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Wednesday, 30 December 2020 06:15

Website Review of 2020


Unsurprisingly the story of education locally in this extraordinary and memorable year has been dominated by Coronavirus, although I have focused in my coverage on events unfolding in Kent and Medway, leaving the national picture to others.

Whilst this article reviews some of the many news items I  have published in the past year, I have not considered last week’s lockdown nor the litany of failed and crumbling promises in education matters, even as recently as last week,  offered by Boris Johnson and national government including the quagmire of U-Turns and storm of decisive impossibilities laid down by Gavin Williamson and the Department for Education, all of which have been ruthlessly demolished elsewhere. 

The most read news story on this site over the past year is, surprisingly to me, the events leading up to the dismissal of the Headteacher of St Thomas’ Catholic Primary and the departure of the CEO of the Kent Catholic Schools Trust (See update below). Otherwise, and unsurprisingly, news items about the Kent Test and grammar schools dominate both my list of most-read articles and also the further set of information articles. Each of these is updated annually and headed up by the 2020 version of Kent Grammar School Applications. That article has now been read by 374,859 browsers over the past ten years, not including my 2250 subscribers. All information articles are listed in the right-hand column of this page.

Just before the end of the year, I received census figures for Kent schools, some of which I have incorporated in the items below, a fuller article to come as it reveals some interesting facts about Kent and Medway schools as usual.

You will find separate sections below on Academies, Leadership, Primary Schools, Kent County Council, Sir Paul Carter, Other Items and my Conclusion

Through all of the chaos emerge the remarkable commitment and skills of the large majority of school leaders and their staffs, determined to offer the children of Kent and Medway the best possible education deliverable amidst the chaos of coronavirus. It is some years since the Hayes Recruitment organisation identified the role of secondary school headteacher as having the greatest range of responsibilities and expectations of any senior manager, and these have never been put to a greater test. The head who was quoted on national media recently as spending three-quarters of his time on Covid related issues may well be typical.

I don’t have the capacity to share the material on this non-profit making website on social media, but am happy for it to be reproduced with acknowledgement, where you will often find it. There are many important education stories exposed in these pages, no longer covered by local media who may not have the experienced staff to investigate, the lack of will to cross local sensitivities, or else simply do not understand how much these stories impact on local families. 

I have again published all my regular news items amongst the 111 stories featured, along with the many major updates in my information pages along with multiple articles on the effects of coronavirus on education int the county. These regular news items offer details of school primary and secondary admissions, together with appeals, the Kent and Medway Tests (2020), Home Education, Exclusions, Off-Rolling and performance of grammar schools in accepting children attracting Pupil Premium, including the scandal this year of The Rochester Grammar School.  

One regular feature omitted this year is that of Ofsted outcomes, apart from a Mid Year Report on Kent and Medway primary schools last March, for there have been very few inspections completed since the first lockdown. You will still find the complete Ofsted history of every primary and secondary school in the county for at least the past ten years, in the Individual School pages.

Amongst the admission articles, you will find my most popular regular features, details of Kent primary and secondary school allocations and Medway primary and secondary school allocations for September 2020. The effects of coronavirus on the Kent Test 2020 has seen a number of articles, most recently here, with an analysis of outcomes to follow shortly.

In a major analysis, I produced a detailed analysis of school Sixth Forms, including the pattern of the large number of transfers between schools. This includes highlighting the ‘Mushroom Sixth Forms’ led by the astonishing character of the Canterbury Academy. At the other end of the scale, it also uncovers some ‘prestige’ grammar schools that fail to hold on to many pupils. I don’t believe anyone else has ever carried out such research. However, what will happen in September next has to be mere speculation, with GCSE examinations having been cancelled again.

I have covered the planning and opening of every new school in Kent, including the controversial DfE decision to overturn the KCC veto on the new Park Crescent Academy in Margate, a school unjustified by numbers, set on a cramped and unsuitable site, and seriously threatening the viability of two other local schools.

Only this week there has been a call for the publication of school exclusion data to add to the demand for Home Education numbers. I have news for those leading this campaign. Here in Kent and Medway I have kept and published the data for years, publicly exposing those schools which damage children’s education in this way, including the notorious Folkestone Academy which, two years ago, excluded children 1211 times for fixed periods, only one other school, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey having reached even half of this figure in recent years. Since I exposed both schools, these figures have come tumbling down.

It should not be forgotten that after the first lockdown there was still concern about transmission of Coronavirus on school transport, and I penned several articles on how Kent secondary aged children were especially vulnerable with greater reliance on school transport than elsewhere in the country. This was because of three factors, the greater geographical spread than many, and with grammar schools and church comprehensive schools leading to considerably more journeys. From my most recent article just before the start of the Autumn term, on newly published government advice: 'Obviously, where such dedicated services are running to multiple schools, this becomes complete nonsense, as indeed did the bubble concept for year groups from individual schools (on some buses this amounts to at least 20 different bubbles, all nonsupervised)'. 

I have published six items related to the effect on school admission appeals of Coronavirus as the situation developed, most recently here. You will find my major Appeals survey of outcomes for 2020 here, with details of individual school decisions under Individual Schools. It is too early to be certain of arrangements for Appeals this year, although I suspect that most will be paper-based as in 2020, as these appear to have worked well with few complaints. The problem for many families appealing for grammar schools is that there will be very little academic evidence to demonstrate their suitability, with pre-SAT assessments having often vanished.   

Next Page: Academies

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Last modified on Sunday, 31 January 2021 19:01


  • Comment Link Thursday, 04 February 2021 14:35 posted by Louise Brooker

    In relation to the ‘voluntary notice’ that Canon Aquilina served, both he and Mrs Aquilina were forced to leave their positions because of relentless bullying, lying and a carefully planned vendetta attempt against them which sadly was successful. Please can you document ALL the facts before reporting in the future. PETER: I have presented all the facts I have come across. Can you please let me have the evidence of relentless bullying, lying and a carefully planned vendetta you are presumably able to document. I have seen none of it, although supporters of Mrs Aquilina certainly hurled enough abuse at those concerned for the future of the school. I have been shocked, although I have not published much of it. Mrs Aquilina was dismissed three months ago; its now time to mend fences, and get on with rebuilding a good school together. I am closing this correspondence now, unless you have the facts you insist exist, although even if they do, they are not going to change things. Its all horribly reminiscent of Donald Trump's supporters still maintaining the election was 'stolen' without any evidence.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 13 January 2021 00:02 posted by Adrian

    Kentadvice is truly a nationally unique publication, attempting to hold local schools, academy trusts and authorities to account. At the same time it provides swathes of appropriate information and advice for families to guide them through the educational maze. As a professional, I find it a great independent guide. It was my pleasure to make a small financial donation towards your work. Congratulations and long may Kentadvice continue. PETER: Many thanks for this Adrian, greatly appreciated (and your donation!)

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