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Monday, 23 April 2012 06:19

Medway Council Report on Low KS2 standards in Primary Schools

After  Medway Council came in the bottom five Local Authorities in the country for Key Stage 2 results for the second consecutive year, according to the BBC, the Council set up 'an in-depth review' of performance. On a measure of 5GCSEs Grades A-C including English and maths, Medway school pupils achieved an average of 68%, against a national average of 74% this year. The Medway officer responsible for school standards is quoted as saying " "I don't think we are failing children but I think we could do better and we are working with the schools to do better. Since 2009 we are up three points and we are aiming to maintain that improvement.", So Medway Council considers it is not failing pupils and that being in the bottom five is an improvement over 2009!. However, ......


with this appalling level of performance one would expect that the Report on the Review, published last week, to contain radical proposals for the Council to change its approach to improving primary school standards in the Borough

Not mentioned in the Report is the parallel dreadful performance by Medway Schools in OFSTED Inspections over the past two years as shown in the following table. This shows there is not a single Outstanding primary school in Medway, and a shocking quarter of all Inspections are of failed schools,  five times the national average. In total 30% of all Medway Primary Schools have failed an OFSTED over this period (some have subsequently passed). 

Outstanding Good Satisfactory Inadequate
National % 8 47 40 5  
Medway % 0 33 41 25  

With these two sets of dreadful results one might expect to find a degree of introspection by the Council to reflect on why they, the only common factor linking these schools, are responsible for  failing so many of the children in their care. 

Not a bit of it! The first two of twelve recommendations make clear who the fall guys are in this analysis that contains not a single recommendation on how Medway Council might improve its own performance. Recommendation number one is that governors should have compulsory training. I do think it important that governors should be trained, providing this is of a high quality and relevant to the issues. I have carried out my own (very) small informal survey of Medway governors, asking them how they are supported to raise standards by Medway Council? The main response was blank faces. Interestingly I have jsut received my copy of 'The Governor', published by KCC for its own school governors. Under the exciting new leadership of Director of Education Patrick Leeson, nearly every page sets out new developments to ensure governors are both informed and involved in the important business of governance of schools. The second recommendation I regard as farcical, which is for all Medway Councillors to put themselves forward as school governors because, as Councillor Wicks who is responsible for education at Medway Council explained in a Radio Kent interview: "they have experience in meeting procedure".  A constant complaint of school headteachers is that they regularly fail to attract good school governors, and there are many reasons for this, but I have never detected any enthusiasm for recruiting local politicians and the Report's explanation that they be "encouraged to demonstrate effective practice in the skills and qualities required for good governance" hardly supplies any explanation as to how this will improve matters. 

A number of the other recommendations appear to be excellent platitudes, for example: "Leadership teams should focus on improving the quality of learning and raising aspirations for all pupils by improving the quality of teaching to consistently good or better" (have they never thought of this before!), but to be fair there are a few specifics. Setting up a Medway Chartered Teachers award is seen as a way "to make a difference to children’s learning and life chances"; additional targeted funding is to be provided; "all schools have a recommended synthetic phonics programme that all staff confidently apply"; with the final recommendation starting: "Schools that have been judged satisfactory for two or more consecutive Ofsted inspections should invite a local authority adviser to be included in Deputy Headteacher, as well as Headteacher, appointments" (at last a direct Medway Council intervention, but only by invitation - and who monitors the quality of the Medway Council advisers - how are they to be trained in the effective appointment of school leaders?). 

We all look forward to seeing Medway children's life chances improved as a result of this report. Somehow they must. You may have caught my speculations on Radio Kent. Perhaps Rose Collinson's resignation as Head of Children and Adult Services at Medway Council is connected with her own disappointment at the performance of the primary schools under her care. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 07:25

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