Supporting Families
  • banner2
  • banner6
  • banner12
  • banner7
  • banner11
  • banner8
  • banner9
  • banner10
  • banner3
  • banner4

Displaying items by tag: kent grammar schools

Kent County Council has now released further details to primary schools about the Kent Test taken in local schools on Thursday 15th October. As I feared and explained in a previous article, there are no contingency plans set out in case the pandemic increases in severity over the next three weeks before the test, and the Cabinet Member’s Report to the KCC Children’s Young People and Education Committee on 22nd September completely evaded related issues apart from pinning their hopes on the Test delay. In the Minutes of the previous July meeting he had reassured Committee Members that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage’.  However, in the same meeting, he referred to the delayed Kent Test assessment until 15th October (and) considered (this) to be the most effective change which could be made’, which was certainly not the case and not even sufficient to meet government advice, as I have discussed previously. There is a vague reference to the Headteacher Assessment process in this context, but this would need a total redefinition of the process to have any effect, as I have previously suggested and appears not to be under consideration by KCC. 

Instructions to schools issued this week include what to do if children fall ill during the Test, how to tackle self-isolation including the possibility of testing over half-term and issues relating the scrapping of external monitoring of test procedures in schools as explained below, along with other relevant issues

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 05 August 2020 10:35

The Kent Test 2020: Throwing down the gauntlet

Update: 26th September: To no one's surprise, KCC completely ignored the challenge. In July,  the Cabinet Member for Education reassured Committee Members that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage’, but at the same time, 'hreferred to the delayed Kent Test assessment until 15th October (and) considered (this) to be the most effective change which could be made’. See September article here

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!

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 23 July 2020 06:23

Kent Test Arrangements Confirmed for October

Richard Long, KCC Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, has now decided on the timing and arrangements for the Kent Test this year. A letter to schools sets out as expected that the Kent Test will be delayed by around one month as a result of the impact of Covid-19 on schools and pupils. The test will now take place on 15 October for pupils who attend a Kent school and 17 October for all other students. Kent parents will also be offered two additional preferences on their child’s Secondary school application this year, an increase from four to six, to account for the later release of Kent Test results.

The most interesting part of his letter reads: ‘while the delay in testing will provide an opportunity for children to settle back into a more normal school environment, we appreciate that children will have missed around four months of schooling. Fortunately, the Kent Test process is already designed to ensure that a child’s wider circumstances can be considered before their assessment is finalised.  We will be providing guidance for schools in light of the differing educational opportunities that children will have received over the last few months, and more generally on implementing the approved plans’. This flexibility leaves open alternative approaches to minimising the gross unfairness I have written about previously, which would discriminate against ‘ordinary’ families and those attracting Pupil Premium who have none of the advantages of children attending private schools or whose parents have arranged extensive private tuition for the six months leading up to the Test.

The question remains as to whether Kent County Council has the desire and the commitment to be as fair as possible to all Kent children looking to a grammar school place.

Published in News and Comments
Registration for the Kent Test in October closed on 1st July. Sadly, I have already been contacted by a number of families who omitted to complete the procedure, confused or overwhelmed by Coronavirus. Unfortunately, unless KCC chooses to make an exception in this unique year, you cannot be considered for late Registration and will need to proceed as explained hereI am so sorry.   
 
Kent primary school headteachers are now being consulted by KCC on the nature of assessment for grammar school selection this year. Whilst there are various options, the key element of the consultation is whether to delay the Kent Test until mid-October, with consequent changes to the admission process as outlined in a previous article
 
Medway Council has also announced its decision to delay the Medway Test until October 13th and 14th. See below.  
 
Sadly there is no consideration or mention of the position of disadvantaged and Pupil Premium children, who currently make up 10% of the Kent Year Seven grammar school cohort, and 11% in Medway. It is clear that the nature of any decisions in line with this consultation and the Medway decision to delay will not only strongly disadvantage the chances of these disadvantaged children in the selection process, at the expense of those who have been intensively coached or from private schools. In a previous article I wrote:
There is, therefore, a huge responsibility on Local Authorities, whatever selection method is finally agreed on, to ensure that these percentages are at least maintained.
Under the Kent proposal and Medway decision, the reverse would be true. Grammar schools would inevitably see a considerable increase in numbers of children from private schools and those heavily tutored, at the expense of those who have suffered from a limited education since March 23rd through no fault of their own. In Medway, this will certainly be the case. 

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education has said:  "We’re going to be looking at working with local authorities who have grammar school systems in their area as to how best we can ensure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not disadvantaged as they look at taking the 11-plus in the future.” There is no sign whatever of any intervention or even awareness of this pledge in the Kent consultation or Medway decision. This is an abject failure by both Authorities to honour this pledge. 

Published in News and Comments
Monday, 15 June 2020 11:12

Proposal for the Kent Test 2020 (Personal)

Registration for the Kent Test in October closed on 1st July. Sadly, I have already been contacted by a number of families who omitted to complete the procedure, confused or overwhelmed by Coronavirus. Unfortunately, unless KCC chooses to make an exception in this unique year, you cannot be considered for late registration and will need to proceed as explained hereI am so sorry.   

Kent County Education Officers have still not yet released details of the Kent Test arrangements for 2020, but I have a proposal that appears to cover the key issues. Quite simply:

1) The Kent Test goes ahead as normal on September 10th for Kent Primary School Pupils and September 12th for those attending Out of County schools, or alternatively delayed. I am confident that even if there is a second wave of Coronavirus, a high proportion of those registered for the Kent Test will wish and be able to take part under the prevailing safety regulations with schools making every effort to facilitate this. However, instead of the pass scores set to select the normal 20% of pupils in the cohort, my proposal is to reduce this, possibly to as low as 12.5%.  

2) Expand the procedure for Headteacher Assessment to identify a further 12.5% of the cohort, who registered for the test, whether or not they took it, bringing the selective pass rate back to its normal 25%. Place greater responsibility on primary school headteachers. For example, as I have suggested previously, give them an indicative figure for their school, based on the average number of pupils found selective by both routes over the previous three years. The HTA Panel should then rely strongly on these recommendations in the light of the limited evidence that will be available in most cases to support a case. It is possible that they could simply be contained in a ranking order.

This procedure has the strong advantage that it broadly follows the current regulations and so could be introduced without too much difficulty. It also caters for the up to 5,000 out of county children who usually take the Kent Test. They can qualify via the direct route, or else, and less likely, also use the HTA procedure with the support of their headteachers.

Published in Peter's Blog
Tuesday, 19 May 2020 18:55

The Kent 11 Plus and Coronavirus: Part Two

Aspects of the current situation with regard to the Kent Test are that:
  • The date for the Kent Test is still currently set for September. To change it would require government approval. KCC is in discussion with government about an aspect of the Kent Test, presumably about a possible postponement.
  • There is no guarantee that any change of date would see the county free of Coronavirus, or schools operating normally.
  • There are no arrangements in place for children who are: unable to take the Kent Test because their schools are not open, or cannot provide facilities; or whose parents or schools judge it is unsafe to participate; or who are ill in large numbers. 
  • The School Admissions Code of Practice requires Admission Authorities to ‘take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications on 2nd November so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school’.
  • The five thousand out of county children who normally take the Kent Test each year still need somewhere to sit it where it can be independently invigilated. In the past this has taken place in obliging Kent schools.   
As of today (19th May), Kent County County Council has provided no further information about the date of Testing. This is not a criticism as I don't see how they can with the current uncertainties. Registration for the Kent Test remains for a month from 1st June.
Published in News and Comments

This article looks at three communications from Kent County Council to headteachers, addressing issues about  grammar school admissions and appeals at this time of Coronavirus.

The first is a letter sent to schools regarding the timing of the 2020 Kent Test for grammar school suitability in 2021, currently planned for September. 

I also look at two separate items relating to grammar school places for this September for some children. The first of these is about problems at appeal regarding unsuccessful Headteacher Assessments caused through the crisis; the second looks at late applications and testing.

Published in News and Comments

Note on Coronavirus: There are various references to school admission appeals in this article, based on normal expectations . At the time of writing there is no information about  the procedure to be adopted this year, except that it has to be very different from normal, as explained here

The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year Seven pupils has risen by 70 places overall since last year, to 5,540, with a total increase of 610 over the past five years.  The main changes are 30 additional places at each of three North West Kent grammars, Gravesend and Wilmington Boys & Girls grammars, together with a reduction of 30 places at Tunbridge Wells Boys (but may well be reversed at appeal time). The number of places offered before appeals is 5,417, up by 195 from 5,212 in 2019. A major cause for this is an increase in the total pass rate for grammar selection from 25.7% in 2019 to 26.6% for 2020 entry. 

Around 400 of the Kent grammar school places offered, or 7% (down from 8% in 2019) of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with 154 Kent pupils (down from 223) going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 150 ooc pupils coming in were offered places at the two Dartford Grammar schools with the pressure on places at these two schools continuing to rise inexorably.  Dartford Grammar School had an astonishing 409 grammar qualified first choices turned down for its 180 places, up from 336 in 2019.  The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar, and Wilmington Boys, in the same order as 2019. The number of vacancies has fallen sharply from 217 in 2019 to 123 this year across six schools.     

Chatham House 2   Dane Court 

Thanet is a surprising black spot for grammar school applications, with Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon turning down 79 grammar qualified first choices between them. At least 47 of these had no alternative local grammar school to meet their needs. This follows a sharp raise in the proportion of Thanet children being assessed selective from 19% in 2018, to 23% this year. 

I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. you will find full details of the 2019 Kent selection process here

Published in News and Comments

You will find the parallel Medway Test article here

This article follows on from my previous: Kent Test 2019; Initial Results and Comment, published in October. The main change since last year is that that the marks required for a pass in the Test have been raised, requiring candidates to score 110 marks on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of at least 330 . Please note that the change remains as always to simply aim for 21% of the age cohort in Kent schools to be successful. In no way does it suggest the Test was more difficult so any attempt to argue this at an appeal for a grammar school place will be unsuccessful. 

Headlines are:
  • The proportion of passes for Kent school children has risen from 25.7% to 26.6%, made up of 20.1% automatic passes with a further 6.5% Head Teacher Assessment (almost a quarter of the total).
  • Boys are well ahead on automatic test passes for the first time since the Test was changed in 2014, at 21.3% passes for boys to 18.9% for girls, and also in total.
  • Girls are well ahead in Head Teacher Assessments, (HTA)s, with 7.3% of all girls being found selective by this route, as against 5.8% of boys.
  • Unsurprisingly, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks have the highest proportion of passes, followed this year by Dartford and then Canterbury.   
  • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in Canterbury, with 10% of the cohort for both boys and girls bring found selective, along with girls in Swale.  but going  on last year’s pattern, only around 15% of whom will apply and be offered places in Kent grammars.
  • For the first time in many years there is a fall in the number of out of county Children taking the Kent Test, and a parallel fall of 8.5% in the number being found selective, to 2,768.:

 For more detail on each of these items, see below. 

Published in News and Comments
Thursday, 17 October 2019 06:00

Kent Test 2019; Initial Results and Comment

You will find a more detailed analysis of the Kent Test for entry in 2020, here

Kent Test results have been published with the pass mark somewhat higher than last year. This is no reflection on the difficulty of the Test as the pass marks will have been set as always to identify 21% of Kent children to be automatically selected. This year an automatic pass has been awarded to candidates scoring 110 on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of at least 330. Further details will follow as I receive them, but you will find for reference a full analysis of the 2018 Kent Test here. An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, targeted to be 5% of the total cohort. You will find full details of the whole Kent Selection process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 25.2% of Kent children in the age cohort.

Although there is an overall fall in then number of children taking the Kent Test, this will certainly be down to a sharp fall in Out of County (OOC) candidates. For, whilst there is a rise of exactly 300 in the number of Kent children being assessed as suitable for grammar school for 2020 over last year, there has been a fall in the number of  OOC children passing for the first time in many years . I explore this further below, along with sections on Sources of Information and Advice on admissions and appeals, Out of County Children, and Pressure PointsIn a second article below, I look at implications of the change of pass mark, especially any impact on super selective schools.  

Published in News and Comments
Page 1 of 5

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.

  • Kent and Medway Councils and Free School Meals

    KCC has just released the excellent news that the families of all Kent children on Free School Meals will receive £15 of vouchers per child during school holidays. You will find a copy of the Media Release below.

    Thanks to an initiative by Medway Council and Citizens Advice Medway,  free school meal children will be supplied with meals over the half-term holidays

    KCC has 65 Conservative Councillors out of a total of 81, so one might expect it to follow government policy which appears to be to resist pressure to follow the Marcus Rashford route.  However, the announcement comes after KCC Leader Roger Gough pledged that 'no child should ever go hungry during school holidays, or at any time'. Regular browsers of this site will know that I have been highly critical of KCC recently over policy aspects in the coronavirus pandemic, but I am delighted to welcome this decision for the sake of our disadvantaged children. The Conservative majority in the House of Commons voted against extending free school meals for pupils over the school holidays, up to Easter 2021. This included 14 Kent Conservative MPs, apart from Sir Roger Gale, who have a different view to KCC. The only Kent MP who voted in favour was Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield (Lab). 

    Medway Council has 32 Conservative Councillors out of 55, so again could have been tempted by government policy. Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: 'We are committed to supporting Medway’s most vulnerable children, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has caused further financial pressures for some families. We are therefore pleased to be working with Citizens Advice Medway to ensure no child goes hungry this half-term'.  Two of the three Medway Conservative MPs voted against the proposal, including Kelly Tolhurst who was previously an Education Cabinet Member for Medway Council. 

    There are certainly arguments for and against the policy, but the government decision not to support it is clearly against the popular and growing mood, with an increasing number of Local Authorities adding to the pressure. 

    This must be the most impressive goal scored by an England footballer ever, and an example to others.

    Written on Monday, 26 October 2020 16:42 1 comment Read more...
  • Changes in the Secondary Admission Application Procedures: Kent and Medway

    The Kent Test was delayed for a month this year because of the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, as explained here. Along with this change, Kent County Council increased the number of choices on the secondary school application form from four to six, to cater for families not knowing the test result before the closing date. KCC has also made another unpublicised change to its secondary school admission rules for September 2021. The new arrangement is as follows.

    The closing date for applications is Monday 2nd November. This is a deadline that is set in legislation, however KCC allows parents to make changes to their application up until Friday 11th December. That means even with Kent Test results being available later this year parents still have the opportunity to change their preferences. 

    In previous years, this option was only allowable in exceptional circumstances such as house moves. KCC has now removed these conditions and made it a positive opportunity for all, so there appears no restriction on parents making any late change for 2021 entry. However, I can’t at present envisage situations where any sensible ordering of the six choices of school available in this very different year would need to be revised after the results of the Kent Test, due out on 26th November, are known. Decisions to make changes to the preference scheme should not be taken lightly as removing a school from your list also removes the right to appeal later for a place at that school. 

    Meanwhile, in Medway where the Test and Review outcomes will also be known by 26th November, the Council has simply put back the closing date for submitting all applications to 1st December. This gives relevant Medway residents a clear advantage as they will know the results of both Medway and Kent Tests before needing to submit their applications.  

    Written on Friday, 23 October 2020 08:25 2 comments Read more...
  • Exclusions in Kent Schools, 2019-20: Astonishment and Predictability.
    The astonishment features two Kent secondary schools, Hartsdown and Folkestone Academies, who have been at the top of the fixed term exclusion lists over the previous four years. Hartsdown has seen its number of exclusions fall from last year’s 459 and second-highest proportion in the county to just ONE, whilst Folkestone Academy fell from 538 to 128. Meanwhile, Astor College, John Wallis Academy,  Oasis Academy, and High Weald Academy, four of the top five excluding schools last year, yet again head the table, along with Charles Dickens School. These five schools are all well ahead of all other Kent schools in excluding, and each regularly features in this table, suggesting they have particular issues with discipline. Three primary schools had more exclusions than 10% of their roll. I look at each of these eight schools individually, below.

    Unsurprisingly, the total number of secondary school fixed-term exclusions for 2019-20 has fallen from the previous year’s record 8816, partly because they have only been open for around two-thirds of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, this year's total of 4778 is much lower proportionally, so this is a genuine fall with Folkestone and Hartsdown accounting for nearly a quarter of the difference between them.

    Permanent exclusions continue at a very low level compared with national data, there being 12 from primary schools, 11 from secondary schools and one from a Special School in the same period of 2019-20.

    Written on Thursday, 15 October 2020 10:43 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Ofsted Inspections Taking Place in Kent Primary Schools on Kent Test Day today.

    Back in the summer Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, informed schools that Ofsted would carry out visits through the Autumn Term ‘to get some insight on how schools and other providers are bringing children back into formal education after such a long time away’.  She made clear explicitly that these visits were not inspections. Subsequently, following a challenge from the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) on the threat of legal action, NAHT reported that “While Ofsted has sought to play down the nature of these visits publicly, this statement makes it clear that they are indeed a form of inspection and should therefore be approached as such.”  

    Such dishonesty is hardly likely to build any form of trust regarding these inspections, and reports back clearly identify that some are indeed conducted as such, not simply visits. It is reliably reported that at least 20 such inspections of Kent schools have taken place this term.

    However, astonishingly any insensitivity over the dishonesty has not stopped there. Today, Thursday 15th October is the day of the Kent Test when primary school leaders up and down the county are fully focused on ensuring their pupils will be able to take the test under the best possible conditions, especially given the additional pressures brought about by Coronavirus. Several Kent primary headteachers will, however, have their minds elsewhere as Ofsted has chosen to carry out inspections in their schools this day!

    Written on Thursday, 15 October 2020 00:09 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Sir Paul Carter, CBE, was appointed Knight Bachelor in Birthday Honours List

    Sir Paul Carter’s well-deserved honour is mainly in appreciation of his 14 years as Leader of Kent County Council for services to Local Government,  but I have known him for over 20 years in the field of education, where his passion, strong beliefs and understanding of what needs to be done to deliver the best for all the children of Kent has made a powerful impact on shaping the service. He and I first met when Paul was KCC Cabinet Member for Education before he became Leader, during which role he exhibited the same qualities. Although interested in all aspects of schooling, Paul’s main interests were in vocational and special education in both of which he has made a very strong mark.

    Sir Paul Carter

    Paul was often controversial, never afraid to pick up an issue, a true leader taking others with him, and a successful businessman in his own right. This appreciation will itself be controversial, for he has certainly made enemies in his determination to battle for the benefit of the people of Kent, and it could be argued that this award is long overdue, perhaps because he often took the fight for the people of Kent to government. You will find the KCC tribute to Sir Paul here, describing many of his other achievements.

    Written on Monday, 12 October 2020 23:46 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Elective Home Education & Children Missing from Education in Kent 2019-20

    In the first three weeks of September this year, 502 Kent families withdrew their children from school to Home Educate, compared to just 201 in the whole of September last year. This is wholly unsurprising as it follows the unique school year of 2018-19 when the large majority of children did not attend school for four whole months from the end of March. As a result, many families who might have been tempted to withdraw their children during that period will not have done so, but let the situation roll on to this term.

    Overall, 749 Kent children left school to take up what is known as Elective Home Education (EHE) in the whole of 2019-20, well down from the record 1310 children the previous year and bringing to a halt the sharp annual rise which saw the total increase by 70% over the previous four years. Another 544 children simply went missing from Kent schools, compared with 830 in 2017-18.

    The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, ascribed some of this term’s increase to ‘Anxious parents taking their children out of school to home-educate them, as widespread misinformation on social media fuels fears over the risks of Covid’. This was determined from a pilot study of 130 schools earlier this term. I suspect a greater factor is that families who made that decision from March onwards had no need to follow it through until September. 

    Written on Wednesday, 07 October 2020 17:53 1 comment Read more...