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The Leigh Academy Trust is proposing to extend the age range of the Leigh UTC (University Technical College) to cover the age range of 11-14 with the support of KCC, to increase the number of secondary school places available in Dartford. One must applaud any sensible opportunity to ease the pressure on Dartford places, however the proposal raises a number of important questions.

Leigh UTC 1 

The plan is to build an 11-14 ‘school’ on vacant land opposite the current premises, called ‘The Inspiration Centre’ to cater for an intake of 120 children from September 2017, also working with Dartford Council to create an adjacent outdoor sports complex for all students (it is not clear if this is exclusively for Leigh Trust students).  The students will follow a normal curriculum before going on the UTC offering with its increased focus on engineering and computer science from Year 10 onward, being joined by up to 30 students from other schools. 

Published in Peter's Blog

This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.

There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester. 

 The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........

Published in Newspaper Articles

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator has ruled on a number of complaints about decisions made by Dartford Grammar School (DGS) and Dartford Grammar School for Girls (DGSG) to award more of their places to high scoring pupils in the Kent Test at the possible expense of local children. He also considered complaints about sixth form admission policies and also about failures in consultation about the proposals. The complaints were submitted submitted by parents and governors of neighbouring grammar schools in Bexley. You will find the determination (decision) here. 

DGGS                       DGS

In the biggest area of complaint, the Adjudicator does not find fault in the changes in priority at the expense of local children.  

With regard to the sixth forms, the main faults in the admission process and criteria at the two schools are also applicable to many other secondary schools in the county, a regular issue raised with me by parents whose children have been denied entry, further details here.   

Both schools failed to consult properly on their changes, although the Adjudicator oddly argues that as there were few responses (not surprising if few knew about them), there appears to be no need to find a remedy.

A key and surely controversial section not directly related to the complaints arises from the provision of the ‘unique’ International Baccalaureate Curriculum beginning in year 7 at DGS. The Adjudicator notes that the nature of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum is seen by both the school and the Local Authority as not being suitable for all qualified applicantsand for this reason the school has “ …attracted pupils from a wider reaching catchment area, as a result of this niche which they have created in the education market”, to quote the LA”. To me this is a remarkable statement, for surely, if the IB is not suitable for some local children then the admission arrangements should be changed to reflect this rather than allowing them to enter and struggle. Alternatively, and highly preferable for me, would be to amend the curriculum arrangements so that all children admitted could access the curriculum.  

I expand on all these issues below:........

Published in News and Comments

Recent correspondence between Michael Fallon, MP for Sevenoaks and Michael Gove, Secretary of State, appears to suggest that any decision on the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks is far from clear cut.

Meanwhile, grammar school provision at Dartford Grammar looks set to increase, targeted at the ablest pupils from South East London.

Proposed Satellite Grammar School in Sevenoaks

The letter from Michael Fallon, dated 7th October, once more makes the case for the satellite, but finishes “I urge you to make a speedy decision”. Quite rightly, as time is passing, and the target date of opening in September 2015 relies on the building being mainly completed within the next 19 months. Planning permission may be working through, but not a brick can be laid until the decision is made, and any legal challenges resolved.

Mr Gove replied on 24th October: “Thank you for your letter of 7 October, about the provision of school places. I understand the difficulty pupils and families face in securing a suitable school place, and the distance many have to travel. Primary legislation prohibits the introduction of new selective schools and we must judge the proposals carefully to test whether they represent new schools or expansions.The Education Funding Agency (EFA) is assessing the proposals and will present its findings to ministers shortly. We will notify each school in writing as soon as a decision has been reached. In reaching our decision, we will consider all the evidence that has been presented through the process, and in correspondence with each academy trust. Thank you for writing to me on this important matter”.

Clearly, the central issue holding up proceedings is the one picked out by Mr Gove’s underlining: is the proposal for a new school or an expansion? ........

Published in News Archive

I now have detailed information on Kent and Medway primary school admission offers for September 2012. On the surface, all looks well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, with rising rolls the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a worrying rise of 45%.

You will find more general information in a separate article below.  I have started to provide more detailed information on difficult areas, via the links below. 

Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for (you will find an earlier article on part of the problem here) and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include:........

Published in News Archive

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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.

  • 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.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 13 September 2018 20:15 4 comments Read 2649 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 258 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.

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 09:50 2 comments Read 437 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.

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    Written on Thursday, 30 August 2018 20:12 Be the first to comment! Read 389 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 289 times
  • GCSE Results and Admission to Sixth Forms

    GCSE results out yesterday have provided considerable speculation as to the effect of the changes. What follows is a very personal view, parts of which were shared in an interview on ITV Meridian last evening. I conclude with a brief consideration of applications to school Sixth Form courses, also looking at certain illegal practices, amazingly including further malpractice at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls.

    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.

    Sadly, the latest changes are yet another massage of GCSE structure and assessment methods to enable the latest in a line of governments to try and convince us that something is being done to improve standards.

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    Written on Friday, 24 August 2018 23:17 1 comment Read 516 times