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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 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.

Note on Coronavirus: There are various references to school admission appeals in this article, based on normal expectations . At the time of writing there is no information about  the procedure to be adopted this year, except that it has to be very different from normal, as explained here

The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year Seven pupils has risen by 70 places overall since last year, to 5,540, with a total increase of 610 over the past five years.  The main changes are 30 additional places at each of three North West Kent grammars, Gravesend and Wilmington Boys & Girls grammars, together with a reduction of 30 places at Tunbridge Wells Boys (but may well be reversed at appeal time). The number of places offered before appeals is 5,417, up by 195 from 5,212 in 2019.  

Around 400 of the Kent grammar school places offered, or 7% (down from 8% in 2019) of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with 154 Kent pupils (down from 223) going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 150 ooc pupils coming in were offered places at the two Dartford Grammar schools with the pressure on places at these two schools continuing to rise inexorably.  Dartford Grammar School had an astonishing 409 grammar qualified first choices turned down for its 180 places, up from 336 in 2019.  The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar, and Wilmington Boys, in the same order as 2019. The number of vacancies has fallen sharply from 217 in 2019 to 123 this year across six schools.     

Chatham House 2   Dane Court 

Thanet is a surprising black spot for grammar school applications, with Dane Court and Chatham & Clarendon turning down 79 grammar qualified first choices between them. At least 47 of these had no alternative local grammar school to meet their needs. This follows a sharp raise in the proportion of Thanet children being assessed selective from 19% in 2018, to 23% this year. 

I look below at the outcomes by area in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies. you will find full details of the 2019 Kent selection process here

This article looks in some detail at the allocation of secondary school places in Kent for September 2020. Particular themes are: the pressure on places in Ashford, Canterbury, Gravesham, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells; the increased polarisation of choices, especially in Dover, Sittingbourne and Thanet; and the provision or otherwise of new schools to meet rising pupil numbers. For unexplained reasons, Kent County Council is no longer taking planned housing into account when considering future provision. This decision will inevitably create further pressures in years to come. 

Valley Park 2 

The four most oversubscribed schools are the same as in the two previous years, again led by Valley Park, Maidstone, which turned down 172 first choices. It is followed by King Ethelbert and St George’s CofE in Thanet, then Fulston Manor in Sittingbourne.  There are 494 vacancies across 17 schools, over half of which are in just four, headed up by Folkestone Academy with 86, way ahead of Oasis Isle of Sheppey (66); Astor College (63); and High Weald Academy (54)There were 938 Local Authority Allocations (LAA) which refer to Kent children offered schools they did not apply for. Royal Harbour and Oasis Isle of Sheppey academies each had over a hundred LAAs. Three schools have seen their number of first choices increase by more than 50, headed by two Swale Academy Trust Schools: Whitstable with 86 & Sittingbourne 55, followed by Knole Academy with 51. Going the other way were: St George's Broadstairs losing 62 first choices (but still third most oversubscribed school in Kent); Mascalls (59) and Trinity (50)  

I look more closely below at the situation in each District, along with the most oversubscribed schools and those with most vacancies, together with the impact of out of county offers. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020 15:11

School Appeals and Coronavirus

Update: 1st April: Still no news yet on any arrangements for school appeals

II have recently given an interview to BBC SE on the subject of GCSE and A Level, in which I found my self saying for the first time that this is one of those rare occasions when we must put the needs of the nation against the welfare and life chances of the individual. We will need to accept (much easier when you have no personal stake) that whatever decision is reached there will be great unfairness and damage to life chances of too many young people.

There is an urgent need to resolve potential and pressing problems brought about by the Coronavirus, relating to school admission appeals .  Although this is not high up the priorities in the great scheme of things, it is of great consequence for many thousands of families across the country whose children have been offered schools they consider unsuitable and who fear their children's life chances will be seriously damaged as a consequence. Last year there were 3,153 secondary admission appeals in Kent and Medway, of which 855 were successful. Arrangements for appeals in 2020 are already being drawn up by many schools. 

I look below at five options for managing the changed circumstances, but the only piece of advice I can give for parents at present is to carry on as far as possible to prepare for an appeal happening, although I do not see how any form of appeal can take place unless there is considerable change in the regulations. There is also the additional problem caused by the likelihood of schools closing in the near future, which will deprive many families of their support and the opportunity to collect documentation and other evidence to support appeals. 

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. 

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. 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.

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. 

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.

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