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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.

UPDATE 19 March in main article. 

The Consultation launched by the Interim Executive Board of Furness School and Kent County Council on a proposal to close the school ends on 25th March. I have written several articles on this highly flawed and controversial proposal previously, but this one looks at my perspective on the current situation. 

The first of three main reasons being put forward for the closure of this special school for high functioning children suffering from Autistic Spectrum Disorder is that parents have asked the Council to develop mainstream provision rather than further provision in Special schools. This assertion  appears now to have been discredited for KCC has been unable to provide evidence for the claim and KCC’s Corporate Director of Education has now acknowledged that there is well-evidenced increased demand for Special School places.

The key problem that parents have had responding to the Consultation is the consistent failure of KCC to answer the central questions about the proposal to close. I have the same frustration and formally requested the answers to 11 questions from Mr Leeson, questions that are also being asked by parents at meetings and in writing. Sadly, his reply to me only answered three of these. The ‘Kent On Sunday’ newspaper also asked the same questions with little success. What is the point of a Consultation where the key facts are being hidden from parents, and can it really be regarded as legitimate?

This rather lengthy article explores the powerful case for keeping the Furness School open, albeit under a different name, and yet again exposes the failures of KCC over its mismanagement of the whole issue………


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Kent primary schools have overall had an excellent first half of the year with regard to OFSTED Inspections, with 5 schools Outstanding, 15 Good, 8 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures. More importantly, of the 28 schools inspected an impressive 13 have improved their rating, with just 3 declining. One school, Warden House Primary in Deal has leapt two grades to Outstanding.

Warden House

Warden House Primary School

Sadly, Medway continues to limp along at the bottom, although with just 6 schools inspected this is too small a sample to draw any hard conclusions. Whilst 4 Good, 1 Requires Improvement and 1 Special Measures sounds reasonable, and is above the national average, not one of these have improved their assessment and 2 have got worse.....


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Monday, 26 January 2015 16:22

Kent Test Results 2014: Girls on top

As in previous years, I have prepared a variety of statistics relating to the Kent Test, published below along with my comments. 

Headlines:

  • Overall, 28% of girls and 25% of boys across Kent were assessed as of grammar school standard, a considerable shift in favour of girls' success over previous years, when the two figures have been very similar. 
  • 20.6% of children in the "selective areas" of Kent gained an automatic pass, close to the target figure of 21%. The new Kent Test for 2014 saw considerable change in the pattern of passes, with children required to reach a standardised score of 106 in each of the three assessments of reasoning, English and maths, with an aggregate score of 320. You will find further details here. More girls than boys took the test and more girls than boys passed. The figures for 2014 entry showed a bias towards boys success in the test, but the introduction of English has tilted it the other way. 
  •  Another 6.2% of children, attending linked primary schools in these areas of Kent, secured selective assessments through Headteacher Assessment, target 4%.
  • 49% % of Head Teacher Assessments were successful. As usual, the proportion of referrals and the percentage of passes is highest in the East and lowest in the West of Kent. Also as in previous years, many more girls than boys were found of grammar school ability by this route. With the girls also coming out on top in automatic passes, there is a fall of 82 in the number of boys  passing in spite of an increase of 165 in the number of boys attending  Kent state maintained schools in Year 6, and a rise of  141 girls passing against a decrease of 114 in the number of girls in Year 6. 

Note: All these statistics come with a health warning, as the number of children in private schools is not always known (possibly 6% across the county), and such schools are often omitted from statistics.


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Tuesday, 24 February 2015 13:36

Furness School closure update

“We are scared"

Radio Kent interview with the parent of a child living in Folkestone who has only been offered one appropriate school for her son if the closure of Furness School goes ahead

a private Boarding School in Shropshire!

 Sadly, this family is not alone, for if Furness Special School closes, there is little alternative appropriate  provision for the high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children for whom the redesignated school was set up in September, just six months ago. 

Breaking News (Wednesday afternoon)
 1) I have just received a letter from Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, following an informal KCC Cabinet Meeting on Monday. This makes clear that the closure of Furness School is not a foregone conclusion and that other avenues are to be explored, as there was a general view that  there were many good reasons to try and retain such specialist provision. It was agreed that this view should be articulated at any public meeting.
 
2) The comment at the foot of this column suggests that Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Education, who presumably was present at the above informal Cabinet meeting, is advising parents they do  NOT need to look at schools or accept offers until the end of the Consultation. Many parents are indeed scared, these are families who have had to fight for proper provision for their children from an early age, not just in education, and are often highly stressed. Whilst this may be of considerable comfort it cannot take away the uncertainty. One parent who has visited a private school this week has been told they have to accept the place that has been offered, the next day or it will be lost. What should they do? I am not sure how I could answer them.   

 

The article continued (before the above items arrived)....

This article is an update on my previous articles about the proposed closure of Furness School following gross mismanagement by those responsible for the school and its children.  The school currently has just 31 pupils out of a capacity of 60, of whom 20 are high functioning ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) children who have joined the school following the bright future heralded last June in its redesignation as a school to cater specifically for their condition. 

A meeting for the public and parents about the proposed closure took place last night; summary below.......


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Wednesday, 18 February 2015 22:14

Closure of Oasis Hextable Academy is announced

UPDATED: 20th February 2015

The Oasis Academy Trust has agreed with government that it can close the Oasis Hextable Academy because the school is failing to attract numbers. The reason it is failing to attract numbers is that the two neighbouring and competing schools, Wilmington Academy and Longfield Academy to the north and east have been turned round from being very unpopular, and have now become two of the most oversubscribed schools in the county.

In addition, Orchards Academy in Swanley to the south, once the failing Swanley Technology School, has also improved with steadily rising numbers, with Knole Academy further south in Sevenoaks, picking up some aspiring families who can’t get their children into Wilmington or Longfield.

Oasis Hextable

Sadly, Oasis Hextable, for which I used to do admission appeals regularly a few years ago, has gone the other way, certainly in terms of parental perception. I now talk with families for whom Oasis is a last or no choice, across a patch where nearly every other school is full, apart from one with which Oasis vies in unpopularity. There was an upturn in numbers for the 2014 entry, with the school being taken out of Special Measures when a “Requires Improvement” assessment  in 2013 was achieved  after Alan Brooks, Executive Head of Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, had overseen major improvements at the school. Unfortunately for the Hextable children, he left after a year, for Oasis to take over. It appears that 2015 admissions due out on 2nd March, will offer no solace.

Kent County Council has made clear its view that the school should not be closed, as the increase in population over the next few years will certainly increase demand for places across the District. However, KCC has no voice in the decision, nor in the future of the site, with the premises on a 125 year lease to Oasis, who could decide to use them for different purposes........


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I am very disappointed there has been no response from KCC to my previous article on Furness School, considering the important issues of finance and integrity it raises. Neither has there been even an acknowledgment of my formal request for the evidence supporting the unlikely assertion that parents of high functioning ASD children are spurning Special School places in favour of Units attached to mainstream schools, critical to the closure proposal, but completely ignored in the closure Consultation document.

The failure of the Local Authority to carry out a proper Equality Impact Assessment, according to the Equality Act, places the whole closure proposal in legal jeopardy.  

I have now written the following letter to Mr Patrick Leeson, KCC Corporate Director of Education and Children's Services:

Dear Mr Leeson,

Like me, you must be both concerned and embarrassed by the two mutually contradictory documents produced by KCC Officers about the future of Furness School, accompanied by the failure to produce an adequate and legal equality impact assessment. 

The situation is made much worse by the fact that the first of the two documents, the Complete Proposal for the re designation of Furness as a Special School for high functioning ASD children left out crucial information whose absence will have misled KCC Education and Children's Services Cabinet Committee members and would surely have affected their decision to approve the proposal.  In particular, the financial crisis that is the prime factor behind the proposed closure of the school just seven months later, would have been starkly evident back in July and so should certainly have been presented to members to make a reasoned decision, whereas there is no mention of finances whatsoever.

My immediate concern is that parents have been invited to a meeting to discuss the consultation document on 24th February, and are surely entitled to answers to the following questions to enable them to understand the issues. Many of the issues are amplified in my article, which I am sure has already been referred to you as a matter of grave concern………


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I have previously recounted the story so far here, and with previous links. To summarise:

KCC removed the headteacher of Kings Farm primary at Christmas 2013, and replaced him with the headteacher of Whitehill Primary on an Executive basis. This proved a disaster and the Executive Head was removed by KCC in September 2014, leaving a school that had degenerated into chaos. A consultant headteacher was appointed, the Headteacher of Ifield Special School appointed to oversee progress, and although an OFSTED Inspection in October placed the school in Special Measures, it both recorded the mess into which Kings Farm had been left by the previous leadership and the subsequent excellent progress in the school. A spokesman for the Government Standards and Testing Agency subsequently stated: Following an investigation into the administration of this year's Key Stage 2 tests at King’s Farm Primary, in Gravesend, the decision was made to annul all tests results for all children. Any instances of maladministration of the tests are completely unacceptable.” A parallel investigation took place into the Whitehill results with the same result.  

Kings Farm has now had its initial Monitoring Inspection following the Special Measures finding. Now free of the malign influence of Whitehill, the Report is the most positive assessment of any Kent school I have read at this stage, and my congratulations to all concerned. There can now be no doubt where the initial responsibility for the disaster lays.

Meanwhile, KCC had rewarded Whitehill Primary, the most unpopular primary school in Kent with parents, according to one measure, by allocating another 24 children places in the school at the last moment, raising its Reception Class numbers to 114, making it by far the largest all through Primary school in the county……


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Tuesday, 03 February 2015 17:43

A Level Results in Kent and Medway schools

The 2014 Kent and Medway A Level results have a familiar look to them, with The Judd School once again topping the league table of state and private schools with 62% of its students attaining at least 2 A Grades and a B Grade.

judd

The only other state school in the top seven is Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar, with 41%.

There are a number of tables available, showing different schools to best advantage, but for schools with a lower percentage of top grades, a better measure is the average point score per A Level entry, although Judd is still top again on 257.0. On both measures, Bennett Memorial is as usual the top non-selective school on 212.2 (7% AAB), closely followed by St Simon Stock, 208.9 and then St George’s CofE, Gravesend with 204.6. Bennett is above 7 of Kent’s grammar schools……….


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