Supporting Families
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Wednesday, 30 December 2020 06:15

Website Review of 2020


Kent County Council
Although Keith Abbot's departure as was declared as a redundancy, KCC found it necessary to expand its operation and replaced him by two new officers, certainly an unusual definition of the term. These are Christine McInnes as Director of Educationcurrently Director Education and Partnerships at Tower Hamlets Council replacing the highly respected David Adams who has been managing the role temporarily, and Mark Walker as Director SEN and Disability, currently the  Interim Director of the department, which was lambasted by Ofsted in an Inspection last year, for which he had had considerable responsibility. 
I have debated with KCC across a number of articles and responses about their failure to make the Kent Test fairer this year for children from what I called 'ordinary' and disadvantaged families. My most recent article was called 'KCC Fails in its Commitment to do 'All That is Practical and Possible to Address all Forms of Disadvantage'. That commitment should have been in line with the Secretary of State's policy document on the matter, which urged Local Authorities 'to look closely at minimising disadvantage for protected groups, socially and economically disadvantaged children and children who are unable to attend the test centre'. Apart from delaying the Kent Test by a month which would have had little practical effect, I could not find any such steps being taken, and my initial look at the Kent Test result data I have received recently from an FOI request appears to confirm this. However, whilst the Kent Test process did have some flexibility through the Head Teacher assessment process, even if it doesn't look as if it wasn't utilised, the situation in Medway was even worse with no apparent awareness there were any issues to face. 
Sir Paul Carter
And finally a piece of excellent and well deserved news. Paul Carter a superb leader of Kent County Council for 14 years, and before that as Education Cabinet Member was appointed Knight Bachelor in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in October. I have known him well for over twenty years as a powerful advocate for education in Kent and all families have much to be grateful to him for. Further details here
Other Items
I have carried out an analysis of provision of Education Health Care Plans in Kent following a damning Inspection of Kent’s effectiveness in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 which also highlighted some of the many problems encountered by families. The main Inspection findings included: 'Parents and carers who contributed to the inspection are overwhelmingly negative about their dealings with the local area. Some told inspectors that Kent did not care about their children. Many parents and carers are rightly upset, angry and concerned about the services and provision that their children receive'.
I covered the story of the removal of the head of Archbishop’s School in 2019,  after standards had fallen badly,  it having been the most oversubscribed and best performing N/S school in Canterbury District a few years previously. I have been informed that governors hoped the appointment of a previous Headteacher of New Line Learning Academy (having left his job in 2016),  on the recommendation of KCC’s The Education People, would stop the nosedive in performance and popularity. With extreme pressure on Canterbury places, awaiting the arrival of a new school in September, the school still has 41 vacancies out of a total of 53 in the whole District.  

An unusual set of articles exposed the campaigning group Comprehensive Future’s use of false statistics to boost its claim that grammar schools were failing to recruit Pupil Premium children, not helped by the leader of the  Grammar School Heads’ Association being unwilling to put his head over the parapet.

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.  

Although I have stressed throughout that the large majority of schools in Kent and Medway are good schools doing their very best against the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, it is inevitable that any distinct news coverage will focus on the difficulties of a minority. However, if you look at the list of articles in both my News and Blog pages (the latter featuring items that appear to me to be less central) you will see that the large majority provide information and advice, which was the rationale for the KentAdvice website in the first place and remains the case. The popularity of these items shows that this material is more important than ever as families try and navigate through the minefields of the education system of today. 
Please remember that to receive copies of all articles as they are published (in practice up to 24 hours afterwards) all you need to do is subscribe via the email registration on the right-hand side of this page, or via RSS. There is no cost, no catch, and no advertising, although any browser can feel free to contribute to the costs of running the site, by making a small donation here if you feel it has been of benefit.  
Finally, please remember that this is a nationally unique non-profit making website and service which I offer for the benefit of local families and to an increasing extent, education professionals in Kent, Medway and beyond (including a number of subscribers from national bodies).  Whilst much of the content is generated from official documentation and requests for information, the success of KentAdvice depends on parents and professionals being willing to share issues with me. I thank you for this and look forward to learning more in 2021 for the benefit of Kent and Medway families and education in the county. I promise that anything provided will be treated in confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise. 


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