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Thursday, 21 November 2019 20:22

Kent Catholic Academies Banned from Hosting Kent Test

Update: In a public admonishment, the Archbishop of Southwark has overturned the ban, describing the decision as one 'that does not have universal validity, is not supported Canonically from the Bishops’ Conference and has clearly been inoperable for many years'.
Following on from this article Schoolsweek has explored the situation including a reply from the KCSP which contains some very strange ideas, see below. 
The Kent Catholic Schools Partnership,  an Academy Trust which runs 19 Roman Catholic primary schools, has instructed all these schools not to provide facilities for their children to sit the Kent Test in their own school. This means that those children will be disadvantaged by not taking the Test in familiar surroundings like other Kent children, and will have to travel to another venue arranged by KCC which could be miles away from their homes. This move to sectarianism would appear to be just bloody-minded to many. For the Catholic Church as a whole is clearly not opposed to academic selection, supporting three Catholic grammar schools in other parts of the country and providing many private Catholic academically selective schools for those Catholics and others who are wealthy enough to pay, both in Kent and elsewhere in the country. These two categories are also operating in clear contradiction of ‘the church’s social teachings’ as set out  below.
 KCSP Logo
However, as the following analysis shows, the only children this decision will actually affect are those frightened off from taking the test because of social disadvantage or lacking the confidence to take on the church, or else who fail the Kent Test solely because they have been disadvantaged by taking it in unfamiliar surroundings. How proud the Catholic Church must be.
This story was first aired by Radio Kent and I was happy to contribute. 
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
From the front page of the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership website
The Catholic Southwark Diocese has for many years had a similar policy ‘at the request of the Archbishop’, although widely ignored by Catholic state and private schools acting in the interest of the children of those schools and of parental choice in this Local Authority which operates a selective system of schools. Many of the children attending those schools are not Catholic, but are still subject to the same constraints. A letter to the schools from the Director of Education for the Trust (a position that paid an annual salary of £150,000 in 2018, much larger than the equivalent CofE and many comparable secular Trusts!) sets out the reasons for enforcing the policy for Trust schools.
‘It is Diocesan policy, at the request of the Archbishop, that school premises are not used to promote non-Catholic schools. This includes the use of Catholic premises for administering grammar school tests While the Archbishop acknowledges the importance of parental choice, schools should promote Catholic education in the area that is in accord with the Church's social teachings and reinforces the value of all children as being created in the image of Christ and being born to nourish’.
‘In line with this policy as it relates to all types of Catholic schools across the Archdiocese, academies doing so must now cease enabling, facilitating or, especially, administering The Kent Test (or any other 11> derivative)’.
The implicit threat of: ‘However, the policy also means that we, as paid employees within a Catholic multi-academy trust, do all we can to promote the option to continuing Catholic education, particularly at the point of transfer from the primary to secondary phase’ leaves a very unpleasant taste of the power of academies to control their staff.
Whilst a few Catholic schools may have already followed this policy many others are very proud of their success at grammar school selection which they see as  a valuable recruitment tool. Indeed, 15 out of the 26 Catholic Primary Schools in Kent have a pass rate of more than 25% of their pupils, the average pass rate in this county which has a system of selective education. Ten of the Trust Academies fall into this category and with their paid employees threatened if they don’t comply, many will be feeling very uneasy about the consequences. These are:
Kent Catholic Primary Academies
and the Kent Test
School Town
2018 % Pass
Rate Kent Test
St Thomas' Sevenoaks 68%
St Theresa's Ashford 44%
St Peter's  Sittingbourne 41% 
St Joseph's Northfleet 40%
St Joseph's  Broadstairs 37%
More Park Maidstone 35%
St Mary's   Whitstable 34%
St Margaret Clitherow Tonbridge 30% 
Our Lady of Hartley  Dartford 28%
St Augustine's Tunbridge Wells 27% 

 Half of these schools are in towns without one of Kent’s five Catholic Secondary schools, which are scattered across Kent, meaning in many places there is no secondary school 'to promote Catholic education in the area' . As a result, many Catholic pupils seeking a Catholic secondary education will in any case have to travel miles or make a difficult journey daily to reach one of the five. 

The Kent Catholic secondary schools are: St Anselm's, Canterbury; St John's Gravesend;  St Simon Stock, Maidstone; St Gregory's. Tunbridge Wells, all heavily oversubscribed; and St Edmund's, Dover with a few vacancies. There is also St John Fisher in Chatham, Medway, with a large number of vacancies, being unpopular with families and the only one of the six to potentially benefit if this policy is to have any effect. However, one of the longest journeys will be from pupils at St Edward’s Catholic Primary in Sheerness to St John Fisher Catholic School, in Chatham, a distance of 21 miles by road. I suspect few children whether Catholic or not are likely to be tempted by that journey, although the Diocesan policy is presumably designed to encourage this.   

So, who will change their applications as a result of this action? All Catholic children will be able to secure a place in their local Catholic secondary school in any case if they choose, because of the oversubscription criteria benefitting them. Those who choose to take the Kent test for a grammar school place and pass, will tend to choose a selective school in any case, but if they prefer a Catholic school it will make no difference to the strength of their application. Those who fail and pursue their grammar school application to appeal can take some heart from the document which states: ‘In those circumstances, and in respect of any child (Catholic or non-Catholic), it is reasonable to offer a professional judgement, supported, as necessary, by evidence that can reasonably be provided, and without undue impact on academy leader or staff time’ A case which includes the factor that the child was disadvantaged because of taking the test in unfamiliar surroundings may well be heard sympathetically. So no change there. Update: I have been told that a few Catholic schools offer the absolute minimum and some appeal panellists are in despair over their failure to provide necessary information to give appellants a chance of success. Grossly unprofessional in my opinion. 
The main potential market will therefore be some of the less confident or socially disadvantaged families put off applying for grammar school, although I am not sure how this fits in with the church’s social teachings, especially when contrasted with those who can afford a fee-paying selective Catholic school. 
The Director of Education's letter concludes with: 'This is not only consistent with our KCSP mission to protect, preserve and promote Catholic education', It is also so that the bedrock of Gospel Values is maintained, and so Catholic secondaries may benefit from. and build upon, the invariably good and better educational and faith foundations produced by Catholic primaries'.  In other words, the Director of Education for the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership believes that Catholic Primaries are invariably good and better educationally than other schools, and that the policy is for the benefit of the Catholic Secondaries; never mind the children and families caught out by it. 
Observations on Schoolsweek Article. 1) The ludicrous suggestion that all 10,000 Kent children should sit the Kent Test in neutral sites to equalise the position of a few hundred candidates from Catholic academies. Apart from the immense task of hiring and equipping sites to accommodate such immense numbers there would be a massive task of ensuring that each had the same conditions. I am astonished he can't see that children are most at ease in familiar surroundings.
2) He acknowledges that the Catholic Education has no view on selection, which indeed it could not as it oversees multiple Catholic grammar and selective primary schools, offering instead his own interpretation solely applicable in the Southwark diocese.
3) He makes the arrogant claim that: “The fact is children attending Catholic primary schools and academies in Kent have the best chance of passing the test because, by all local, regional and national benchmarks, they get a better education than most comparable primary schools.”presumably to argue that Catholic children will thrive in the Kent Test anyway in spite of being disadvantaged by this policy as they are better educated than other candidates! Hardly likely to impress families!
Last modified on Wednesday, 24 June 2020 08:32


  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 November 2019 09:58 posted by Dora Stanford

    When I taught in a grammar school in Chatham in the late 1980s, we had almost no Catholic pupils because, we were told, the priests and the Catholic primary schools made it very difficult for them to take the 11+. Over the years, this practice changed. (Actually, for a few years in Medway the 11+ was taken on a Saturday in the grammar schools.) The result was that St John Fisher effectively became a high school rather than comprehensive. As I understand it, the Medway Catholic primary schools are intending to run the Medway Test but not the Kent Test. St John Fisher might pick up some selective ability children from Kent under the new system but it desperately needs investment in buildings and facilities. PETER: This imperative and threat only apply to the Kent Catholic Academies whose teachers are employed by the KCAT. So you are right that at present Medway Catholic schools can enable their own children to take the Medway Test at school, although they don't offer the facility for the Kent Test at school, which last year saw fewer than five candidates from just one Catholic Primary school being tested. To that extent the policy is working!

  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 November 2019 09:56 posted by Christine Jefferson

    Could this be God unleashing a thunderbolt on Kent? PETER: More like a firework, which fizzles out and is soon forgotten, except by those who get burned.

  • Comment Link Friday, 22 November 2019 14:39 posted by James Steed

    At last proof - God despises the 11+. PETER: Its strange s/he only despises the system in Kent but not for Catholic Grammar Schools elsewhere in the country nor for fee paying Catholic selective schools across the country, for the wealthy who wish to avoid common Catholics, such as Ampleforth and Downside (sorry, these are besmirched with sexual abuse scandals by the Catholic fathers, but are still going strong so perhaps I should not have mentioned them)

  • Comment Link Friday, 22 November 2019 05:24 posted by Richard W

    Have you any evidence that such discrimination is taking place at present? PETER: It is many years since I was named and damned from the pulpit of a Catholic church for not discouraging Catholic children from transferring to my grammar school. I was not alone! I witnessed pupils who transferred into our sixth form threatened by a senior member of the clergy, well known in the town for his fundamentalist Catholic views, and forced to withdraw their places. I thought those days had long gone and in most cases a spirit of mutual live and let live had developed. I certainly don't want to return to the bad old days, but this won't help.

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