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Thursday, 21 January 2016 15:50

2015 GCSE & A Level Results in Kent and Medway

Updated 25th January

State school educated children in Kent and Medway both maintain their above average performance at GCSE and A Level. Nationally, 57.1% of children achieved five GCSEs Grades A-C, including English and maths, up from 56.6% last year. However, both have slipped this year, Kent from 58.1% down to 57.3%, whilst Medway has declined from 58.8% to 57.8%.

At A Level, a range of measures is available each of limited value, with Kent above national average  on point score per A Level entry, and below on percentage of students achieving three A Levels. In Medway, measures are generally slightly below national averages. 

The Government twist on the GCSE story that any school below the government floor target of 40% of children gaining 5 Grades A-C including English and maths is failing, is simply not valid in a selective county such as Kent. This is because on average 25 children out of every hundred, all of whom should have reached the floor target, are taken away from our non-selective schools as they are attending grammar schools. Simple arithmetic shows that removing these should bring the floor target for non-selective schools down to 20% and by that measure, just four in Kent are Failing. My bigger concern is that too many selective schools are under achieving.

For me, the outstanding highlights are: High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, at 59% five A--Cs, up from 31% in 2014, to be seventh best non-selective in Kent, but still suffering from unfair lack of popularity with parents, dating back to its pre academy status as an OFSTED failed school; Bennett Memorial in Tunbridge Wells, at 72% still regularly highest performing non-selective school in Kent; Folkestone School for Girls, one of just two grammar schools with 100%; with Chatham Grammar School for Boys, on 99%, best performing Medway grammar, but in Special Measures just two years previously; and  Dover Grammar School for Girls, the highest performing school in Kent at A Level, by average point score per student coming above all the prestigious and super-selective grammar schools. ...
You will find at the links, 2015 GCSE tables for Kent and Medway, and also A Level and vocational performance tables for Kent and Medway. If you feel I have missed out any other notable performances, please let me know. 
You will also find, for comparison, my articles on 2014 performance for GCSE and A Level
Grammar Schools
My rule of thumb is that all grammar schools should average at least 98% 5 GCSEs A-C, with an occasional dip as low as 96%, allowing for issues with individual children such as illness. At the top come Dartford Grammar and Folkestone School for Girls with 100%, followed by another ten with 99%: Chatham Grammar School for Boys; Cranbrook School; Dartford Girls Grammar; Invicta Grammar; The Judd School; Rochester Grammar; The Skinners School; Tonbridge Grammar; Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar; and Weald of Kent Grammar. Shockingly, eight grammar schools have achieved less than 95%: Borden Grammar (consistently below), Barton Court (one off) and Sir Joseph Williamson’s (one off) all on 94%; Dane Court Grammar (second consecutive year),  Dover Grammar School for Boys (not above 94% for at least the past five years) and Sir Roger Manwood’s (for the past three years) 92%; Oakwood Park Grammar 91% (one off). Chatham Girls Grammar had just 88% of its students achieve five GCSEs including English and maths. Although this is another one off, with more than 10% of its students failed by the school it is surely a worrying result for an already vulnerable school and its current students.  
Non-Selective Schools
As usual the Kent table is dominated by three faith schools: Bennett Memorial Diocesan 72%, (although on a steady decline over the past four years from 86%); St Simon Stock Catholic, 66%; and St Gregory’s Catholic, also down from an average in the 70s over the previous four years, at 64%. Next are a much improved Hayesbrook School, together with Hillview Girls at 61%; followed by Westlands on 60%, High Weald 59% and Valley Park on 58%. Wrotham School is on 57%, followed by two schools with good improvement being Dartford Science and Technology College, also 57% and Skinners Kent Academy on 56%. In Medway, Thomas Aveling improving year on year is top with 59%, with Hundred of Hoo on 54%

Non selective schools have received a double whammy as government no longer counts students who have improved their grades by repeating subjects (an important incentive for students for whom success may not come naturally) and no longer counts some practical and creative subjects (often taken by students with aptitudes in such subjects) forcing a focus on academic subjects only. Sadly, this will act as a disincentive for too many young people whose aptitudes lie outside the purely academic curriculum.

The struggling schools nearly all show a sharp decline over the past few years: Marlowe Academy, 6% (now closed); St George’s CofE Foundation, Thanet, one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county, 12% (whose headteacher has been rewarded by being put in charge of Charles Dickens School additionally, after the latter's headteacher was removed for failing his school, even though its results are considerably better than St George's over the past two years); Pent Valley Technology College, almost certainly closing this summer, 15%; Spires Academy, 17% (Executive Headteacher from Simon Langton Girls who are likely to sponsor it when SLGGS becomes an academy), all fall below my adjusted floor target.

Other schools below 25% are: Ellington and Hereson now renamed Royal Harbour Academy at 23%; followed by The North School and Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy. The North, placed in Special Measures two years ago, when at 42% has sadly declined ever since to 24% under new management, whilst Sheppey has actually improved over the previous year when it was second worst in the county at 19%. Robert Napier on 26% is the lowest performing Medway school.

I have recently learned that the Community College, Whitstable, another regular low performing school with its worst ever figure of 28% this year, losing its head as a consequence, is paying an additional price, being taken over by the acquisitive Swale Academy Trust, currently looking after both The North and Pent Valley (see above).

A Level
One of the problems with comparing A Level scores and pass rates is that they are so dependent on the entrance level to the school sixth form, as too many schools keep raising this in terms of GCSE grades to be achieved, in order to recruit the students most likely to get good grades. This reduces opportunity and is true both of many non-selective schools as well as grammars, so that students capable of achieving A Level passes albeit at lower grades are deprived of the opportunity. The traditional alternative route via Further Education Colleges has now been closed completely by some Colleges, including Mid Kent and North West Kent.

With this constraint in mind, the best performing schools measured by average A Level points per student are: Dover Grammar School for Girls, 1087; Invicta, 1059; Highsted, 1009; Judd, 1000; and Mayfield, 956; with Rochester Grammar some way behind at 899 - top school in Medway.

For the non-selectives, some high scoring schools may have benefited by a small number of entries, but others have almost caught the lowest grammar schools, Dover Grammar Boys, 741 points per student entry, and Gravesend Grammar 749, tied with Duke of York’s Royal Military School. Next come: Rainham School for Girls with 743; Bennett Memorial with 732; followed by Mascalls; John Wallis CofE; Knole Academy; Westlands; and Hillview Girls.
Progress 8, Attainment 8 and Disadvantaged Pupils

The government is starting to acknowledge that schools start from different baselines. but also wants to force them onto a narrower curriculum range and has invented new scales that are planned to become its key measures of performance. The figures will only be available on a school by school basis and "there will be no need" to share them with individual students.

Attainment 8 will measure the achievement of a pupil across 8 qualifications including mathematics (double weighted) and English (double weighted), 3 further qualifications that count in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) measure and 3 further qualifications that can be GCSE qualifications (including EBacc subjects) or any other non-GCSE qualifications on the DfE approved list. Progress 8 aims to capture the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school. A Progress 8 score will be calculated for each pupil by comparing their achievement –their Attainment 8 score – with the average Attainment 8 score of all pupils nationally who had a similar starting point (or ‘prior attainment’), calculated using assessment results from the end of primary school. Schools were able to volunteer to take part in the trial this year. With a Progress 8 score representing the average progress from the end of primary school, a high proportion of the top performers are still grammar schools. In Kent they are headed up by Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar on 0.81, tenth out of the 327 volunteer schools in the, closely followed by Skinners, 0.8. Then come: Bennett Memorial (three Tunbridge Wells schools heading the table!) and Dartford Grammar, 0.63; Weald of Kent Grammar 0.58; Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical 0.54; and Maidstone Girls Grammar, 0.44. The Malling School was the next non-selective school at 0.15; closely followed by Dartford Science and Technology College at 0.14. Apart from a few other Kent grammar schools, and one in Medway there were no other local schools with a positive score, and no Medway non-selective schools took part. Totally unsurprisingly, the Attainment scores are headed up by grammar schools, with Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar heading the local list, followed by Maidstone Grammar Girls and then Weald of Kent.

A different measure of % of pupils making expected progress, 11-16, is again dominated by the selective schools, highest non-selective performers in English being Northfleet Technology College with 90%; Greenacre Academy, Medway, 88%; St Gregory's Catholic, St John's Catholic and St Simon Stock Catholic, all 87%; and Skinners Kent Academy and Thomas Aveling, Medway, 86%. Six grammar schools come below all these, lowest being: Sir Roger Manwood's on 80%; Maidstone Grammar 79% (a perennial problem in English); Dane Court Grammar at 78%; and Chatham Grammar School for Girls, 71%. For maths, in amongst the lowest four grammar performers are Bennett on 79%, St Simon Stock, 83%; and Skinners Kent Academy, 86%. Lowest % of pupils making expected progress in maths are unsurprisingly: Marlowe: 18%; Spires 30%; St George's, Broadstairs, and Pent Valley 32%; and The North 33%. 

Yet another measure is the Value Added for disadvantaged pupils  from 11-16. Whilst grammar schools still dominate the highest places, inevitably they are working with small numbers. With a Value Added score of 1000 being the 'average' school, Rochester Grammar  comes top with its disadvantaged pupils with 1047, followed by Wilmington Girls' Grammar with 1044 and Dartford Grammar, 1036. However, Orchards Academy, with a consistently respectable GCSE performance of 51% this year, came third in the county  with 1034. Next comes Invicta Grammar on 1033, followed by three Medway schools: Thomas Aveling; Sir Joseph Williamson's; and Chatham Grammar Boys'. The next four non-selective schools are: Bennett Memorial; Westlands; Northfleet Technology; St Anselm's Catholic; St Edmund's Catholic; and St Simon Stock Catholic.  


Free School Meals
The tables contain a host of other information about schools, much of which relates directly or indirectly to performance. Unsurprisingly, three of the five schools which have had over 50% of their students with Free School Meals in the past six years (the preferred measure) are in Thanet: Marlowe Academy; Hartsdown Academy; and Royal Harbour Academy. The two are Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey and Victory Academy in Medway.
What may be surprising to some of the many critics of grammar schools who argue that they have low numbers of children with Free School Meals are that almost a third of Kent and Medway grammar schools, 12 out of 38, have over 10% of their children qualifying for Free School Meals, with just five grammars in the West of Kent below the oft quoted figure of 3% for grammar schools! 
School Data
I have drawn on just a small proportion of the data available in the tables. As an illustration, below I give a sample of data for the second lowest performing school, St George's CofE Foundation, Broadstairs, and two other Thanet schools which achieved much better GCSE results: Hartsdown - a school with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils; and Charles Dickens - placed in Special Measures, head sacked and replaced by head of St George's as Executive Head. 
School Data for 2015 GCSE Cohort
  St George's Hartsdown Charles Dickens
% GCSE A-Cs 12% 36% 30%
% of Disadvantaged
35% 49% 32%
% of Free School Meals 36% 60% 34%
% of pupils English not
first language
9% 22% 5%
% of SEN Statements 1% 3% 0%
% of cohort lower
32% 43% 27%
% Expected progress
in English*
41% 72% 73%
% Expected progress
in Maths*
32% 53% 40%
% of disadvantaged pupils
4% 30% 16%
Most recent OFSTED Good Good Special Measures

 *'Expected Progress' is progress from KS2 standard to GCSE.



Last modified on Wednesday, 10 March 2021 12:57

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