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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.

My Retirement from KentAdvice

I announced in two articles lower down the page, that I am winding down this KentAdvice website as from the beginning of the year. However, I have committed to following through some themes which I have started, that move the important notice that I am stepping down further down the page, as is now happening. In addition, issues like the crisis in primary school provision in Ebbsfleet, below, will perhaps arise as in this case when I was approached on the subject by KMTV and carried out some basic research in preparation. The two articles are, firstly My Retirement from www.kentadvice.co.uk, and secondly KentAdvice: Review of Seventeen Years of Support for Families.   

Further Update on Maidstone Grammar School for Girls
A subsequent article, entitled: Ombudsman confirms Maidstone Girls' Grammar has operated unlawful Sixth Form Admission rules for years, published in September 2017, sets out the truth.
 
Further Update on Invicta 
You will find further advice prepared in August for anyone who finds themselves in this position here; and another in August 2017, confirming the illegality here

 Update: I have been asked by a number of Year 12 families about any advice I can offer to current students who fear for their chances in Year 13. See new heading towards foot of the article. 

You will find a feature length article in Kent on Sunday here, widening the debate. It includes a quotation by Julie Derrick, headteacher of Invicta Grammar School: "This is an 'interpretation' by a couple of students- it is not accurate". The host of testimonies at the foot of this table, and in the media, suggests she is out of touch with reality. 

Please visit comments at the foot of this page, from twenty young people or their parents, who come across as thoughtful, full of commonsense, concerned for other victims, and well educated by their school. All support the facts denied by Invicta Grammar. Please note that whilst some have chosen to write under a nom de plume, nearly all have identified themselves to me and appear to be genuine. This webpage has been unprecedented in its popularity with 9239 visitors on its first day of publication, indicating the importance of the issues raised,  having subsequently soared to a total of 29,846 (July 2018)

The pressure to achieve results has resulted in the two girls’ grammar schools in Maidstone both adopting apparently unlawful tactics to secure top A Level grade performance, at the expense of the future of some students. OFSTED considers both high performing schools are Outstanding, so there is no doubt about the excellent quality of education offered for those young people who stay the course.  

However, at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the school suddenly introduced a new and unlawful provision for selecting external students for admission to the Sixth Form in September 2016, illegally picking those predicted to achieve highest GCSE Grades by a process not in the school’s admission rules.

At Invicta Grammar School, 22 students ‘voluntarily’ left the school half way through their A Level course, refused permission to carry on into Year 13, a total of 26 through the year, the highest number and the second highest proportion of any Kent grammar school. This was because their grades at AS level were insufficient to be confident of the high A Level performance of which the school is so proud, Given no alternative to stay on, this amounts to expulsion although there is no lawful provision for students to be removed mid-course by schools in this way.

Further details on the situation at both schools below, along with other grammar schools which have a high departure rate. There appears a particular problem in Medway, where four of the six grammar schools saw a loss of more than 10% of their cohort between Years 12 and 13 this year. 

Each year, I am contacted by a number of young people, mainly but not exclusively in grammar schools, who are not admitted to Sixth Forms although fully qualified according to the school admission criteria, or who are forced out at the end of Year 12 because the school only wants the highest performing students for the sake of their league table position.  However, these two cases are the most extreme I have come across.

Too many students, capable of fulfilling their potential by achieving A Level success, albeit sometimes at a lower level than schools wish to see, therefore see their career chances thwarted...

The nine Lilac Sky Academies in Kent and East Sussex have just two more days before the unlamented Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) closes down by Government Instruction and the schools are handed over to other Academy Trusts. The Trust Website still records the Board of Directors as those who saw the Trust to its financial ruin and were then removed, being replaced by Regional Schools Commissioners appointees six months ago.

 LSSAT Logo

Puffed up to the end, until just before the end of term, individual Trust Websites were self-congratulatory about their schools’ achievements with not a word about the change of Management apart from a brief notice buried away last July which reads– “Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust has decided that in order to serve the needs of our children we should seek an alternative Trust to take over the running of some of our schools” – perhaps an odd way to describe events.

The Trust carried a two million pound deficit at the end of 2014/15 (this year’s account still to come), which was originally reported as debts to be passed on to the successor Trusts, but I am now told the final sum will be absorbed by government; if so there will have been no incentive to save in the final year.  

LSSAT probably reached its acme in November 2015, when it boasted on its website that it had won a Department for Education contract to support Regional Schools Commissioners in eight RSC Regions, including  the South East, which would probably have come in very handy as the latter included all nine LSSAT Academies except that Government never activated it (see below). 

The Contract Brief
 - advise open academies on effective improvement strategies;
 - assess and advise on Free School/UTC/Studio School applications;
- assist the RSC’s in securing suitable sponsorship solutions for relevant maintained schools.

This would have been invaluable as it was surely a major conflict of interest. In the event, it appears that government belatedly realised there was an issue and no services were requested, the Contract being terminated in November 2016 (response to FOI Request). The FOI request also reveals thatthe EFA is reviewing financial management and governance at the trust. This work is currently ongoing and we have no further comments to make at this stage’......

UPDATED: 22nd December

Since I wrote a month ago about the second Consultation launched within a year by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) to turn the boys’ Holcombe Grammar School (HGS) into a co-educational school from September 2018, the school has published further documentation which only serves to underline four key propositions.

Firstly, in a crowded field, I believe this may be the most disgraceful proposal for a change of school status I have come across.

Secondly, The Letter to Parents, Consultation Document,  and Notes of Meetings on 10th November  and 1st December contain many errors of fact, misleading statements, innuendo and untruths most of which appear to be deliberately inserted to strengthen a very weak case. 

Thirdly,  the content of these documents point to a key purpose being behind its publication. This is the undermining of another grammar school, Chatham Grammar School for Girls (CGSG).

Fourthly, the proposal is put forward purely for self-interest with no thought for the local community, its schools or the reduction in pupil choice.

Chatham Boys 3

 

The Consultation follows hot on the heels of Government turning down a previous identical proposal just four months ago, in August and ends on 2nd January, so it is  important that views are expressed by then, using the form provided. The school claims it can apply again as it is demonstrating a solution to the previous reasons for rejection.  My previous article demonstrates that all five of the new reasons put forward for the new proposal in a letter to parents are either false or invalid.

Update and Correction Saturday 17th December

There is a sea change in measuring performance in primary schools this year with parents facing a barrage of statistics to assist in school choice and the factors outlined in a BBC article  leading with “Parents are being urged to ignore the latest school league tables, after "chaotic" changes to tests in England.”

Nevertheless, there is important information amongst the mass of data which will enable a high proportion of schools to claim they are performing well by one measure or another and I attempt to point up some of this below, with a strong warning about reliability.

Government has now developed two key measures, firstly about the progress achieved between the age of 7 (Key Stage 1) and 11 (Key Stage 2), measured around a National Average of 0 (zero). Secondly achievement measured by the percentage of pupils in the school reaching a standardised score of 100 in mathematics, English reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG).

The good news in the Kent table is that overall pupils achieved above average progress in each of the three elements, and that 59% of children reached the standardised score across the board, against a National Average of 53%. This is way up on 2015's statistically absolutely average performance

For Medway, the table shows that pupils achieved below national average progress in reading and maths, and average progress in SPAG, leading to a below National Average attainment score of 49% in attainment. It is unclear at this stage whether this is an improvement on last year's bottom place in the country. 

Further details of the county figures below, with some interpretation, together with a look at some individual schools. I conclude with attempting some advice for parents looking for a primary school for their child in September 2017 based on this data.

I have now had further opportunity to look at data relating to the recent Kent Test outcomes for Admission in September 2017, with a summary of the statistics below.  This article expands my initial lookat the 2016 Kent Test results, written in October, which should be read in conjunction with the article. The figures do not match exactly, as adjustments and late tests have produced changes.
Headlines are:
  • A fall in the proportion of Kent children taking the Kent Test from 64% to 60%, and a 9% fall in the number of children put forward for Headteacher Assessments (HTA).
  • Girls are still ahead on both automatic test passes since the Test was changed in 2014, and also in HTAs, but the gaps have narrowed.
  • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in East Kent, the lowest in West Kent.
  • The fall in HTA successes has resulted in an overall fall in success from 26.1% to 25.7%, nearer the target of 25%.
  • There is an increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium found selective to 9.1% of the Kent state school total passes,brought about through headteachers recognising ability in the HTA, where coaching is irrelevant.

amherst       Ethelbert Road

  • Schools with the highest proportion of Kent successes are split between East and West: Amherst Junior (Sevenoaks); Ethelbert Road (Faversham); Ramsgate Holy Trinity CofE; and Claremont (Tunbridge Wells). 
  • Another leap in Out of County Passes, around 80% of whom will not take up places.  

For more details see below:

For the most recent school year, Kent and Medway had fifteen secondary schools given full inspections between them, with 73% being assessed as Good or Outstanding, well above the national percentage of 57% (latest figure as of March). Seven schools improved their grading, with just two going the other way. The most impressive performance was by Skinners Kent Academy, which achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating, see below.
SKA 2 
The tilt given by the most recent OFSTED assessment towards performance is seen in the achievement of the four grammar schools, all improving their grading, three to ‘Outstanding’: Dartford and Wilmington girls’ grammars and Harvey Grammar, although the new priority on Progress 8 Levels may go some way to reversing this.

In Medway the two schools inspected, Rainham Girls and Thomas Aveling, both maintained their ‘Good’ status.

Kent’s Special Schools continue to be rated at the highest level with every single school now currently rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ (although the Director of Education quoted just 96% in his most recent Report on OFSTED).These successes include last year’s three Inspections (79% 'Good' or 'Outstanding' nationally), with Milestone School maintaining its ‘Outstanding’ rating, the other two schools improving to ‘Good’. In Medway, the one Special School inspected, the INSPIRE Free Special School, was placed in special Measures.

Monday, 24 October 2016 07:42

Kent and Medway School Appeal Outcomes 2016

Each year, I collect Appeal data for every secondary school in Kent and Medway that has Admission Appeals for Year 7 entry, and for those primary schools whose appeals are organised by the two Local Authorities. My thanks to all the schools that have co-operated so fully and willingly. I now have the data for every secondary school that held appeals. 

Success rates at admission appeals for Kent and Medway grammar schools have fallen to 34% for 2016, a drop for the third successive year, but for non-selectives, up at 38%, with chances of success at primary school appeals remaining very low.

If you are qualified for grammar school, or if you wish to be considered form a non-selective school, it is important to put your name down on the waiting list for all schools for which you wish to be considered with well over 200 children being offered places by this route (it is impossible to be precise). 

chatham clarendon                     St Georges 3

For grammar schools, numbers range from Chatham and Clarendon Grammar (Ramsgate) with 118 appeals (down from 146 last year) of which 47 were upheld, and Wilmington Boys, 114 with just six upheld, through to Cranbrook School with no appeals and Dover Grammar Boys 16 with 7 upheld. In Medway Rochester Grammar had three successful appeals out of 43, and Fort Pitt four out of 41. For non-selective schools, highest were St George’s CofE, Gravesend with 57 appeals (27 last year) with just three successful, and St George’s Foundation, Broadstairs with 50 (74 last year) with 30 successful. These were also the two most popular schools in Kent measured by oversubscription levels. Also amongst the oversubscribed secondary schools, Ursuline College had 11 appeals of which none were successful.

For Infant Schools where Infant Class Legislation applies (see below), there were 317 appeals heard across Kent and Medway by Local Authority Panels, with 13 successful.

You will find further information and advice on school appeals here, with more data and explanation of the 2016 figures below. For comparison you will find the 2015 article here. .....

Thursday, 13 October 2016 11:11

Kent Test Results 2016, Initial figures

You will find a much more detailed and later analysis here

Kent Test results have now been published with the pass mark the same as last year. An automatic pass has again been awarded to candidates scoring 106 on each of the three sections - English; maths and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of 320. This total will again be around 21% of the total age cohort across the county, with further details to follow as I receive them.

An additional number of children will have been found to be of grammar school standard through what is called the Headteacher Assessment, usually around 6% of the total. You will find full details of the whole Kent Test process here. Overall, these two processes last year yielded passes for 26% of Kent children in the age cohort.  

One important and welcome change is that KCC are now making individual test scores available to parents who registered online from 5 p.m., so there will no longer be the anxious wait or chasing up of primary schools for results of previous years.

As last year, I  shall be publishing a second article later when I receive more data from KCC. 

Initial figures released by KCC are below, together with further information and ways I can support you. 

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