Supporting Families
  • banner7
  • banner8
  • banner2
  • banner6
  • banner12
  • banner4
  • banner10
  • banner13
  • banner3
  • banner11

Peter Read

Back in the summer Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, informed schools that Ofsted would carry out visits through the Autumn Term ‘to get some insight on how schools and other providers are bringing children back into formal education after such a long time away’.  She made clear explicitly that these visits were not inspections. Subsequently, following a challenge from the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) on the threat of legal action, NAHT reported that “While Ofsted has sought to play down the nature of these visits publicly, this statement makes it clear that they are indeed a form of inspection and should therefore be approached as such.”  

Such dishonesty is hardly likely to build any form of trust regarding these inspections, and reports back clearly identify that some are indeed conducted as such, not simply visits. It is reliably reported that at least 20 such inspections of Kent schools have taken place this term.

However, astonishingly any insensitivity over the dishonesty has not stopped there. Today, Thursday 15th October is the day of the Kent Test when primary school leaders up and down the county are fully focused on ensuring their pupils will be able to take the test under the best possible conditions, especially given the additional pressures brought about by Coronavirus. Several Kent primary headteachers will, however, have their minds elsewhere as Ofsted has chosen to carry out inspections in their schools this day!

Sir Paul Carter’s well-deserved honour is mainly in appreciation of his 14 years as Leader of Kent County Council for services to Local Government,  but I have known him for over 20 years in the field of education, where his passion, strong beliefs and understanding of what needs to be done to deliver the best for all the children of Kent has made a powerful impact on shaping the service. He and I first met when Paul was KCC Cabinet Member for Education before he became Leader, during which role he exhibited the same qualities. Although interested in all aspects of schooling, Paul’s main interests were in vocational and special education in both of which he has made a very strong mark.

Sir Paul Carter

Paul was often controversial, never afraid to pick up an issue, a true leader taking others with him, and a successful businessman in his own right. This appreciation will itself be controversial, for he has certainly made enemies in his determination to battle for the benefit of the people of Kent, and it could be argued that this award is long overdue, perhaps because he often took the fight for the people of Kent to government. You will find the KCC tribute to Sir Paul here, describing many of his other achievements.

The astonishment features two Kent secondary schools, Hartsdown and Folkestone Academies, who have been at the top of the fixed term exclusion lists over the previous four years. Hartsdown has seen its number of exclusions fall from last year’s 459 and second-highest proportion in the county to just ONE, whilst Folkestone Academy fell from 538 to 128. Meanwhile, Astor College, John Wallis Academy,  Oasis Academy, and High Weald Academy, four of the top five excluding schools last year, yet again head the table, along with Charles Dickens School. These five schools are all well ahead of all other Kent schools in excluding, and each regularly features in this table, suggesting they have particular issues with discipline. Three primary schools had more exclusions than 10% of their roll. I look at each of these eight schools individually, below.

Unsurprisingly, the total number of secondary school fixed-term exclusions for 2019-20 has fallen from the previous year’s record 8816, partly because they have only been open for around two-thirds of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, this year's total of 4778 is much lower proportionally, so this is a genuine fall with Folkestone and Hartsdown accounting for nearly a quarter of the difference between them.

Permanent exclusions continue at a very low level compared with national data, there being 12 from primary schools, 11 from secondary schools and one from a Special School in the same period of 2019-20.

The Next Steps Magazine, published by Kent Messenger Newspapers is distributed across the county at the end of September. This article was used to set the scene at the beginning of the magazine. 

All Year 11 pupils across Kent and Medway schools need to make important decisions about their futures during the year, although many will not know their next step with certainty until after GCSE results. Young people aged 16-18 are required to remain in education, which not only includes full-time courses at school or college but also part-time college courses linking with apprenticeships and other types of scheme, such as volunteering.

Many choose to remain in their home schools if they achieve set grades. These include some three-quarters of pupils in grammar schools and nearly half in those non-selective schools with larger sixth forms. Last year a third of the 15,500 Year 11 pupils in Kent left school completely, a high proportion choosing full or part-time FE college education. For 2020 admissions several thousand pupils have already changed school at this stage. These include many at non-selective schools opting for a grammar school in the Sixth Form, and a surprisingly high number travelling in the opposite direction. There is a wide range of courses at the four Kent FE colleges focusing on vocational courses, with only West Kent College also offering A-Levels.

Updated 11th November with Kent and Medway data added, 

It is three years since I last published an article on this subject. It began: I am regularly asked regarding possible complaints about Admission Appeals to academies and Free Schools, and respond that it is rare such complaints succeed.

That view remains and is also true of the Ombudsman complaints procedure for maintained schools. Last year I attempted Freedom of Information Requests to update the figures for Academy complaints, but these were rejected on the grounds that the Department for Education/ Education Funding Agency did not hold the data in the correct form and it was too difficult to extract. However, I tried again last month for the local and national data and have now received it without difficulty as reproduced below. This shows a national decrease from 234 complaints in 2016-17 to 104 this year, Kent from 21 to 16, and Medway from four to zero.  Whilst the success rate has risen significantly from six successes nationally it is still very low, with just nine cases nationally found to have seen maladministration that may have led to injustice, and on in Kent and Medway. The norm after such outcomes is for the DfE to order a re-hearing, which may, of course, result in the same outcome, but will certainly use up considerable time in a child's education.

With the increased academisation of secondary schools, the work of the ombudsman has decreased sharply in this area, and there were just six complaints in Kent last year, all following failed appeals to grammar schools, and all unsuccessful, explored further below. There were no complaints in Medway.

Data update below.
In the first three weeks of September this year, 502 Kent families withdrew their children from school to Home Educate, compared to just 201 in the whole of September last year. This is wholly unsurprising as it follows the unique school year of 2018-19 when the large majority of children did not attend school for four whole months from the end of March. As a result, many families who might have been tempted to withdraw their children during that period will not have done so, but let the situation roll on to this term.

Overall, 749 Kent children left school to take up what is known as Elective Home Education (EHE) in the whole of 2019-20, well down from the record 1310 children the previous year and bringing to a halt the sharp annual rise which saw the total increase by 70% over the previous four years. Another 544 children simply went missing from Kent schools, compared with 830 in 2017-18.

The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, ascribed some of this term’s increase to ‘Anxious parents taking their children out of school to home-educate them, as widespread misinformation on social media fuels fears over the risks of Covid’. This was determined from a pilot study of 130 schools earlier this term. I suspect a greater factor is that families who made that decision from March onwards had no need to follow it through until September. 

Sunday, 15 November 2020 12:57

School Appeals: Kent and Medway 2020

This article looks at Year Seven and primary school admission appeals in Kent and Medway. 2020 has seen a very different way of conducting appeals because of coronavirus, which I have explored in several previous articles most recently here. In the event, the large majority were conducted in a paper hearing, without direct parental involvement. The number of appeals for both grammar and non-selective schools were very similar to 2019, although the success rates for both in Kent schools fell,  grammar from 29% to 22%, non-selective from 24% to 19%. The number of complaints against appeals has fallen, suggesting a level of acceptance about the different process. 

There is no pattern with Medway schools, Chatham Grammar upholding an astonishing 94% of appeals, Sir Joseph Williamson's 10%. Rochester Grammar's appeal numbers have fallen sharply with its popualrity this year.  Rainham School for Girls putting all 37 appellants through after a group hearing, and Strood Academy upholding just 4%.  

The most difficult area to win a grammar school appeal is once again in North West Kent, although the two Thanet grammar schools have been very difficult this year. Highest success rates were as usual at Simon Langton Girls with 71% and Maidstone Girls with 69%. Not one of the 64 appeals at Wilmington Girls' Grammar was upheld.  For non-selective schools, success rates range from 0% at Bennett Memorial, Brockhill, Leigh Academy, Maplesden Noakes, St Augustine Academy, St Simon Stock, the new Maidstone School of Science and Technology, and Wye through to 100% at Skinners Kent Academy, Valley Park and Whitstable. Many appellants for non-selective schools are offered places before the appeal, usually as successes at grammar school appeals reduce numbers. This year 66 children were offered places at Valley Park in this way. 

You will find further details below, including primary appeals heard by Local Authority Panels. There is appeal panel data (along with other information) for each secondary school in Kent and Medway here (currently being updated; please let me know if you need the information for a particular school).

Friday, 02 October 2020 18:50

Chatham Grammar: Desperate Advertising

Update February 2021: The forecast of 200 students in the Sixth Form for September 2020 (below) was badly adrift. The figure according to the October census was just 134. 

What is wrong with the following?

CG Tuiton

 

The appalling stories of these two Academy Trusts, eventually closed down by the government, both demonstrated shocking management practices, with a great deal of money vanishing along the way. Both have both been the subject of government investigations which began over two years ago and are still not completed. In September 2019 we learned that the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) investigation was finished but that publication was held up for ‘fact-checking' which is apparently continuing a year later, suggesting an awful lot of facts! For SchoolsCompany, I am told that ‘due process is ongoing with regard to this investigation’, two years after it started! You will find copies of two recent letters from the DfE to me here confirming what are surely unacceptable delays given the amount of money mislaid. 

I have written extensively about both Academy Trusts previously and it is clear that government failure to act when their failings first came to light has played a significant part in both the appalling standards which children endured in the Trusts' schools and the large financial rewards accruing to those in charge. Perhaps this disgraceful delay in releasing the facts of the financial finagling is so that the whole thing can be swept under the carpet and the millions of pounds which were lost through wrongly pumping them into the two companies forgotten. No one will ever be held to account for the dodgy dealings of the companies behind both Trusts and the appalling treatment of children under their care, especially at SchoolsCompany. Meanwhile, the Trust leaders have gone on their way rejoicing without even an acknowledgement of regret.

After a period of some five months of being ‘unexpectedly away from his duties’, Clive Webster CEO of the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership (KCSP) has resigned with effect from 23rd September, according to Companies House, although a news item on the Trust website states that ‘he has decided to step down at the end of December 2020’. His name has been expunged from any mention on the Trust website apart from his resignation statement and replaced as the lead introduction, which is now fronted by Mike Powis, Chair of the Trust Board.

KCSP Logo

I previously wrote a lengthy news article about the Trust in June, analysing the key issues that may have led to his gardening leave or suspension from duties at the time, and there has been no further information about the situation forthcoming since then. Understandably, the Trust has remained very well-disciplined and tight-lipped about the matter, which may well have covered some delicate negotiations. The nature of the resignation statement below suggests it is a departure on agreed terms. 

Page 5 of 84