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Thursday, 07 May 2020 18:21

Kent & Medway Primary School Ofsted Outcomes to March 2020

 This article looks at Kent and Medway primary school Ofsted outcomes for the current school year. The headline news is the strong improvement in Academy levels in the past few years, both in Kent and Medway, whereas at best Kent County Council Local Authority (KCC) schools are standing still, with 22% of those inspected seeing a drop in level since September.

Ightham

 

Just one local school, Ightham Primary in Sevenoaks District, has been classified as Outstanding since September and none found Inadequate. 

I look at all the changes in primary school Ofsted assessments across Kent and Medway below, along with the performance of The Education People, responsible for performance in Kent Local Authority schools. .

No inspections have been carried out since all schools closed on 20th March due to the Coronavirus pandemic and just six Ofsted Reports have been published (all in the past two weeks) since that date, for inspections carried out in the weeks before closure.  It is unlikely there will be any further Inspections this school year, and I will incorporate any remaining Reports as they are published. 

 The corresponding secondary and Special School articles are to follow, as is my article on 2019-20 Kent primary school allocations (still awaiting data). My report on the 2018-19 Ofsted performance  for primary schools is here. Every  primary school Ofsted assessment over recent years is also recorded in the Individual Schools pages for Kent and Medway primary schools. 

According to the rules, academisation wipes out any past OFSTED outcome, leaving them free from Inspection for a further three years unless there are exceptional circumstances. I continue to count them. The three most significant conversions in the past year are groups of primary schools in Deal and along the Thames Estuary, who see benefits from working together independently of KCC, along with three schools in the Wealden area who have all elected to join the Leigh Academy Trust.

One remarkable feature of so many of the schools where there have been changes, is the departure of the headteacher, the arrival of a replacement, or the deployment of a temporary head. In many cases improvement follows the appointment of a new headteacher, but history shows the Inspection Report too often carries a halo effect. It is hardly surprising that the role of headteacher is no longer regarded as a secure position in many cases, which can have a direct impact on recruitment. A school can also lose staff for many reasons, which can have a damaging effect on morale or the quality of education, completely out of its control. Several examples are quoted below.  

Academies are identified by (A) in relevant places in this article. 

Kent Primary School Inspections
Eight Kent schools which had Short Inspections (see below) in 2018-19 were also recommended for re-inspection on grounds of their strong performance to see if they also qualified for Outstanding and would normally have been re-visited this year. Apart from Ightham, the other seven inspections have not taken place or else have not been reported yet because of the school closures. Hampton (A) was re-inspected following a recommendation after strong performance in 2017-18, but was found Good again.  In total, 59 Kent primary schools have been inspected and reported on so far. Of these, five Local Authority schools out of 42 improved their assessment, led by Ightham Primary, although they could be joined by up to three more from the delayed Short Inspection group. Five Kent academies out of 13 inspected have improved their levels (with another five having had strong Short Inspection assessments in 2018-19, still waiting to be re-inspected). 

Two KCC schools, Eastry CofE and  Sundridge & Brasted CofE, fell from Outstanding by two levels to Requires Improvement, along with another eight others which were downgraded by one level. Kent's first Free School, Tiger Primary, was the only academy which fell, to Requires Improvement. Ofsted also found concerns about three further KCC schools and one academy after Short Inspections, which will trigger further full inspections in the future after schools re-open.

In Medway where ten of the 13 schools assessed were academies, five have improved, and one deteriorated.  

Kent Primary School Ofsted Outcomes
Sep 2019 - Feb 2020
 
Outstanding
Good
Requires
Improvement
Total
Up
Down
Kent LA
1 37 7 45 5 10
Kent LA %
2%
82%
16%
11%
22%
Kent Academy+FS
0 10 4 14 5 1
Kent Academy %
0
71%
29%
36%
 7%
Kent Total 1 47 11 59 10 11
Kent Total % 2% 80% 19% 100 17% 19%
National % Sep-Dec 2019  2% 78% 18%      
 
 Short Inspections
Where a Short Inspection takes place for schools previously graded Good or Outstanding, it is recorded (S) in the Individual Schools sections. These will happen for some schools previously assessed as Good or Outstanding. The classification is not changed at this point. If Inspectors find concerns which might have lowered the Grade, or strengths which might have raised it, there will be a full inspection in the next year. Over half of Kent's inspections in 2019-20 were Short Inspections, with four raising concerns. Of the four Kent schools reinspected this year through the process, Ightham was upgraded from Good to Outstanding, the other three reduced to Requires Improvement from Good. For a Good school, where inspectors are specially impressed, it will also lead to a full inspection, to see if it should be raised to Outstanding, although none of these were identified this year.  
 
Primary Short Inspections
2019-20
  Kent Medway
Short Inspections 29 3
SI Concerns 4 0
SI Raise 0 0

For 2018-19 there were ten schools which had a Short Inspection, with a Full Inspection to follow. For those with a strong performance, this is likely to see most of them re-classified as Outstanding, as happened to Ightham. The second inspections of the other seven with strong outcomes haven't yet taken place because of the school closures (or possibly are still in the small pipeline of unpublished outcomes). These are: Willesborough Infants, Ashford; Eythorne Elvington and Sibertswold CofE, Dover; Christ Church CEP (A), Folkestone; Oaks Primary Academy (A), Maidstone;  Amherst School (A), Sevenoaks; and St Peter in Thanet Junior CEP (A). 

The two where there were concerns were Ditton Junior and Smeeth, see below, were obviously regarded as more urgent and both were downgraded to Requires Improvement this year (see below). 

 

Individual Kent Schools
The remainder of this article focuses on  schools with a change in Ofsted category, with two seeing a fall by two levels, both from Outstanding to Requires Improvement.

Ightham Primary School, Sevenoaks. The short Inspection of January 2019 noted: 'The leadership team has maintained the good quality of education in the school since the last inspection. Based on the evidence gathered during this short inspection, I am of the opinion that the school has demonstrated strong practice and marked improvement in specific areas. This may indicate that the school has improved significantly overall. Therefore, I am recommending that the school’s next inspection be a section 5 inspection'. The powerful full Inspection Report  which followed is brief, but is well worth reading in full as it crackles with praise in every word.

Eastry CofE Primary School, Sandwich, was found Outstanding in 2009. Ofsted records: ‘This school lost its way in recent years. This happened for many complicated reasons. Adults did not stop caring about pupils. They still wanted them to do well but different people had different ideas about what to do for the best…… The new headteacher is making sure that everyone is pulling together again, aiming to give pupils the best possible chances’. This school suffered from a previous government policy of not re-inspecting Outstanding schools but surely this is a situation where KCC should have intervened, although it appears they didn’t notice the problems.

Sundridge and Brasted CofE Primary School, Sevenoaks, has had a much faster and worrying decline being found Outstanding just four years previously in 2015. ‘Previously, the school has been a stable learning environment. Currently, the school is experiencing some turbulence due to changes in leadership. Pupils’ behaviour is not as good as it was, and teaching is not as strong as when the school was last inspected. Governors and officers from the local authority were slow to respond to this decline. However, the right actions are now underway to strengthen the leadership of the school and provide better training for staff and governors’. The school is one of Kent's smaller ones, with an intake of just 15 pupils along with Brook and Stowting, see below, and so subject to potential turbulence if teachers move on, or pupil numbers change. 

Knockhall Primary School, on the edge of Ebbsfleet has finally had a full Inspection since being placed in Special Measures as a KCC school in 2013. It then had the misfortune to be taken over shortly afterwards, by the subsequently disgraced (although much praised by KCC Officers) Lilac Sky Academy Trust, so evading a further inspection for three years. Even so, a Monitoring Inspection took place in December 2015, because ‘Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector was concerned about the effectiveness of safeguarding arrangements, aspects of the personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils and the quality of leadership and management in the academy’ surprisingly found all was well, although there were many complaints from parents, pupil numbers declined sharply and there was a high turnover of staff. After Lilac Sky was closed down by government, the school was transferred to Woodland Academy Trust in nearby Bexley in January 2017, my article identifying some of the issues that Ofsted had missed, so another three years would pass before an Inspection was due. This has raised it to Requires Improvement with Inspectors being optimistic about the future, although phrases like ‘Leaders should prioritise the work already started to ensure that all adults who teach phonics are knowledgeable and skilled’ do raise the eyebrows. However, parents are not convinced contrary to the Inspectors findings, the school having 53% empty reception spaces this year even though helped out by eight Local Authority Allocations, both figures being amongst the highest in Kent.

Four other Kent academies have improved, all to Good, making a total of five out of eleven inspected. They are: Morehall (A, Folkestone, in spite of having the largest proportion of vacancies of any Kent primary school at 73%, see here and other articles - apparently Inspectors hadn't noticed or asked about the vast number of empty spaces); Milton Court (A, Sittingbourne); St Gregory’s (A, Thanet); and Temple Grove (A, Tunbridge Wells).

Just four Kent maintained schools out of 37 have improved: Ash, Cartwright and Kelsey CofE (Canterbury); Bean (Dartford); Churchill CofE (Sevenoaks); and Long Mead (Tonbridge, now in Federation with Hugh Christie secondary).

Fall in Standards
Ten Kent Local Authority schools have declined in their grading, almost a quarter of the total inspected this year, which is surely an unacceptable proportion, along with one academy. 

The schools are, firstly: Eastry CofE and Sunbridge & Brasted CofE, above, which have both fallen  from Outstanding to Requires Improvement. Then come: Stowting, Ashford; Chevening, St Botolph CofE VA, Sevenoaks; and St Nicholas at Wade CofE, Thanet; all down from Outstanding to Good. Schools down to Requires Improvement from Good are: Brook and Smeeth, both Ashford; Mundella, Folkestone; Halsted, Sevenoaks (64% vacancies in October); and Ditton CofE Junior, Malling.

The case of Ditton Junior School is especially notable as a year earlier it received a Short Inspection whose report warned that there were urgent priorities to address which would shortly be followed up by a Full Section 5 Inspection. The Report of this Inspection begins: Pupils have mainly been resilient while the school has been through a tough few years with many changes in staff’ and includes: ‘In recent years standards have been too low in reading, writing and mathematics. When the governors appointed the current headteacher they did not realise the school was performing so poorly’: and ‘A significant minority of staff do not feel well supported by all leaders’. Given the warning of the Short Inspection, one can only wonder why the School Improvement team, The Education People, were not sorting these matters out as a matter of urgency. Parents are voting with their feet, with a sharp fall in take up last September, 30% of places being left empty.  

Smeeth Community Primary School also had a Short Inspection in  with the same warning, to which there was insufficient response. At that time, the school had an Acting Headteacher, and as so often with struggling schools, a turnover of staff. One can only speculate to what extent staff turnover is a consequence of poor leadership, or simply bad luck.

There is one other primary school whose standard has slipped, the Tiger Primary School in Maidstone, Kent's first Free School which opened in 2012. 'Leaders are aware that the quality of education requires improvement. They know what needs to be done and are starting to make the necessary changes. Many staff, including senior leaders, are new. Although pupils now receive a well-sequenced curriculum, improvements are very recent. The impact of the curriculum on improving pupils’ skills and understanding is still in its infancy. Teachers are hazy about how the knowledge and skills pupils gain in one year are built upon for the next. Staff do not always expect the best work from pupils. Pupils are often not achieving as well as they could'. The Tiger School is part of the Future Schools Trust which also runs Cornwallis and New Line Learning secondary academies, and nearly had these taken away last year, because of poor performance, but this is no longer happening. 

Short Inspections Expressing Concern: Follow up to come
Then there are three Kent Local Authority schools and one academy, previously Graded Good, all with Short Inspections, and the verdict: ‘Inspectors have some concerns that standards may be declining, as set out below’.  These are:

Downsview School in Swanley had a Short Inspection in January which found that: ‘The quality of education pupils receive is very variable. The many changes to leadership and staffing in recent years resulted in the school losing its way. Staff want pupils to do their best but people have had different ideas about how things should be done and initiatives have not always been seen through. Consequently, pupils have not achieved as well as they could and standards have slipped. The new headteacher has a clear vision about the improvements needed’ . It remains to be seen if sufficient support is now provided by KCC to turn the decline.

Marden Primary School, Tonbridge. The Inspection was in October. The school has now avoided the follow up Full Inspection by choosing to become an academy with the Leigh Academy Trust. It then has a three year period of grace before re-inspection. It will join neighbours  Paddock Wood and Horsmonden primary schools which controversially became part of the Leigh Trust last year.  

Rusthall St Paul's CofE VA Primary School, Tunbridge Wells. After a series of weaker inspection results, Requires Improvement and Satisfactory, the school finally achieved Good in 2016, but has now slipped again. Parents are voting with their feet for its 57% Reception vacancies in October.  

Horton Kirby CofE Primary School, (A) Dartford. The school previously had an inspection in 2015 when it was found to be Good. When it converted to become an academy as part of the Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust, this put off the next inspection until 3rd March 2020, just before all schools were closed, when inspectors found sufficient concerns to order a follow up inspection. This should take place some time next school year. 

The Education People
This company is described on its website as: 'a one-stop shop for education services, supporting the full age range from early years to young adults. Our mission is to support early years and childcare settings, schools and colleges, to improve learning, wellbeing and children’s development in Kent and beyond'. It is technically an independent organisation at arms length from Kent County Council, providing services on behalf of KCC such as School Improvement since September 2018. Its Chairman is the previous Kent Education CEO, presumably paid a good salary in retirement, along with a large team of senior staff. From the company website: 
 

The Education People: Primary School Improvement

Our Primary School Improvement Advisers and consultants have a proven track record of supporting, promoting and achieving improvement in Kent, a county which has above the national average number of good and outstanding schools.

Our experienced and skilled staff are able to quickly respond to schools’ needs and tailor training and support for all staff.

We are passionate about raising school standards and that drives us to strive for excellence in our support of schools and settings. We believe that strong collaboration is the key to success and we endeavour to work closely with all schools to achieve the very best for their pupils.

The first half of the first sentence is clearly untrue, as are the parallel claims about the support for secondary schools, explored in a previous article.  The second half of the first sentence suggests a lack of understanding of basic statistics as Kent, the largest Local Authority in the country, is always most likely to have an above average number of good schools! It is surely 'proportions' which should be compared. The interdependence of the two supposedly arms length organisations is laid bare with revelations here and in other unpublished emails about its sometimes malicious nature in connection with the Holmesdale scandal, as The Education People  completely forgot what they were charged to do, which was to act for the good of the school. The departure of more primary schools from KCC control with the confidence to work together without this 'support', is just one consequence of poor performance. The opening gap in Ofsted outcomes  between academies and KCC schools is another, as illustrated by the table below. Yes, indeed, Kent's historical record is one of being above the national average in proportion of good or outstanding schools, but this is increasingly down to academy performance, much of which is nothing to do with The Education People.   

Kent Primary School
Inspection Outcomes 2017-2020
  LA Schools Academies & Free
  Inspections Up  Down Inspections Up Down
2017-2018 79 7 8 38 10 3
2018-19 46 4 3 48 15 3
2019-20 45 4 10 12 5 1
 
Individual Medway Primary Schools
Several years ago, Medway Council adopted a policy of encouraging all its primary schools to become academies, as its Key Stage Two results made it the lowest performing Authority in the country, with some of the worst Ofsted outcomes, You will find copious evidence of this statement via my search engine, with a selection of examples listed here. Apart from a few glaring failures, such as Delce Academy and The Williamson Trust, the policy appears to be  successful, with most of Medway primary schools now generally flourishing as academies and Medway children far better served. 

Of the 13 schools inspected this year, 10 are academies. Half of these have seen an improvement in Ofsted Grades from Requires Improvement to Good, with just one going the other way. 

The five improved academies are: Kingfisher Primary School, Chatham; Napier Primary Academy: Gillingham; Stoke Primary Academy, Hoo Peninsula; Warren Wood Academy, Rochester; All Faiths Children's Academy, Strood. Each of the first four struggled under Medway Council, with both Kingfisher and Warren Wood having been placed in Special Measures in the past. All four have blossomed under academisation but struggled for numbers. These results may well see an improvement, although Kingfisher's turnaround now appears completed with parents having recognised its worth and it was oversubscribed for the first time this September. Stoke was initially taken over by The Williamson Trust which failed to improve it, and has now been re-brokered to Leigh Academies Trust. Leigh tried to close the school last summer, and move its pupils to Allhallows Primary, several miles away, bussing pupils there daily but this proposal was vetoed by government last summer. Warren Wood was one of the first schools I featured on this website, and I wrote an article in 2014, setting out its tragedy over the previous decade. It has since been taken over by what is now the Skills for Life Academy Trust and has seen numbers and academic performance rise year on year ever since. The final school in the list is All Faiths in Strood, which differs in character from the other four. For years it was an academically successful and very popular school until it went off the boil in a few years leading up to its Requires Improvement Ofsted assessment in 2017. A change of leadership where the new 'headteacher has built a committed team of staff who share his high expectations', has seen the school return to its previous high standard, although it is still not fully subscribed for September. 

Phoenix Junior Academy in Chatham, also with a chequered history, achieved Good in 2016 under its new headteacher, but has now fallen back  to Requires Improvement. It is in the process of changing to an all through school in parallel with Greenvale Infants as explained here, unpopular with parents with just 30 of its 45 places filled including 11 Local Authority Allocations for September, the highest figure in Medway. This Ofsted outcome won't help.  

Medway Primary OFSTED Outcomes
Sep 2019 - Feb 2020
 
Good
Requires
Improvement
Total
Up
Down
Medway LA
3
0
3
0
0
Medway LA % 100% 0   0 0
Medway Acad
9
1
10
5
1
Medway Acad% 90% 10%   50%  0
Medway Total 12 1 13 5 1
Medway
Total %
92% 8%   38%  0
National % September- December 2019 78% 18%      

The very high proportion of Good Ofsted results, reflects the schools chosen for inspection in this small sample, and not the actual figure across the Local Authority of most recent primary Inspections, which is 83%. 

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 12 June 2020 11:56

1 comment

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 May 2020 19:02 posted by COG Kent Primary

    I am Chairman of Governors of a KCC Primary School and completely agree with you abut the useless Education People. Our head needs a kick up the pants, but all we get from EP are gentle words and assurances as we also head towards RI. Several of my fellow governors and I see the solution as academy, but the HT wants to be safe with KCC. Any suggestions? PETER: I have my own doubts about several of the more self-serving large Trusts who in practice offer little and you would need to do your research. The models in Deal and East Kent seem to be a good way forward, but it depends on so much, such as finding like minded schools if they now exist locally; and being prepared to face down the inevitable hostility, exemplified by the treatment of the schools in Deal. Feel free to send me an email, which I will treat with absolute confidence.

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