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Friday, 11 December 2015 12:29

2015 Key Stage 2 Results for Kent and Medway: Medway once again bottom in the country.

Primary School Key Stage Two test performance tables were published yesterday which, along with last week’s Annual OFSTED Report, confirm yet again that Medway Council is responsible for running the worst primary schools in the country. The Local Authority has again come bottom of the National Key Stage 2 League tables, having been in the bottom five every year bar one since 2009, and with a lower proportion of children in Good or Outstanding OFSTED schools than any other of the 153 Local Authorities in the country for the second consecutive year.

Kent has fared much better this year, starting from a very poor base-line four and more years ago, and is now around or above the national average by both measures, having successfully adopted tough actions to improve standards.


My Nominations for Best Performances at Key Stage 2, as explained below

   Chattenden1      Ethelbert Road        Temple Ewell   Rodmersham

The article below looks at performance in the two Authorities in greater detail, along with notable performances from local schools, both strong and weak......

Medway Primary Schools
 There really is little new to say about the overall performance of Medway primary schools and the responsibility of Medway Council as I have written about these too many times before, most recently here. Surely we have now reached the stage where it is self-evident that Medway Council education service is not fit for purpose and there needs to be radical change at the top. As in previous years, the Authority position is that the responsibility for this failure lies elsewhere with no blame being attached to the Council or its discredited School Improvement Service. Overall, the Authority came bottom equal of all 153 Local Authorities in the country, along with Poole, another regular underperformer, with just 73% of children achieving Level 4 at Key Stage 2 in reading and mathematics tests, along with the same level in a writing teacher assessment, against a national average of 80%. Some suggest the problem is with the children and their families, but a look at the secondary tables shows this is untrue, as Medway secondary schools come 30th out of the 153 Local Authorities at GCSE performance. In other words, the potential to perform well is clearly present, it is simply not being realised at primary school level.

Medway Council launched its second major initiative to improve school standards in three years the first having sunk without trace. I shall be surprised if this one fares any better, for the reasons explained in that article.

This year, just one of Medway’s 67 primary and junior schools, Chattenden Primary, a converter academy away from the control of Medway Council, achieved a100% pass rate at the Level 4 assessments, another six schools achieving 90% or more. It may be of interest that four of these six are Catholic Primary schools: English Martyrs; St Benedict’s; St Thomas More; and St Thomas of Canterbury.  The other two are Barnsole and Woodlands Primaries. All seven are regular high performers over the past four years. One school still in Special Measures, Twydall Primary, did well to score 70%.

Government has a floor standard, with all schools expected to achieve 65% Level 4 passes, but Medway has 13 schools below this level. Leaving aside Phoenix Junior Academy which had its results annulled (see below), half of the others are also academies, all but one having failed when under Medway Council control,  and clearly faring little better under their new management. 31% of Medway primaries are academies.

Kent Primary Schools
Kent primary schools have performed at or around the national average for each of the past three years, for 2015 being spot on at 80% of children achieving Level 4 in reading and mathematics tests, together with the writing teacher assessment. This is a great improvement on previous years following strong action by KCC to improve standards.

22 Kent primary schools achieved a 100% performance at Level 4 in the three key subjects, most notable being Rodmersham School near Sittingbourne, which has scored 100% in each of the past four years, with two others, Bodsham CofE, near Ashford and St Thomas’ Catholic, Sevenoaks achieving the feat three times.

Especially impressive are the ten rural East Kent primary schools with 100%: Bodsham CofE, Ashford; Elham CofE, Canterbury; Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE; Pluckley CofE; Rodmersham, Sittingbourne; St Joseph’s Catholic, Aylesham, Canterbury; Saltwood CofE and Seabrook CofE, both Shepway; Sholden CofE, Deal; and Temple Ewell CofE, Dover. Just three of these are academies, from the total of 29% of all 432 Kent primaries.

Also of note are the three schools in Dover and Deal in this list, the Kent district with the best record in 2014/15 of success at OFSTED Inspections, although certainly not the most obvious one.   

Temple Ewell CofE Primary possibly deserves most praise, having been placed in Special Measures in 2012, but reclassified as Good just over a year later. 

At the other end of the scale 23 Kent primaries are below the government floor standard of 65%. Those 11 not already academies are therefore at high risk of enforced takeover as sponsored academies, although the performance of their academy companions is hardly conducive to anticipate improvement. A significant number of these schools have featured elsewhere in this website: Chantry, (23%, lowest in Kent and Medway), an academy already suffering from having been taken over by a failed sponsor, although one informed parent of a child at the school told me this morning of the radical and welcome changes taking place at the school under new sponsors Greenacre School. Chantry is one of five Gravesham schools on the list (three academies), Gravesham also having the highest number of failed OFSTEDs; St John’s CofE, Canterbury (33% second lowest), having had a very chequered recent past and, with a critical Monitoring OFSTED Inspection is surely reaching the end of the line; Kings Farm and Whitehill (see below), both damaged by bad leadership, but both now recovering since the  removal of the problem; Dame Janet Primary Academy, Drapers Mills Primary Academy, and Salmestone, all in Thanet and part of the disastrous TKAT Academy chain, described here and in other articles; Molehill and Tree Tops Primary Academies, apparently doomed for ever to be failures in spite of their takeover by Leigh Academies Trust after AET failed with them; Cranbrook Primary; and Lydd Primary, now a sponsored academy. In all 12 of the 23 have been placed in Special Measures in recent years.

Level 5 SATs
Although all media publicity focuses on Level 4 at Key Stage 2, there are also important tables showing performance at Level 5 which, in this selective county is often regarded as a grammar school standard indicator. Coincidentally, 25% of Kent children reach this standard, compared with 24% nationally. Unsurprisingly the high performers list is dominated by West Kent primaries, but it is headed by Ethelbert Road in Faversham with 73% of children achieving Level 5 in reading, writing and maths. Ide Hill in Sevenoaks comes next with 71%, with Elham in Canterbury seventh with 62%, Manor Community in Swanscombe and Tunstall CofE on 57%, and Great Chart at 56%, eleventh. Chattenden is again the top Medway school with 53%, the Medway average being 19%.
Many schools take achievement at Level 4 as their absolute priority, and I do get complaints from some parents that their primary school is not as a result focusing on enabling their brightest pupils to achieve their full potential. Many of the 11 Kent schools with no pupils achieving any Level 5's are on the list of schools below government floor standard above, but one surprise is St Joseph’s Catholic, Aylesham, Canterbury, with its 100% Level 4's, underlining where the school's priorities lie. There is just one Medway school with no children achieving the Level 5 standard - Stoke Community. 
The pressure to succeed
This website contains numerous news items reflecting the pressure to succeed on school and their headteachers and governing bodies, including my series on ‘disappearing headteachers’. Since then many others have lost their posts as the pressure to succeed becomes even greater. I have gone into some detail here about the ‘underperforming’ Kent primary schools, to illustrate that most have a history of problems, some being out of their control especially those working in areas of extreme social deprivation. However, all those identified above have had leadership issues and a troubled past and one has to wonder for many what the solution is to their difficulties, as their records make it increasingly difficult to attract new headteachers and staff, and takeover as sponsored academies is clearly no panacea.

Sadly, some schools and headteachers are turning to cheating in the tests, the penalties for which can be severe, although the scale of the problem is only just emerging. It is often in the interests of all concerned to cover up the misdemeanours, the example of Phoenix Primary Academy in Medway this year being an exception, where the Academy Trust reported the problem itself and saw the school’s KS2 results annulled this year. In 2014, Kings Farm and Whitehill Primaries in Gravesend, both run at the time by the Executive Headteacher of Whitehill Primary had their results annulled after teachers at Kings Farm exposed the problem. The Headteacher of Whitehill is currently on ‘leave of absence’ pending further investigation. There had previously been speculation in the town about the high KS2 performance of the school, so the annulment came as no great surprise. The crash from 2012 (89%), and 2013 (88%) to this year’s 47%, the eighth lowest percentage in the county, after exposure of the problem, is an indication of the potential level of any wrongdoing which could have taken place. 

Sadly, this won’t be the last school to be tempted to falsify exam performance and what is not known is how many carry out the deception without being found out.

Last modified on Friday, 16 December 2016 00:35

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