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Peter's Blog

You will find the main news and comment articles on the front page of the website here. This page contains secondary or local news items and thoughts.

Update: Ms Porter's case has been heard by the National College and she has been prohibited from teaching indefinitely. For full details, see my later article here

Jane Porter, ex Executive Headteacher of Whitehill Primary School in Gravesham, is facing a Teacher Misconduct hearing in front of the National College for Teaching and Leadership beginning on Monday for two weeks. The NCTL can recommend to the Secretary of State for Education sanctions up to and including prohibition from teaching indefinitely.

Other cases being heard over the same fortnight are for some of the teachers and headteachers involved in the 'Trojan Horse' scandal in Birmingham....

Last modified on Thursday, 09 February 2017 10:20
Thursday, 08 December 2016 00:06

An interesting Media Week

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Although I have been on holiday in France for the past ten days, I have still been involved in two important stories featured in the media this week, with headlines:   

Can grammar schools really sprinkle fairy dust on struggling secondaries? 

The Guardian: Monday 5th December


'Apocalyptic' School Future

Front Page - Kent on Sunday: Sunday 4th December

 The links below the headlines will take you to articles about the effectiveness of grammar schools sponsoring secondary schools through Multi-Academy Trusts; and the financial crisis threatening the future of too many of our schools over the next few years. The further details below include another developing media story about St John's Catholic Comprehensive School, Gravesend...........

Last modified on Friday, 09 December 2016 00:01

The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), which sponsors Holcombe Grammar School (previously Chatham Grammar School for Boys) is again consulting on making the school co-educational from September 2018.

To my great astonishment, and I am sure of many others, this proposal is taking place less than six months after the Department for Education turned down the previous highly controversial application for the school to become co-educational. It is perplexing to say the least, why this proposal is being wheeled out again so soon after the previous rejection as, on the surface, nothing has changed.

You will find the Letter informing Parents here, much thinner than the previous version, as it clearly struggles to find a rationale for the peculiarly and obliquely phrased proposal that:

There is a change of gender composition and consequential changes to admission arrangements from September 2018.

(Translation – the school wants to change from being just for boys to become co-educational for September 2018 admission)  


Last modified on Wednesday, 21 December 2016 00:16
Tuesday, 18 October 2016 20:41

Radio Kent's Big Grammar School Debate

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The Big Grammar School Debate organised by the BBC took place last night at St Stephen’s Junior School. I was invited and described somewhat to my surprise as ‘our Educational Expert and Official Adviser’ (unpaid!).  There is currently a video of the whole debate here (when I played it through there were unfortunately several periods when sound was lost). An excellent Panel with diverse views led the discussion comprising: Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council; Vince Maple, Labour Leader on Medway Council; Alison Colwell, Principal of Ebbsfleet Academy; Jim Skinner, leader of the Grammar Schools Association; Jo Bartley, founder of Kent Education Network and parent of school aged children; and Peter Hitchens, the wild card, from Mail on Sunday. The debate was chaired by Julia George form Radio Kent. 

The audience also included a number of invited representatives from education and business organisations who formed part of the 80 strong audience, but what follows below is very much my personal take and comment on the evening's discussion, which included strong audience participation, especially from the Hackney contingent.  

The discussion was very wide ranging and, apart from one contributor, was conducted with courtesy and respect for listening to speakers with different views.

Last modified on Thursday, 03 November 2016 07:35
Sunday, 09 October 2016 20:06

Kent Education Network and 11+ Truth

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The owner of the Kent Education Network (KEN) website has recently provided sites for two other small campaigns against academic selection at Local Equal Excellent (LEE) for residents of Buckinghamshire  and 11+ Truth, which involves KEN, LEE, Transform Reading and Kendrick, andExcellent Education for Everyone  from Maidenhead”, both registered in September. The last named apparently represents campaign groups as:  “A joint effort by groups in selective areas around the UK”, although I am not sure that four meets the description of 'many', and looking at their output it is clear there is a long way to go.

The focus in 11+ Truth on its trashing of Kent schooling is appalling, with many false allegations, wrong data and misleading conclusions as illustrated below. 

Parts of this article have been rewritten as a result of comments by the three organisations, which have enabled me to focus on the more important features. Whilst I have cut out some other valid illustrations of my theme, this is because of their limited relevance to Kent. 

Below I look at some of the false claims on 11+ Truth, and a closer look at the Kent Education Network and its claims...

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 July 2020 20:09

Following my previous article on ‘How School Bosses Spent your Millions’ which referred to one Kent Junior School headteacher who ‘earned’ over £100,000 a year, I have been asked a number of times if he is alone.

The answer both astonished and reassured me. I have looked at academy accounts for 2014-15 filed at Companies House, for as many Academies as are accessible. For some Multi-Academy Trusts, with large numbers of primary academies under their wing, it proves impossible to separate them out, but it is clear that there are few high payers in these. The large majority of primary academy headteachers appear to have an annual salary of under £60,000.

Meopham Academy


However, three of these headteachers were paid over £100,000 in that year, none for obvious reasons, as explained below. Another six received over £80,000. I also look at the more general picture below.

Last modified on Thursday, 18 March 2021 10:56
Tuesday, 20 September 2016 07:06

Diversity in Kent Schools

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In its Green Paper entitled 'Schools that Work for Everyone', Government appears to be arguing that diversity in school provision is in itself a good thing. I have never seen any evidence anywhere to support this proposal, for unsurprisingly it is a nonsense, reflecting instead the country's failure to find any consensus as to what works best. Instead we appear to have settled for 'anything goes', in the vain hope that the best will rise to the top in a war of attrition. 

I recently wrote an article for Kent on Sunday, reproduced slightly edited here. The article focused primarily on this aspect of the Green Paper, illustrating it by the kaleidoscope of school provision now on offer in Kent, only a small proportion of which is accessible to any family, and so becomes not a richness of provision, but a lottery.

My list - and I am quite prepared to accept further models which I have overlooked - runs as follows, and I offer it as a contribution to the debate. This of course refers just to state schools for we also have a wide range of private provision in the county for those who don't like any of it!...

Last modified on Monday, 27 February 2017 07:42

I have written the following letter to the candidates for the Conservative and Labour Parties for the forthcoming By-election in Gravesham East this Thursday for a seat on the County Council, following reception of their Election literature, but feel the important issues raised deserve a wider circulation. Unfortunately, at the time of publication of this article, I cannot send the letter directly to the Labour candidate, as neither of the official email addresses provided appears to function.


I write as a constituent of the Gravesham East Constituency, and one who has been involved in education politics in Gravesham (such as exist) over the past thirty years.

I am delighted that both of you in your election literature for the County Council by-election for the constituency, following the sad death of the excellent Member Jane Cribbon, identify one of your key priorities as the shortage in provision of school places in Gravesham, although with no indication of how you would wish to progress this. As a result, I would like to know how you intend to tackle the crisis in both primary and secondary provision in the Borough which has now slipped out of KCC control because of policies implemented by both Labour and Conservative governments. I have been reporting and attempting to get action on the growing pressures in Gravesham Primary Schools for nearly ten years, predating the 2010 peak first identified by KCC, caused by the shortage of places, the desperate unpopularity of some local schools, especially in Gravesham East, and the poor primary standards in too many schools in the Borough which aggravates the issue.  I have been raising these matters with local leaders and senior Councillors in both parties over this time and have been amazed at the lack of interest shown in educational matters......

 I can now confirm that Lilac Sky Academy Trust (LSSAT) is being investigated by the Education Funding Agency, on behalf of the Department for Education, into its financial practices. The Trust will be closed on December 31st, only the third Trust nationally I can find that has been shut down in this way.  My previous article sets out the background to the story, anticipating this development. Knockhall Academy, one of the nine LSSAT primary schools in Kent and Sussex,  is transferring to the The Woodland Academy Trust on 1st January 2017, and a letter sent out to parents yesterday (1) & (2) confirms the investigation and closure, adding significantly that  "any monies due to the school will be recovered",  I have also been sent by Turner Schools, the new sponsors of Morehall and Martello Grove Academies in Folkestone, a copy of a letter to parents  that provides more information about the new organisation than was available in my previous  article..... 

Last modified on Monday, 15 August 2016 02:15
Monday, 18 July 2016 00:10

Lilac Sky Academy Trust: The end of the Road

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 Update: I have now published two subsequent articles, as further information has emerged. You will find them at (2) and (3).
I have now established that Lilac Sky Academy Trust is being closed down, as there is an investigation by the Education Funding Agency, on behalf of the Department for Education, into the Trust's financial practices. See new article
One of the very worst academy chains operating in Kent in my view, as illustrated many times elsewhere on this website is Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT), founded by Trevor Averre-Beeson, a champion of for-profit academies, in 2009. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that the Academies operation of Lilac Sky is to be closed down by the Regional Schools Commissioner, all the schools to be passed over to other chains, with parents being quietly informed on academy websites. The Chair of the Academy Trust has already gone, to be replaced by a new Interim Chair. 
At present, I have only come across two other academy chains in the country that have had all their academies removed:  Prospects Academy Trust in 2014, in that case for poor performance; and Perry Beeches Trust earlier this year, for 'financial shortcomings'.
It is not yet clear what has encouraged the RSC to make the decision for Lilac Sky, but it could always have been the track record of some of the Trust's Leaders including those described below. Probably the worst examples of the Trust's operation in Kent were: at the now closed Furness Special School in Hextable, where the Trust was allowed to run up a £1.63 million deficit in the school accounts which was then paid for out of the budget for the remaining Kent schools, when Furness was closed, the school being replaced by Broomhill Bank North; and at Castle Hill Community College in Deal where under Lilac Sky tutelage, the school plunged from OFSTED Outstanding to Special Measures in less than three years....
Last modified on Sunday, 20 June 2021 07:33

Updated 23 July

Following the news last month that Denise Shepherd, The Trust Chief Executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust had been suspended, a letter to parents today (Friday), on what is the last day of the school year for some (why just some?) of the Trust’s schools, announces briefly that she has now ‘decided to leave’ the Trust.


As is normal in such situations, it is likely that a financial deal has been done to avoid an expensive disciplinary action taking place, with a newspaper article in The Times reporting extensive evidence supporting claims of alleged snooping on staff email accounts and doctoring parts of an external inspection report, along with other allegations.

Subsequent to the above, TSAT has published a Press release on its website headed "Thinking Schools Academy Trust Appoints New Chief Executive", with tucked under it further details about Ms Shepherd's departure, as noted below....

Last modified on Sunday, 24 July 2016 12:14

Updated by a much more comprehensive article on a District by District basis, here

I wrote in a previous article, back in January, about Sixth Form Staying on Rates into Grammar Schools and expressed my long held view that there needs to be a healthy transition from non-selective to grammar schools at Sixth Form Level, to allow for late development. Possibly as a result of this article, an FOI request was made to KCC through the 'What Do They Know' website asking for the full data on post sixteen destinations from non-selective schools.

This shows that 513 young people from non-selective schools transferred into grammar Sixth Forms, an average of 16 into each of the 32 Kent grammars, surely a very healthy number. Another 4880 stayed on in non-selective sixth forms whilst 4889 progressed to Further Education Colleges or other Training situations. That left at most 6.5% of the cohort of 11151 young people to become, using the horrible term NEETS, not in Education, Employment or Training, exactly the national average......

Last modified on Sunday, 17 September 2017 18:55

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending the launch of Volume Three of the outcomes of St John's Catholic Comprehensive School awesome Historical Project, entitled “The Valour Still Shines” totalling 1250 expertly researched and professionally produced pages of detail, a superb model of research by any standard. The three book set records the lives and deaths of the 565 names on Gravesend’s Town War Memorial on Windmill Hill, along with much additional and relevant information about the war, the battles and the local history of the town and the Memorial.

st Johns WW1 Project

What is even more remarkable is that such a project has been undertaken by over a hundred History Society students and others following the school Applied History GCSE Course. Not surprisingly, such an endeavour was led by an inspirational figure, in this case, Colm Murphy, a history teacher at the school, who has recently been awarded the accolade of Kent History Teacher of the Year. 


Last modified on Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:46

See more recent comment on Simon Langton here, and on Thinking Schools Academy Trust here. Resignation of Chief Executive of TSAT here.

I make no apology to returning to this subject but events are unfolding so fast it is difficult to keep up.

My previous article written just on Saturday, described events at the two grammar schools, with the CEO of Thinking Schools Academy Trust, flagship school The Rochester Grammar School, being suspended The Times alleging amongst other claims that she snooped on staff email accounts and doctored parts of an external Inspection Report. Although the suspension took place back in April, it wasn’t until The Times went to press that it became public, and today the Trust has issued a statement as a result.

Rochester Grammar

By contrast the Headteacher and Governors at Simon Langton Girls Grammar School in Canterbury, appear to be getting into deeper water daily, with a letter sent out yesterday from Patrick Leeson, Head of KCC’s Education and Young People’s Services Department, requiring a re-run of the Governing Body decision to apply for Academy status last November, on grounds of maladministration. Surely more importantly, the GB should have been focusing with concern  the strong evidence of the school’s sharp fall in popularity as explained below, an issue that has been raised by several commentators concerned for the future of the school.

Simon Langton girls

Last modified on Monday, 10 October 2016 03:33

For update, go to here.

Kent County Council has published a draft Report on Grammar Schools and Social Mobility, prepared by a Select Committee of County Councillors to be approved at a final Meeting of the Committee on June 6th before going to full Council. There is widespread agreement that the proportion of able children from disadvantaged families gaining access to grammar schools in Kent is too low, although once the children are admitted there is clear evidence they perform almost as well as the whole cohort of grammar school entrants. This Report establishes some important principles and recommendations to be put to full County Council on 14th July for approval, as set out below, and it is hoped that KCC will agree to promote these for the sake of those children.

For me the key statistic is that just 57.4 % of children on Free School Meals Ever (FSE, my preferred measure) who have achieved a commonly recognised grammar school standard of two Levels Five Plus in their Key Stage 2 Reading, Writing and Maths, begin grammar school, compared with 78.7% of similar ability children not in this category. This has to be wrong, especially as many of the reasons behind this disparity lie in the education sector itself………

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 June 2016 16:42
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