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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.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 23:31

Financial Crisis in Schools

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I was asked by the KMTV online TV station this evening to comment on the letter written by 5000 headteachers to government asking for more funding to meet the current crisis. An article on the BBC News website sets out the background and summary of the letter here

You will find my interview here

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 November 2017 12:58

Earlier this evening I was part of an item on BBC SE criticising St John Fisher Catholic School in Chatham, which had put up charts in public view with photographs of all Year 11 pupils on Friday, along with their academic performance and illustrated by large emojis to show how they were progressing.

St John Fisher 

This was intended as a motivational scheme, but there for all to see it would inevitably be humiliating for those at the bottom of the pile (the reason so many universities have scrapped posting lists of results). For a church school it is shocking to see the disrespect it showed to those pupils.

The school had a mountain to climb after finishing as bottom school in Medway at GCSE in both Progress and Achievement league tables in 2016, being the least popular school in Medway for admissions by several criteria, and an Ofsted Report close to Special Measures in March. However there are clear signs that the new headteacher, appointed in September 2016, is turning the school round, including solid GCSE results this summer.  

This tactic is just a step too far, and the school has rightly removed the boards today.

Last modified on Thursday, 23 November 2017 00:19

The recent ‘Good’ OFSTED Report on The Canterbury Academy is one of the most astonishing I have ever read, with most findings meeting an ‘Outstanding’ criterion, and some going beyond this. There are criticisms, but the Report drips with compliments.

Canterbury Academy 

Amongst the headlines:
The executive and senior leaders and the board of directors could not be more determined to give all pupils and students the best possible education and confidence in their futures.
The curriculum, facilities and resources are outstanding, and the choice of subjects is exceptionally varied and rich.
The school offers a grammar stream for the most able pupils in Years 7 to 11, and also provides highly effective education for pupils who struggle in mainstream education or academic work.
Staff enjoy working at the school and their morale is high. The mutual respect between them, and pupils and students, contributes to the cheerful and productive atmosphere.
In the large and successful sixth form, excellence flourishes in the performing arts, sports and practical learning.
Almost all the parents who added written comments to their questionnaires praised the school in glowing terms.
It is the excellent, thoughtful care, support and kindness which many senior leaders and support staff provide which underpins pupils being happy and feeling safe.
The proportions of Year 11 pupils and sixth form students proceeding into education, employment, training or work are well above those seen nationally.....
Last modified on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 20:36

Update 3rd November: I hadn't looked in detail at the weekly Report by Patrick Leeson, Kent's Corporate Director,Children, Young People and Education, of 10th October on Permanent Exclusions  in Kent when I wrote this article. This provides some more up to date exclusion figures, but clearly identifies the major problem area as North West Kent at both primary and secondary levels. It makes no reference to the alternative methods of off-rolling covered below, and it would be good to see something on these in the future, which would also bring Swale into the picture. 

I gave an interview yesterday morning for West Midlands Radio on the recent rapid rise in permanent exclusions in their area, up by 50% over the past five years. This followed up on a previous series of interviews I gave to Local Radio Stations last year.

I was of course able to draw on data from the smaller Local Authority in our area, which saw a 50% increase in permanent exclusions in just one year, from 2014/15 – 2015/6. This was accompanied by a parallel 58% increase in families ‘electing’ to have their children Home Educated.

I was also fortunate to be able to draw on a recent Report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), setting out some of the concerns I have spelled out in previous articles on this website. This article covers and expands on the content of my interview. 

The article concludes with a brief look at the great unknown, children who simply disappear from the records. 

Last modified on Saturday, 04 November 2017 19:39

Update 7 July: Four weeks ago Medway Council was issued with an Enforcement Notice by the Information Commissioner's Office following its failures 'to  take  appropriate  organisational measures against the unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data' such that 'the likelihood of distress to the data  controller's  data  subjects is self-evident'. This follows warnings of failure in process in 2014 and 2015. See below- what a shambles! 

For over two months I have been trying to obtain an update on the appalling 2014-15 figures for Medway school permanent exclusions, together with numbers of children on Elective Home Education. According to government figures there were 55 secondary exclusions that year, the highest rate in the South East of England, and the 14th worst in the country. Compare this with the 57 in Kent, a county six times as large.


Ten days ago I wrote an article about Medway Council’s decision to ignore my two Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for up to date figures, causing me to request an Internal Review of the situation. I have now received a superficial and implausible explanation of events from Gayle Jones, Information Governance Manager for Medway Council reporting on the ‘Internal Review’, which only manages to compound the Authority failures. This was accompanied by ‘Final’ replies to my FOIs which seek to hide the information through vague references to ‘data protection’, even when there could be no valid justification. Not one of the six questions I put is properly answered.

Hundred of Hoo

The stupidest response is to deny me information on the grounds that it has been sent to Government who now own it, and it is to government I must go to find a response! If this decision were to be upheld by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), to whom I have now complained, then Councils up and down the land could apply this exemption widely and conveniently to hide information. Presumably if the data is no longer Council property, it cannot be reported to Medway Councillors as such! However, you will also find the silliest response below.

The whole looks as if it was dashed off to provide a trite and contemptuous dismissal of my concerns and enquiries without any attempt to review or check the facts, by someone who simply did not care, except to hide embarrassing figures. Surely not the role of an Internal Reviewer.

Last modified on Sunday, 11 February 2018 20:13
Wednesday, 21 June 2017 15:01

What Can I do about Medway Council? Part Three

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As regularly browsers of this site may have seen, I have taken a particular interest in the number of children choosing. or being encouraged to leave school for. Elective Home Education (EHE) and those which have been excluded. This is in conjunction with data about children with SEN Statements, or the replacement Education Health Care Plans, who had been permanently excluded or taken up EHE.

On 25th April, I sent Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) to both Kent and Medway Councils seeking the relevant information. This enables me to produce articles picking up issues for the benefit of families.  There was no problem in Kent and as a result I have been able to highlight schools that appear to be abusing the procedures. However, the complete lack of response from Medway means I have now had to ask for an Internal Review of their failure to provide the information, in spite of three separate requests for each FOI which have all been ignored. This is the last formal step before a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which will take up an inordinate amount of Council time.  

The requests appear to be quite straightforward (reproduced below), as all the information should be on the Council’s data-base, so I can only assume they are trying to hide something in the data. This was certainly the case with the previous complaint I took to the ICO about Medway Council (and won!). There is a possible alternative that that they simply don’t care.


What a total waste of everyone’s time, but clearly the Council finds it easier to spend its time on holding Internal Reviews to keep officers occupied rather than ‘Serving You’, their trite but false slogan as confirmed by so many articles on this site.…

Last modified on Thursday, 22 June 2017 07:31

You will find numerous articles elsewhere in this website, most recently here, on the notorious Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust which had its schools removed by the Regional Schools Commissioner at Christmas, a probable multi-million pound deficit carried over from 2014/15 being absorbed by government, although the 2016 Accounts are now well overdue.

The Education Funding Agency launched an Investigation into the affairs of Lilac Sky, but efforts by myself and the Schoolsweek blog to discover its outcome have been blocked.

Lilac Sky Schools Limited took over a small private primary school in Croydon last summer, the Virgo Fidelis Preparatory School, as explained here, and changed its name and that of the company to Henriette Le Forestier. Comments at the foot of my article contain examples of the many concerns expressed to me by parents who sought out this site looking for answers. These concerns have proved to be fully justified, as the school has closed this week, and the company placed into voluntary liquidation, owing another £917,000.

Amongst other casualties of the system, is Knockhall Academy near Dartford a previous Lilac Sky Academies in Kent and its children. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 June 2017 19:03
Excellent news for three Gravesend primary schools as The Goldsmiths’ Company, a major London Livery Company, has announced a major investment of £200,000 in the schools over the next four years. This will create a new maths programme in the schools that will teach, influence and inspire both their own pupils and the wider education community. 
Goldsmiths Award 
The consortium of the three schools, Kings Farm Primary, Lawn Primary, and Whitehill Primary was selected by Goldsmiths’ after a competitive interview and presentation. They will now deliver a programme based on the principles of ‘Mastery Maths’, a form of mathematics teaching inspired by a style used in Singapore and Shanghai. This will give pupils a richer, deeper, learning experience enabling them to become fluent in mathematics, and to reason and solve problems by applying their mathematics skills…..
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 August 2018 12:52

report in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday was headed 'MoD accused of covering up abuse claims at top Army School'. It reports that “Kent Police has launched a review into the force's alleged failure to investigate dozens of criminal allegations at The Duke of York's Royal Military School near Dover, and at least one detective inspector has been disciplined. The force has set up a dedicated team to review claims about the school". There was a follow-up story on Monday

Duke of Yorks 1

The school website notes

School statement regarding recent inaccurate reporting
Following inaccurate and misleading reports in the Telegraph, the School wishes to make it absolutely clear that it is not under investigation by the police. In addition, the School is taking action against the Telegraph’s deeply flawed articles

See also communication sent out to past students of the school by the school Alumni & Development Manager, below. The school's statement that it is NOT under investigation by the police is incorrect; the existence of an ongoing investigation, Operation Snowdon has already seen its first outcomes - the suspension of several Police Officers. 

The school appears to be facing a crisis of numbers, with just 12 places offered at secondary transfer in March, compared with 36 at this stage in 2016, and 38 in 2015. Whilst numbers do rise through the years as explained below, it would appear that the school is suffering badly from its reputation and one must now question the viability of  this school in its new £25 million premises.   

Last modified on Thursday, 01 February 2018 18:30

 Update June 2020. Certificate of Education holders from Gipsy Hill College and Kingston Poytechnic are also being recognised with Honorary degrees. For further information, go to here. At the time of this update, the article has been read 8964 times, showing the high level of interest. 

In a brilliant initiative the University of Roehampton, which was formed out of an amalgamation of the four Colleges for Teacher Education Digby Stuart, Froebel, Southlands and Whitelands Colleges, has decided to award all traceable holders of Certificates in Education awarded before 1980, with an Honorary Degree:  Bachelor of Education 'Honoris Causa'. The application procedure is explained here and applications need to be submitted by Friday 24th March. If you know of anyone who may qualify, please pass the following details onto them.

Roehampton University 2 

UPDATE 25 March: This event has unsurprisingly proved so popular that tickets were sold out even before the closing date of 24th March, with none available for graduates' guests. 


On 15th May 2017 the University of Roehampton is hosting an Honorary Degree Ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall. All former students from Digby Stuart, Froebel, Southlands and Whitelands Colleges, who were awarded a Certificate in Education before 1980, are invited to receive an Honorary Degree in recognition of the work required to gain this certificate and subsequent services to education.

The Certificate of Education was a qualification required for non-degree holders to become teachers, but was phased out in the early 1980s when the law required all trainee teachers to train via Bachelor of Education degrees or another graduate qualification followed by a post-graduate course, in order to provide a higher professionalism with an improved status for teachers. Until then the Certificate in Education was the norm for primary school teachers, but was also earned by many secondary teachers as an alternative to a degree topped up by a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (I qualified without any training, becoming a teacher in the first year of England's first Sixth Form College at a time when there was a national shortage of mathematicians joining the profession, although I subsequently passed my Post Graduate Certificate).
The four Colleges of Education came together in 1975 to form the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education, which took university status in 2000. It still enjoys a strong reputation for education. This initiative is a powerful acknowledgement of the high quality of the original Certificate of Education that prepared the large majority of primary school teachers in this country.
Conclusion and Action
I have looked, but have not found any other University going down this route, but may simply have missed them.

I now know of six career teachers (including my wife who attended Whitelands from 1964-1967) who are all thrilled with this belated recognition of their service to education, and are also looking forward to a reunion on the day. The dual purpose of this article is both to encourage readers who know of other teachers or retired teachers entitled to the Honorary Degree, to be awarded at the Ceremony for the Conferment of Honorary Degrees at the Royal Festival Hall to make them aware of it, but also to commend the concept to other relevant institutions. 

Last modified on Saturday, 06 June 2020 18:30
Tuesday, 07 March 2017 06:24

A Parental View of Medway Council

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


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

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

Last modified on Friday, 10 March 2017 06:55
Tuesday, 14 February 2017 20:37

Website Review of the Year 2016

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This article looks back on the website and my services over the past year (and a bit) since January 2016.

The year again proved very busy with 114,608 different browsers making a total of 181,752 visits. I published 72 news and comment items, the most popular being “Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions”, with an astonishing 20,511 hits in the six weeks since publication last month. Next was “Kent Reception and Junior School Allocations  2016: Oversubscription and Vacancies”, the 14 most popular pages being listed below.

Much of the information accessed from the right hand side of each page has been present and regularly updated since this version of the website was launched in 2010. Unsurprisingly the most popular page provides information and advice on ‘Kent Grammar School Applications’ with a total of 255,106 visitors since then.

In addition, the site now has around a thousand subscribers, including most importantly the many parents for whom the site is primarily intended. It is also tracked by local and national media, state and private schools, local and national government officers, and politicians. Further information about the website, stories I have covered, and other matters below.

I have now decided to retire completely from my Personal Appeals Advice Service begun in 2003, but am continuing with my telephone consultancy which offers an advisory service for school appeals and other education matters, as explained here.

The website will continue and expand as time permits. As you can see, I have now started to accept appropriate advertisements and welcome enquiries.

Last modified on Monday, 26 February 2018 19:52

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
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