Supporting Families
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Peter Read

Update 11 April: If you wish to apply for the vacant post of Head of School at Folkestone Academy, you will find details here. The 84 point Job Description defining the post-holder's responsibilities shows that Turner Schools has not lost its touch for covering all the bases.    

Update: To add to Dr Saxton's Achievements, below, the number of families putting Folkestone Academy as their first choice school for 2020 has fallen yet again, from 153 in 2019 to 127 in 2020. 23 children, probably all from Folkestone, were allocated to the school, refusing to put it on their application form.

Dr Jo Saxton is leaving her post as co- founder and Chief Executive of Turner Schools, the small Academy Trust in Folkestone, but being paid one of the largest salaries in the country for a Trust of this size. Her departure comes after just three tumultuous and underachieving years and a big vision, along with a huge number of unfulfilled promises including for the two Folkestone secondary schools the fantasy claim: both schools will outperform all schools in the south of England – excluding grammars - and provide “success without selection’.

She had already effectively thrown in the towel a year ago, when she appointed a new Deputy Chief Executive, now her successor, so that 'she could focus on curriculum matters, being the original reason she took on the Turner Schools post’, although I can find no other mention of this focus anywhere else.

TurnerSchools

The news of Dr Saxton's departure was contained in Kent Live published earlier today, 11th March. I have never before received so many emails in half a day informing me of a news item in such a small time. None of them regret her departure.

Kent County Council has recently carried out an external led inquiry into events at and around Holmesdale School in 2018, which I have written about in two previous articles. The first of my articles was in March 2018 after the school had plunged from Ofsted Good to Special Measures in four years under KCC control, although I produced evidence throughout this period that it was going downhill rapidly. The second was in January 2019 based on a series of email exchanges that had been sent me under FOI. These contained serious allegations about KCC actions that amongst other matters left the school without support for much of the previous year, and also attempted to block the appointment of a new headteacher and staff.

Swale Academies Trust has now been running the school since November 2018 and it is greatly improved as a consequence, as explained below, offering a decent education to its children. Those whose education and life chances suffered under KCC control will not be compensated in any way.

KCC has proposed an organisational restructure in the Children, Young People and Education Directorate, following its failures in SEND provision as identified in a highly critical Ofsted Report in January 2019. The post of KCC Director of Director of Education Planning and Access will be deleted, and replaced by two new Directorships. As a result Keith Abbott, the current Director, is being made redundant and leaving his post at Easter. Although Mr Abbott was heavily involved in the Holmesdale debacle, I have been asked by a KCC spokesman to make clear that there is no connection between the two events described in this article. In practice there looks to be no real change in structure, with the new Director - Education taking over Mr Abbott's role and the Assistant Director Disabled Children & Young People Services role being simply upgraded to full Director, in spite of the damning failures in Kent services for children with special needs and disabilities fo which he presumably took some responsibility. 

The children of Delce Academy in Rochester have now hopefully reached a safe haven where they can learn towards a brighter future, after a dreadful time in this school run by the inept Castle Trust. The academy has now been re-brokered with the Inspire Partnership. The latter is a thriving primary Academy Trust which has successfully turned round the Elaine Primary School, also in Rochester, itself having had a torrid life under Medway Council and the now defunct Williamson Trust.

Delce Academy

The Castle Trust CEO, Karen White, who as head of Delce Junior School had previously spoken out passionately against the merging of Junior and Infant Schools led the school to a foolish decision to go into competition with its own linked Infant School. It did this by setting up its own Infant section, which unsurprisingly has failed to attract pupils given the poor reputation of the Junior section. In a previous article on Delce as it plunged into Special Measures down from Good,  I wrote 'My previous article portrays an arrogant Academy Trust and Junior School that have decided to extend into the Infant sector without the necessary skills'. Government has now decided Castle Trust's leadership was so awful it has re-brokered Delce, although the new Trust now has a challenge to sort out the school's contribution to provision in Rochester. 

Meanwhile the Barnsole Primary Trust in Medway appears to have ditched its CEO who, as Headteacher had led Barnsole Primary to its Ofsted Outstanding Status and regular powerful Key Stage Two results. However, both its mainstream schools have now plunged in terms of performance over the past two years. According to a statement, governors are looking for a way forward, probably with the eight primary school Maritime Academy Trust based in Greenwich.  

Although the two mainstream schools in the Barnsole Trust: Barnsole and  Bligh primaries, have performed well in the past, their 2019 Key Stage Two results were both disastrous. One can only speculate if this is what caused the CEO of Barnsole Primary Trust, 'to take time away from his role as CEO of the Trust',  leaving the Board to 'appoint Mr. Nick Osborne, CEO of Greenwich Maritime Trust, as interim CEO of Barnsole Primary Trust effective immediately'.  

The major news is that Medway non-selective schools have rallied round to support local children by offering an additional 135 places for September, for one year only, to meet exceptional demand. This was needed because the opening of two new schools, originally planned to come on stream for September 2020, have both been delayed until 2021. As a result 2527 places have been offered in total, 122 more than the 2019 figure.  There were just 36 places left vacant at one school. The background is explained in more detail in my introductory article on secondary allocations, which should be read in conjunction with this one.  Because of the additional places, 83% of pupils placing a non-selective school first on their admission application form were awarded their first choice. This is up from 80% in 2019. Sadly, another 6.1% of pupils were offered none of their choices, although this is down from 9.3% in 2019. You will find a table  showing the allocation details for each school below.

Brompton Academy

The most oversubscribed school is once again Brompton Academy, setting a record for any non-selective school in Kent or Medway by turning away 249 first choices, over half of those who put the school in first place. It is followed by Thomas Aveling with 56 children disappointed. 

Thursday, 05 March 2020 17:40

Allocations to Medway Grammar Schools 2020

Only one grammar school has vacancies on allocation - Chatham Grammar (previously Chatham Grammar School for Girls). 206 children living outside Medway have been offered local grammar school places out of 1071 in total. This amounts to 19%, or nearly a fifth of all the places offered. An additional 60 new places have been created, all at The Rochester Grammar School.

There were an additional 44 grammar qualified Medway children after the Medway selection process this year: boys up from 374 to 381; girls up from 405 to 438, continuing the annual bias towards girls being found selective. In total there are 585 places for girls but only 355 for boys available in the five single sex schools. This is on top of the 235 at Rainham Mark Grammar, a co-educational school. There are places for every Medway grammar qualified pupil who applied to appropriate grammar schools, but, as last year, chances at appeal for boys are  likely to be very low.

The Rochester Grammar School’s transformation from super-selective to a school giving local children priority, is looked at in more detail below.  The combination of this change and the increase in the grammar cohort size has resulted in another 68 Medway first preferences being accommodated in local grammar schools. It leaves Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (The Math) by a long way the most oversubscribed grammar school in Medway, with 105 grammar qualified first choice boys turned away. 

I look in more detail at the outcomes, including problems with grammar school process and applications, together with  the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

Considerably Updated 6th March

There has been a spate of headteachers in recent years losing their jobs at short notice, often 'to pursue other interests', including last year when the head of The Archbishop's School in Canterbury departed after overseeing the decline of this once popular and successful school.  An Ofsted Report published recently sets out the historic problems at Archbishop's. Passing rapidly over Holcombe Academy in Chatham, that gets through at least one head a year most recently in January, amongst its many managerial changes, and High Weald Academy and Folkestone Academy that change with equal rapidity we come to: 

Kim Gunn, Principal of the 1,350 pupil Strood Academy for six years, who has also left suddenly 'to pursue new career opportunities;’ according to a brief four line paragraph  in a letter to parents yesterday. The two page letter is mainly devoted to describing a review of the school carried out by external consultants, one sentence of which records that ‘The principal and senior leaders have established a school ethos in which everyone is valued’.  Not necessarily! Otherwise, we are just treated to a few positive excerpts.  A day after the letter announcing her departure, she had been airbrushed out of the school website

Strood Academy

This sudden departure followed a short absence since half term. I suppose it could be connected with the disappointing GCSE results last summer, with Strood Academy eighth of the eleven Medway secondary schools in both Progress and Attainment, but doubt this. Strood Academy is now the Medway Hub school for the robust and acquisitive Leigh Academy Trust which  took over Medway's struggling Williamson Trust in 2018, so logically the Principal has oversight of all six local Leigh academies, including the historic Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School. It will also incorporate the new Leigh Academy Rainham planned to open in 2021, so the role is becoming increasingly challenging. When Ms Gunn became Principal, after five years as Head of School, it was as head of a single Academy in a different Trust, with Leigh Academies only taking it over in 2017.  Just 15 months after the Trust took on the Williamson Trust schools she has gone.  Does the Trust want a larger figure for the new role?  

Update: You will find up to date articles on Medway non-selective schools here and grammar schools here. The Individual Schools section provides much data on each Medway secondary school, although the commentary for each school is in the progress of updating. 

Medway Council has invested an additional £3 million this year to meet a potential shortage of secondary school places for September. This was caused by an increase in numbers, combined with a delay in the building of a new school - opening delayed until 2021. The investment, along with the support of local schools, has created an additional 185 new non-selective places on top of those available in 2019. The Rochester Grammar School intake has increased by 60 places since 2019, thanks to funding from the Grammar School Expansion Fund. The school’s new commitment to local girls has also reduced the number of London pupils it has offered places to, down by 55 since last year. Overall, there was a fall in offers of Medway school places to out of county children from 287 to 262.

The excellent news is that the extra places have enabled more of the 3480 Medway children to secure schools of their choice, with 91.1% being offered their first or second preference. The proportion offered no school of their choice has more than halved, down to 154, or 4.4% of the total.

Families will also find initial advice below on what to do next if you don’t have the school of your choice. I shall publish two further articles shortly looking at the outcomes for individual grammar and non-selective schools

Amongst other updates below are the cut off scores for all the five Kent super selective schools (3rd March). Grammar qualified children in Thanet not getting either local grammar school, but instead being offered Royal Harbour
 
The main news is that 2020 has seen the lowest proportion of pupils offered their first choice of secondary school in the allocation process on 2nd March for at least 10 years, along with the highest proportion offered none of their choices. This is not down to any significant increase in applicants, nor any change in the number of out of county applicants or places offered. 
 
You will find a full analysis by school and District of grammar school allocations here and of non-selective schools here which follows on from this article. 
 
In spite of this, Richard Long, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: 'I am delighted that, despite a significant increase in the number of applications, almost 95% of families will be offered a place at one of the four schools they selected, while more than 77% will be offered a place at their first preference'. 
18,153 Kent children applied for places in Kent secondary schools for September, just 194 more than in 2019 so not the significant increase claimed by KCC, especially with 120 additional places from a new school in Dartford coming on stream. It is clear therefore that will be some very difficult situations for too many children awarded no school of their choice.

The annual increase in out of county applications to Kent schools over years has thankfully come to a halt this year, at 3,517 up just three on last year, but a third more than in 2016.  The number of OOC offers at 817, is one fewer than in 2019 and little different from 2016 when there were 803. As always this  will have been partially balanced by around 500 children offered places at schools outside Kent.

You will find more information below, including a look at some of the likely pressure points updated as they become apparent. These will inevitably include North West Kent for both selective and non-selective places, and non-selective Swale, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.  You will also find required scores for super-selective schools inserted as I receive them (all information on both situations welcomed). 

There is initial advice at the foot of this article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. I regret that I no longer offer individual advice, although there is plenty below in this article, with links to multiple relevant articles.  

Later in the month I will provide more specific information and advice as KCC comes through with further details. 

Thursday, 27 February 2020 18:36

Challenge to Kent Local Tests Backfires

58 out of 140 complaints to The Office of the Schools Adjudicator for the School Year 2018-19 related to the Admission Procedures of 36 grammar schools across the country.

Seven were about local grammar schools. Decisions in six complaints against the Kent grammar schools that offer Local  Selection Tests for Admission were carried over into the current  school year, being published in December. These are: Dover Boys & Girls; Folkestone School for Girls; Harvey, also in Folkestone; Highsted, Sittingbourne; and Mayfield, Gravesend. All six complaints were made by the same person, strongly opposed to selection. However, the complaints backfired as all six were completely rejected, with long term consequences of principle which could encourage other local grammars to set Local Tests, and which also yet again established the legitimacy of the Kent Head Teacher Assessment. The seventh, yet another complaint about Holcombe Grammar, amounted to minor faults which were required to be corrected, but then went on to challenge the school's failure to implement required changes from a previous complaint of mine which was upheld. 

Also, and perhaps more significantly, the Adjudicator chose to look at the arrangements for the Local Tests (not part of the complaints) and ruled that they should not just be held on a single Saturday, but more opportunities to sit the Test are required to be made available, enabling more candidates to take part in the process, surely directly opposite to the intentions of the complainant(s).

You will find the School Adjudicators Annual Report here, with a summary of grammar school issues below.  

Thursday, 27 February 2020 04:58

Complete Retirement from Advisory Service

I regret to confirm that I have retired completely from my individual advisory service for Kent and Medway families after sixteen years. I continue to be asked if I can make an exception by previous clients, professionals, friends and others across Kent and Medway and further afield, but I am afraid my decision is final. 

Please note that much of my work depends on information sent in by parents and professionals who also highlight areas where website pages need updating,. Please keep this coming. 

Over that time I have supported over a thousand clients on a professional basis in various ways, who are seeking individual advice and support on school admissions and appeals, along with Special Education Needs, school exclusions, complaints and other matters. In addition, I have provided a large number of free services of the same nature for families without the resources to engage me on a paid basis, and also worked with governors, teachers and parents with problems at individual schools, many of which have eventually featured on these pages.   

I will continue to run the nationally unique www.kentadvice.co.uk website, currently with over a thousand pages of advice and information for Kent and Medway families, along with news and comment on matters of relevant concern and interest,as I believe it meets an important need. As you can imagine, this takes a vast amount of time to keep up to date, my most recent offering being a unique analysis of the recent Kent Test.  I am currently preparing for the what will still be the busiest time of the year, publishing outcomes and analysis of the secondary transfer decisions due out on 1st March. 

The most time consuming section of the website is the Individual Schools Section, including a profile of each individual secondary school in Kent and Medway, along with a variety of data which is up to date at the time of writing. I expect to post details here of individual secondary school allocations for September 2020, around the middle of March. The Website Panel on the right hand side of this article will lead you to a host of information and advice articles on matters such as school admissions, grammar school admissions, school appeals, Special Education (needs considerable re-writing and updating), academies and academy groups, etc. 

Please continue to assist by highlighting areas where information needs updating, and by feeding me information about matters of concern.

Apart from several advertisements that subsidise the cost of running the website, it produces no other income. Can I therefore encourage you to make a small donation of £15 towards the running costs, payable here.  Also, feel free to contact me if you would like to advertise your school, tutoring or other educational service on a site that has some 200,000 visitors annually, with presumably the overwhelming majority having an interest in Kent and Medway education matters on every one of those 1,000 pages. The cost is surprisingly low. 

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