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Displaying items by tag: kent - Kent Independent Education Advice

I now have official details of the pattern of children crossing the Kent and Medway boundaries to take up secondary school places for 2013 entry and, as in previous years it gives a very different picture from the more lurid headlines on this issue. I have divided the cross border movement into four sections below: Medway; North West Kent; West Kent & South Kent. I don't have precise figures for which part of the county children live in so some of these figures are best estimates. The headline figures are: 589 children from out of Kent are taking up places in Kent secondary schools, with 436 going the other way, figures very similar to 2012. But don't jump to conclusions. Read the following:...

Published in News Archive

Article produced for Kent on Sunday: 24 February 2013, reproduced here (there are two items by me in this edition).  

 As this is the first article in a series, and I have tended to highlight the negative features of the education service in the past, I thought it would be appropriate to applaud a major achievement by teachers in Kent’s primary schools.

I have in the past been highly critical of the schools’ performance as measured by both OFSTED and Key Stage Two results at the end of children’s time in primary school, but recent statistics show a dramatic improvement in Kent’s OFSTED standard.

This follows a new strategy for improvement prepared by KCC last year, and I have now measured the change by comparing OFSTED Reports recorded since September with those of previous years. For the two and a half years until July 2012, there were 278 OFSTED Reports for Kent primary schools, of which just 41% were ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, the majority being ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Inadequate’ (making up the four possible grades), with an unacceptable 36 schools failing their inspection. Contrast this with the more recent performance by 51 schools, achieving 63% ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’, an improvement of over half again on the previous figure.

This would have been even better were it not for the continuing dire performance of Maidstone’s schools, which have a record of being the worst performing district since I started keeping records, every one of the six schools being inspected since September graded ‘Requires Improvement’ the replacement grade for ‘Satisfactory’, not one of which improved its performance from the previous inspection.

Of the schools elsewhere in Kent, there is a massive improvement on each school’s previous inspection result, with 30 schools upping their rating and just four declining.  Of course this has all been done at a cost, and the number of Kent primary headteachers leaving their posts mid-year appears anecdotally to be higher than last year.

This improvement could be partially down to the new OFSTED grading system being more generous than its predecessor, and we don’t yet have national statistics to compare but, given the uncompromising attitude of the Chief OFSTED Inspector, this would appear hardly likely. Instead, I believe it is because of a new positive attitude and higher expectations in Kent, which is bringing results. Congratulations to all concerned, but do spare a thought for the casualties, often school leaders who have given their very best for their schools, but have not been able to deliver for whatever reason.

For comparison, I also looked at the Medway figures. With just 12 schools inspected, this is a less reliable measure, but even here, there is a distinct upward movement, with 50% ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’, up from 34%. However, two schools failed the OFSTED since September, the same as in Kent, but with a quarter of the numbers. On the other hand, St Nicholas CofE Infant School in Strood deserves special mention, as the only Medway primary school to be awarded an ‘Outstanding’ OFSTED in four years, out of a total of 71 inspections. Kent has 20 in the same period, including Cobham Primary school and Sheldwich Primary school who achieved the same accolade since September.  You will find a summary of each school’s OFSTED inspection result, together with further information on some individual schools, on my website, at www.kentadvice.co.uk.

 

Published in Newspaper Articles

In Kent as a whole, 88% of secondary school places are filled in Year Seven, although the target figure is 90-95%. Under previous governments, pressure was applied to Local Authorities to meet their targets, but now most secondary schools in Kent are academies, government relies on parental preference to see popular schools expand and unpopular ones to disappear. This battle of attrition is now affecting the seven Kent & Medway secondary schools which currently have fewer than fifty per cent of their Year Seven places filled, all having witnessed a sharp decline in their intake numbers over the past four years. For four of these, their unpopularity with families has been underlined by OFSTED failures over this time, ........

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 24 January 2013 22:07

Kent & Medway School League Table Results

For the second time this week, I have been on BBC SE and Radio Kent commenting on a Kent education story (also previous item below) as Government published the GCSE and A Level League tables.  Not only do I have my reservations about the tables as a whole, there are several different ways of presenting them, to make particular points, for high and low performers.  

Not surprisingly, in both Kent and Medway, the grammar schools dominate the top of each set of tables, with no non-selective school intruding on their positions. If one considers the % of students achieving 5 GCSE Grades A*-C or equivalent, including maths and English, just eight out of 39 grammar schools:.....

Published in News Archive

The main secondary school appeals are now ended, although places are still being freed up, mainly in non-selective schools through movement in waiting lists. This article is an overview of the latest situation across Kent and Medway, although I am happy to be corrected on details or to add in additional items. In particular,  information on non-selective school situations would be helpful.

 For grammar schools, the main pressure area has been West & North West Kent for boys,   with Tunbridge Wells Grammar school for Boys having 89 appeals, and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys having around 70. As a result Kent County Council came under considerable pressure  from families whose sons had passed the 11+, but had no grammar school place. In the event,  nearly all of these boys have been offered places off waiting lists or at appeals, with TWGSB taking 32 at appeal, Wilmington over 30,  Gravesend Grammar taking in nearly all who had passed without the need to go to appeal. 

Oakwood Park in Maidstone has also taken up a number of these and, after appeals, now has 164 places allocated, leaving its additional form of entry only part filled. As a result, this OFSTED ‘Outstanding school’  is surprisingly still welcoming applications from anyone who has passed and should be able to offer the vacant places without appeal.   I believe that otherwise all these schools are now full, along with Skinners, Judd, Dartford Grammar Boys and Maidstone Grammar. Interestingly, admission authorities can accept a second appeal .......“because of a significant and material change in the circumstances of the parent or child”.  For example, if your child comes up with two Level 5s in the recent SATs it may be worthwhile  asking  a grammar school with vacancies if it will consider a second appeal (it has an absolute right to say no). ......... 

Published in News Archive

An abbreviated version of this article appeared in Kent on Sunday 0n 25th March 2012. It is drawn from two other articles on this website: Oversubscription and Vacancies; and Movement in and out of the County

Information from KCC and Medway under FOI requests, reveals considerable change in the pattern of secondary school applications this year. The focus is on grammar school patterns of admission in West Kent. There is a considerable swing in grammar school assessments from East to West, driven by parental pressure to secure grammar school places, and the intense coaching culture which becomes self–fulfilling. This is combined with pressure from children along the boundary to the West and NW, and from London Boroughs stretching through to Lewisham, with a total of 211 out of county children taking up places in these Kent grammar schools. Not surprisingly there are many grammar qualified Kent children without a grammar school place, predominantly girls in the south of the area, and boys in the north. Thus the top seven oversubscribed grammar schools in Kent are all in the West, turning away an average of 90 children each. Top this year is Skinners, rejecting a record 138 first choice applicants, followed in order by:  Dartford Grammar; Tonbridge Grammar; Dartford Girls; The Judd; Tunbridge Wells Girls; Tunbridge Wells Boys; and Weald of Kent. What is not always realised is that this is balanced by over 300 children going the other way, mainly into comprehensive schools over the border. Most oversubscribed grammar schools in Medway are Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester and Rochester Grammar School.

Another major issue arising from this tilt, is the number of vacant spaces in East Kent Grammars led by Harvey Grammar, Folkestone with 73, followed closely by Folkestone School for Girls. Then, in order: Highworth, Ashford; Clarendon House, Ramsgate; Barton Court, Canterbury; Mayfield, Gravesend; Borden, Sittingbourne;  Chatham House, Ramsgate; and Highsted, Sittingbourne. Three others, Invicta Grammar and Oakwood Park Grammar both in Maidstone, and Wilmington Grammar Girls are full only because KCC have allocated children there, who were unsuccessful elsewhere. Two Medway Grammar Schools, Chatham Boys and Chatham girls have over a hundred spaces between them, as numbers of children in Medway drops sharply

What is clear is that the eleven plus is failing able children in East Kent, we can see these schools looking to different methods of assessing children, as already happens in the two Dover Grammar Schools, both full as a result. Presumably, one can expect to see higher than normal success rates at appeal at many of these schools, as the balance is righted.

Most popular non-selective school remains Leigh Technology Academy, turning away 193 disappointed first choices, followed by Longfield Academy with 91. The pressure on these schools is caused by lack of alternatives in the area, Dartford Technology College (girls) and Meopham School both having failed OFSTEDs and there being no boys’ non-selective school in the area. This explains why 100 Kent children went into non-selective schools in Bexley and Bromley.

Other popular Kent non selective schools disappointing more than 40 first choice applicants were (in order): Valley Park Community, Maidstone; Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne; North, Ashford; Westlands School, Sittingbourne; Hillview Girls, Tonbridge; Bennett Memorial, Tunbridge Wells; Archbishop’s, Canterbury;  King Ethelbert Academy, Westgate; and Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone. In Medway, Brompton Academy turned away a remarkable 79 first choices, even after increasing its Planned Admission Number by 30 to cope with its popularity, followed by Thomas Avelingl, and Greenacre. Sadly, one reason for the popularity of many of these schools is because parents wish to avoid other local schools.

There are three Kent schools with over 90 vacancies: Pent Valley, Folkestone; Marlowe Academy, Broadstairs; and Chaucer, Canterbury.  A total of 12 non-selective schools in Kent had more than a third of their places empty.

In Medway, discrepancies are even starker: Bishop of Rochester Academy has the highest number of vacancies at 135, being over half empty. This is followed by St John Fisher, Robert Napier, Strood Academy, and Hundred of Hoo. A key issue in Medway is the rapidly falling rolls which currently  accounts for 14% of all places being empty.

Government policy appears to be to encourage the free market in school places. Looking at the picture in Kent one can see that before long we are going to see casualties of this policy in our secondary schools, some of which will be in shiny new Academy buildings, costing tens of millions of pounds.  Never mind the children who of course are the real casualties of this game of monopoly. 

Published in Newspaper Articles

I am now starting to see the picture relating to Kent & Medway school vacancies. Thanks to those who have provided me with some of the following information; I would be grateful for any information that helps fill out the picture. However, I shan't get the full statistics for Kent schools for another fortnight (FOI). 

It is already clear that with each school choosing its own oversubscription rules many parents are confused about why their child has not got a place at a school of their choice. Unfortunately, more and more schools are choosing rules to suit themselves and there is no longer a system attempting to cater for all. You will find more general information below

This article will be extended as I receive further information, and as I have time to update it. 

Details.......

Published in News Archive

I now have information on the outcome of Kent Headteacher Assessments (Headteacher Appeals) for the Kent Test taken in September. This enables me to update the table and information in the previous item as follows. The two items should be read together. ...........

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Kent County Council figures show a pleasing increase in the number of children being offered their first choice secondary school on 1st March, up from 80% in 2010 to 83% in 2011. Just 413 got none of their choices.  With nearly 500 fewer Kent children in the system, waiting lists for popular schools are generally much lower this year.  There is a similar picture in Medway with 87% of children being allocated their first choice school, although this is helped by a fall in the age group of nearly 10%.

Last year the eighteen most popular schools each turned away more than 50 children who put them in first place, but this year the same number of schools sees the bar drop to 40 places oversubscribed.

Leigh Technology Academy (Dartford) remains Kent’s most popular school for the fourth year running, with 199 disappointed first choice applicants. Second comes Tonbridge Grammar, with 104 girls who had passed the eleven plus turned away. After Westlands (Sittingbourne) on 94, comes Dartford Grammar School with 88, entering the lists for the first time as applicants from the London Boroughs realised the school was accessible, a third of the places going to high scoring applicants from out of county. Next in line was Judd School (grammar, Tonbridge), followed by: Valley Park School (Maidstone); Fulston Manor School (Sittingbourne); Brockhill Park Performing Arts College (Hythe); Brompton Academy (Gillingham); King Ethelbert School (Margate  – new entry); and The Thomas Aveling School (Rochester).

Then follows Skinner’s School (grammar, Tunbridge Wells ), slipping from its position as most popular grammar school in 2010, and: Folkestone Academy; Dartford Grammar School for Girls;  Canterbury High School; Hillview School for Girls (Tonbridge); Bennett Memorial Diocesan School (Tunbridge Wells); and Simon Langton Girls Grammar School (Canterbury – new entry).

At the other end of the scale, four Kent schools were over half empty before KCC drafted in additional children who had been offered none of their choices: Skinner’s Kent Academy; Angley School (Cranbrook); Walmer Science College, and New Line Learning Academy (Maidstone).  One wonders how some of these schools can continue to function with finances depending on pupil numbers.

The school with the greatest increase in popularity was Dartford Grammar School (up 55 disappointed first choices), the biggest loser was surprisingly Homewood School in Tenterden, down 100, but still oversubscribed.

The pressure of out of county children taking up places in Kent grammar schools is once again greatest in the North West of the county, with 189 children taking up places in the four Dartford Grammar Schools (52 of these coming from as far away as Lewisham and Greenwich) as opposed to just 57 in the three West Kent super selectives, both figures very similar to last year.

Many of these figures will have changed this week as parents had to decide whether to accept places offered and there will be happiness for some, offered places off the waiting lists. As many as 700 further children may gain places through the appeal procedure, although this stressful process goes on until July for some.

Published in Newspaper Articles

Another knotty problem for Michael Gove.

Following Kent secondary school allocations on 1st March just gone, 9% of places in Year Seven were left empty or occupied by children who had not applied for the schools in question. The Audit Commission considers there should be no more than 5% empty spaces in any area or authority. So there is a problem in Kent. However, with 49 of the100 Kent secondary schools either Academies or well on the way and another 36 Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools partially independent of KCC,  the county has lost all control of its ability to plan numbers of places to fit the population, and so has no way of meeting government targets...... (read more)

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