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News and Comments - Kent Independent Education Advice

News and Comments

The latest news posted by Peter J Read; just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the over 800 regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item, who have gone beyond the headlines to look at the full article.  If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment.

Please feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk.

 
News items below appear below as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.
Wednesday, 09 January 2019 19:58

Holmesdale School: Further Revelations

Swale Academies Trust (SAT) has engaged in a series of email exchanges with Kent County Council staff, which have been forwarded to me following a Freedom of Information Request. These culminate in serious allegations that KCC tried to block the Trust’s attempts to prepare the failing Holmesdale School for the best possible start in January.

In particular Swale Academies Trust alleges that: KCC's deliberate and deeply damaging procrastination over the awarding of the support contract left the school without support from June 2018 to late November 2018; KCC attempted to block the appointment of a suitably experienced Headteacher to take on the Headship of Holmesdale at incredibly short notice; and that KCC refused to engage in SAT’s offer to provide Holmesdale with a full complement of teachers for January.


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The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) is proposing a radical change to its admission rules from September 2020. This follows the government decision to award some £3 million to each of 16 grammar schools including RGS, to enable them to expand on  condition that these schools have plans  to improve access for pupils on Pupil Premium  and to undertake effective partnerships with local primary schools and non-selective secondary schools, to contribute to improved educational outcomes across the wider system.

.Rochester Grammar

The school, which is part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), has gone out to Consultation to scrap its current academic super-selective status which sees the great majority of its pupils selected through high scores. It plans to become a school that gives admission priority to girls on Pupil Premium from 2020. Then, after several smaller categories (below) it will prioritise local children who have passed the Medway Test no matter what their scores. Given that the Trust runs two Medway grammar schools and has proposed identical admission criteria for both, except that the other school, Holcombe Grammar, is to give no priority whatever to Pupil Premium, so this does not appear a principled decision,  

I look at wider aspects of local implications of the grammar school expansions in a separate article


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Revision of Previous Article
Kent County Council has been highly pro-active in promoting grammar school opportunities for pupils on Pupil Premium which has no doubt contributed to the fact that over three quarters of its 32 grammar schools already make provision for this in their Admissions Policies. Kent now appears to have been punished for its success in following government policy!

Medway Council appears not have noticed the shift in priorities and as a result just one out of the six grammar schools currently has a relevant policy. Certainly, there is no evidence that Rochester Grammar, the one local school offered funds for expansion in return for developing a social mobility policy, has ever shown any interest before in such a development. Further, such an expansion when Medway has a large surplus of grammar school places for girls, appears pointless, and could place Chatham Grammar School for Girls at risk through lack of numbers as explained here. It in turn is now chasing London girls and so should survive. 

I look below at issues in Kent and Medway in more detail. 


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Rainham School for Girls, a non-selective secondary school in Medway,  is consulting on a controversial scheme to set up the first new primary section for girls only in the country. It would have an intake of 60 girls, beginning in 2020-21. There is currently just one all through girls school in the country,  a girls' private school founded in the 19th century that only became a state school recently, and remains a member of the Independent Girls School Day Trust, a very different set up to that proposed for Rainham Girls. There are just seven single sex state primary schools nationally, five of which are conformist Jewish schools. 

Rainham School for Girls Logo 

The only reference to single sex education in the thin consultation document is the rather tentative one of: ‘We are keen to explore with stakeholders the concept of single sex primary provision, which we feel is an exciting prospect that will enable us to not only focus on the best learning strategies for girls, but will ensure that they have the chance to explore all aspects of learning, challenging stereotypes’.

The document also offers little rationale for extending the age range.

‘The offer to extend our all-inclusive wrap around provision to Primary age children is an exciting one. The biggest impact of extending the school’s age range would be on a pupil’s learning journey.  The school’s ethos of high expectation and aspiration, in addition to having a common learning language from the age of 4 through to 18 will significantly increase a pupil’s progress path, leading to successful, well rounded young people’, which offers nothing to the over 80% of Year 7 girls who would be joining Rainham Girls from other schools.


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Friday, 02 November 2018 20:14

Exclusions Kent and Medway 2017-18

 Kent permanent exclusions have fallen by a remarkable 40% from last year to 49 pupils permanently excluded in 2017-18, in sharp contrast to nationally rising rates. No Kent school has more than five permanent exclusions. In 2011-12 there were an astonishing 210 Kent pupils permanently excluded more than any other Local Authority in the country, whereas now it is one of the very lowest. 

Other Headlines:

For 2016-17, even before this fall, Kent had the lowest rate of permanent exclusions in the South East. Kent fixed term exclusions have risen slightly to 10,698, an astonishing 11% or 1211 pupils of which are from one school, the secondary department of Folkestone Academy the rate of exclusion having shot up since 2016-17. Next comes Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy with 786 exclusions. In 2016-17, the last year for which I have national comparisons, Kent fell below the national average for fixed term exclusions for the first time. 

For Medway, one sixth of the size of Kent, the 2017-18 provisional number of permanently excluded pupil, is 58 (there may be additional exclusions to record),  down from the previous year’s final figure of 65. Five of Medway’s 18 secondary schools have more than five permanent exclusions, headed up by Brompton Academy with 11. I don’t yet have the Medway data for Fixed Term Exclusions.


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Further Update: See new article here. 

Updates: There is more information relating to Martello Primary, below. I have now published an article setting out  exclusion data across Kent for 2017-18, which serves as the basis for this item. 

Folkestone Academy had more than one in every seven of all fixed term exclusions across Kent’s 101 secondary schools in 2017-18. That is just under one exclusion for every pupil in the school, and over twice as many as in 2016-17. This shocking and startling figure is just the latest in a number of revelations about happenings in the school revealed on this website. It closely follows the news that the school has dropped in GCSE performance this summer to become the fifth lowest performer in both Progress and Attainment. In 2016-17 it was  in the top half of non-selective schools in the county.

Folkestone Academy 2

Meanwhile, the new Martello Primary, taken on by Turner Schools in January 2017, has the second highest Fixed Term exclusion rate out of all of Kent's 463 primary schools with one exclusion for every four pupils. . 

These fly in the face of statements by the school’s Chief Executive in the TES that: Saxton agrees with Lemov that a structured approach to behaviour is a way of reducing exclusions. She says that prior to joining Turner Schools, Folkestone Academy was the highest excluding school in Kent, but it is now reintegrating pupils into mainstream education.’  Whilst the claim itself was false then, it is certainly true now, the 1211 fixed term exclusions being more than double any other school in Kent (with the exception of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey with 786). This equates to 85% of the statutory aged secondary school body, a dramatic rise from 2016-17, for most of the year under the previous management of 35%. 

“Teacher capacity and skill is the best antidote there is to exclusion of students,” he (Professor Lemov) says. “The people who don’t work in high need communities often misunderstand that and think that order leads to suspensions and exclusions, but it’s the opposite. “Behaviours that lead to exclusions happen when students perceive there to be no limits and no expectations and no rules.”  So there you have it!

It was 'education guru' Mr Lemov who, in a recent training session for the Turner Trust staff compared Folkestone with an ‘American Rust Belt City’, presumably in an attempt to explain the poor performances away.


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Friday, 28 December 2018 19:06

Holmesdale School: Pupils Failed Yet Again

Updated  8th January 2019

Holmesdale school families have been failed by Kent County Council and the school’s governors and leaders ever since the Ofsted Report of March 2014 found the school to be Good. Since then the school went into a spiral of decline up to and after it was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted in February 2018, which I explored in detail in a previous article here.  My analysis included critical areas of decline over the interim that should have alerted KCC to the problem, but they failed to act and pupils' futures were sacrificed. Following the Ofsted Inspection the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) placed an Academy Order on the school naming Swale Academies Trust (SAT) as the preferred sponsor.

Holmesdale

Subsequently, the school had an Ofsted Monitoring Inspection in July which found that ‘leaders and managers are not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures’. Unsurprisingly, the Provisional 2018 GCSE results showed that Progress 8, the key government measure of performance, was -0.86, officially ‘well below average’  and the second worst in the county. Amongst then many issues identified, The Ofsted Report refers to major concerns with persistent absence, hardly surprising perhaps with the poor quality of education being offered. These are amongst the factors I identified leading up to the Special Measures finding.  Most shockingly, Holmesdale had lost 34% of its Year 7 roll by the time they reached Year 11, by some way the highest figure in the county. The headteacher has chosen to leave at short notice, for Christmas, and there are reports of severe staff shortages for January.

Also, since February 2018 there has been unacceptable wrangling between KCC and various other bodies over who should supply school improvement support, which was only resolved at the end of November, so that the school was left rudderless in between and went downhill further. There is considerable risk to the school with still falling numbers and Swale Academies Trust will have to work hard to make the school once again financially viable by attracting pupils. . 


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Wednesday, 17 October 2018 17:19

Kent and Medway School Appeal Outcomes: 2018

Note: The 11 plus exams forum has removed any indirect mention of this article or website, presumably as it wishes to deny its followers the information. 

This article looks at Year Seven and primary school admission appeals in Kent and Medway, conducted by Kent County Council, Medway Council and a number of private providers. Apart from a sharp fall in successful Kent grammar school appeals to 30% from 38%, other outcomes in Kent and Medway are very similar to the 2017 figures.

For individual schools, by far the largest individual difference follows the shambles at Holcombe Grammar School, which also saw a fall from 76% to 7% of appeals upheld.

As usual, there is no obvious pattern amongst non-selective schools, although I look at outcomes in each District below.

The four Dartford grammars had just 17 successful appeals between them, out of 407, Dartford Grammar having most appeals heard, at 129, closely followed by Wilmington Boys at 125. The highest success rates at Kent grammar schools in 2017 have come down from last year, although still led by Invicta Grammar at 77% (down from the 89% of 65 appeals in 2017).

Further details below, including primary appeals heard by Local Authority Panels. You will find appeal panel data (along with other information) for each secondary school in Kent and Medway here....


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