Supporting Families
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Tuesday, 21 December 2021 08:09

KentAdvice: Review of Seventeen Years of Support for Families

Index

Page Two: Most Read Items
The most popular item in the whole website is unsurprisingly an information article entitled ‘Kent Grammar School Applications’, which has had 391,913 hits in the eleven years of the current version of the site, or around a hundred each day on average. It is followed by two more information articles, the more general Kent Secondary School Admissions, and then an item covering individual Special Schools and Units with 209,052 visitors, reflecting the high level of concern about information and advice from parents of children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities. The KCC website now has its own guide to Special Education, which I understand came about following my precedent. Sadly, I had to discontinue my advisory service for parents of children with Special Education Needs some time ago, because with each case taking up so much time, and individual circumstances varying so much, I would have had to discontinue everything else to manage these. I also found a strong emotional stress in immersing myself in individual cases, and have immense sympathy for those who are in this position full-time. The poor quality of support for these children from KCC was highlighted in a damning Ofsted Inspection of provision in 2019.  

Those news stories that have had the longest period of exposure naturally dominate the most read pages on the site, led by an item about the closure of the Chaucer Technology School in 2014, with 165,796 hits, closely followed by the first of around a dozen stories about what is now Ebbsfleet Academy, the previous year. The colourful but disastrous reign of the latter's recent Principal began with "a clandestine meeting at a hotel bar just off the M20, she was told that the former head would be leaving (I don't think he knew this at the time!) and asked if she would interested in taking his job" (overseen by KCC's LPA in a subsequent role, below), and concluded with the most appalling and very public verbal attack on a school's parents I have come across (See first and lengthy comment, posted below). Then comes a news item on ‘Kent Reception and Junior School Allocations 2016: Oversubscription and Vacancies’, one of a large series of widely read annual articles analysing school allocations in Kent and Medway, also including grammar and non-selective schools separately. Other very popular regular items include round ups of school Ofsted performances on a six monthly basis, most recently here (with one in the pipe line), together with annual reports on high excluding schools and home education. The 2018 exclusions report featured Folkestone Academy, one of the four schools in the controversial Turner Schools, also  government favoured, then led by the current Ofqual Regulator. Another article as late as 2018 and featuring each of its schools, was the most visited to explore individual schools, with over forty thousand visitors. The latest census data shows three of the four Turner schools have amongst the highest vacancy rates in their admission year, across the county. In total, the Trust has attracted 16 articles, covering a wide variety of issues and indicating the amount of concern it has created. 

There was also a recent story about a high excluding school run by the another controversial and also government favoured Trust, Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) based in Medway, along with a second article about rogue headteachers. Four of my multiple victories challenging school admission rules have been through the national Schools Adjudicator taking on TSAT, most recently here

One of my articles on Sixth Form courses, featured the appalling Rochester Grammar School, another TSAT school, noting its staying on rate for its own children was the second lowest for a grammar school in the whole county, at 46% or less than half. This year, even counting the few students joining from other schools, it is down to 48% of the whole Year 11 cohort, the lowest percentage for any grammar school in Kent and Medway. These are amongst some 25 articles about the five troubled TSAT schools out of  six in Medway, most recently here, around half featuring Holcombe Grammar School. Some of these have been visited tens of thousands of times, although understandably articles about Medway schools generally have far fewer visitors than ones about Kent (with a population six times as large)  Sadly, the lack of accountability prevents the multiple scandals in this Trust and some others from being investigated. 

My consultancy practice involved extensive work with school appeals for all types of primary and secondary schools, and these have naturally been featured in annual round ups, together with detailed historical records for every secondary school in my Individual Schools Section, led by schools beginning with 'D',which has had 54,080 hits. This will be partly driven by the huge interest in  Dartford Grammar School from London families. 

My most high profile story and next most read one about individual schools has been about unlawful expulsions from the Sixth Forms of Invicta Grammar and Maidstone Girls Grammar in 2017, which turned into a national scandal about the practice and led to government having to make the illegality explicit the following year. On a single day on holiday in France as the story broke, I took 14 national and local media enquiries by phone, including a live interview with the BBC News Channel from a field in the middle of nowhere (my long suffering wife puts up with a lot!) My original article clocked up over 35,000 hits, most before the national media took over the story.

It is followed in popularity by a 2015 good news story about The Judd School, frequently the most oversubscribed grammar school in the county, as it changed its oversubscription criteria to award most of its places to Kent boys, an excellent principle subsequently followed by The Skinners School, and the two Wilmington Grammars.   

Next comes the most read article on an individual primary, school about St Thomas Catholic Primary School in Sevenoaks only last year, but still having over thirty thousand hits, followed by two further items, concluding with the rare dismissal of the headteacher, and the related departure of her husband, a Catholic priest, from his parish! Then comes the shocking story of the permanent government teaching ban on  the executive  headteacher of Whitehill Primary School in 2017, whose destructive path I had tracked and reported on extensively for three years after she crashed Kings Farm Primary School in 2014. This was just one of a number of schools she damaged, under the guidance of KCC's Lead Primary Adviser (LPA, see below). When he lost his job, he took up a part-time consultancy at Whitehill, in a room next to the headteacher's, before she was banned! She is the only local headteacher to suffer this fate in at least the last decade. I am delighted to record that Kings Farm, where I was once a governor of the Federation that subsequently ran it, is now very  well managed and is oversubscribed. 

I have also covered numerous stories about other schools including the ghost Park Crescent Academy, a heavily flawed project as I have argued throughout. Government Ministers firstly approved the project, then overturned the decision by Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, to scrap it, then reversed their own decision within less than two years cancelling it for a second time earlier this month! Large sums of taxpayer money have been wasted on the project, with KCC left owning a brownfield site costing them £6.8 million, with buildings now demolished and clearly unsuitable to build a school on.

Next Page: Early Articles 


Last modified on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 20:15

10 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 06 January 2022 23:47 posted by keith

    Somehow, Peter, I don't think you will be officially recognised in spite of a life time of outstanding service for the children of Kent, of which only the last 17 years are outlined here. So don't hold your breath! PETER: Thanks for the acknowledgement, I won't.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 06 January 2022 19:37 posted by Long Serving Teacher at an unfashionable school

    I see that Tracey Luke, a Trustee of Turner Schools and Chair of Turner Free School governors has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List. Lee Bailey Deputy CEO of Thinking Schools Academy Trust had the same award in 2020. Is it a coincidence that you describe both Trusts as 'government favoured', after a series of articles demonstrating the failures of both. PETER: Few Kent and Medway school teachers and leaders receive awards, although there are plenty of outstanding schools, but these two highly controversial Trusts seem to be showered with government goodies, so I am not surprised. For reference there was also an OBE for William Oakes, former Head of Dartford Grammar, and two more MBEs for Education relating to Kent schools, the first for David Sharp, for Broadcasting and Education, who runs a radio station based in one of Turner SChools! The second is for a member of staff at The Abbey School; see my leading article on its decline on my Blog page!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 05 January 2022 22:36 posted by Seeker after Truth

    KCC officers have 'enjoyed' a reputation of being a political body for many years, led by those at the top. Your evidence makes clear that this is true. PETER: It may be that things are changing with the appointment of a new Director of Education and Cabinet Member for Education. There is also a Corporate Director Children, Young People and Education, although I am not sure what his role is.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 04 January 2022 23:09 posted by Richard Thompson

    What an amazing story, together with evidence of the events described.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 23:26 posted by EHCP parent

    Congratulations on halting the removal of all Kent SEN Units as described in 'Early Articles' and also bringing about a dramatic reduction in the number of statemented pupils being expelled. You give equal credit to Sir Paul Carter and Kent on Sunday, but the fact remains, without your exposing the malpractices many EHCP children would have suffered. We should all congratulate you on these victories. Thank you. PETER: Actually all I did was to expose these two malpractices. Others followed through with action.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 20:07 posted by Ex Member of Staff Folkestone Academy

    Your efforts to shine a light in the darkness of Turner Schools are to be commended. Sadly, in spite of your many other successes chronicled above, you were unable to break through on this one, probably because of government protection for the CEO who presided over such a disastrous regime. Still, I forgive you! Enjoy your retirement, although somehow I don't believe you can walk away completely.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 08:36 posted by Kent Resident

    Wow! Peter, this is certainly a unique record of monitoring schools in the county. It puts Ofsted and the County Council in the shade. And all for free. You should be publicly praised for the many achievements you have listed, not just allowed to slip away quietly.

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 December 2021 13:42 posted by Andrew Lancaster

    Peter, I echo the appreciation from Julia, below. One of the individual features you often apply, is so often to follow a story through in an unexpected direction. I have in mind your item: The Battle of Pimlico Academy, a twist at the end of the tragedy of Ebbsfleet Academy. PETER: You will find it at http://www.kentadvice.co.uk/peters-blog/item/1386-pimlico-academy-and-its-kent-connections.html

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 December 2021 13:26 posted by Julia

    Comment About Ebbsfleet Academy:
    I would like to wish you a very happy and enjoyable retirement. I'm sure I am among the growing numbers of readers of your blog that will miss your updates on the state of our schools and education as a whole. Your words of wisdom have helped many of us face the difficulties that education can bring. Not only as parents but also staff members of schools that have been taken over by people who call themselves teachers but really haven't got a clue about the real meaning of education and the welfare of young people placed in our care during the most important time of their lives.
    I was very lucky to have worked at a school for the last 7 years of my working days, where the Headteacher was a man of very high principles and had such a wonderful duty of care as to how we could help the students in our school. He certainly lead by example and he had the respect of the staff and students alike. The school was Swan Valley Community School and the Headteacher was Nigel Jones. He had such a wonderful presence about him, he could see the potential in all of his staff and students alike. If the students needed a guiding hand his was the first one to be held out to them. It was a very sad day when we were told he had left the school. It was a terrible day for us all. Then suddenly the heart of the school had been removed. We all felt the lost immensely.
    But we could rely on you to give us the encouragement to continue as we tried to carry on his work. Though sadly for many of us we were beaten down by the new regime. In one end of term it was nearly a complete staff walkout. We couldn't take the constant comments of 'in the predecessor school administration' etc etc. All they did was belittle a man who turned the school around in his time there and cast a long shadow over the school when he left and they weren't worthy of walking in his shadow. But through all that you always spoke so well of him and his time at the school. We always thought you were there for us. You still to this day give him the credit he so richly deserves.
    So Peter I thank you very much for your time and commitment to this site and also thank you for all the help and encouragement you gave parents and staff when they needed it.

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