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Displaying items by tag: Tunbridge Wells

I posed the following education question on Radio Kent this morning to the five Tunbridge Wells candidates in the General Election:

Plans for a new six form entry non-selective school in TW have collapsed as no sponsor came forward to run it as a Free School. The three TW schools have each expanded by 60 pupils since the admission number set in 2018. In spite of this, girls from TW were allocated to High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and boys to Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge this year. For 2021-22 entry the latest KCC commissioning plan shows a shortfall of 6 forms of entry in TW. The land earmarked for the new school has been lost under government rules that state such land cannot be kept indefinitely. Suggestions?

Shockingly, not one of the candidates knew there was a problem, let alone the crisis that is currently upon local families looking for non-selective schools in TW. Several could only respond about the shortage of grammar school places, which is completely irrelevant to this crisis, or the abolition of selection at 11, with grammar schools not mentioned in any party manifesto. Conservative candidate, Greg Clarke, the previous Member who was also Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, had never heard of the issue or the collapse of the land deal, although it is explicitly described in the KCC Schools Commissioning Plan for 2018-22 (below).  He suggested I must be mistaken! Several candidates talked of long term plans for expanding school places in general without reference to Tunbridge Wells, presumably from the magic money tree on offer from all sides. In no way does this solve the local problem of short and long term need described by KCC whose solution is: ‘the strategic response to this demand is a proposed 6FE expansion of an existing school or a new school from 2021-22’. This after each of the three local non-selective schools has increased their intakes for 2019 entry by 60 places since the Planned figure for 2018, with no sign of where the additional capacity is coming from.

In other words, don’t expect any help from whoever wins tomorrow!

Published in Peter's Blog
Tagged under

Update: An article written in March, entitled 'Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Non-Selective Schools on Allocation for 2018' takes a closer look at the issues in Thanet and Tunbridge Wells, the latter being especially alarming.

Update 7 November
This article triggered a wider and more general look at pressures on school places across Kent and Medway on BBC SE this evening 

The problems in both areas have been caused by the failure of appropriate sponsors to come forward to adopt planned new schools. This is happening because of the seriously flawed government Free Schools process, which is now required to deliver all new schools.

Large temporary or permanent expansions of other local schools in these two Districts are now necessary to meet the shortfalls, which will inevitably cause a change of character in them, if indeed they give approval. The independence of academies means that KCC has no power to force them to take additional children, although it is legally responsible for the provision of sufficient places!  

Neither District had a single vacancy on allocation of places last March, in spite of Thanet schools managing to creating an additional 71 places to meet requirements, with a further estimated 183 places needed for 2018. New plans for a proposed Free School include a possible temporary base in Deal, 16 miles along the coast from 2019, if other places cannot be found locally for that year.  

In Tunbridge Wells, 190 temporary places have been proposed for 2018 if agreed by the schools concerned, with ongoing discussions for subsequent years. Unfortunately, the site for a proposed new Free School in TW has now been lost, and a replacement cannot be delivered until at least 2021, so the future looks very unclear.  

I expand on the proposals for the two Districts below….

Published in News and Comments

bishops down

The long drawn out saga of Bishops Down Primary School in Tunbridge Wells continues and appears to be inching towards a permanent solution after KCC tried to force a reduction in its intake numbers until a parent took them to the Schools Adjudicator in 2012, who in August ruled KCC was in the wrong. The Adjudicator further criticised KCC heavily for: failing to provide reliable information on admissions arrangements at schools in Tunbridge Wells from year to year; failing to consult parents on changes; and for using practices and criteria to decide Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) that were not clear, consistent or objective. KCC tried to wriggle out of the instruction to expand permanently over the next year, but during the course of 2013 has now come to the conclusion that the expansion is the right way to go......

Published in Peter's Blog
Thursday, 08 November 2012 22:58

What a media day

Every now and then I have a media storm, but never one like the last two days (a little licence in the title). It began on Wednesday morning when I was invited to comment on Radio Kent about claims by the headteacher of Bromstone Primary School in Thanet that some headteachers were going out of their way to discourage children with a poor reputation and some with Special Education Needs  from applying to their schools. Although I often disagree with him, he is absolutely right in this case. I have talked with parents of children with SEN who have visited schools and been told they can't cope and to go the school up the road "which is good for such children".  A good way of keeping the SEN budget down! At primary level the HT talked of primary schools that identified difficult children through the nursery and set out to put them off. Again, I have come across parents reporting such experiences. Unprofessional schools, but looking out for one's league table  and OFSTED performance, together with a more easily earned reputation for good discipline . Next, ...

Published in Peter's Blog
Saturday, 13 October 2012 13:50

Bishops Down Primary - the story continues

I have previously covered the developing story of Bishops Down Primary below.  That episode concluded with  a Determination from the Schools Adjudicator ruling that KCC needed to hold the Planned Admission Number (PAN) at 60, although KCC was trying to reduce it to 30 on the grounds that, in spite of an earlier survey identifying that the school was able to admit 60 children every year, a fresh report had concluded this was impossible. To continue:........

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

To be updated. My previous article gives general figures on primary school admissions. 

Thurnham_2

I am fielding many enquiries about infant class appeals and, sadly, having to explain that because of Infant Class Legislation, there is little or no prospect  of success for  most appeals, apart from the following five reasons:.......

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 29 March 2012 09:10

Skinners Kent Academy Success from OFSTED

In complete contrast to the failing Marlowe Academy, see below, Skinners Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells has just been given a 'good' OFSTED Report. The school has suffered a poor reputation in the town for at least 20 years in its previous incarnations as Sandown Court School and Tunbridge Wells High School (in those days it was hoped a change of name was sufficient to throw off a poor reputation). The Report says: "Most students join the academy with very low attainment. They make consistently good progress and many make outstanding progress so that attainment is rising strongly. Parents, carers, and all students, recognise this”.  The OFSTED took place whilst the school was a building site, as the new buildings rise around it. 

Skinners_Kent

The Report records that 'The number of students known to be eligible for free school meals is above average. The proportion of disabled pupils and those with special educational needs is also above average', so clearly not the typical Tunbridge Wells. It goes on: This is a good school that is improving rapidly. Aspects of its work are outstanding. Governors and leaders are highly ambitious for the success of every student. They have instilled high expectations and a ‘no excuses’ approach to school improvement....

Published in News Archive
I prepared an article this week for Kent on Sunday, reporting on pressure points in secondary school admissions, mainly in grammar schools in West Kent. The substance of this is contained in the items below on this page.
Published in News Archive

 

Parents of Kent children, applying for secondary schools, learned their allocated schools last week. Overall figures were very similar to last year, although the number of children given none of their choices rose from 413 to 443. As usual, West Kent is the main problem area (not to overlook other hot-spots), although the difficulties are clearly more pronounced this year, especially amongst children qualified for grammar schools. All three of the ‘super-selectives’ - Judd School, Skinners School and Tonbridge Grammar School -  saw their base-line Kent Test score for entry rise, Judd requiring a record marks aggregate of 418 points (maximum possible 420), and even then some with this score did not gain admission. There are three main reasons for the increase:  the intensive coaching culture in West Kent (especially from the private schools chasing grammar school places) is seeing more children in West Kent passing and also gaining  high scores; more children from outside Kent crossing the boundary this year, although we don’t yet know the schools they went to; and the economic climate seeing a fall in admissions to several private schools, putting more pressure on grammar schools. Girls appear to have lost out in the south, including Pembury and Langton Green, whilst many boys around north Sevenoaks and Riverhead have not been offered any grammar school place.  Some have been allocated to the Knole Academy in Sevenoaks, which has opened an additional class planning to make it a grammar school stream. Many villages to the north through to Dartford are affected, Dartford Grammar School only offering local places to boys living in the town itself, most of the remainder taken up by boys from SE London right through to Lewisham (the train journey is easy) who achieve highest scores, the cut off again reaching a record, of 414 points.  Meanwhile Dartford Girls and Gravesend Boys were not able to take all qualified children in their hinterlands. As the Kent 11+ selects just 25% of the children from across selective parts of Kent, the increase in the West is balanced by fewer successes in the East, leaving several grammar schools there with vacancies.

I believe these trends are making the concept of a common test with common pass mark impossible to maintain, especially as grammar schools have new freedoms to choose their own admission rules, some setting higher pass marks than the standard, hastening the breakup of the system.  KCC is now looking at alternatives that address some of the issues above, but anything new will have to be by consensus as the Authority now has no power to impose solutions. My fear is that individual schools will be tempted to set their own entrance tests, leading to the dreadful outcome we see around the M25, as parents drive their children to different grammar school tests every Saturday through September and October. Slightly more sensible solutions may include a common test with differing pass marks for each school, or perhaps an additional paper of a more difficult standard to discriminate between the ablest children.

Another possibility is the proposal for a disused school site in Sevenoaks to be adapted as an annexe to two current grammar schools (one boys and one girls), although legal problems surrounding this are complex. There is also a competing proposal for a church free school on the site whose formal proposal has been submitted to government, and would attract considerable government funding.

Meanwhile, the time bomb of rising pupil numbers, especially in Tunbridge Wells, is spreading through the primary schools, creating intense pressure on local schools – and secondary schools within a few years.

Sadly, government policy has meant there is now no planning authority to resolve these issues and we are destined to see more such problems in the future as the cracks widen. 

Published in Newspaper Articles
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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...