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Displaying items by tag: Sevenoaks

Update 25th July: I have now been sent a copy of a letter sent to parents and carers at the school informing them that Mrs Aquina is to return to her post in September. See below.  

Last month (14th June), all I knew about St Thomas’ Catholic Primary School in Sevenoaks, was that it had an Outstanding Ofsted Report dating back to 2014, was an averagely performing school in terms of Progress levels, usually had one of the highest proportion of pupils in the county passing the Kent Test (dipping in 2019), and just about filled in most years. I then published an article about the travails of the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership (KCSP) and the ‘unexpected absence’ of its Chief Executive. Leading on from this I was informed about the crisis at the school, a member of the Partnership. The headteacher, Mrs Aquilina, had been placed on Special Leave until the end of the academic year as the Partnership’s ‘Immediate priority as a Trust must be the children and staff of St Thomas’. This is now a major revision of the article I wrote to follow up the Pandora’s Box of outcomes that emerged followed this revelation, including the ‘voluntary absence’ of her husband, Father Aquilina, from his parish. 

St Thomas Sevenoaks

Between them, the two articles have now clocked up over  22,000 visitors in less than a month, an unprecedented number over the 15 years this site has been in existence. The host of comments at the foot amplify a number of the issues. I have reorganised the comments posted after the two articles to the one most appropriate for the content and have indicated where this has happened, although they are no longer in full date order. Items specific to the Partnership are now being transferred to the original article for clarity.

The St Thomas’ story continues below. I also look at the intriguing story of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which appears to have played a significant part in the background, although not of direct relevance to the absence of Mrs Aquilina.

If you have safeguarding concerns affecting a child at any school, contact Social Services here

Published in News and Comments
Tagged under
Sunday, 11 September 2016 22:57

Sevenoaks Annexe

There has been considerable press coverage, following the claim in the Sunday Times that there will be a new school on the Sevenoaks annexe site for boys.

It is of course not that simple. Quite simply, there are no regulations at present in place to allow any such development, not even a boys’ annexe.

Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has driven the project from its beginning and now appears to have his vision fully vindicated, appears quite clear that buildings will be constructed over and above those for the girls' annexe. There is a fall-back position in that it is reported that if no school or annexe is allowed, alternative short term use is being planned.

Sevenoaks

It has been clear for years that Mrs May, even as Home Secretary was in favour of expansion of grammar schools, possibly by creation of annexes, as I wrote in November 2014. Her current ideas are clearly proving very controversial, and I see no point in adding to the debate.

However, as I also wrote in May 2015 after the General Election, about a possible boys’ annexe in Sevenoaks to balance the one being built for the girls of Weald of Kent Grammar: “the pressure to sort this one could become irresistible!” It is starting to look that way.......

Published in News and Comments
Most recent Update: 5th November 2015

The proposed Sevenoaks Annex to Weald of Kent Grammar School has today received government approval to go ahead, creating what is almost certainly the largest grammar school in the country with an annual intake of up to 265 girls. Below I give some excerpts from Mrs Morgan's statement of Parliament, making clear the government view that this does not break the law prohibiting the creation of new grammar schools but is, in accordance with government policy, simply the expansion of a good school with integration between the two sites which is allowable. In no way is it a green light for other grammar school developments that fail to fit with such criteria. 

Sevenoaks Annex 

The path to approval has been a long, controversial and difficult one since the original proposal four years ago, including rejections of two previous schemes on grounds of illegality and one vote by Weald of Kent parents against the girls’ school becoming mixed to facilitate approval. You can trace back the history of the proposal from previous articles on this website, the most recent being here.

The delays mean the school will not now open until September 2017 (not confirmed yet and there may well be legal challenges to the decision causing further delays), by which time there will be intense pressure on existing grammar school places in West Kent for both girls and boys. Building plans for the new premises have been approved; and builders appointed, just waiting for final approval to begin work. 

In the meantime to respond to the pressure on places, the school has increased its intake from 145 to 175 in the past few years, taking in a massive 211 girls in September 2014, presumably on the expectation of the Annex arriving by 2016......

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 09 July 2015 22:47

Sevenoaks Annex: New Problems?

The Daily Mail has published an article claiming that the proposed Sevenoaks Annex is being blocked because of legal issues.

The article asserts that the legal problems are such that, even if the Secretary of State were to approve the scheme, it would be overturned by a legal challenge in the courts. Fear of a Judicial Review was likely to put a stop to the proposal going ahead.

The current scheme is the fourth to be proposed  since the satellite grammar school was first proposed three and a half years ago, planning permission for the new annex has been granted, and builders are waiting to move in. Meanwhile on the same site, the new buildings for the Trinity Free School are already in progress.

The article gives no clue as to what the legal obstacles might be and, whilst they were evident in each of the three previous schemes, it is harder to see what is now suggested to be blocking the proposal.

Whatever, we are left wondering if this is just another of the myriad of rumours that have swirled around this project from the start, as confirmed by any internet search for "Sevenoaks Annex". In particular (updating five days after the original Daily Mail article) it is curious that no other media outlet has picked up the story, or is it just they have been burned before....

Published in Peter's Blog

UPDATE: The proposal by Weald of Kent Grammar School is now being considered by the Department for Education. 

There could soon be movement in the stalled proposal for a satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks, after the Home Secretary, Mrs Teresa May has come out in support of a similar proposal in her own parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead, as explained below.

Planning permission for the Sevenoaks satellite grammar school has now been passed, building contractors are in place, and an application to go ahead has been put to the Department for Education.  Meanwhile, a separate plan for buildings on the same site for the Trinity Free School has also been approved and this project appears to be ready to go.

Sevenoaks

Two previous proposals for the Sevenoaks grammar development have been rejected by Mr Gove, when he was Secretary of State for Education, both on the grounds that they did not comply with current government legislation that required the satellite to have the same gender make up and admission rules as the host school. I have written about these previously.

A new proposal was put forward in September by the Governors of Weald of Kent Grammar School, to run a three form Satellite in the new premises for girls only, which would apparently overcome the previous legal hurdles but doesn't meet the pressing need for additional places for boys. 

Published in News and Comments

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

Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, which admits girls up to GCSE level and is then mixed in the Sixth Form, is now attempting a third attempt with KCC support to open up the proposed grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. The proposal is now out for consultation with parents.

The proposal shows a change of direction from previous attempts, in that the school is now looking at a three form entry girls’ only annexe up to GCSE level and then mixed in the sixth form, opening in 2016.

Building Plans for the annexe have now been approved, builders have been appointed, but at present there is no approved scheme and so building on the site is in abeyance.

wildernesse 

 

My own view is that Weald Of Kent parents may well support this scheme for, as distinct from the previous proposal, there appears no disadvantage for current students and positive advantages for future students living towards Sevenoaks. There appear to be none of the previous problems with legality, and although the school is likely to make minor changes to its oversubscription criteria, there would be ample space for all qualified applicants for many years. 

I have written a number of previous articles on the proposed annexe, which you can follow back from here, or else by searching for ‘Sevenoaks’ or ‘annexe’ in the search facility of this website ........

Published in News and Comments

  Governors of Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, have decided the school should remain in the city, rather than pursue the proposed move to Herne Bay which would also have enabled the school to be enlarged.  

Barton Court

The proposal, outlined in previous articles on this website, split parents with many living in the city fiercely opposed to a move to the North Coast. In the other camp, many parents and especially prospective parents living on the North Kent coast around Herne Bay and Whitstable welcomed the proposal for a brand new local school building, with excellent facilities in an area where it was becoming increasingly difficult to access a grammar school place because of rising numbers in Canterbury and along the coast. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the county in Sevenoaks, the county's second proposal to enlarge a grammar school in new premises continues on the tortuous path it has now followed for three years. Planning permission for the proposed annexe and the new Trinity Free School has been approved without difficulty, but there is still no sign of a clear and legal agreement about which school or schools are to run the annexe......

wildernesse

Published in News and Comments

Weald of Kent Grammar School is consulting with parents about taking over the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School annex and running it as an integral part of the school. I understand that Consultation papers are being sent out to parents this evening, and will expand and update this article when I have seen them.

However, my view is that this is the first feasible proposal to come forward and stands every chance of meeting the legal obstacles raised over the previous proposals by Weald and Invicta Grammar School. I have written several previous articles on the project and its history. 

The proposal is for Weald to become co-educational and then operate the Sevenoaks annex (hopefully renamed) as an integral part of a twin site grammar school, benefitting from the additional excellent facilities planned for the new buildings. It will have a single set of admissions criteria. The school is already planning to change its oversubscription criteria for 2015 admission in line with this proposal.....

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 14 November 2013 16:10

Shoreham Village School - Special Measures

The latest OFSTED Report on Shoreham Village School, which was published earlier this week placing the school in Special Measures, is possibly the most scathing I have ever read. The school is found inadequate in every category: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching; behaviour and safety of pupils, and leadership & management. This is a dramatic turnaround from the previous inspection of 2010 when the school was judged to be good. Shoreham is just north of Sevenoaks with an annual intake of just 15 and fills each year, in spite of the problems.

Typically of failing schools, there are staffing problems: “At the time of the inspection the substantive headteacher was on long-term sick leave. Four members of staff began working in the school in September 2013, including an acting headteacher who is providing support to the school for three days a week temporarily”. This is in spite of “Arrangements to lead it temporarily have gained the confidence of parents, staff, governors and pupils”, confirming that the problems are not primarily related to the new staff appointed.

It is clear from the Leadership & Management section where the problems are located.......

Published in Peter's Blog
Page 1 of 3

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  • Kent and Medway School Transport in September

    Most recently updated 12th August - and probably more to come in a fast-changing situation. 

    Government Policy
    'It is our plan that all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term'.

    Government Advice
    'We expect that public transport capacity will continue to be constrained in the autumn term. Its use by pupils, particularly in peak times, should be kept to an absolute minimum'. 
    ' I am asking every staff member and student to plan now how they will get to school or college. If it is possible to walk or cycle, please do' (Secretary of State for Education)

    I wholeheartedly support the government policy principle of encouraging all pupils to return to school in September, and those schools are working incredibly hard to deliver it. However, one of the many intractable Covid-19 related challenges facing some secondary schools and families when re-opening in September is that of pupil transport. Many Kent schools are especially vulnerable, for the county is rural in places with pupils having to travel long distances to their nearest school, and faith and grammar schools will also have pupils who travel considerable distance by public transport. Most readers will have seen or encountered the publicly accessible double-decker buses packed with pupils on their way to and from school in the past, but this won’t be the situation in September. For social distancing rules reduce the number of passengers on each bus by up to two thirds and there is not the spare capacity at peak school times to increase bus numbers to compensate.

    We are now just three weeks away from the start of term and there is no sign of a solution to the transport difficulties, although the government has recently released two documents covering the challenges. KCC considers that: ‘the financial impact on bus services and operators has been significant so it could be that more services than usual are subject to change or cancellation. In addition, at the moment, operators are only able to let about half of the usual numbers of passengers on their buses and if this remains the case, then providing enough space for all passengers could (!) be a problem, and so students that can travel in a different way should do so at the moment’. This will inevitably have major knock-on effects, with a sharp increase in private traffic on the roads at key times.

    There is no doubt that unless there are considerable improvements to what is currently on offer, too many pupils will regularly miss large parts of the school day, with some not being able to make school at all. 

    Written on Friday, 07 August 2020 19:47 3 comments Read more...
  • Comprehensive Future Knowingly Re-Publishes False Data about Grammar Schools and Pupil Premium

    Two years ago, Comprehensive Future published as a fact that: When asked how many pupils were admitted through these priority policies 80 schools responded, revealing that just 574 disadvantaged pupils were offered admission out of their 12,431 available places... there were 22 selective schools who responded to say they had failed to admit a single disadvantaged pupil through their policies’.  This claim was picked up by the media including the BBC. Unfortunately, this is twice completely false, as I demonstrated in an article last month after the organisation publicly attacked me for querying the data, repeating it in the process. False firstly, because the organisation had quoted completely the wrong data column from their own database, and secondly because the whole database is self-evidently rubbish, see below. As I wrote then, a prime example of the ICT mantra Garbage in, garbage out.  

    I have now been informed by CF’s Chairman, Nuala Burgess, that CF is not prepared to discuss the matter further, the bogus claims remain on their website and that of the BBC and so this must cast doubt on any other claims made by CF on data they have harvested to forward their aims.

    Written on Thursday, 06 August 2020 15:25 4 comments Read more...
  • The Kent Test 2020: Throwing down the gauntlet

    I had an extended interview on Radio Kent last week about the unfairness created towards ‘children of ordinary families’ in the Kent Test for this extraordinary year. At the conclusion, Julia George who was interviewing asked me to ‘throw down the gauntlet’ with KCC over my deep concerns, repeated several times over recent months. I did this by simply challenging the Council to respond to the recently published Government Guidance to Admission Authorities, Kent County Council being one of the largest in the country. KCC’s response to the BBC over the challenge wrongly dismisses the guidance because it ‘will cover individual schools and consortia which test far fewer children’. More importantly, it completely ignores the main part of the guidance and my concern, which focused on the unfairness created for lower-income families in Kent, as explained below.

    At about the same time, Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education at KCC replied to a letter from Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, which echoed my concerns. This response covers somewhat different territory, but again completely ignores any strategy for promoting fairness for disadvantaged families as laid down by the government advice. Moreover, he dismissed my idea for creating flexibility in these increasingly uncertain times and of supporting ordinary families, or any alternative, having set up a false description of it to dismantle!

    Written on Wednesday, 05 August 2020 10:35 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • The Struggling Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Appoints its Fourth Leader in Seven Years.

    Oasis Academy Trust is trying once again to reverse the inexorable decline in the fortunes of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIOS) by bringing in a new Executive Principal over the head of Tina Lee, the current Principal.

    Oasis Sheppey

    Ian Simpson, currently Principal of Oasis Academy Lister Park in Bradford, makes the eighth leader since the school became an academy in 2009. Most of his predecessors have been moved on after failing to turn the school round. Both of the previous two post holders were appointed from within the school only after the Trust failed to attract anyone from outside, despite extensive advertising. Both have been a disappointment. It is not clear if the role of Executive Head is permanent or just a short term firefighting job.

    All this is taking place in the context of a forecast crisis in the provision of non-selective places in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, which will come to a head in 2021, if it has not already arrived. 

    Written on Friday, 31 July 2020 06:45 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Government 'Expectation' on Managing Selection Test Arrangements in Kent and Medway

    Hot on the heels of Kent County Council's confirmed arrangements for the Kent Test, as reported in my previous article, the government has now released its formal advice on assessment processes for selective school admissions. This is quoted extensively below in blue and italics. It greatly expands the frameworks set out by KCC and Medway Councils, urging admission authorities to look closely at minimising disadvantage for protected groups, socially and economically disadvantaged children and children who are unable to attend the test centre, as I had hoped KCC itself would. The current KCC proposal heavily discriminates against lower-income families who can't afford private education or extensive private tutoring.  It remains my conviction that, if KCC were to adopt a model such as the one I have proposed before, it would go a considerable way towards meeting the requirement to minimise this acknowledged disadvantage in the current circumstances which has not yet been addressed. However, there is still the flexibility to do so. Medway Council has a more structured procedure for assessing children, but no apparent will to change it as this document advises, so I have little hope that greater fairness will emerge there.  

    Several pieces of government advice, considered further below, relate to the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers which is likely to be magnified by their absence from school during the coronavirus outbreak’. In particular, ‘we therefore strongly advise that tests for grammar and partially selective schools are moved back into late October or to November if local admission co-ordination processes allow’. Along with the other recommendations below which now need addressing, this is considerably more radical than the KCC and Medway decisions which place the revised test dates in the first half of October and offer no further mitigation of disadvantage. 

    The immense logistical problems faced by KCC and, to a lesser extent by Medway Council, in providing facilities to test some 5,000 out of county candidates are also explored further below.

    Written on Saturday, 25 July 2020 11:59 3 comments Read more...
  • Education, Health and Care Plans in Kent

    Update: You will find an article exploring the government's announcement of 35 new Free Specia Schools to be set up here

    Further Update: KCC and government have announced the opening of a new secondary special school on the Isle of Sheppey for September 2022. 

    This article looks back at provision for children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for the year 2018-19 across Kent, success rates for those appealing against decisions, along with other related matters. The data shows a sharp rise of 80% in EHCPs awarded in under three years, with a corresponding increase in budget putting enormous pressure on KCC education finances.

    The data below shows that for nearly half of families requesting a statutory assessment of SEN this is not followed through for some reason, often lack of support from the school which may be for good reason. However, for most who get that far, the overwhelming majority were awarded an EHCP, so it is worthwhile persevering. I imagine that the difficulties of securing an EHCP over the past six months have been immense.  Those unsuccessful in securing an EHCP or one that is adequate for the purpose have the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, although large numbers starting down this route did not follow through, often where KCC decided their cases were not worth defending and concede the EHCP, as suggested by the data.

    The article also looks at placements of children with EHCPs, with 40% of primary and 30% of secondary pupils remaining in mainstream schools, along with the number of children being with EHCPs being de-registered from school for Elective Home Education, together with a brief look at the powerful performance of Medway Special SchoolsI also look back at a damning Inspection of Kent’s ineffectiveness in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 which took place in the middle of this period; consider the current situation and the financial pressures imposed by the increase in EHCPs; and the number of families taking up places in private schools, funded by KCC often after Tribunal. These include one which charges more than twice as much as Eton College. 

    Written on Friday, 24 July 2020 15:54 1 comment Read more...