Supporting Families

Peter Read

Index

Update on Barming Primary below.

There has been a small increase in the number of pupils being allocated places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year running. Places for the additional 97 children were met by 93 more permanent and temporary places created in the last year, including 30 completely new places for both the new Chilmington Green Primary in Ashford and the new extension of St George’s CofE in Gravesend to become all-through.  River Mill Primary in Dartford is opening in September but is not currently part of the Kent Co-ordinated Admission Procedure, accepting applications directly. These two factors have produced very similar data in the proportion of Kent families being offered schools of their choice over these two years, as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17,634, up by 360 on 2018’s 17274 but still lower than the peak of 18,066 of 2016.

Brent Outstanding   2019 

The tightest part of the county is West Dartford with just 12 spaces in two of its 18 schools, an overall 1% vacancy rate (the second most oversubscribed Dartford school having just failed its Ofsted Inspection!), followed by urban Maidstone with 3%. The four most oversubscribed primary schools also occupied four of the top five places last year: Brent, Dartford (turning away 86 first choices); Great Chart, Ashford (54); Loose, Maidstone (48); and East Borough, Maidstone (46). Five of the ten most popular schools are in Maidstone.

                  Great Chart                   Loose                                       

Nine schools have over 60% of their places empty, led by Morehall Primary in Folkestone with 75% vacancies and including Martello Primary, also in Folkestone, with 63%, both run by Turner Schools.

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District and also allocations for Junior Schools. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

Update on Skinners' School Appeals: In spite of the new Admission criteria, I forecast there would be around five successful appeals as in previous years. I now have it confirmed that there were exactly five!

Update on Skinner's School Registration Form (see below). I understand that after this article was drawn to the attention of Governors, the unlawful Registration Form was changed. 

The issue of off-rolling is at last bubbling around official circles after many years of the practice being ignored. Ofsted has now come up with a formal definition although it can still be very difficult to prove, as many of those affected are vulnerable in different ways, reluctant to complain, fearful of the school, or simply do not know the actions are unlawful. 

OFSTED DEFINITION OF OFF-ROLLING
Off-rolling is the practice of removing a pupil from the school roll without using a permanent exclusion, when the removal is primarily in the best interests of the school, rather than the best interests of the pupil. This includes pressuring a parent to remove their child from the school roll.

It can happen in any type of school, as I demonstrated a couple of years ago, when I exposed the Invicta Grammar scandal which went national and resulted in government being forced to clarify the existing law. Two concerned families recently sent me copies of the Registration Form for new pupils at The Skinners’ School, a super-selective grammar. This unlawfully provides for the Governors to be able to require the removal of any pupil on the recommendation of the Headmaster that it is desirable, explored in detail below!!!!!

A major pointer to off-rolling taking place is a large percentage fall in numbers between the start of Year 10 and January of Year 11 along with, or alternatively, high Elective Home Education numbers (EHE). The importance of the January date is that after this, pupils leaving the school will have their GCSE performance (or absence) counted in official outcomes. Nine Kent and three Medway schools lost between 7% and 14% of their cohort in this way  this year, five of them for at least two years running. 

Update: The KCC Corporate Director, Children, Young People and Education has published KCC's most recent Ofsted data here. Whilst it confirms the excellent performance, it neither distinguishes between KCC schools and academies, nor does it count those schools whose Ofsted assessments have been cancelled after they have been academised, some of these losing the 'Inadequate' label. 

Kent Primary Schools inspected by OFSTED since September have again produced excellent outcomes overall, way above the national figures. There are two new Outstanding schools, both having followed the same route. These are Chilton Primary, in Ramsgate and St Eanswythe’s CofE in Folkestone. Both schools converted to become academies following a ‘Good’ Ofsted, then having a Short Inspection which recommended a re-visit for a full Inspection, that found them Outstanding, as explained below.

Chilton                St Eanswythes

 

Another 86% of the 47 Kent schools inspected were found to be ‘Good’, up on the 2018 data at this stage. At the other end, two schools were placed in Special Measures.

Medway, for the first time in many years, has an improving set of inspection outcomes, with four of its 15 schools improving their assessment, a total of 13 or 87% being found to be ‘Good’, primarily due to a policy of academising all its primary schools, Removing them from being its responsibility. 

Further details for both Kent and Medway primary schools below.

I regret to announce that I am retiring from my personal advisory service for parents, over the past two years mainly conducted by telephone consultation. I am also no longer able to respond to individual enquiries.  I shall continue to operate the highly popular KentAdvice website with its unique mixture of information, advice, news and comment on education matters across Kent and Medway, although it remains primarily self-funded apart from a small income from advertisers (more are always welcome). This has always been driven by information from parents and professionals, to whom I am very grateful, and I hope that this practice will continue.  

The advisory service has operated in several forms since 2005, but throughout I have offered predominantly free advice to many enquirers on an individual basis. Whilst my main area of activity has inevitably been with school admissions and appeals, it has also covered such matters as special education needs, exclusions, and complaints, together with specific failures of schools and Local Authorities to offer an appropriate service or education to parents. The service has been based on my recognised and unparalleled independent experience of education matters in Kent and Medway.

Update: Given the decision of The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) to switch totally from recruiting high scorers to local children (see below), if nothing else changes Chatham Grammar School For Girls (CGSG) will come under pressure but can solve its problems by recruiting London girls (many of whom would previously have gone to RGS). There is an alternative. If  CGSG were to become co-educational, then all problems of capacity for boys and over provision of places for girls will be resolved! No new grammar needed anyway, as explained below. 

Medway Council has voted to support a bid for a new grammar school or satellite grammar in the Authority, apparently oblivious of the current data on grammar school places, with a large surplus in girls school places, due to get even larger next year when Rochester Grammar abandons its super selective status to give priority to local girls. Whilst the two boys schools are both full on allocation this year, this is achieved because of 82 offers to boys from outside Medway at the two schools, 48 from London. As my article on Medway grammar school allocations this year confirms, 23% or nearly a quarter of all grammar school places, went to children from outside Medway.  

I give below the full picture of allocations for Medway grammar schools in September 2019, which should surely have been placed in front of councillors to enable them to reach a rational decision! Unfortunately, the decision shows the Councillors could not have been aware of the facts. Yet another example of what I have previously called Medway Madness.

Unsurprisingly as I forecast elsewhere, I am hearing of children of families moving into Medway who are being penalised by the unlawful decision of Medway Council not to test them for grammar school entrance, as in my previous article. Another Medway grammar school issue has now been brought to my attention in that a number of boys and girls were offered places at Chatham Girls and Rochester, but who were not grammar qualified  have now had those places withdrawn. I look at this further below.

Does no one on the Council care about education????

Today’s Sunday Times has a feature article on the departure of one of the most confrontational ( the ST describes her as 'visionary') heads in Kent from Ebbsfleet Academy, a school with one of the highest proportions of children leaving for Home Education in the county (top in 2016-7 with 4.1% of families removing their children from the school mid-course) and, for the whole of her time at the school, one of the highest vacancy rates of any secondary school in Kent, partially covered up by some of the highest number of Local Authority Allocations (children placed who did not apply to the school – 83 this summer!). No other Dartford school has any vacancies, or spaces for LAAs. 

Ebbsfleet Academy

She makes a damning indictment of the behaviour of parents from the ‘white working class’ who are unable to cope with the fierce discipline characteristic of the three schools who form what I call the ‘Tough Love Academies of Kent. She makes no reference to any other parents, presumably happy to tar all families with the same brush. The Tough Love academies all exhibit similar negative outcomes from their philosophy, and then appear to think that more of the same will solve the problem they have created. Home Education, which is not the solution, has been suggested by Ebbsfleet to some families in what is called ‘off-rolling’, the implication being that it is encouraged to improve examination results by removing lower performing pupils.   

In spite of its claims to high  academic performance, the school came 45th out of 68 non-selective schools in Kent,  in the government's preferred measure of performance, Progress 8. 

Towards the end of last term, I spent a morning by invitation at King’s Farm Primary School, situated in a socially deprived part of Gravesend, where I witnessed the results of a transformation in the fortunes of the school and its pupils. The school had previously been taken to the depths following a disastrous period of management by an Academy Trust,. However, under the leadership of an inspiring and totally committed headteacher, as part of the Cedar Federation along with the neighbouring Ifield School, it worked its way back to Ofsted ‘Good’ in 2018, in just four years.

Kings Farm 3

I previously became a governor of the school when it was adopted by Ifield and so have been privileged to watch this transformation in terms of ethos, outcomes, discipline, parental support and happiness. 

Update: Now with news of record outcome for Medway Reception Year Allocations (5 p.m. Tuesday)

Good news for most Kent families applying for reception class places in primary schools as the outcome figures are very close to the record 2018 placements. 89.4% of families have been offered their first choice school, against 89.5% in 2018. The total number of allocations to Kent pupils is up by 53 to 17,286, whilst the number of children with no school of their choice is up by 57 to 2.6%.

For Medway, the very brief press release is identical to that of 2018, except for four numbers, just three of which are relevant, quoted below. A great pity, as with a little bit of effort the Council could have been proud of its delivery of a record proportion of pupils being offered one of the schools on their application form, at more than 85%. Update: Subsequent data shows the press release is incorrect. See below. 

I am waiting for detailed oversubscription and vacancy figures at both Reception and Junior School level to be sent, both for Kent and Medway and will publish these as soon as possible, probably into May. You may find the equivalent picture for 2018 allocations helpful, as it conducts a detailed survey of the issues in each of Kent's 16 Districts (my  definition, more local than the official 12!).

You will find advice below on what to do if you have not received a school of your choice, together with a breakdown of offers for both Kent and Medway over the past four years. 

You will also find information and advice on appeals below and  here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, chances are negligible. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 12:52

Medway Non-Selective Schools Allocation 2019

Pressure on places in Medway Non-Selective schools continues to be intense, with 80% of pupils being awarded their first choice school. Another 204 children, or 9.3% of the total, received no school of their choice, well up on last year's 136. The situation was exacerbated by a fall of 35 in the number of places available. As a result, there were only 34 vacancies in three schools, just 1.4% of the total. The most oversubscribed school is Brompton Academy, as it has been for many years, turning away 218 first choices.

Brompton Academy

It is followed by Thomas Aveling with 72 children rejected. Some places will be freed up and re-allocated by successful grammar school appeals, but there are unlikely to be many successful appeals at Brompton, with just five appeals upheld out of 65 in 2018, in a typical year. You will find the full table of appeal outcomes below.

Probably the biggest Medway story is that of St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, whose popularity has declined every year since 2014, with just 46 children placing it first choice, with 101 being allocated there by Medway Council, having been offered no school of their choice, presumably few if any having a Catholic background. Its very Catholic ethos proves very difficult for many of those without a Catholic faith to cope with.

Overall, as in Kent, there is considerable polarisation with each of the oversubscribed schools becoming more popular this year, hence the soaring number of Local Authority Allocations (LAAs).

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 07:37

Turner Schools: Fresh Blessings from on High

Update: In spite of claims that the two Trust Primary schools are proving popular with parents, recent data shows that Morehall Primary has 75% of its Reception places empty on allocation for September, the highest proportion in the county (along with two other schools), with Martello Primary not far behind at 63%. 

Turner Schools, a small academy Trust with a CEO being paid the disproportionate £140,000 – £150,000 a year, has appointed a Deputy Chief Executive Officer, on a salary likely to be above £120,000, to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum matters. His salary will be met from a Grant  of £143,100 from the government’s Multi Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund, at no cost to the school, as explained in a letter to staff. Such grants are only available for MATs which have a “proven record of working with underperforming schools to improve performance” . This should surely have ruled Turner Schools out, given the damage they have wreaked on Folkestone Academy, as demonstrated in various articles on this site, most recently here

TurnerSchools

 

The letter provides three reasons for the appointment, explored below:

  • To join our mission to deliver a powerful education that overcomes educational underperformance.
  • To provide executive principal function when and where needed in our trust schools
  • To create additional capacity to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum.
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