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Friday, 19 October 2018 10:46

GCSE Performance for Kent Schools: 2018

The key measure of GCSE performance is Progress 8 (full table here) which looks at progress from the end of primary school to the end of Year 11, comparing pupils to others nationally, who begin from the same starting point, and is rightly given priority in measuring performance.  Under this measure, Kent is below the National Average of -0.02, at -0.08. Attainment 8 (full table here) simply measures what it says, with Kent above the National score of 46.5 at 47.1 although there is a variety of other statistics provided to choose from to suit your case, as explained below... 


Headlines: The excellent performance of two of Kent's three Free Schools in their first GCSE cohort is a key highlight of the data. Girls grammar schools continue to dominate the Progress 8 table, with eight out of the top twelve schools, all achieving Well Above Average Progress. The list is headed by Weald of Kent and Highworth Grammars, but with Bennett Diocesan Memorial (selecting on religious grounds), in third place. 

The bad news is that 15 schools have fallen under the government Floor Level, all with Well-Below Average Progress  and so potentially facing government intervention. This is more than double last year's figure of six schools, with four present in all three years of the new arrangements.  Government also has a measure of 'Coasting Schools', those with poor progress for three years, and Kent has 11 of these, including perhaps surprisingly five Ofsted 'Good Schools': Archbishop's; Homewood; Hugh Christie; North; and Sandwich Technology.  

Five of the top six grammar schools on attainment are unsurprisingly super-selective in West and North West Kent - along with Tunbridge Wells Girls', exactly as in both 2016 and 2017.  The Non-selective table is again led by Bennett Memorial, followed by Trinity School (Free) and Skinners Kent Academy. Five non-selective schools are at the foot of both Progress and Attainment Tables. 


Further information below, including the performance of many individual schools. The 2018 data for all Kent secondary schools is listed here, along with several other measures.

Note: To assist those looking for information on secondary school transfer, you will find the parallel  article on Medway GCSE outcomes here. I have also published 2018 school appeals. You will find items on the Kent Test and Medway Test, previously published. 

This is the third year of the new GCSE assessments for measuring schools performance, Progress 8 and Attainment 8, which replaced the long established 5 A*-C GCSE league table including English and maths. 

Both key measures have had their methodology changed to suit government priorities and the new GCSE grading system As a result, numbers are not directly comparable to last year, but appear to be of a very similar nature.

Both Progress 8 and Attainment 8 are measured by an arcane formula combining results in eight curriculum subjects to produce numbers whose meaning and spread is very difficult to comprehend, but enable schools to be placed in an order. They  are measured across eight subjects, English maths, 3 qualifications from sciences, computer science, history, geography and languages, and 3 other additional approved qualifications.  for Progress 8 there is a target national average score of 0, with the great majority of schools being between +1 and -1. The government Floor Standard, or expectation is to be above -0.5, in which case “the school may come under increased scrutiny and receive additional support”. and 15 Kent secondary schools fail to meet this.There are further details of the outcomes below.  

Progress 8
Grammar Schools
I am not sure that in Kent, with the grammar schools dominating the top of the table, this proves they necessarily offer better teaching; rather, there is a strong element of – ‘brighter pupils can be stretched further’. Whereas in 2017, all but one of the top performers were super-selective, this year the list is led by three non-super selective girls schools, showing best progress can be made elsewhere .
Simon Langton Boys, which is one of two grammar schools making below average progress, underperforms because it takes the International GCSE (IGSE) in English (following previous poor performance in the subject) that does not feature on the government list of approved subjects. 
Grammar School Progress 8 Scores for 2018
Highest Lowest
School Score School Score
All Well Above Average Below Average
Weald of Kent
Simon Langton Boys


Highworth 0.98 Queen Elizabeth's -0.32
Invicta 0.96 Average
Tunbridge Wells Girls 0.93 Dover Boys -0.17
Dartford 0.93 Maidstone -0.12 
Tonbridge  0.84 Harvey -0.05
Dartford Girls 0.74 Borden -0.03
Skinners 0.68 Chatham & Clarendon -0.02
Non-Selective Schools
Possibly the most interesting news is the performance  of Kent's three Free Schools, with Wye high in both Progress and Attainment tables, and Trinity showing good progress and high Attainment. Hadlow is average on both counts. The highest performing non-selective schools are Bennett Memorial (yet again), in third place of all schools including grammars, followed by St Simon Stock Catholic and  Meopham schools - both with a better result than eighteen  grammar schools. Meopham (second highest non-selective in 2017), and with no obvious advantages,  also clearly stands out as a school with good teaching and learning

At the foot of the table are 15 non-selectives which are below the government floor standard and must all be concerned at their performance which will itself hinder future recruitment of the quality staff and leaders needed to improve matters. This is a sharp increase on the 2017 figure of six schools and may suggest an increasing polarisation of non-selective schools in the county as those at the top perform better than ever. Four schools have been here for all three years of the new scheme: Astor College; Hartsdown; Royal Harbour; and Holmesdale. the first three of these, along with Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey and Folkestone Academy, also occupying places at the foot of the Attainment table. A total of ten out of the 15 schools are situated on the coast. Oasis and Folkestone are powerful examples of how poor leadership can destroy young people's future prospects, both featuring in previous articles in this website, and both having had a rapid turn over of headteachers. I have branded Oasis Academy and Hartsdown, both serving areas of high social deprivation,  as 'Tough Love Academies'  using unreasonably harsh disciplinary methods for minor offences guaranteed to alienate pupils who above all need support. The most recent example of poor leadership has seen Folkestone Academy plunge into this group of struggling schools  as the high profile Turner Schools trust thrashes around trying unproven methods to educate children, hoping to cover up their failures with extravagant PR claims. 

Astor College in Dover has been at the foot of the tables for years, having receiving two  Warnings  about unacceptable standards from the Department for Education, most recently  in 2015. It avoids  coasting Schools status (below)  by being fractionally above the cut-off in 2016. Dover Christ Church Academy is also in both lists, St Edmund's Catholic the third Dover school, being just above the cut off. The Dover Test for for grammar school entrance sees over 150 children annually who have not passed the Kent Test taken out of the system, which will inevitably be a factor in this low performance across the district. 

Leigh UTC also appears in both lists, down on both from 2017. Whilst its position as fourth lowest in the county for Progress 8 is significant, it should be borne in mind that there were only 36 pupils in Year 11. Medway UTC the only other local University Technical College came bottom in Medway by some way in Progress 8. 

Of the other schools at the foot of the table, Malling School is of particular interest. Five years ago, with the recent GCSE cohort it was another school of last resort for admission, but has been turned round by strong leadership, and is now heavily oversubscribed. It also carries the largest and most popular SEN Unit for children with EHCPs (the successors to SEN statements) in the county, whose results are included in the tables pulling it down the table. It won't be there next year. Other schools at the bottom of both lists are Marsh Academy and High Weald Academy. 

 Spires Academy which struggled since long before it became an academy, having no strong catchment in the small community of Sturry, near Canterbury, had a disastrous period being run by the previous Headteacher of controversial Simon Langton Girls Grammar, but  is now part of the E21C (Education for the 21st Century) Academy Trust in Bromley. E21C was the subject of a Financial Investigation by the Education Funding and Skills Agency last year.  It is one of a number of schools which have been turned round with a strong improvement and is now in the middle of the table.


Non-Selective Progress 8 Scores for 2018
Highest   Lowest
School Score School Score
Well Above Average
Well Below Average and
below Floor Level of -0.5
Bennett Memorial  0.97  Hartsdown -1.19
Above Average    Holmesdale
St Simon Stock Catholic


Leigh UTC
Meopham 0.45 Malling
Hillview Girls 0.44 Oasis Isle of Sheppey
Skinners Kent Academy  0.39 Folkestone -0.76
St Gregory's Catholic
0.37 Astor College -0.76
Wye (Free)  0.30 Aylesford -0.67
Valley Park 0.22 Dover Christ Church -0.66
Average Marsh   -0.65
John Wallis
0.22   Charles Dickens
Duke of York's 0.16 Royal Harbour -0.63
Trinity (Free) 0.15 Sandwich Technology  -0.62
Wrotham  0.14 High Weald
Coasting Schools
This measure is intended to identify schools that are persistently underperforming in the Progress 8 measure and will come under increased government scrutiny. A coasting School is one which has scored under -0.25 in Progress 8 for three consecutive years and contains some surprising members with Good Ofsted Grades. Unsurprisingly there is a strong correlation with the Progress 8 table.
Kent Coasting Schools 2016-18
School 2018 Progress 8 Ofsted Outcome
Aylesford -0.67 (WBA) R.I.
Archbishop's -0.33 (BA) Good
Hartsdown -1.19 (WBA) R.I
Holmesdale -0.87(WBA) Special Measures
Homewood -0.4(BA) Good
Hugh Christie -0.33(BA)  Good
Oasis IOS -0.8(WBA) R.I.
Royal Harbour -0.63(WBA) R.I.
Sandwich -0.62(WBA) Good
Spires -0.3(BA) R.I.
North --0.27 Good

Of those with Good Ofsted Reports,Archbishop's in Canterbury was heavily oversubscribed and successful a few years ago, but appears to have lost its way and no longer fills. Homewood in Tenterden is the largest secondary school in Kent with a good reputation but is clearly underperforming, as are Hugh Christie and Sandwich.

Attainment 8
Here, scores come out as looking somewhat like a GCSE league table, but flattened at the top, with the score of 40 looking very similar in terms of the number of schools failing to reach it, the same figure as the now three year old Floor  Level of 5 GCSE A-Cs.
Grammar Schools
Not surprisingly, here the grammar schools sweep the table completely, the top five being pretty predictable and the same as in 2017. Of special note is Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar, the only school of the five to admit most of their intake with no element of super-selection, also second in the Progress table. Skinners is the only one of these schools not also at the top of the Progress 8 table. Of the next eight highest performers, all bar Barton Court are girls' grammars.  Maidstone Grammar, a semi-super-selective grammar is a surprising member of the lowest performers group. As it is not clear what the numbers mean, all one can say is that the students of other grammar schools perform better by this measure.
Grammar School Attainment 8 Scores 2018
Highest Lowest
School Score School Score
Tonbridge 77.9  Dover Boys 56.2
Judd  75.7 Simon Langton Boys 58.9
Tunbridge Wells Girls 73.7  Queen Elizabeth's 58.9
Dartford 73.2 Harvey  58.9 
Skinners 73,2   Borden  60.0
Dartford Girls 73.1 Chatham & Clarendon 61.4
Invicta 72.2 Maidstone 62.1
It is noteworthy that the same seven grammar schools appear at the foot of both tables, including both of the two semi super-selective Simon Langton Boys and Maidstone Grammar schools. You will find a separate article on Maidstone Grammar here
Non-Selective Schools
The highly selective Bennett Memorial Diocesan again tops the non-selective table, with two Catholic schools also featuring, St Gregory's and St Simon Stock, the three along with Hillview, Meopham, Skinners Kent Academy and Wye Free School,  also at the top of the Progress table. Trinity Free School (Anglican church sponsored) has come third in Attainment with its first GCSE group. 
 Few surprises at the foot of the table, with all but one also on the Progress 8 table.  
Non-Selective Attainment 8 Scores 2018
Highest Lowest
School Score School Score
Bennett Memorial 57.7 Hartsdown 23.3
Duke of York's 49.6 Oasis Isle of Sheppey 28.4
Trinity 48.7 Dover Christ Church 29.8
Skinners Kent Academy 47.9 Royal Harbour 30.5
Hillview Girls  47.6 Folkestone 31.0
St Gregory's Catholic  47.2 Malling 31.2
Meopham  46.8 Marsh 32.6
Wye 46.8 Leigh UTC 33.1
St Simon Stock Catholic 45.7 Astor College 33.3
Valley Park 45.2 High Weald 33.3
English Baccalaureate
This is a third measure towards which the government was trying to nudge schools, by measuring the percentage of pupils taking GCSE in five specific subject areas: English, maths, a science, a language, and history or geography. It is designed to encourage schools towards more academic subjects and away from those thought intellectually easier, which government considers is an easy way to score, although Progress 8 and Attainment 8 already go some way towards that.
In 2017 no grammar schools had 95% or more of their pupils qualifying, for 2018 it had soared to 12 schools as they respond to government pressure: Dartford 100% (through its International Baccalaureate programme); Highworth, Invicta, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Girls (all 99%); Cranbrook, Highsted and Wilmington Girls (all 97%); Maidstone Girls and Dover Girls (96%); Weald of Kent and Gravesend (95%). Valley Park (83%) and Wye School (75%) were the highest participating non-selective schools. Not surprisingly those grammar schools with the highest participation rates had the highest average points score. 
The Leigh UTC, with its technology bias, offered no pupil the opportunity to follow the government's preferred balance curriculum, others with no takers being  Simon  Langton  Boys Grammar (once again being ruled out with its IGCSE in English), Queen Elizabeth's Grammar and Royal Harbour Academy. Charles Dickens School had just 2 pupils qualifying. 
Grade 5 or Above in English and Maths GCSEs.
Another measure for identifying the high performing schools, recorded individually on my site here, although 2018 results not yet recorded at time of writing. Again, 95% appears a convenient cut-off allowing: Weald of Kent  with 99% of the cohort;  Judd and Tonbridge (98%); Dartford, Dartford Girls and Skinners (97%); Tunbridge Wells Girls (96%); Highworth and Gravesend (95%). Bennett Memorial was equal with the lowest performing grammar school, Dover Boys, at 67%. It was followed by Skinners Kent Academy (54%), Wye (48%), and Trinity (47%). The lowest performers were primarily those  on previous lists above including Folkestone Academy, whose website proudly boasts of an 'uptick' in top grades (at 13%), a sharp fall from 2017's 37%. 
Last modified on Monday, 08 March 2021 23:20


  • Comment Link Thursday, 25 October 2018 16:23 posted by Leo Jones

    Replying to your reply.......

    I went on one of Wye’s recent parent tours for next year entry and they have a new head now, and the original deputy I think. Their new building is almost ready, will be open for the new Year 7 certainly. They also had a new 6th Form. Lots of people on the tour so I suspect numbers are going back up.

    Not been to Trinity.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 25 October 2018 15:36 posted by Leo Jones

    Interesting to read about Wye and Trinity Free Schools. Could it be that parents finally have a proper high achieving non-selective choice in Kent? PETER: or is it that they are attracting more aspirational familes away from the moderately performing schools locally- or are these the same. My own mantra, its the leadership not the type of school, may still apply - time will tell. Interestingly, Wye has had internal issues, the previous head departed suddenly, I am told the deputy also left and the number of applications fell off sharply for 2018 entry. Trinity going the other way and soaring under its new head.

  • Comment Link Monday, 22 October 2018 13:22 posted by Matt

    Peter. Can I suggest that this excellent analysis would benefit from the additional information about the proportion eligible for free school meals in these 'struggling' schools. Many of the schools with low progress 8 scores have well over one third of their cohort eligible for the pupil premium and therefore it is not unexpected that their progress will be lower. Nationally pupil premium pupils make less good progress and, because othe Kent system concentrates most of the disadvantaged children into the non-selective system, Kent will inevitably have a number of schools with low progress 8.

    Whilst I have no doubt that Bennett Memorial is an excellent school, it has fewer eligible pupil premium students than many Grammar schools. Therefore, that must be taken into context when looking at the outcomes. I am still unsure why it has so few disadvantaged children when Skinners Kent Academy, serving the same town, has over 30%? I would have thought a Church school would want to open its arms to such pupils. PETER: I quite agree but I have only so much capacity.

  • Comment Link Monday, 22 October 2018 09:19 posted by Janet Downs

    I'm no fan of the UTC project but I think UTCs and studio schools face a double whammy when it comes to exams at 16. First, they recruit at 14 (daft idea, I know). This means that UTCs are being judged for progress, if any, made by pupils elsewhere. Second, their particular mix of subjects means pupils are less likely to take exams eligible for Attainment 8 and Progress 8. PETER: Janet, as always I agree. As I have noted, 36 pupils at Leigh UTC is actually non-viable, suggesting families regard most of the alternatives are well regarded, although numbers have picked up. The Ofsted for Medway UTC is real shocker, whatever the profile of pupils and shows utter management incompetence.

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