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Peter Read

You will find the parallel Medway Test article here

This article follows on from my previous: Kent Test 2019; Initial Results and Comment, published in October. The main change since last year is that that the marks required for a pass in the Test have been raised, requiring candidates to score 110 marks on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of at least 330 . Please note that the change remains as always to simply aim for 21% of the age cohort in Kent schools to be successful. In no way does it suggest the Test was more difficult so any attempt to argue this at an appeal for a grammar school place will be unsuccessful. 

Headlines are:
  • The proportion of passes for Kent school children has risen from 25.7% to 26.6%, made up of 20.1% automatic passes with a further 6.5% Head Teacher Assessment (almost a quarter of the total).
  • Boys are well ahead on automatic test passes for the first time since the Test was changed in 2014, at 21.3% passes for boys to 18.9% for girls, and also in total.
  • Girls are well ahead in Head Teacher Assessments, (HTA)s, with 7.3% of all girls being found selective by this route, as against 5.8% of boys.
  • Unsurprisingly, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks have the highest proportion of passes, followed this year by Dartford and then Canterbury.   
  • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in Canterbury, with 10% of the cohort for both boys and girls bring found selective, along with girls in Swale.  but going  on last year’s pattern, only around 15% of whom will apply and be offered places in Kent grammars.
  • For the first time in many years there is a fall in the number of out of county Children taking the Kent Test, and a parallel fall of 8.5% in the number being found selective, to 2,768.:

 For more detail on each of these items, see below. 

Saturday, 15 February 2020 23:22

Selective School Expansion Fund: Kent Decisions

Government has announced the six grammar schools offered £14.3 million funding from the second round of the Government Grammar School Expansion  Fund, out of the 25 that applied. None of the eight Kent and two Medway grammar schools which applied were successful. The successful schools were:  King Edward VI Handsworth School, Birmingham; Ribston Hall High School, Gloucestershire; Haberdashers’ Adams and Newport Girls’ High School Academy, both Telford and Wrekin; Altrincham Grammar School for Girls; and Stretford Grammar School, both in Trafford. 

The Kent grammar schools which applied were: Barton Court, Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth's, Faversham, both bidding for a new Annexe in Herne Bay/Whitstable; Cranbrook; Highsted, Sittingbourne; Highworth, Ashford; Skinners, Tunbridge Wells; and Wilmington Boys and Wilmington Girls, jointly, budding for a new Sixth Form complex. Also Chatham (previously called Chatham Grammar School for Girls) and Fort Pitt Grammar Schools in Medway.

This article contains copies of redacted sections of Meeting Minutes which I have been sent.
Back in November I reported that Catholic primary academies which were members of the Kent Catholic School Partnership, an Academy Trust, had been sent a formal letter from the Trust. This required them to follow a Diocesan policy which forbade them from hosting the Kent Test for their pupils on their own premises, on pain of possible disciplinary proceedings against headteachers. The letter had been sent at the request of the Archbishop of Southwark. It has since been retracted in a Position Statement from the Archbishop, after the policy proved extremely unpopular with some parents and schools, with the whole principle behind the 'policy' rejected.  
Kent Catholic Schools Partnership
The reversal of 'policy' began after the Directors of the Trust appear to have had an almighty row at a Board Meeting in December over the letter, and so it was agreed to pause implementation of the decision. At the meeting, the Director of Education for the Education Commission of the Diocese (ECD) reported that that ‘the tone of response which the Trust had received as a result (of the decision) may be nothing to that which he had also received’.

Last week, the ECD set out one of the clearest and best argued policy statements I have seen from an education body for years. This scrapped the previous requirement on the grounds that the ban was inoperable, discriminatory and not supported Canonically from the Bishops’ Conference, and so could not therefore be Diocesan policy. 

The Turner Schools Annual Report to Companies House, posted on the final due date, 31st January 2020 suggesting some difficulties in completion, continues the saga of well rewarded underperformance. CEO Dr Jo Saxton whose recent main focus has been on Curriculum across the four Turner Schools, was paid a salary of £149,783, conveniently just below the £150,000 level at which government looks askance. The salary is in return for running a small, struggling Academy Trust and is highest of the Kent Trusts I have found so far, excepting four which are large and successful. The Report works hard, as is usual for Turner Schools, on blaming its problems at Folkestone Academy on legacy issues despite the evidence that standards have only declined since it took over. Amongst other own goals: it also manages to excuse the failure of the two Turner primary schools to attract pupils, including Morehall with the highest vacancy rate in Kent; has run up a loan repayable to government of £1.3 million; and has two of its four schools running at a sizeable deficit.

Turner Schools Logo

In other news, Government has at last released a Free School Impact Assessment for Turner Free School carried out in 2018, looking at the likely effects its opening would have on neighbouring schools. The good news (??) according to the DfE was that there would be a Minimal Effect on Folkestone Academy in terms of recruitment, but a Moderate Effect on Astor College in Dover. For the Sixth Form there would be Moderate Effects felt by Canterbury College, East Kent College (which have now merged) and Hilderstone College. How much more wrong could government be! See below.

Sunday, 02 February 2020 17:41

Medway Schools A Level Performance 2019

 This article looks at A Level outcomes for Medway schools in the summer of 2019, following the release of performance data last week; you will find an equivalent article for Kent schools here.  Medway schools perform slightly lower than the national outcomes in Attainment; summary data for Progress from GCSE to A Level not available.

In terms of Progress Grades, there are no schools that have performed at an Above Average Level; in 2018 there was one. There are six schools with Average Progress: Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School; Rainham Mark Grammar; Brompton Academy: St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive; Rainham School for Girls; and Walderslade Girls School. Every other school has below average progress.   

 Two grammar schools, Rochester Grammar and Rochester Maths have performed highly in the A Level attainment categories as usual. Highest attainment amongst the non-selective schools are again Thomas Aveling and Rainham Girls.

Chatham Grammar (previously called Chatham Grammar School for Girls) appears to have had a disaster on all counts, see tables below.

Also noteworthy is the very high fallout rate at three of the six grammar schools between Years 11 and Year 12, and for Holcombe Grammar from 12 to 13 for the third year running, which suggests illegal off-rolling to inflate performance. 

This astonishing story was first reported in the Gravesend Messenger last week, and featured an incident that happened three years ago in which a child was repeatedly bullied and subjected to "incidents of a sexual nature'. The school's failure to deal with the matter appropriately has led to a rare Government Report on the matter. It was only brought to light after a crass decision by the school a fortnight ago, on an unrelated matter which encouraged the family concerned to take it to the media.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020 22:45

Kent Schools A Level Performance Summer 2019

This article looks at A Level outcomes for Kent schools in the summer of 2019, following the release of performance data last week, Medway to follow. Kent schools outperform national outcomes in Attainment; summary data for Progress from GCSE to A Level not yet available. For individual schools I consider that the Progress score is the most important measure, as schools start from such different positions depending on their entry requirements for entry to the Sixth Form.
The school with the standout performance is Valley Park in Maidstone, top of the non-selective (n/s) Progress table for the second year running. It is the best school overall at progressing it A Level students; ahead of every grammar school; and second highest n/s on its A Level point score. 
Valley Park 2
It is followed by Herne Bay High in terms of Progress, both classified as Well Above Average, as in 2018. Both come ahead of Skinners School, the leading grammar. Altogether there are just six grammar schools with Above Average Progress, compared with nine Below Average, and Mayfield Grammar Well Below Average. There are another five n/s schools classified as Above Average on Progress: St Simon Stock; Homewood; St Anselm's; Knole and Hillview. 
As usual, The Judd School heads the list of high attainment measured in A Level point scores, ahead of Skinners, Cranbrook, Weald of Kent and Tunbridge Wells Girls, all from West Kent, and Highworth in Ashford. Altogether there are nine n/s schools above the lowest grammar school point scorers, Chatham and Clarendon and Mayfield.  They are as usual headed by Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, together with: Valley Park; Hillview; St Simon Stock; and Knole. 
Kent has a large number of excellent n/s schools offering large Sixth Forms that compete academically with grammar schools. Students should in any case look around at the different offerings before choosing to remain in their home school, or else to change to a good alternative.  I provide extensive tables of performance and commentary below.

Update 24th January: Royal Harbour Academy has been found to Require Improvement by Ofsted today, up from 'Requires Significant Improvement. This leaves just Holmesdale School as the only Kent secondary school in Special Measures.

The Chief Ofsted Inspector has published her Annual Report for 2018-19, available here. The year has been very successful overall for both Kent and Medway schools being inspected, with all categories outperforming national data. I have explored these in two previous articles, the first looking at secondary school Ofsted Reports  which show both grammar and non-selective schools in Kent and Medway performing comfortably above the national average in Progress and Attainment. At primary level, both Authorities again outperformed national data, this time with academies noticeably achieving higher levels and improved assessments against Local Authority schools. A third article on Special School Inspections will follow shortly. 

Rightly, Ofsted is concerned about ‘stuck schools’ and I look at each of the ten stuck schools in Kent and three in Medway below, discovering that this is a very broad category. I am also preparing a follow up article  looking at two other issues on which the Report focuses: schools where there is potentially off-rolling and excessive movement of pupils: and school exclusions, with Kent enjoying the fourth lowest proportion of permanent exclusions in the country.

Last week, Kent County Council moved a step closer to introducing the proposed Grammar School Annexe of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys in Sevenoaks. This will parallel the girls annexe on the same site, which has been operating since 2017. Two boys’ grammar schools, Gravesend and Norton Knatchbull, have been awarded funding by KCC to meet major housing expansions in Ashford and Ebbsfleet respectively, and I also look at the next round of the Grammar School Expansion Fund decisions planned for the Autumn of 2019, but delayed presumably because of the General Election.
The latest published government list of Approved Free Schools in Kent and Medway, up to October 2019 and still in the pre-opening stage, lists the 15 schools below. Most of these have been considered in previous articles, brought up to date here. Several have been waiting for many years with as yet no sign of progress.
There is a separate Information Page on Kent and Medway's planned and opened Free Schools here
The new schools are: Alkerden School (secondary, likely to be all through), Ebbsfleet; Aspire Special School, Sittingbourne; Barton Manor School (secondary), Canterbury; Bearsted Primary Academy, Maidstone; Chilmington Green Secondary Academy, Ashford; Ebbsfleet Green Primary School; Leigh Academy RainhamMargate Presumption; Rochester Riverside CofE Primary School; School of Science and Technology Maidstone; Springhead Park Primary School, Gravesham (Ebbsfleet); Snowfields Academy (Special School), Bearsted, Maidstone; St Andrew’s Primary Free School, Paddock Wood; The Beeches (Alternative Provision Primary Centre), Chatham;  The Maritime Academy, Strood.
Fuller details on all these schools below. Delays in the two new secondary schools in Medway will be causing problems in secondary provision in September this year, explored below
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