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Peter Read

The Schools Adjudicator, responsible for deciding on school admission policy disputes, has ruled that the determined admission arrangements for 2019 for these three schools are in breach of the Schools Admissions Code and ordered them to be changed. This will ensure that the new rules are fairer to local children or, in the case of The Rochester Grammar School, that more appropriately qualified girls are admitted.

Three other schools acknowledged the validity of my complaint at an early stage and withdrew their proposals. These were: Brompton Academy, Hundred of Hoo Academy and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School.

Medway Council, with oversight of school admission rules published on its website, neither took action to block the unlawful proposals (if indeed they noticed them), nor bothered to express a view on their legality to the Schools Adjudicator when invited. There has been just one complaint about a Kent school's proposals since 2012 (relating to In-Year Admissions), as KCC monitors proposed changes. 

To look at the decisions in detail follow the links: Fort Pitt; Holcombe Grammar; The Rochester Grammar, with my analysis below.

Monday, 10 September 2018 23:42

Academy News: September 2018

I am afraid this regular update is well overdue because of pressures elsewhere. I will be publishing a second article shortly (I hope) but this one is primarily about new and proposed academies and the increasing practice of re-assigning academies to other Trusts when there has been a break down of performance in some way. 

Panorama, 10th September: Financial Mismanagement in Academy Trusts
This is a subject that I have explored many times in these pages, most commonly in the scandal of Lilac Sky Academy Trust and more recently with The SchoolsCompany Academy Trust. I have enclosed a comment outlining the issues with the two Trusts at the foot of this page. 

Another ten schools have become academies this year, bringing the Kent total to 89% out of 101 secondary schools including applications in progress, and 37% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 54 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest conversions below, along with new applications to become academies, and a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.

The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here.

Update: See recent development at foot of article

I don’t normally comment on private schools, but the closure of St Christopher’s in Canterbury over the summer surely deserves a mention at a time when scrutiny of the Kent Test taken in private schools is in the news.

The school has now been found Inadequate in two consecutive full Ofsted Inspections, most recently in April this year, the first of which I covered in a previous article entitled ‘Buyer Beware: Four Private Schools failed OFSTED Inspection’. The other three have since improved their standards under new leaderships.

St Christopher's

The first of the two key issues in both Inspections was poor leadership, the headteacher, known as ‘The Master’ also being one of the proprietors of the school, ‘A substantial number of staff have lost confidence in the school’s proprietors and leaders’ in 2018, echoing concerns in 2014. Secondly, both inspections describe a culture of poor management of complaints and allegations which, along with inappropriate behaviour, saw the school fail on Safeguarding twice, the second time apparently oblivious of previous criticisms. There is also a range of other serious criticisms, although teaching is described as Good, pinpointing where the problems lie. 

The school claimed very high success rates at the Kent Test which fell below the genuine figures and in 2017 it was instructed by the Advertising Standards Authority to remove false claims of a 92% pass rate from the sides of local buses. For entry this September, the success rate for grammar school admission had fallen to 57%. Ofsted is quite clear about the purpose of the school: ‘many are able to achieve a place at local grammar schools, in line with the school’s aims’.

Pupil numbers were falling sharply before the closure, presumably because of the poor reputation of the school.

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 09:50

Private Schools Coaching for Grammar Entrance

This is an updated and revised version of a story I wrote as the events below unfolded 

The BBC excitedly revealed the results of ‘an exclusive undercover investigation’ on Monday last. This had discovered to no one’s surprise that private schools depending on a high rate of pupils securing grammar school places for their existence prepare those pupils for the Kent Test. You will find on the BBC website here a much watered down version of the original headline grabbing, anti-grammar school story which dominated the channel and Radio Kent for two days leading up to the Kent Test. The programme was followed the next day by another ‘lead story’ which also recycled and expanded on remarks by Robert Halfon, MP and Chairman of the Government Select Committee on Education, several months earlier but presented as breaking news. This also criticised KCC for creating ‘confusion’ by not knowing how a Review it had commissioned into coaching would turn out! 

The two BBC employees who have taken the trouble to express their great unhappiness about the story to me confidentially, are completely in the right. The new anodyne website version which completely loses the initial hysteria is surely an implicit acknowledgement of the error of judgement.  

The BBC 'revelation’ about private school coaching can hardly come as news to anyone who has had dealings with or enquired about admissions to private primary schools for possible entry over the past decade or so. Many of these schools owe their existence to their ‘success rate’ in seeing pupils secure places at grammar schools, whether or not they contributed to it. They will charge families up to £10,000 p.a. to maximise chances, advertising their achievements through websites and in the media .

It is most unfortunate that the BBC item was published this week in particular, attracting a large amount of media coverage in the run up to Thursday’s Kent Test. For it, and the subsequent media comment swirling around about grammar school matters in general, would have been an unnecessary distraction for many of the families whose children sat the test.

Thursday, 30 August 2018 20:12

Paul Carter and Grammar School Numbers

Revised 1st September

Paul Carter, Leader of KCC had an important interview with The Times published on Monday, along with commentary by the newspaper which can be found here.  He expresses concern that the proportion of pupils admitted to Kent’s 32 grammar schools has risen to well over the 25% target set by the Council, which risks weaken­ing the specialist purpose of grammar schools and is damaging to non-select­ive schools nearby, diluting the quality of their intake. This is down primarily to the operation of the school admission appeals process in some schools, the expansion of planned grammar school places not keeping pace with the general rise in numbers of the school population.

 I have written my own analysis of the situation earlier this year, but went further and explored the reasons why the proportion of Year 7 Kent grammar school pupils had risen to 31.7% from 30.3% between 2012 and 2017, and why it was in any case above 25%.

Paul’s article, whilst showing unhappiness about the situation, identifies his own reasons for the increased proportion but gives no indication there is an appetite to wind back the proportion of children going on to grammar school. Indeed, I don’t believe that with the loss of control by KCC to individual academies this would be possible.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:38

Falling Rolls,Year 10 through to GCSE

On Tuesday, The Times newspaper headlined a story about schools removing pupils or encouraging them to leave in the run up to GCSE, followed by two pages of analysis inside the paper. This is an issue I have followed closely in recent years, mainly from the viewpoint of numbers of children being Home Educated and Permanently Excluded, most recently here.

Medway UTC 1


This article explores schools where the roll has fallen way above the norm over this period. On average 2% of Kent children leave mainstream schools in Years 10 and 11, and 4% in Medway, raising the question of why this should happen at all. Surprisingly, the schools losing the most pupils are generally different between 2016-17 and 2017-18, suggesting that none have a consistent policy to remove pupils unlikely to do well before GCSE, although several have extremely high levels of ‘Elective’ Home Education. This is contrary to the examples given in The Times.

For the cohort taking GCSE in 2018, the five biggest losses of pupils were: were: Medway UTC 25%; New Line Learning and Victory (Medway) Academies 13%; Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy 10% and Robert Napier School (Medway) 9% the only school to appear in the lists for both years. In 2017 they were: Orchards Academy 17%; Brompton and Strood Academies (both Medway) 12%; Ebbsfleet Academy and Thamesview School 11%. In all cases that is three or more pupils on average from every class. Below I give a fuller list for each year.

Friday, 24 August 2018 23:17

GCSE Results and Admission to Sixth Forms

GCSE results out yesterday have provided considerable speculation as to the effect of the changes. What follows is a very personal view, parts of which were shared in an interview on ITV Meridian last evening. I conclude with a brief consideration of applications to school Sixth Form courses, also looking at certain illegal practices, amazingly including further malpractice at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls.

It is my opinion, shared  by many others, that GCSE students are the victims of yet another of a series of pointless changes. These appear to me to have no virtue whatever, as explained below. However, whatever has been thrown at them, my congratulations go out to those that have achieved their aims at GCSE and my commiserations to those who have not.

Sadly, the latest changes are yet another massage of GCSE structure and assessment methods to enable the latest in a line of governments to try and convince us that something is being done to improve standards.

Data provided by Kent County Council shows that direct expenditure to provide facilities for out of county candidates for the Kent Test was approximately £100,000 for admission in September 2018. This works out at approximately £200 for each pupil offered a place.

In addition, there was a large but unquantifiable sum for KCC officer time at an extremely busy time as they oversee the Kent Test process across the county. The additional demands include managing the process of organising the 4832 out of county applicants across the 38 additional centres set up for testing these candidates, and responding to the issues and queries many of these applicants inevitably incur.

All this to produce 465 offers of places, less than one in ten of those who applied. Some of these would not in any case have been taken up as some families received more favourable offers, perhaps closer to their homes.

An item in Private Eye recently (reproduced below) about a property deal between Leigh Academies Trust and Greenwich Council caught my attention.  It relates to a re-brokering of the old Kidbrooke School, the first purpose built comprehensive school in the country, which became a stand alone Academy Trust called Corelli College in 2011. This school ran into difficulties and was re-brokered to Leigh Academy Trust for March 2018, where it has been re-named Halley Academy. According to the article 'It seems baffling that Greenwich is paying a trust a £500,000 grant and a £lm settlement over land it wasn't supposed to give away in the first place. I certainly remain baffled about what appears to be a complicated legal issue but can see it is very good business for LAT, although far away from real education. 

I was interviewed this afternoon by BBC SE with regard to expansion of grammar schools and the new £50m growth fund, for which applications are due in tomorrow, to be broadcast this evening.

A previous article I wrote in January sets out clearly the expansion in numbers of grammar school places since 2012, without the use of any such incentive. It is expected that some half dozen Kent grammar schools out of the total of 162 will have applied, and I considered these in a subsequent article in May following the announcement of the growth fund. Time will tell how these fare. 

I was also on KMTV, the online TV station earlier this month talking about two other subjects,

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