Supporting Families
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Peter Read

 Kent Primary Schools inspected by OFSTED since September have again produced excellent outcomes overall, way above the national figures. There are two new Outstanding schools, both having followed the same route. These are Chilton Primary, in Ramsgate and St Eanswythe’s CofE in Folkestone. Both schools converted to become academies following a ‘Good’ Ofsted, then having a Short Inspection which recommended a re-visit for a full Inspection, that found them Outstanding, as explained below.

Chilton                                                         St Eanswythes

 

Another 86% of the 47 Kent schools inspected were found to be ‘Good’, up on the 2018 data at this stage. At the other end, two schools were placed in Special Measures.

Medway, for the first time in many years, has an improving set of inspection outcomes, with four of its 15 schools improving their assessment, a total of 13 or 87% being found to be ‘Good’, primarily due to a policy of academising all its primary schools, Removing them from being its responsibility. 

Further details for both Kent and Medway primary schools below.

I regret to announce that I am retiring from my personal advisory service for parents, over the past two years mainly conducted by telephone consultation. I am also no longer able to respond to individual enquiries.  I shall continue to operate the highly popular KentAdvice website with its unique mixture of information, advice, news and comment on education matters across Kent and Medway, although it remains primarily self-funded apart from a small income from advertisers (more are always welcome). This has always been driven by information from parents and professionals, to whom I am very grateful, and I hope that this practice will continue.  

The advisory service has operated in several forms since 2005, but throughout I have offered predominantly free advice to many enquirers on an individual basis. Whilst my main area of activity has inevitably been with school admissions and appeals, it has also covered such matters as special education needs, exclusions, and complaints, together with specific failures of schools and Local Authorities to offer an appropriate service or education to parents. The service has been based on my recognised and unparalleled independent experience of education matters in Kent and Medway.

Medway Council has voted to support a bid for a new grammar school or satellite grammar in the Authority, apparently oblivious of the current data on grammar school places, with a large surplus in girls school places, due to get even larger next year when Rochester Grammar abandons its super selective status to give priority to local girls. Whilst the two boys schools are both full on allocation this year, this is achieved because of 82 offers to boys from outside Medway at the two schools, 48 from London. As my article on Medway grammar school allocations this year confirms, 23% or nearly a quarter of all grammar school places, went to children from outside Medway.  

I give below the full picture of allocations for Medway grammar schools in September 2019, which should surely have been placed in front of councillors to enable them to reach a rational decision! Unfortunately, the decision shows the Councillors could not have been aware of the facts. Yet another example of what I have previously called Medway Madness.

Unsurprisingly as I forecast elsewhere, I am hearing of children of families moving into Medway who are being penalised by the unlawful decision of Medway Council not to test them for grammar school entrance, as in my previous article. Another Medway grammar school issue has now been brought to my attention in that a number of boys and girls were offered places at Chatham Girls and Rochester, but who were not grammar qualified  have now had those places withdrawn. I look at this further below.

Does no one on the Council care about education????

Today’s Sunday Times has a feature article on the departure of one of the most confrontational ( the ST describes her as 'visionary') heads in Kent from Ebbsfleet Academy, a school with one of the highest proportions of children leaving for Home Education in the county (top in 2016-7 with 4.1% of families removing their children from the school mid-course) and, for the whole of her time at the school, one of the highest vacancy rates of any secondary school in Kent, partially covered up by some of the highest number of Local Authority Allocations (children placed who did not apply to the school – 83 this summer!). No other Dartford school has any vacancies, or spaces for LAAs. 

Ebbsfleet Academy

She makes a damning indictment of the behaviour of parents from the ‘white working class’ who are unable to cope with the fierce discipline characteristic of the three schools who form what I call the ‘Tough Love Academies of Kent. She makes no reference to any other parents, presumably happy to tar all families with the same brush. The Tough Love academies all exhibit similar negative outcomes from their philosophy, and then appear to think that more of the same will solve the problem they have created. Home Education, which is not the solution, has been suggested by Ebbsfleet to some families in what is called ‘off-rolling’, the implication being that it is encouraged to improve examination results by removing lower performing pupils.   

In spite of its claims to high  academic performance, the school came 45th out of 68 non-selective schools in Kent,  in the government's preferred measure of performance, Progress 8. 

Towards the end of last term, I spent a morning by invitation at King’s Farm Primary School, situated in a socially deprived part of Gravesend, where I witnessed the results of a transformation in the fortunes of the school and its pupils. The school had previously been taken to the depths following a disastrous period of management by an Academy Trust,. However, under the leadership of an inspiring and totally committed headteacher, as part of the Cedar Federation along with the neighbouring Ifield School, it worked its way back to Ofsted ‘Good’ in 2018, in just four years.

Kings Farm 3

I previously became a governor of the school when it was adopted by Ifield and so have been privileged to watch this transformation in terms of ethos, outcomes, discipline, parental support and happiness. 

Update: Now with news of record outcome for Medway Reception Year Allocations (5 p.m. Tuesday)

Good news for most Kent families applying for reception class places in primary schools as the outcome figures are very close to the record 2018 placements. 89.4% of families have been offered their first choice school, against 89.5% in 2018. The total number of allocations to Kent pupils is up by 53 to 17,286, whilst the number of children with no school of their choice is up by 57 to 2.6%.

For Medway, the very brief press release is identical to that of 2018, except for four numbers, just three of which are relevant, quoted below. A great pity, as with a little bit of effort the Council could have been proud of its delivery of a record proportion of pupils being offered one of the schools on their application form, at more than 85%. 

I am waiting for detailed oversubscription and vacancy figures at both Reception and Junior School level to be sent, both for Kent and Medway and will publish these as soon as possible, probably into May. You may find the equivalent picture for 2018 allocations helpful, as it conducts a detailed survey of the issues in each of Kent's 16 Districts (my  definition, more local than the official 12!).

You will find advice below on what to do if you have not received a school of your choice, together with a breakdown of offers for both Kent and Medway over the past four years. 

You will also find information and advice on appeals below and  here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, chances are negligible. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:52

Medway Non-Selective Schools Allocation 2019

Pressure on places in Medway Non-Selective schools continues to be intense, with 80% of pupils being awarded their first choice school. Another 204 children, or 9.3% of the total, received no school of their choice, well up on last year's 136. The situation was exacerbated by a fall of 35 in the number of places available. As a result, there were only 34 vacancies in three schools, just 1.4% of the total. The most oversubscribed school is Brompton Academy, as it has been for many years, turning away 218 first choices.

Brompton Academy

It is followed by Thomas Aveling with 72 children rejected. Some places will be freed up and re-allocated by successful grammar school appeals, but there are unlikely to be many successful appeals at Brompton, with just five appeals upheld out of 65 in 2018, in a typical year. You will find the full table of appeal outcomes below.

Probably the biggest Medway story is that of St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, whose popularity has declined every year since 2014, with just 46 children placing it first choice, with 101 being allocated there by Medway Council, having been offered no school of their choice, presumably few if any having a Catholic background. Its very Catholic ethos proves very difficult for many of those without a Catholic faith to cope with.

Overall, as in Kent, there is considerable polarisation with each of the oversubscribed schools becoming more popular this year, hence the soaring number of Local Authority Allocations (LAAs).

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 07:37

Turner Schools: Fresh Blessings from on High

Update: In spite of claims that the two Trust Primary schools are proving popular with parents, recent data shows that Morehall Primary has 75% of its Reception places empty on allocation for September, the highest proportion in the county (along with two other schools), with Martello Primary not far behind at 63%. 

Turner Schools, a small academy Trust with a CEO being paid the disproportionate £140,000 – £150,000 a year, has appointed a Deputy Chief Education Officer, on a salary likely to be above £120,000, to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum matters. His salary will be met from a Grant  of £143,100 from the government’s Multi Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund, at no cost to the school, as explained in a letter to staff. Such grants are only available for MATs which have a “proven record of working with underperforming schools to improve performance” . This should surely have ruled Turner Schools out, given the damage they have wreaked on Folkestone Academy, as demonstrated in various articles on this site, most recently here

TurnerSchools

 

The letter provides three reasons for the appointment, explored below:

  • To join our mission to deliver a powerful education that overcomes educational underperformance.
  • To provide executive principal function when and where needed in our trust schools
  • To create additional capacity to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum.

Please see Important Update Below

The Guardian Newspaper has today (03/04/19) published a news item about a girl with mental health problems who was placed in an Isolation Room, on a repeated basis when she ‘failed’ to comply, reaching the stage where she developed depression and attempted suicide.

Prior to the intervention of lawyers in mid-March, she had spent every day since mid-January in isolation, meaning she had to remain silent throughout the day and had no directed teaching.

 Although the school is not identified by name it is described as a school in Kent.

I am delighted that someone has at long last taken legal action to try and stop such practices for I have written about them regularly, describing such punishment as 'child abuse'. 

Index

All Medway boys and girls who are grammar qualified will have been offered a place at Chatham Girls or Holcombe if they did not get one elsewhere and applied to one of these two. An example of  what I am coming to regard as 'Medway Madness' which affects both the Local Authority and some local schools, the Council has unlawfully deprived late applicants including those moving into Medway of their right to be considered at a grammar school, as explained here. This follows the complete breakdown of the Medway Review process, with just 4 Medway pupils having a Review upheld, out of 159. 

Only one grammar school, Chatham Girls, had vacancies. 242 out of Medway candidates have been offered places out of 1042 in total. This amounts to 23%, or nearly a quarter of all the places offered, and is well up on 2018's 185 offers to children from outside Medway. 

An additional 68 new places have been created, 38 at Chatham Girls and 30 at Fort Pitt, although The Rochester Grammar School took away the 30 extra places it has offered for the past two years, probably for reasons outlined below. 

Rochester Grammar      SJWMS1

The Rochester Grammar School was by a long way the most oversubscribed grammar in Medway, turning away 121 grammar school qualified first choices, as a result of seeing its pass mark to soar to its highest ever, the year before it scraps super selection completely.  It is followed by Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (The Math) with 70 first choice boys turned away.  

I look in more detail at the outcomes, including the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

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