but this one is primarily about new and proposed academies and the increasing practice of re-assigning academies to other Trusts when there has been a break down of performance in some way. 

    Panorama, 10th September: Financial Mismanagement in Academy Trusts
    This is a subject that I have explored many times in these pages, most commonly in the scandal of Lilac Sky Academy Trust and more recently with The SchoolsCompany Academy Trust. I have enclosed a comment outlining the issues with the two Trusts at the foot of this page. 

    Another ten schools have become academies this year, bringing the Kent total to 89% out of 101 secondary schools including applications in progress, and 37% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 54 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest conversions below, along with new applications to become academies, and a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.

    The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 10 September 2018 23:42 Be the first to comment! Read 295 times
  • Private Schools Coaching for Grammar Entrance

    This is an updated and revised version of a story I wrote as the events below unfolded 

    The BBC excitedly revealed the results of ‘an exclusive undercover investigation’ on Monday last. This had discovered to no one’s surprise that private schools depending on a high rate of pupils securing grammar school places for their existence prepare those pupils for the Kent Test. You will find on the BBC website here a much watered down version of the original headline grabbing, anti-grammar school story which dominated the channel and Radio Kent for two days leading up to the Kent Test. The programme was followed the next day by another ‘lead story’ which also recycled and expanded on remarks by Robert Halfon, MP and Chairman of the Government Select Committee on Education, several months earlier but presented as breaking news. This also criticised KCC for creating ‘confusion’ by not knowing how a Review it had commissioned into coaching would turn out! 

    The two BBC employees who have taken the trouble to express their great unhappiness about the story to me confidentially, are completely in the right. The new anodyne website version which completely loses the initial hysteria is surely an implicit acknowledgement of the error of judgement.  

    The BBC 'revelation’ about private school coaching can hardly come as news to anyone who has had dealings with or enquired about admissions to private primary schools for possible entry over the past decade or so. Many of these schools owe their existence to their ‘success rate’ in seeing pupils secure places at grammar schools, whether or not they contributed to it. They will charge families up to £10,000 p.a. to maximise chances, advertising their achievements through websites and in the media .

    It is most unfortunate that the BBC item was published this week in particular, attracting a large amount of media coverage in the run up to Thursday’s Kent Test. For it, and the subsequent media comment swirling around about grammar school matters in general, would have been an unnecessary distraction for many of the families whose children sat the test.

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    Written on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 09:50 2 comments Read 467 times
  • Paul Carter and Grammar School Numbers

    Revised 1st September

    Paul Carter, Leader of KCC had an important interview with The Times published on Monday, along with commentary by the newspaper which can be found here.  He expresses concern that the proportion of pupils admitted to Kent’s 32 grammar schools has risen to well over the 25% target set by the Council, which risks weaken­ing the specialist purpose of grammar schools and is damaging to non-select­ive schools nearby, diluting the quality of their intake. This is down primarily to the operation of the school admission appeals process in some schools, the expansion of planned grammar school places not keeping pace with the general rise in numbers of the school population.

     I have written my own analysis of the situation earlier this year, but went further and explored the reasons why the proportion of Year 7 Kent grammar school pupils had risen to 31.7% from 30.3% between 2012 and 2017, and why it was in any case above 25%.

    Paul’s article, whilst showing unhappiness about the situation, identifies his own reasons for the increased proportion but gives no indication there is an appetite to wind back the proportion of children going on to grammar school. Indeed, I don’t believe that with the loss of control by KCC to individual academies this would be possible.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 30 August 2018 20:12 Be the first to comment! Read 417 times
  • Falling Rolls,Year 10 through to GCSE

    On Tuesday, The Times newspaper headlined a story about schools removing pupils or encouraging them to leave in the run up to GCSE, followed by two pages of analysis inside the paper. This is an issue I have followed closely in recent years, mainly from the viewpoint of numbers of children being Home Educated and Permanently Excluded, most recently here.

    Medway UTC 1


    This article explores schools where the roll has fallen way above the norm over this period. On average 2% of Kent children leave mainstream schools in Years 10 and 11, and 4% in Medway, raising the question of why this should happen at all. Surprisingly, the schools losing the most pupils are generally different between 2016-17 and 2017-18, suggesting that none have a consistent policy to remove pupils unlikely to do well before GCSE, although several have extremely high levels of ‘Elective’ Home Education. This is contrary to the examples given in The Times.

    For the cohort taking GCSE in 2018, the five biggest losses of pupils were: were: Medway UTC 25%; New Line Learning and Victory (Medway) Academies 13%; Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy 10% and Robert Napier School (Medway) 9% the only school to appear in the lists for both years. In 2017 they were: Orchards Academy 17%; Brompton and Strood Academies (both Medway) 12%; Ebbsfleet Academy and Thamesview School 11%. In all cases that is three or more pupils on average from every class. Below I give a fuller list for each year.

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    Written on Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:38 1 comment Read 295 times
  • GCSE Results and Admission to Sixth Forms

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    It is my opinion, shared  by many others, that GCSE students are the victims of yet another of a series of pointless changes. These appear to me to have no virtue whatever, as explained below. However, whatever has been thrown at them, my congratulations go out to those that have achieved their aims at GCSE and my commiserations to those who have not.

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    Written on Friday, 24 August 2018 23:17 1 comment Read 529 times