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Sunday, 22 September 2019 05:17

Kent and Medway Ofsted Outcomes 2018-19: Secondary


 Individual Schools Continuation of Secondary School Ofsted Inspections 2018-19
The Malling School
Two schools which have had a symbiotic relationship are Holmesdale and Malling, which were brought together as a Federation with a joint head some years ago, in order for the strong Holmesdale School to support the struggling Malling. The latter has the largest SEN Unit in the county, the Tydeman Centre, possessing an outstanding reputation catering for children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs. 

Some years ago, I supported a student there, who struggled for much of his school career but subsequently graduated from university with a first class honours degree. This is a tribute to both the school and a determined mother who, like so many other parents of SEN children, would never give up and fought and fought the system for her child.

Back to the Malling Holmesdale Federation. One problem with The Malling School is that the Tydeman pupils will always bring down the overall school GCSE performance, as with other such schools possessing Units. As well as East and West Malling, it technically serves the wealthy Kings Hill area, many of whose residents developed a prejudice against the school and it suffered a loss of popularity. However, thanks to the Federation and good leadership the school improved and eventually became the stronger partner, whilst Holmesdale nosedived, as explained here. Ofsted regularly recognised the poor starting levels of pupils when awarding a series of four Good Ofsteds between 2006 and 2015. 

For those with an eye to history, the previous Year 2000 Report of the school under the headship of the unique Valerie Dagger by 13 Inspectors over a period of a week, is an eye opener. In 60 close packed pages it carries out a full analysis of the school its strengths and weaknesses including each subject area, but does not reach an overall judgement.

However, the most recent Inspection Report in June 2019 finds, in less than a quarter of the length of the 200 Report, that the school Requires Improvement although it considers the leadership is still good. It employed five inspectors, a large team for such a task these days, over two days. The previous headteacher left over the summer, joining a mini exodus of Kent heads to exotic foreign parts. New head John Vennart, in a one page introduction on the school’s website headed ‘Ofsted Report’, presents a glowing picture of the report, blaming any weaknesses on previous poor examination results (they crashed in 2018), but failing to notice significant issues in teaching, learning and assessment identified in the Report. However, the good news reported is that the quality of these areas is rapidly improving.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIOS)
The school was found to Require Improvement in July, in my view being very fortunate to have escaped being found Inadequate, by virtue of having a new headteacher still in the honeymoon period. I looked at the Report and other issues in a previous article last month, highlighting the very high number of fixed term exclusions (second highest in county) and children leaving for Elective Home Education (EHE), both consequences of this being one of what I have called Kent’s three excessively unpopular ‘tough love’ academies, each operating a ‘no excuses’ culture. Amongst the failures of the team of five Inspectors including an HMI was their false report that ‘Leaders have introduced increasingly effective behaviour strategies that have reduced fixed-term exclusions’. Not according to comments from parents, nor the facts as revealed in my article that the number of fixed term exclusions had actually risen since the previous year with a month still to run! For 2017-18 there were 786 fixed term exclusions, the second highest number and proportion in the county (to Folkestone Academy, but which has reduced its number sharply for 2018-19 to 524). If ‘improvements have been made in pupils’ behaviour’ as reported surely this would have been reflected by a decrease in exclusions. Presumably Inspectors are simply commenting on what they were told without properly investigating. The very high figure leaving for EHE and CME (Children Missing from Education) is described as ‘high pupil mobility’ without comment. The school had 79 Local Authority Allocations and still had 88 vacant spaces before the start of this term (September 2019) This was before Westlands School on the mainland in Sittingbourne offered 51 places on admission appeal, a high proportion of whom will have been holding LAA places at Oasis. 

 However, another matter that has come to light following an FOI by me to the school is the shockingly high proportion of teachers without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) teaching at the school. Quite simply, over a third of the 86 full time teachers at OAIOS are unqualified (30 in total) together with two of the five part timers. There is no mention of this surely unacceptable proportion in the Report section on teaching quality, so presumably Inspectors were unaware and did not enquire about it.

St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive School
John Fisher, partially under the control of Medway Council as a Voluntary Aided School, has had a torrid time in recent years and I wrote a previous blog entry two years ago that covers some of the issues, but praising the work of the new headteacher which is now coming to fruition. For a frank survey of the previous weaknesses, try a paper written by Dympna Lennon, headteacher, for the Parliamentary Review publication. However, Wikipedia notes that: ‘In particular, the publication and its publishers have been accused of misleading headteachers of schools across England. School leaders have reported being led to believe they were being singled-out for commendation for their good work, but were then asked to stump up thousands of pounds to be featured’. This and the issue described in my previous article suggest a school trying far too hard to promote itself (cf. Ebbsfleet Academy).

The school is still suffering from its dreadful reputation highlighted by having 101 out of 177 offers of places made in March being Local Authority Allocations of children who did not apply to the school but could get nowhere else, Robert Napier by contrast having 22 LAAs out of 180 offers. This pattern of high LAAs is shared by the three ‘tough love’ Kent academies, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (above), Ebbsfleet and Hartsdown, all running a ‘no excuses’ culture, all four being amongst the five most unpopular schools in the county by this measure. Perhaps that Ofsted Report will cause it to cut back on its tough no excuses approach which clearly sits badly with families. Indeed, the school report that it has achieved its best ever GCSE and A Level results are greeted with: ‘We are delighted with these results, as they are proof of the changed culture’ on the school website. I look forward to seeing numbers improve as the past fades away.  



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