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Displaying items by tag: Medway Council

Update Two - 3 August: In talks to parents, the Student Services Manager at Medway Council has told families that there is no need to prepare specially for the changed Verbal Reasoning Test (now CEM),as it is covered in the normal English KS2 curriculum. He has also confirmed the sole reason for the change is that it has saved money (never mind the content policy change!). Medway Council has now produced an article explaining the use of the Familiarisation Booklet, which I have commented on at the foot of this article. I also include a link to the Booklet which has not been published, 

Update: The value of the following item is underlined by the interest shown by browsers. 1500 hits in the first two days makes this the second most popular item on the website this year - in third place is the article Medway Test Scores Blunder - Medway fails families yet againconfirming once again the lack of confidence Medway families have in their Council's education operation. 

The Council sent a letter to schools last week announcing that it is changing its Test provider from GL Assessment to CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) for the forthcoming Medway Test in September. Unfortunately, the two testing providers have different interpretations of the assessment procedure, as explained here. The CEM Verbal Reasoning Test is far more language based than the GL model (which is used by Kent), including vocabulary and normally comprehension, as can be seen by a glance at the above link together with model answers provided by commercial companies. It will account for 20% of the aggregate Test marks which, together with the 40% for the Free Writing Test, will make this a highly language based selection method. It will therefore discriminate against children from socially deprived areas who are often weaker in language skills, children with English as a second Language, boys, and those who don't hear of or appreciate the change being made. The Council’s letter to schools gives no rationale for this change of approach or warning of the effects of the change, so presumably it is not for educational reasons, but simply a cost cutting exercise. 

Neither does it do anything whatever to address the other serious problems I have previously identified in the Medway Test process, missing a golden opportunity in its recent review of the procedure, which appears to have reached no conclusions. It also comes close on after last year's debacle of the 2016 Test.   

In addition, the Council has suddenly dispensed with the services of its highly experienced Free Writing Test setter, and at the time of writing does not appear to have re-employed any of its trained markers, although there is no change in the processes. It is not yet clear who is going to provide these essential skills this year.

Published in News and Comments
Tuesday, 07 March 2017 06:24

A Parental View of Medway Council

I have received the following plea from a parent who moved to Medway last year and who sought my advice about primary schools. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to offer significant support, but I did work through the dreadful interaction she endured with Medway Council (Tagline - Serving You) school admissions department. Sadly she is not alone and only this week I have been advising another family which has been given the run around by the same department with different officers offering completely opposite advice with no particular expertise apparent.

Medway 

 However, there appears little hope when only last week the Medway Council Cabinet Member responsible for Primary and Secondary Schools commented on the sharp fall in the percentage of children receiving their first choice secondary school, and the near doubling of the number being offered none of their six choices. He considered in the thinnest of press releases, that it was 'great news that a vast majority of children have been offered a place at one of their top preference schools' His more senior colleague carrying the whole Children's Service's Portfolio was more circumspect observing that 'I'm pleased many children have been allocated a place at a school they preferred' clearly dodging the worsening statistics and the near doubling of those who hadn't. Is it  that these senior politicians aren't being told the truth by their officers, or that they simply  don't care? By contrast, in Kent where the Local Authority has been working hard to identify additional school places, the Education Cabinet Member provided the reality: 'As we predicted, this has proved Kent’s most challenging year due to record numbers of applicants' about a slightly worsening situation with a rising population, but nowhere near as bad as that in Medway. 

Whilst following up another issue on the website, I made the perhaps astonishing discovery that two thirds of the twelve the most visited news items featured the failings of Medway Council all clocking up between 32 and 65 thousand hits (see below)!

Published in Peter's Blog
Tagged under

Further Update: Application Turned Down by Government in August 2016, here.

Update: Medway Council's objections published in full here

Chatham Grammar School for Boys is to admit a co-educational intake for September 2017, subject to approval from the Regional Schools Commissioner (advised by the Regional Headteacher Board of six headteachers, of which Ms Shepherd is a member, but who would not be involved in the decision), following a decision by the Directors of the Thinking School Academy Trust. This decision represents a reduction in opportunity for boys, leaving Medway with one very oversubscribed boys’ grammar, inaccessible to those in most of the Council’s area, as opposed to three girls’ grammars.

Chatham Boys 3

The school is to change its name to Holcombe Grammar School.

The Trust has scrapped its controversial proposal to admit children through a decision of the Admission Committee without testing, following my previous article pointing out that it was illegal. This article also covers some of the main issues and provides links to other items.

Medway Council refused my FOI Request for their response to the Consultation “in the public interest!” leaving one to wonder yet again, which public's interests they serve. 

Published in Peter's Blog

The issues surrounding Chatham Grammar School for Boys’ proposals to go co-educational and also to redefine the way “grammar school ability” is determined are obviously of considerable importance to all secondary schools and the families affected in Medway. You will find my most recent article on the controversy here.

Medway Council’s view is clearly central to the situation as they have legal responsibility for the provision of education, if not the power since the introduction of academies.

According to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, owners of Chatham Grammar, Medway Council is supportive of the proposal to go co-educational: “In Medway the Council can see the benefit of a co-educational school to absorb both boys and girls” and “Medway LEA were happy for the school to increase its published admission number to accommodate all those that applied for a place”.

Unfortunately, whether this is true or not is currently a secret, as Medway Council is refusing to make its representations to the consultation public at this time……

Published in Peter's Blog

Julia George of Radio Kent interviewed Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council on Tuesday morning about Medway matters. With so many important issues for the Authority, she chose to spend the first quarter of an hour pressing him on the failed and failing Medway education service as her priority. At the time of writing the interview is still on iPlayer.

Quoting extensively from the wide range of data provided elsewhere on this website, Julia focused on the following facts: for every year bar one since 2009, Medway Council had been in the bottom five Local Authorities in the country out of 153, in terms of Key Stage Two performance at the end of primary school years; this year the Authority was bottom in the country in terms of both KS2 performance and also in the proportion of primary school children in OFSTED Good or Outstanding schools, and was again last in the latter in 2014; in addition, the Authority had the third highest school exclusion rate in the country. Julia made the point repeatedly that the children of Medway had been failed by the Authority and asked what Mr Jarrett would do about the Cabinet Member responsible for this debacle; whether he should keep his job and how much longer he should be given.  Mr Jarrett’s defence was that the Cabinet Member responsible, Mr Mike O’Brien, had the confidence of himself and his Cabinet colleagues and should be given as long as it takes to bring about improvement. This triggered an exchange about which was most important, the future of Medway children or Mr O’Brien, Mr Jarrett apparently coming down in favour of the latter………

Published in Peter's Blog
Tagged under

Medway Council has launched its second initiative to improve standards across its schools in three years, this one called “Get Medway Learning” , the previous initiative entitled “Effective Challenge of Underperformance in Schools” having sunk without trace or effect.

The initiative aims to raise the bar in local primary and secondary schools, ensuring children are receiving a quality education and achieving to the very best of their ability, certainly a laudable aim, as for 2013-14, the last year for which results are available, Medway Primary schools came bottom in the country in both Key Stage 2 performance and OFSTED Inspection outcomes.

However, I remain unconvinced it will fare any better than the 2012 attempt, except that perhaps Medway Council is at last realising the seriousness of its situation and the damage being done to Medway children’s education. The only bright sign on the horizon is the continued good performance of Medway secondary schools, producing GCSE results above the national average, and demonstrating they are turning round the underperformance in the primary sector.

The main themes of the initiative are:…..

Published in Peter's Blog

Updated with Medway permanent exclusions 2014-15.

How much worse can it get for the children of Medway? My previous article recorded the dire statistic that Medway primary schools had the worst KS2 results in the country for 2015, and overall for the period from 2009 to 2015, whilst earlier in the year, Medway Primary schools published figures show that the Authority came bottom in the country in 2013-14 for OFSTED outcomes.

Now come the latest national figures on fixed and permanent exclusions, which cover the school year for 2013-14 and show Medway has the second highest percentage of primary school fixed term exclusions in the country. This is the equivalent of one fixed term exclusion for every 3.37% of the school population, over three times the national average and an astonishing rise of 34% over 2012/13.

A previous article I wrote about permanent exclusions showed that permanent exclusions in Medway rose astonishingly over the same period by over three times from 22 to an astonishing 70, the third highest proportion of the school population in the country. In 2009/10 there were just three permanent exclusions in Medway.

Couple this with the two most recent Inspections of local authority arrangements, the first for the protection of children in 2013, which were found to be Inadequate, the second for looked after children services in 2013, also Inadequate.

Surely, now there is now enough evidence for a full investigation into the quality of education and children’s services in Medway taking all these factors into account, followed by a replacement of Education and Children’s Services part of the Children and Adult Services Department which is clearly not fit for purpose, before the children of Medway suffer even more....

Published in News and Comments

Medway primary schools have come bottom nationally for Key Stage Two results in 2015 for the second time in four years. Medway is surely the worst Local Authority in the country in terms of primary school performance, having been in the bottom five out of 152 Authorities for every year but one since 2009, as shown in the table below. In the most recent figures available for the proportion of children in OFSTED good or Outstanding schools, Medway was also bottom in the country in 2013-14.

According to the Medway Messenger, Mr Mike O'Brien, Cabinet Member for Education, considers that a group of unpaid volunteers, "the Governors are responsible" for this perennial disgrace. He has promised to take appropriate action - and warned governors and teachers to "shape up or ship out". The consistent record of failure is apparently nothing to do with Medway Council or its failing and failed School Improvement Department, an utterly complacent and false position that has been adopted annually and recorded diligently on this website year after year......

Published in News and Comments

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.

  • 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 5 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 Compass Learning Trust leaders, 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 4 comments Read more...
  • Kent and Medway Primary Allocations 2021: Initial News and Comment

    There is good news for most Kent families applying for reception class places in primary schools this year with 89.2% of families offered their first choice school, slightly up on the 2020 figure. Whilst, sadly, there are still 398 children with no school of their choice, this is the lowest number for at least the last ten years.

    97.7% of families have been offered one of their three choices, the same percentage as in 2018, but higher than other recent years.  Most of these details are contained in the 2021 Kent Primary Press Release.  However, one factor behind the good news is the fall in the number of Kent children offered places at a Kent primary school down to 17,116, the lowest figure since 2014.

    In Medway, more than 91% of children have again been offered their first choice school, the highest percentage for at least eight years (surely worth mentioning in the press release!) with over 97% being offered a school on their application form. In total there was a fall of 148 in the number of pupils offered places from 2020, with a total of 3491. Every child from Medway who applied on time was offered a place. There were 112 applicants from outside Medway. Most of these details are contained in the  2021 Medway Primary Press Release, very thin as usual on detail.   

    You will also find information and advice on possible next steps, including appeals, below and here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, I am afraid that chances of success are negligible. 

    Written on Thursday, 15 April 2021 16:32 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies: Kent Non-Selective Schools 2021

    There was only a small increase of 37 in the number of Kent primary pupils allocated places at secondary schools this year but with 267 additional secondary places created. This leaves 724 empty spaces, a 5.1% vacancy rate overall, well up on last year's 3.5%. As a result, across the county, there were few extra pressure points in Non-Selective (N/S) schools. Key areas were Canterbury, Gravesham and Sevenoaks which had just five vacancies across their 15 schools, but Ashford, Dartford, Swale and Thanet all have localised problems created by polarisation of choices. Unfortunately, misleading information by KCC appears to hide a large shortage of places in Tunbridge Wells (TW). The converse problem exists in Thanet, where KCC is promoting an unnecessary new school in Margate.

    The unpopularity of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey with its 108 Local Authority Allocations has propelled Fulston Manor and Westlands to the top of the oversubscription table.  These two schools are followed by Knole Academy, Meopham School, St George's CofE Foundation (Broadstairs) and the recently opened Stone Lodge School. Most of the others were also present in the table last year, apart from newly arrived Canterbury Academy, the new School of Science and Technology Maidstone (SSTM), The Lenham School and Skinners Kent Academy

    There are 393 OOC children offered places in non-selective schools across the county, Knole Academy, Homewood School and Bennett Memorial Diocesan School all offering over 50 places to OOC children, with 252 travelling the other way 

    The schools struggling to attract pupils are also broadly the same as last year, in most cases propped up by Local Authority Allocations of children who have not been offered more popular schools. 

    I explore all these matters further, below, together with a survey of allocation patterns in each of Kent's Districts.

    Written on Sunday, 11 April 2021 19:53 3 comments Read more...
  • The Disgraceful Behaviour of the Governors of Fairview Primary School

    Update 18th April: The Disgraceful Behaviour of the Governors of Fairview Primary School (Part Two)

    This article considers the appointment of a new Headteacher for Fairview Community Primary School, a process that is lasting for just three and a half weeks, from posting the advertisement to concluding the interviews at a school whose status in September is unknown. The only way this is not madness is if Medway Council and the Governing Body already know who they are going to appoint. Why would anyone else apply?

    In my previous article about Fairview a month ago, I reported on a letter from the Board, dated 24th February, that ‘Governors will now carry out a ‘period of reflection in which they will take this opportunity to respond to the most frequently raised themes highlighted, including Academic Standards, transparency and the question of why The Westbrook Trust with more regular communication’. 

    This regular communication amounts to a brief letter from the Chairman of Governors, dated the last day of term, informing parents that a permanent headteacher is to be appointed, without mentioning any of these promised themes. The job advertisement fails to mention the rather important point that the school is planning to academise with the Westbrook Trust and so the successful candidate could be removed if their face doesn’t fit. This is either gross incompetence or alternatively, with interviews set for just three days after the closing date for applications, the whole thing is a disgraceful fix! This article finishes with four important questions to which parents need to know the answers. 

    Written on Thursday, 08 April 2021 06:35 8 comments Read more...
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies: Kent Grammar Schools 2021

    The pattern of grammar school allocations reveals chickens coming home to roost – but never mind the children. I have regularly written since last June about the unfairness of the Kent selection procedure that would be created by the coronavirus effects on schools unless changes were made, and so it has proved. My previous article on the Kent Test demonstrated a built-in bias towards children in West Kent and girls as a result, with further discrimination against children attracting Pupil Premium, suggesting that children from ‘ordinary families’ would also suffer.

    Now, every West and North West Kent grammar is full, and all but one are oversubscribed with first choices, even though between them they have added on an extra  184 Year Seven places from last year. At the other end of the scale, there are 257 empty spaces in 13 East and Mid Kent schools, up from 123 in six schools in 2020.

    The starkest example of the shift is at Maidstone Grammar which turned away 60 grammar qualified first choices last year, but has 14 vacancies for 2021 admission. At the far end of the county, Sir Roger Manwood’s which had 34 first choices rejected in 2020, now has 20 vacancies.

    For children attracting pupil premium, 10% of the girls were found selective by the 2020 Kent selection procedure, and 7% of the boys, in total 8.2%, a fall of 17% from the 2019 figure.

    There is an increase of 51 children from outside Kent to 466 in total, were offered places in Kent grammar schools, the main rises being at Gravesend, Maidstone, Maidstone Girls, Mayfield and Tunbridge Wells Boys, partly compensated by a sharp fall at Weald. 

    I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. You will find full details of the Kent test process for 2021 entry here

    Written on Friday, 19 March 2021 18:53 4 comments Read more...