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Peter Read

Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without using a permanent exclusion when the removal is primarily in the best interests of the school, rather than the best interests of the pupil. This includes pressuring a parent to remove their child from the school roll.

It can happen in any type of school, as I demonstrated a few years ago when I exposed the Invicta Grammar Sixth Form scandal which went national and resulted in the government being forced to clarify the existing law although I suspect it still continues in a few cases, notably Holcombe Grammar, below.  

A major pointer to off-rolling taking place is a large percentage fall in pupil numbers for a school between the start of Year 10 and January of Year 11 along with, or alternatively, high Elective Home Education numbers (EHE).  The importance of the January date is that after this, pupils leaving the school will have their GCSE performance (or absence) counted in official outcomes even with the new Coronavirus arrangements. I have no proof that off-rolling is the key reason for the sharp falls in pupil numbers identified below, but it is a reasonable suspicion. 

Twelve Kent and two Medway schools lost from 7% to 13% of their cohort in this way this year, five of them for at least two years running. 

I have also given figures for the change between Year Seven and Year Eleven for these schools, which, in some cases should certainly be raising questions, as was the case a few years ago with Holmesdale School then under KCC control. This signposted a school falling apart at the seams, although KCC failed to notice, and I am delighted that it now appears on the way back again under different control. Although Ofsted now has responsibility for identifying schools where off-rolling occurs, I have as yet seen no evidence of this in relevant Reports locally. 

Regular updates in progress. Most recent 8 p.m. 5th June. 

The government encouraged all primary schools to re-open on 1st June for Nursery, Reception, Year One and Year Six pupils. I sent a survey to Kent and Medway primary schools on Sunday asking their plans and have now (Tuesday 2nd) had responses from more than 15% of  schools surveyed, as set out in the table below

This has now been partially overtaken by data from the 360 primary schools that have responded to KCC's own enquiry. This reports 118 primaries opening to all three school years on Monday 1st June, and 58 more opening to one or two of the year groups. Another 78 are opening Tuesday or Wednesday, the delay being due to an Inset Day, Deep Cleaning or other reason. Eight are on a second week of half term, leaving 98 who are not open (possibly doing so later on, some next week, or else unable to, or unwilling). That is a figure much larger than I was expecting. Of the 95 schools that have chosen not to reply, some may be from large uncooperative Academy Trusts. This is not incompatible with my own findings, although these expand the information, and it would be good to receive further results directly. KCC has now issued a general statement about re-opening. 

The only quotes I have seen from Medway Council (via KentOnline) are: 'Some schools across Medway are welcoming pupils back to school from 1 June.'  and 'We anticipate more primary schools will be able to reopen over the coming week, with 94% of Medway primary schools potentially able to reopen by mid-June'. The second of these is meaningless, as 'potentially able' is very different from 'will'.  

I look below at some of the key elements that have emerged, although it is important to recognise that the schools which have replied are self-selecting and so may not be typical.

Nothing to do with the purposes of this website but, after talking with a headteacher this morning, he advised me to copyright the following.

The history of this country can now be divided into two parts: previously when we trusted government advice and instruction, including on Coronavirus; and afterwards when that trust has died.

BC: Before Cummings.     AD: After Dominic 

Saturday, 30 May 2020 12:24

Schools Opening 1st June

Updated Monday 1st June

I have been asked several times for my views on the merits of Kent and Medway schools opening on 1st June, and these are quite simple. I cannot imagine being in the position of current headteachers facing the challenge of deciding whether to open their schools or not, as they weigh up all the risks if they open and the brickbats if they stay closed. I am confident that the overwhelming majority of headteachers will make decisions for the benefit of their pupils, taking into account the individual circumstances of their own school, the safety and educational needs of pupils, and the safety and welfare of staff and their families. As a result there are many models for opening schools around, along with those that have decided to stay closed. As a retired headteacher and chairman of governors  myself, I am just glad it is not for me to take on that responsibility and do not consider myself qualified any more to have a view on individual circumstances. 

However, I am carrying out a survey of the decisions taken by those schools, sent out early on Sunday morning and was astonished to have a response from nearly 10%  of all Kent and Medway primary schools by the same evening, as headteachers are working over the weekend in preparation for Monday. I hope to have a preliminary summary of outcomes published some time on Monday. 

I will shortly be publishing my annual survey of Kent primary school oversubscription and vacancies. The timing is not good to say the least, with its focus on the situation of individual schools. However, I am being asked by many parents about this, as some need to know urgently if there are alternatives to the difficult situations in which they find themselves. I published my Medway survey a couple of weeks ago. 

There has been a small increase for the third year running in the number of pupils being allocated places in Kent Primary Reception Classes . Places for the additional 163 children were met by three new schools opening in September along with creating 67 more permanent and temporary places in current schools. Two of the new schools are in the Ebbsfleet area of North Kent: Ebbsfleet Green Primary opening for 30 pupils in each of Years R, One and Two; and Springhead Park Primary, in Northfleet, admitting 60 pupils in Year R, and unusually also accepting pupils for Years One to Four (see below for possible reason).   Bearsted Primary Academy in Maidstone is opening for 60 Year R children. None of these schools are currently part of the Kent Coordinated Admission Procedure, as all three accept applications directly, as is usual with new schools.

St Johns Weavering 1st     Brent Outstanding   2019

The tightest part of the county is again West Dartford with just nine spaces in two of its 12 schools, closely followed by urban Sevenoaks, with eight spaces in one school out of six. The most oversubscribed primary school is St John’s CofE in Maidstone, turning away 55 first choices (up from 37 in 2019); The Brent, Dartford, 44 (last year’s most popular school,  disappointing 86 families); followed by: Riverhead Infants, Sevenoaks (40);  Great Chart, Ashford (39); Sussex Road, Tonbridge (37) and Wentworth, also West Dartford (33). The last three named are newcomers to the most oversubscribed list along with Chilton, Ramsgate,all having leapt in popularity this year.

Special mention must go to two schools that have both travelled from high vacancy rates to being full, following Ofsted Special Measures to being Good. Brenzett CofE Primary, Ashford,  has shot from having the highest percentage vacancy rate in Kent of 75% in 2019, to being full for its 21 places in 2020. Kings Farm Primary, Gravesend is oversubscribed for the first time ever after gaining the sixth best KS2 progress grades in the county.                                                                        

Eight schools have 60% or more of their places empty. One school accounted for 10% of the 457 Local Authority Allocations in Kent, up by 10 on 2019. 

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District and also allocations for Junior Schools. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice below, here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

Aspects of the current situation with regard to the Kent Test are that:
  • The date for the Kent Test is still currently set for September. To change it would require government approval. KCC is in discussion with government about an aspect of the Kent Test, presumably about a possible postponement.
  • There is no guarantee that any change of date would see the county free of Coronavirus, or schools operating normally.
  • There are no arrangements in place for children who are: unable to take the Kent Test because their schools are not open, or cannot provide facilities; or whose parents or schools judge it is unsafe to participate; or who are ill in large numbers. 
  • The School Admissions Code of Practice requires Admission Authorities to ‘take all reasonable steps to inform parents of the outcome of selection tests before the closing date for secondary applications on 2nd November so as to allow parents time to make an informed choice of school’.
  • The five thousand out of county children who normally take the Kent Test each year still need somewhere to sit it where it can be independently invigilated. In the past this has taken place in obliging Kent schools.   
As of today (19th May), Kent County County Council has provided no further information about the date of Testing. This is not a criticism as I don't see how they can with the current uncertainties. Registration for the Kent Test remains for a month from 1st June.

 This article looks at Kent and Medway primary school Ofsted outcomes for the current school year. The headline news is the strong improvement in Academy levels in the past few years, both in Kent and Medway, whereas at best Kent County Council Local Authority (KCC) schools are standing still, with 22% of those inspected seeing a drop in level since September.



Just one local school, Ightham Primary in Sevenoaks District, has been classified as Outstanding since September and none found Inadequate. 

I look at all the changes in primary school Ofsted assessments across Kent and Medway below, along with the performance of The Education People, responsible for performance in Kent Local Authority schools. .

Update on Kent Appeals 13th May, here.

Letter from Kent Primary Head on Consequences of Schools Re-Opening here

Some issues relating to the Emergency Regulations for School Appeals are now resolving, but the large majority of Local Authorities appear still to be struggling to come to a view. My previous article concluded that these proposals are unworkable in most cases, especially where there are large numbers of appeals or grammar school appeals. This is now the fifth article exploring the situation as it has developed, looking at how it has been interpreted, the previous four all containing considerable detail, along with advice for appellants. I propose to update it as I receive more information, the dates of the latest update being recorded at the top of the article. 

I continue with my view that the Government emergency regulations appear to be solely for the benefit of bureaucrats and show little interest in the challenges faced by families, panellists, clerks or schools. A parallel set of rules published by the Welsh Office was in complete contrast to this and placed families first, but the relevant section appears to have mysteriously vanished, see below!  

There are three approaches allowed for hearing remote appeals. These are: video conference, telephone conference, and written submission of cases and evidence. There is no indication that these different types of hearing can be mixed for a single school’s appeals, but no specific ban, and I have already been told of several schools that are planning to go this way.

In my previous article, written nearly two weeks ago, I described a ‘chink of light’ in an omission by the regulations to be prescriptive about the written submission process. I was delighted to learn yesterday that KCC has just sent out appeal invitations to grammar school appellants using this to the full. I don't know yet if it will be applied to non-selective schools, but anticipate this. Some Kent appeals for other types of school are being heard by audio-conferencing, with clerks establishing whether appellants can manage this. If not there is a fall back to a written submission hearing. 

Further details on all these matters below, including some Local Authorities which have now made decisions (please feel free to add to these).

Overall, there has been little change in Medway primary school admission data since my 2019 article, with an extra 94 children offered local schools bringing the total to 3447, and 45 additional places created.  The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has remained at 97.4%, coincidentally the same percentage as two out of the last three years. Overall, 12% of places are unfilled, down from 13% in 2019.  

Cliffe Woods Primary has shot up in popularity to become the most oversubscribed school, turning away 50 first choices, edging out last year's leader Barnsole Primary with 49 disappointed first choices. They are followed at some distance by the Academy of Woodlands and All Saints CofE. Barnsole, along with Swingate are the only two of the ten most oversubscribed schools to feature in each of the past three years.  There are eight schools with 15 or more first choices turned away (down from 10 last year), spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. The most remarkable difference is for St Margaret's Infant School in Rainham, which has turned away 24 first choices for this September, but did not quite fill in 2019.

 Cliffe Woods       Barnsole  St Margarets Infant


 I have explored the changes at Greenvale Infant School and Phoenix Junior Academy below , as they have both become all through primary schools, giving an increase between them of 15 places for September. In Chatham, Walderslade and Wayfield primaries have seen their intake double from 30 to 60 places, Two other schools have minor changes in their intakes.  

I look more closely at each Medway area separately, below, links as follows: Chatham; Gillingham; Hoo Peninsula; Rainham; Rochester; Strood, together with the situation for Junior Schools, here 

If there are sections or individual school details that need amplification, please let me know…….

I have now written a further article looking at fresh developments: Coronavirus and School Appeals: Five 

The government has now published temporary regulations for the operation of school admission appeals during the Coronavirus emergency. Not to put too fine a point on it, my personal view is that as set out these are unworkable in Kent and Medway, whose schools held over 10% of all secondary school admission appeals in the country in 2019. The new regulations appear to have been drawn up without regard for the people who matter at this difficult time. Instead, when there was opportunity to be flexible by varying aspects of the non-statutory School Admissions Appeals Code in order to be fair to families, the regulations attempt to force the new circumstances into the existing Code.   

There are three groups of people to consider. Most importantly are the thousands of families, some of whom have spent up to eight months worrying about their children’s futures and all hoping they would get a fair hearing at an appeal which will affect their children’s life chances. Secondly, there are the army of volunteer appeal panellists  who freely give of their time to bring this about, but given no consideration here. Finally, do not forget the shrinking number of administrators whose workload and responsibilities are expanded enormously by the new regulations, but also given no consideration;whose  job is made all the more difficult because schools are closed at this time and access to documentation can be impossible.  

I look in more detail below at the implications for these new Emergency Regulations, mainly as applicable to Kent and Medway.

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