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Tuesday, 27 February 2018 20:07

Website Review of the Year 2017

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I have published 72 news items on this website in 2017, almost exclusively about education issues in Kent and Medway. This article has been somewhat delayed as other matters have intervened. The website continues to be unique in the country, offering a fully independent take on state education matters in the two Local Authorities. 

In total there have been 106,810 different browsers on the site, making up a total of 168,222 visitors. The most popular item attracted 26,823 visitors countrywide and sparked off a national news story which changed attitudes in schools across England. You will find links to the ten most popular stories below, featuring four major scandals, five articles reporting on admission and Test data, and one with a family connection. I have 958 subscribers who have linked by email and, although I find it difficult to comprehend, 10,790 subscribers by RSS, the vast majority based in England, further details below.

Since the website was reorganised into its current format in 2010, the most popular pages have been predominantly from the Information Section, accessed to the right hand side of this article, headed by Kent Grammar School Applications with 294,251 hits. It is followed by Kent Secondary School Admissions with 139,240 hits, both being updated on an annual basis. These are followed by a listing of Kent Special Schools and Units which, until a few years ago, wasthe only comprehensive source of such information but now, like too many other pages, in need of updating. 

More details on all these matters, and others, below. A number of the items covered in last year’s Review also continue to be headlined.


January 2017 - December 2017

Visitor Numbers

Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions  26823
Oversubscription & Vacancies in Kent Primary schools: Allocation for September 2017  20495
Medway Test 2017: Late notification of Important Change  8558
Oversubscription and vacancies in Kent Grammar Schools on allocation for September 2017  5889
The scandal of Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey  5340
Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School: Headteacher Resigns following KCC Investigation  4398
Jane Porter, Executive Headteacher Whitehill Primary School, prohibited from Teaching Indefinitely  4206
Kent and Medway Secondary School Allocations 2017: Initial statistics and advice  4150
Kent Test Results 2017: Initial outcomes  3545
University of Roehampton: Calling all teachers holding Certificates of Education  2670
When I published the story about Invicta’s illegal expulsion of Year 12 A Level students in January, I had no idea I was opening the door to a national scandal, which exploded in August, when I fielded 14 interviews from national media in one week.

By then the focus had shifted to St Olave’s Grammar school in Orpington after parents there had contacted me for help, when I reiterated my recommendation to seek legal advice. Although this involved fewer numbers than Invicta it is a more high profile school and eventually the Department for Education was forced to issue a statement that the practice is indeed illegal, as explained in my follow up article. It was subsequently established that all schools had been made aware of the illegality in 2015,on the DfE Census Return.

My estimate is that thousands of students across the country, and about a hundred in grammar schools in Kent and Medway were illegally expelled by this process, and it is interesting to see how the number of Year 12 students leaving grammar schools in Kent and Medway plummeted that summer. It is not possible to calculate what I believe would also have been  high numbers for non-selective schools, as these may well have many students following one year courses who leave at the end of Year 12 anyway. 

To this day, Invicta has never apologised to the students whose careers they blighted, nor responded to other allegations, the only public comment being a denial of the now proven allegations.

Maidstone Girls’ Grammar also denied my allegation in the same article that they were operating an illegal admission process into the Sixth Form, by setting secret artificially high academic requirements. Even when the Ombudsman ruled in my favour, the school tried to stop publication by falsely claiming his decision was confidential.

Are you interested in reaching a market of over 100,000 education browsers?
The majority of my readers are looking for independent information and advice on school admissions and appeals in Kent and Medway.
I offer advertising opportunities for a variety of related interests at low prices.
                                             For further information, please contact me at 
Five information articles in the top ten show the critical importance of independent school admission and appeal matters to parents and still provide the only source of such information available to them. Whilst most media focus is on grammar school data, the 20,417 visitors to the Kent Primary page demonstrate the great need for information and advice in this sector.
No ordering of articles on this site would be complete without a collection of Medway Council’s incompetencies and inadequacies in schools matters, which appear to carry on from year to year without any action being taken by the senior Officers or Members. The failure to introduce a new Medway Test competently is merely one of the less serious blunders. Others can be accessed by putting ‘Medway’ into my search engine at the top of any page of the site. I count nine episodes reported on in 2017 alone, not counting issues with individual school and academy trusts. I think my despair showed through in my 2016 Review comment, which still stands. Most Medway articles will not make the most visited list for the simple reason the Authority is only one sixth the size of Kent.
The largest failure of a school to carry out the duty of care for its children in the county. Many of the descriptions of 'Reflection' appear to describe abuse, which would not be tolerated in a different environment. Yet no one seems to care! This is the widest read of a number of articles about the school, including the failure of Kent’s three Tough Love Academies.
The resignation of the headteacher was the conclusion of a series of mismanagement and failure by all concerned: her own leadership; the failures of the Governing Body; and of Kent County Council, creating waves out of all proportion to the issues because this was a high profile grammar school. A vicious campaign to unseat her may have been successful, but it has left serious scars, the main proponents appearing to think they can now steer the school’s future.
Now this was a scandal! She oversaw too many teachers’ careers destroyed and children’s futures ruined across four schools over a period of years, all without any challenge from Governing Bodies which allowed her to create havoc without challenge, whilst she was supported unreservedly by KCC until towards the end. This is the final article of a large number I have written, beginning in July 2014, the most read appearing here, also from 2014, attracting 15,889 readers.
A good news story, where the University chose to recognise the work of thousands of teachers including my wife, awarded Certificate of Education by its predecessor colleges more than forty years ago (then the only qualification for teachers to work in primary schools). All the five thousand, mainly women, (including the 98 year old who turned up for the ceremony) who applied for recognition were awarded Honorary B.A Degrees, the B.Ed, and B.A. being introduced as the standard qualifications after they passed through. This article attracted the attention of readers across the country affected by the story, many of whom have enthusiastically chased up their own institutions to try and replicate the idea.
PAGES to December 2017
 Kent Grammar School Applications  294,251
 Kent Secondary School Admissions  139,240
 Kent Special Schools and Units  134,523
 Medway Grammar School Applications  65,106
Kent Grammar School Appeals  63,546
Kent Secondary Statistics on Admission and Appeal  45,266
In Year Admissions 39,076
Medway Secondary School Admissions  36,803
Primary School Admissions  35,879
Academy Groups  34,067
Academies 33,540
Follow up of Aspects of 2016 Review
Lilac Sky Schools: will anyone be held to account. 
Apparently not, as the company running the Trust has been allowed to re-invent itself, as Education 101. The new company website basically replicates the one previously operated by Lilac Sky Ltd, now a toxic name, falsely claiming it had been running since 2009. The Trust's multi million pound debts, including over three million in deficit to the Local Government Pensions scheme (LGPS) appear to have been vanished, government offering a guarantee to meet any LGPS debts for Academy Trusts that go under. Education 101 continues to promote itself strongly, including an appearance at the Edu Kent Expo and Conference, clearly not abashed to appear in a county where their predecessor companies have wreaked such havoc. Three articles in the most visited  for 2016 indicates the depth of feeling this issue stirred up.  
The previous Chief Executive appears to have left under a cloud in June 2016, leaving behind her salary of £215,000, the highest in Kent and Medway but taking an £80,000 pay off, presumably for going quietly, after after a disciplinary case reported in The Times that concluded without action being taken after (as?) she had resigned from the Trust. Her successor is on the far more reasonable salary of £140,000 for a middle sized Trust.  The link in the previous sentence sets the scene for my 2016-17 review to be published shortly. TSAT continues to plough  a controversial furrow mainly, but not exclusively at Holcombe Grammar School where it tried twice with a crazy scheme to turn this boys school into a mixed one, along with two other controversial ideas both if which also failed.  
Other Matters
Since I retired from my full Appeals Service, I still get many enquiries about appeals, admissions, Medway Council’s inadequacy, home education, SEN and other issues. I now just operate a telephone advisory service, offering what I call a 'hard-nosed half hour consultation' that appears very well received. In any case, I try and offer brief free advice to all enquirers from Kent and Medway relating to local schools who mange to provide me with the relevant information asked for, although too many find this difficult, and am still inundated by requests from across the country, from parents desperate for help. 

Whilst this reduction frees up more time for other activities, including the website which I run single handed, I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep the 412 information pages up to date. My own challenge for 2018 is to consider how to reduce this number whilst keeping the most important items going. 

I continue to act as a source for a variety of media on education stories now, since the sad demise of the excellent Kent on Sunday newspaper, mainly for national newspapers and broadcast media, along with local newspapers and radio stations across the country.

The Google Analytics page for the site identifies the main sources of visitors: London 27,282 (many of these will be looking to Kent grammar schools); Maidstone 7,715; Canterbury 3,816; Gravesend 3,520; Chatham 3,168; Rochester 2,826; Tunbridge Wells 2,775, etc. 

Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media: I have neither the time or the inclination to indulge, but am more than happy if the information and advice provided here is distributed more widely. I only ask that is credited with being the source.

Almost Finally, I appear to have become a source of informal advice to occasional governing bodies, headteachers, teachers and parents, each of whom has been in dispute with one more of the others!

According to reports, there are many in Authority who are keen to see me retire completely and remove an important level of holding schools, academy trusts and Local Authorities to account! I guess I shall continue as long as what I write is valued, I enjoy what I am doing, and my health lasts.

 Final Word  (Mainly copied from 2016 Review)
I appreciate this is a somewhat dismal picture, but those who contact me nearly all do so because of problems, so I suspect I see a somewhat distorted view. I still believe the large majority of schools succeed in spite of all that is thrown at them, because of a belief that they should offer the best for their pupils. If you are a teacher, you should be proud to be one, shaping the future of society for the better. I am just sorry so many of you are not better supported, especially by government, your schools and academies.    

Read 1780 times Last modified on Tuesday, 21 January 2020 18:00

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