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News & 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 1500 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.

Some more specific items appear in Peter's Blog, so its also worth checking there.  

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 life.
Saturday, 06 March 2021 19:07

Back to School

May I send my very best wishes to everyone involved with next week’s national return to school, which will start on Monday for some children, but is staggered through the week for others.

This article is triggered by the Medway Council Press Release on secondary school Allocations, which as usual contains an absolute minimum of information.  In summary: Of the 3,431 Medway children offered places, more than 96 per cent have been awarded a place at one of their preferred secondary schools. 4,459 secondary school applications were processed, including 1,028 children from outside Medway.

The major change in admission patterns this year is also referred to in the Press Release. This is the opening of the new eight form entry Leigh Academy Rainham for September, offering 240 places from 514 applicants, and well above its Planned Admission Number of 180, which will have a major impact on other schools situated in the eastern part of Medway, and explored below.  

The other piece of information I have obtained recently is the performance of Pupil Premium children in the Medway Test, below, showing a fall of over a quarter in the number passing, which will follow through into grammar school allocations. You will find the parallel article about Kent secondary allocations here

ADVERTISING ARTICLE

A personal View by  Leighton Bright Head of Lower School

Non-selective & high performing Rochester Independent College offers a truly unique Secondary School experience for students from Year 7 upwards. We welcome students at any point of their educational journey and offer a variety of different educational pathways to suit each individual.

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The last 12 months have been some of the toughest I can remember as a teacher. At Rochester Independent College we have now twice seamlessly moved to our ‘RIC Without Walls’ provision, by which students have been able to enjoy their full timetable, taught face-to-face by our specialist teachers online. All of our students have adapted extremely well to this new way of working and are continuing to demonstrate their dedication, curiosity and love of learning. Our teachers have also developed a number of new skills and trialled new digital programmes in order to make their lessons as engaging and inspiring as possible, which has been great to see.

Update: You will now find most Super-Selective school cut off levels below 

Kent parents who applied online for secondary school places for their children are scheduled to receive decisions for 5 p.m. on Monday but, because of the large numbers, some usually come through an hour or more earlier, other families hear by post on Tuesday

As with so many aspects of education in this extraordinary year, the data for Kent secondary school allocations, out today, presents a different picture from previous years after Kent County Council chose not to delay the closing date for applications until after the deferred Kent Test results were released. Instead, they increased the number of choices on the application form from four to six. The major effect was that the number of children being offered their first choice school fell sharply from 14,095 to 12,736, or 10% of the total, reflecting the large number who placed a grammar school in first place but were then found non-selective. There was an increase of just 120 Kent pupils applying for secondary places out of a total of 18,273, with 845 being awarded none of their choices, although many of these did not use up all six.  

The number of out of county applicants offered places in Kent schools rose to 859, an increase of 5% over 2020 and the first significant increase for five years, although until I receive further data, I don’t at present know the reason for this. You will find the KCC Press Release here, along with much more information below, including a look at some of the likely pressure points, updated as they become apparent. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools inserted as I receive them (all information 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. Although there is no quick fix, up to a thousand more families will secure a preferred school over the next five months, through reallocation, appeals and late applications, also considered in a recent article here.

Update 25th February: I have added some 'secret' information regarding late applications to  Medway grammar schools here

The government has extended last year’s temporary and amended arrangements for school admission appeals again, to run until 30th September 2021.

My sense is that these arrangements worked well in 2020, with all sides appearing happy with the new procedures in the great majority of cases. There was a total of 3424 appeals heard for admission to Kent and Medway primary and secondary schools last year, of which just 751, or 22% were upheld, compared to 26% in 2019 for a similar number of appeals. You will find that my extensive report on the 2020 appeals process and outcomes looks closely at the way the new arrangements worked.

As well as looking at appeals for admission to secondary schools in 2021, I also look below at late applications, both for families moving into the area and for those changing their direction, including for grammar schools.

I will be reporting on the initial allocation of secondary school places in Kent and Medway, as usual, in a week's time. This will be followed within the next couple of weeks on a detailed breakdown of allocations, in what is regularly a group of the most visited articles on the site and which will provide a further indication on the chances of a successful appeal or late application.   

Six new Free Schools have opened in Kent and Medway since my previous Academy and Free School article in August: Bearsted Primary Academy, Ebbsfleet Green Primary School, School of Science and Technology Maidstone and Springhead Park Primary School; together with two Special Schools, Aspire School and Snowfields Academy. Folkestone Primary separated from the senior part of Folkestone Academy, as a new Sponsored Academy. The DfE has approved a new school, Chapelfield Primary in Maidstone, along with two more new schools in principle, the Gravesend Central School and Coningbrook Cof E Primary in Ashford. 

New Converter Academies were: Eastchurch CofE Primary School, Sheppey; Holy Trinity CofE Primary School, Gravesham; Kingsdown & Ringwould CofE Primary, Marden Primary Academy, Maidstone; and Oaklands School, Medway along with the North West Kent Alternative Provision Service which is also a Sponsored Academy, all discussed in the August article.  

Applications by Chartham Primary, St Stephen’s Infants and Worth Primary to convert have all been approved, with Fleetdown Primary in Dartford, Mundella in Folkestone and Sandwich Infants also having made applications. There is no current movement in Medway Schools. Whilst Holmesdale School and The North School appear to have cleared all obstacles to becoming Sponsored and Converter Academies respectively as part of Swale Academies Trust, there appears to be some form of blockage to the process.  

The SE and South London Headteacher Board acting on behalf of the Regional Schools Commissioner has very surprisingly rejected an application by Fairview Community Primary School in Gillingham to join the Westbrook Trust.

Leigh Academy Rainham is opening in Medway in September 2021. The school will be a mixed 11-18 comprehensive on the edge of Rainham in Medway. 

Update below (17th February): The Plot Thickens. I have made minor revisions to the article as a result. 

The governors of Fairview Community Primary School in Gillingham, Medway, have scored a massive own goal by ignoring the wishes of parents, in their drive to academise the school within the Westbrook Trust. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the previous Chair of Governors, Kate Allen, is married to the CEO of the Westbrook Trust. After an earlier crisis at Fairview which saw the headteacher leave mid- term in 2018, and covered previously here, Medway Council brought in the Compass Partnership of Schools to provide leadership to the school, from January 2019. This proved an excellent and popular decision so, when Fairview governors decided to convert the school to become an academy, parents expected them to choose Compass, with its five primary schools, a strong record, and an Executive Headteacher who had restored confidence and stability to the school. Instead, they chose the Westbrook Trust.

 

Fairview Community

In a highly unusual move, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Headteacher Board has now turned down the governors’ application to convert the school, citing concerns that they were at odds with the school community and that Medway Council had formally raised concerns surrounding the governing body’s decision making, specifically around transparency and community engagement. Up until now, the pattern across the country has been for the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) to override such concerns in a drive to increase the number of academies, often very publicly and controversially, so this decision is very significant. It is quite clear that if governors had chosen the Compass Partnership which had restored the school’s morale and reputation, most parents would have been more than happy.

Updated here, 8th Feb, drawing on a KCC Education Committee Report

I have covered disputes over the proposed conversion of Kent schools built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to become academies for many years. These first surfaced around 2011, my initial article being here, with the schools involved including Holmesdale Technology College and The North School.  

Ten years later, these two schools are still at the heart of the issue and I have chronicled their misfortunes under Kent County Council (KCC) control over the years, although up to another eight PFI schools may well be looking on with their own plans to convert. Both of the two schools are now managed for Kent County Council by Swale Academy Trust, whose plan, alongside improving them, has always been to secure academy status for both. I have received correspondence from FOI requests over the past two years which confirms the difficulties encountered in attempting to achieve this, but now shows that all obstacles appear to have been removed. A letter from KCC to Swale, of 11th September 2020, concludes I see no reason why these conversions should not proceed with little contention between ourselves‘. This is quite explicit although, despite the view that ‘We are both working to the same objective, the swift, smooth transition of the schools into the Trust’, it appears that KCC has been stalling on implementing the conversions for a further five months, having possibly only taken the single step of appointing solicitors to oversee the conversions. As a result, the agreed conversion date of 1st September 2021 appears very much at risk, in which case Swale Academies Trust could decide to pull out completely and hand the schools back to KCC, whose record is one of having led them both into Special Measures.   

This article explores the issues, including KCC's role, more closely and widens them out to consider the situation relating to the other PFI schools still under KCC control, notably Royal Harbour Academy.