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Displaying items by tag: Kent on Sunday

THe following article appeared in an abbreviated version (missing out some of what I thought were the best bits!) in Kent on Sunday 16 January

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The face of education in Kent is changing with astonishing rapidity, driven by the Academy movement. Currently, there are 28 secondary Academies in the county with another 5 in Medway, and 10 Kent and 2 Medway secondary schools on the way. You will find a full list at www.kentadvice.co.uk. Many others have begun the process, so Kent is close to losing 50% of its 101 secondary schools. This is surely well past the ‘tipping point’, where KCC has confirmed it will encourage all remaining secondary schools to become Academies, as it becomes uneconomic to run a system for the rump.  Instead, KCC plans to change its focus to supplying services to schools who wish to buy them in.

What does this mean for the schools, and more importantly for the children? 10 of the original ‘luxury model old style’ Academies, mainly replacing failing schools, have been completely rebuilt at an average cost of around £30 million apiece, so the students are being educated in superb surroundings designed to offer exciting curricula,  often attracting highly talented leaders.  The remaining 6 ‘lean old style’ academies face a more difficult future as the plug was pulled on their building programmes, although several have been promised a watered down development.  However, as this week’s GCSE results tables show, many of these have yet to convert academic promise into real progress.

The remaining Academies are the new ‘Gove’ models, having converted since September, the government aggressively encouraging all schools to change status. It promotes the following advantages: freedom to reward staff appropriately; freedom in the delivery of the curriculum; freedom to change lengths of terms and school days (why not offer all these to all schools?); and freedom from Local Authority control. However, to quote the headteacher of one such Academy this week: “parents and children will not have noticed the difference; for us the main advantage is a short term financial gain of some £350,000 for the year”. The first crop of  Gove Academies are OFSTED ‘outstanding’ schools, so one is unsure why they need to be financially subsidised at the expense of others, as school budgets shrink to pay for them and because of the national financial crisis.

Kent County Council will probably continue to  support the majority of Primary and Special Schools (just 4 primaries have changed so far, with another 2 underway), otherwise it will be reduced to offering key services such as Special Education Needs and School Admissions, although these will be undermined by the independence of Academies.

It is already evident that there is a worrying lack of accountability of the Academies, with parental concerns having nowhere to go except the Department of Education that hardly appears geared up to deal with them. Some schools are already bucking the Admissions system with no sanction available, and others are actively discouraging children with Special Needs, so that shortly these will become a greatly disadvantaged group. I have already expressed concerns about pressure on primary school places in West and North West Kent, and cannot see how KCC can carry out its planning role in the new climate, as new provision moves over to the market place for individual schools  which wish to expand. One interesting development is the encouragement to successful schools to take over others, and there are successful examples of this, but no rationale to the decisions being made; indeed one civil servant is reported to be visiting Academies with a shopping list of primary schools across a wide geographical area, encouraging bids to take them over.

Soon nearly all secondary schools in Kent will be Academies, each ploughing their own furrow.  One can already see some adopting business models, seeking to expand their activities rather than putting the education (not just the league table outcomes) of their pupils first. Kent County Council which once billed itself as ‘champion of children’ has no role in the new set up so there will be no one who will stand up for the children of Kent as a whole, until government recognises there needs to be accountability and takes more central control. Then, when the number of schools is too great, it will set up local centres to administer schools. Presumably these will be without local accountability, unless they delegate responsibility back to KCC following the Eric Pickles philosophy of localism.

One final question. If government has the power to close failing schools and turn them into Academies, what will it do with failing Academies?

Published in Newspaper Articles
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Thursday, 30 December 2010 07:53

Primary School Standards, KOS Dec 2010

Poor  leadership has been blamed after league tables revealed a “devastating” 10 per cent of the country’s lowest performing primary schools are in Kent and Medway. Of 200 underachieving schools highlighted in this year’s SATs league tables, 22 – including two from Medway – were in the county.

The Department for Education findings show the number of children who have reached the Level Four benchmark by the time they move on to secondary school. Although standards were up from last year by two per cent – with 70 per cent of children in Kent County Council run

schools and 67 per cent in Medway Council-run schools meeting standards in maths and English – results were still below the 73 per cent national average. And despite some schools excelling, such as the Pilgrim School near Rochester, which was named as the most improved in England, and 10 others which gained a clean sweep in the core subjects, others fell short.

About 190 schools in Kent and some 39 in Medway failed to reach the national average in the number of pupils achieving the Level Four target.

Gravesend-based education expert Peter Read called the statistics “devastating”. He said:“Ten per cent of the 200 bottom schools are in this county. Kent has a large infrastructure of officers supposed to be supporting these schools, but why is support not turning into action? “If you look at Ofsted reports there are concerns about leadership. What is clear is in a number of schools when good senior staff  leave, standards fall. There is an issue with leadership here. There are

examples of where a school is failing and advertising for a new head. “Instead they need to bring in outside help to get the school back up to standard before advertising.” Mr Read said from his own personal experience, leadership is key. “My grandson goes to school in deprived Peckham, overlooked by Milwall FC, yet 98 per cent of children got Level Four in English and maths.“KCC may say some of its schools are in deprived areas, but I’m willing to bet that none of them is as deprived as Peckham. If a school there can deliver those standards, so can schools in Kent. It is down to outstanding leadership from the head.”

Education chiefs at KCC said they were pleased with improvements – including 42 of the 78 schools that achieved less than 55 per cent in English and maths in 2009 but had reached or exceeded the target in 2010 – but admitted the figures needed to get better in coming years.

Schools throughout the country took part in a boycott of the Key Stage 2 SATs last May after teaching unions claimed pupils suffer as a result of too much emphasis being placed on them during lessons. Cllr Sarah Hohler, KCC cabinet member for children, families and education, said: “There will continue to be intensive support for those schools below the target and partnerships between schools to help raise attainment.

“It is difficult to compare Kent with the national average this year. Only six per cent of Kent primary schools boycotted the tests, compared with 26 per cent nationally. “The results are what they are, but can we be absolutely confident that the national average is a true reflection?”

Schemes have been put in place by KCC to ensure children’s key learning skills are developed at school and home. The council also revealed that for a fifth year running children’s achievements at the end of reception year had improved, with 61 per cent reaching the expected level. Education bosses at Medway Council said they were pleased to see improvements in results, but said that the authority was committed to driving up standards.

Rose Collinson, the director of children’s and adult services, said: “It’s worth noting that, unlike many authorities, the vast majority of our pupils sat the tests this year.

“It’s not really possible to make comparisons between different councils as in some authorities more than 50 per cent of children did not take part. However, I know all of Medway’s primary headteachers will join with me in wanting to accelerate the improvements we have already made.”

Published in Newspaper Articles
Thursday, 27 May 2010 10:27

SEN Unit Review May 2010

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

 How has this chaos come about?  In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

 What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

Published in Newspaper Articles
Monday, 08 February 2010 18:21

SEN Unit Review: KOS February 2010

There are major changes ahead in Special Education Needs (SEN) provision in Kent as KCC begins to phase out its SEN Units. These are attached to mainstream schools across the County and offer education to children with particular learning and medical conditions, whilst giving them the opportunity to benefit from education with mainstream children through integration into some lessons.

Instead ‘lead schools’ are being designated in each specialism, across the county that will offer support to such children as they are now admitted to all mainstream schools and classes in their area.  This full inclusion of such children has been government policy for many years, but has now been challenged, as it is apparent that it leads to a dilution of specialist teachers, additional strain on teachers in mainstream classes as they come to terms with  an even wider range of challenges in their classrooms and an uncertain future for the quality of education to be provided for the children themselves.

Currently there are primary and secondary school units catering for conditions such as autism, speech, language and communication, specific learning difficulties including dyslexia, hearing and visual impairment, and physical difficulties. All children currently in Units will retain their places.

Pilot areas for the new schemes have been set up in Gravesham, Dartford, Shepway, Ashford and Swanley and a decision will be made to extend the scheme across the remainder of Kent this Autumn on the basis of the evaluation of this pilot, although the first children in the Pilot will only be affected in September.  It is therefore difficult to see on what real experience of how such children fare in mainstream will be available.

The main advantages of the scheme are identified by KCC as: providing more potential to access local provision for children and young people with SEN; enabling them to benefit from learning with their local peer group and providing more flexibility to use resources to meet changing needs of children and young people in the locality.

 

Concerns include: the breaking up of  centres of expertise and excellence in these specialisations; the dilution of such skills across schools in the locality; the pressures on teachers in mainstream schools now having to come to terms with a wider range of learning conditions in one classroom and  consequent effect on the learning of other children in that class.

 

Meanwhile KOS reported last week that many children coming up to secondary school transfer have found their proposed Statements of SEN have been delayed. The Statement spells out educational provision and the school in which it is to be offered, and any delay would cause enormous problems for parents if they wish to challenge the decision.  Such parents will be doubly dismayed if they now find that any hopes of a place in the Unit to cater for their child’s needs have been dashed,

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 18:14

Academies: KOS Jan 2010

Kent and Medway secondary schools have suffered from a historically low level of investment into school buildings. However, in recent years there has been a transformation of many premises to produce school buildings of which we can be proud, a tribute to the investment policies of Kent and Medway councils.

 

With programmes such as Private Finance Investment (6 schools) and Building Schools for the Future (10 schools underway), the pace of redevelopment is increasing in line with the target of replacing all Kent secondary schools in the next 12 years. These two initiatives rely heavily on private finance, which needs to make a profit, and so they face uncertain financial futures in terms of running costs. What happens at the end of the borrowing term? What about the current difficult financial climate?

 

However, as each new school flourishes, alongside it there is too often a school that is not so fortunate, often which has worked hard to achieve high standards, that then suffers by comparison. An unfair world, where many children benefit while others are at good schools that go into decline.

 

Academies are in a different programme and are the flavour of the day, bringing much-needed funds from government to build plush new premises, often on fresh sites. They also need to attract sponsors who often put up a small proportion of the total costs, and are independent of the local authority, controlled by the sponsors. Church and university sponsors no longer need to invest funds.

 

Increasingly local authorities are also minority sponsors. Between them, University of Kent at Canterbury, Christchurch University Canterbury, and the University of Creative Arts are minority sponsors of most local academies.

 

City academies were originally designed to replace failing schools in socially deprived urban areas, but the concept is changing fast and now even some prestigious independent schools, fallen on hard times are becoming academies in other parts of the country. Already the 17 open and planned Academies make up one in seven of all Kent and Medway schools. Academies do not need to follow the national curriculum, and all students at new Academies start off with free uniforms. So far there is no convincing evidence that they raise standards, although many often do well, some by attracting more able pupils. Others (not in Kent) have been spectacular failures.

 

I consider that Kent has generally used the concept well, attracting investment into the county and maintaining a level of influence that is lacking in some academies elsewhere. However, local authorities are required to have less than 20 per cent of the voting power on the board of governance of an academy.  Parents are not represented on all governing bodies but can have an influence through parent councils.

 

Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) statistics for permanent exclusions 2007/8 show the rate of permanent exclusion is twice as high for academies as in council-maintained schools. This confirms that one reason for academy ‘success’ may be their capacity to move ‘problem children’ out into other neighbouring schools - which suffer as a consequence.

 

I am starting to receive reports underlining one of the main drawbacks of city academies – lack of accountability. Parents unhappy with provision are finding it impossible to get satisfaction and the local authority does not have responsibility for the internal running of Academies. The Local Government Ombudsman has no role, as they do not come under the aegis of local authorities. The correct route is via the DFCS. As yet I have no experience of these, but have followed other education complaints through to the government and have found this to be generally a frustrating, drawn out and negative experience.

 

Parents who send their children to academies need to understand the risks, although for most it may well be the best option available and a very positive experience.

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Kent County Council figures show an increase in the number of children being offered their first choice secondary school on 1st March, up to 80%.  However, this means that over 3000 children did not get their chosen school, in many cases producing family heartbreak.

Schools in both Kent and Medway show wide fluctuations in popularity, with Academies making much of the news.  Eighteen schools each turned away more than fifty children who put them in first place, whilst at the other end of the scale six schools were over half empty before KCC added to their numbers with children who had been given none of their choices.

For the third year running, Leigh Technology Academy (Dartford) was top of the oversubscription lists, with 218 disappointed first choice applicants. Second was Skinners School (but see below), third  Valley Park, Maidstone, centre of a major row over fullness last year, with 112 turned away, an even larger number than 2009. Other schools oversubscribed by more than 50 first choice applicants are (in order):  Homewood (Tenterden); North School (Ashford); Judd School; Thomas Aveling (Rochester); Fulston Manor  then Westlands (both Sittingbourne); Bennett Memorial (TW); Folkestone Academy; Tonbridge Grammar School, Brockhill Park (Hythe);  Sandwich Technology College; Mascalls (Paddock Wood); Charles Dickens (Broadstairs); Gillingham Academy, Weald of Kent Grammar and Hayesbrook (Tonbridge).

Whilst these  figures are normally the best guide to popularity, the Skinners School figure is considerably inflated as many of their first choices were actually crowded out by children who did not score enough to get into The Judd School but then secured places at Skinners, as their second choice. These are the vagaries of the super selection debate.

Four of the half empty schools: Christchurch (Ashford); New Line Learning (Maidstone); Skinners Kent Academy (TW); and Wildernesse (Sevenoaks) are hoping for a better future as they are either new Academies or about to become Academies. The school with the greatest fall in first choices is Wilmington Enterprise College (currently in Special Measures), also due to become an Academy, so the programme is clearly fulfilling its intention of targeting problem schools. Indeed, the new Longfield Academy has obviously turned the corner as far as parents are concerned and has the greatest increase in first choices (67) of any Kent or Medway school.

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 241 children taking up places in the four Dartford Grammar Schools (36 of these coming from as far away as Lewisham) as opposed to just 53 in the three West Kent super selectives.  My view on the cause of the pressure in West Kent grammars is starting to swing towards the intense coaching culture being the prime source of the problem.

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.

One last statistic: 151 Kent children are bound for Medway schools with 116 coming the other way. School planners are required by government to reduce the number of empty places in schools and spend much time making decisions based on local population figures, when choices often cross boundaries.  The more I see figures such as the above, the more I become convinced that parents en masse have a wisdom about which are the best non-selective schools and their collective voice should be listened to.  I am not so sure this applies to grammar schools, where some parents chase the top scoring schools without stopping to look at the underlying factors.

Published in Newspaper Articles
Tuesday, 07 September 2010 19:03

Secondary School Admissions: KOS Sept 2010

Last week, some 9,000 Kent children took the Kent eleven plus, results due on 18th October. Parents then have less than two weeks until 31 October (a week shorter than last year!) to list four secondary schools in preference order on the Secondary Common Application Form (SCAF), so early planning is important. Already some secondary schools have held Open Days, and parents should visit all possible schools and ask about the chances of a successful application.

It is impossible to give specific advice on choosing schools in a short article, as the situation varies enormously from town to town and often year by year. My website at www.kentadvice.co.uk provides more information and I plan to expand this shortly.

If your child passes the Kent test, you can name just grammar schools on your SCAF.  If you don’t qualify for any of these, you may be offered the nearest grammar school with a vacancy but last year some parents were offered non selective places as there were no other local grammar school places vacant. If your child has passed the eleven plus and you name grammar schools and a non selective school, for example a church comprehensive school, you will be offered the highest school on your list for which you are eligible, whether or not it is a grammar school. If your child has taken the eleven plus and not passed, you must include any grammar on the SCAF  you wish to appeal to, but I recommend you include at least one non-selective school. Appeals will not be heard until the summer of Year Six. If your child has not taken the eleven plus, you can only apply for non selective schools.  Some schools last year still claimed falsely that parents needed to put the school first on the SCAF to secure a place.

After closing date each school draws up a list of eligible applicants according to their oversubscription rules. They are not told where you listed them on the SCAF or which other schools you applied to, so list schools exactly as you prefer them - there is no way of improving your chances at a school by tactics of choice.  The only exception to this is, if  going to appeal, you will find the appeal panel is told and may be influenced by the school you have been allocated. There is no advantage in putting just one school on your list.

 

I strongly recommend you apply on-line so you reliably receive results the day before they are delivered by post. Last year over 79% of Kent parents went online.

On National Offer Day 1st March 2011, your child will be allocated the highest preference school for which they qualify.  So some children could get their fourth choice ahead of others who listed it first if their claim is stronger. If you don’t qualify for any school on your list, KCC offers a place at the nearest appropriate school with vacancies.

 

This is a time when rumours swirl about the playground gates, many of them old wives tales. If in doubt check it out and my best wishes to every family going through what is undoubtedly an extremely stressful process. Remember, over 80% of all families were offered their first choice school in March last year, a figure which will have been much higher after the appeals process was concluded.

Peter J Read

Independent Education Advice

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 19:01

SEN Units: KOS May 2010

In 2004 Kent County Council decided to carry out a Review of Special Education Units contained within mainstream schools that support children with Autism, Speech, language & communication difficulties, Specific learning difficulties, Hearing impairment, Visual impairment, or Physical disability.  In 2009 they told families that Units would be phased out and there would be no new admissions in the Pilot areas of Gravesham, Dartford, Swanley, Ashford and Shepway for September 2010.  Many parents gave up seeking places in Units as a result. This month KCC quietly reversed its policy and if parents know there are now places in Units they can apply for them – although at this late stage some have given up and settled for less satisfactory arrangements.

However, in reply to several questions I put to KCC, they have today said they don’t know of any parents who have been told there are no places this September.  This is simply not true.  Some SEN Units have been telling parents for months of the KCC policy that there were to be no admissions to Units this year.  KCC on its own website makes clear that this was the situation until the reversal of policy was quietly announced on an inner page last week.  I have today spoken with parents who are angry that they have been misled by KCC and are now having to reapply for places in Units. Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, has been campaigning for months to secure places in Units for children of constituents who had been turned down, but was told in writing in February by Peter Gilroy, KCC Chief Executive, and again in April by the Kent SEN Manager that there would be no places in Pilot area Units for September.

At a meeting of  parents at the York Road, Dartford, Unit in February,  parents were told by  a senior officer of  KCC that there were to be no places in Units for September.  The Unit at the Langafel School in Longfield has been giving the same message to parents.

I could go on with further examples, but KCC have told me today that there has been NO change of policy, which as you can see from the above is simply untrue.  I have to say that the way this information was written appears designed to mislead me. Indeed, the letter to headteachers last week informing them of the new policy some time after parents knew, is so muddled and confusing that neither I nor two headteachers I consulted were clear as to what it was saying. Sadly, this confusion is typical of most communications on this subject in recent months.

 How has this chaos come about?  In 2006 KCC decided that the concept of Units was “dated” and looked for a more inclusive provision within mainstream schools. In 2008 (just four years from the start of the Review!), KCC decided to phase out all Units, in two phases, the first (the Pilot) to begin in 2009. No new admissions would be allowed from September 2010, so that the Units would wither away. Instead those children who would previously have been admitted to Units  would now go to mainstream school classes, increasing still further the wide range of skills already required by teachers as they came to terms with these conditions.  Lead schools would be set up for each disability providing outreach support, duplicating some of the provision currently being developed by Special Schools for this very purpose.

Consequences are that children have been turned away from Units although some who have persevered in spite of obstacles put up by KCC have broken through the net, staff at Units have been demoralised and are looking for other posts because of lack of a secure future, recruitment is down and Units will inevitably have been damaged which may make them easier to close in the future.

 What do I think of the whole situation? Frankly I think it is an utter disgrace, putting unreasonable pressure on vulnerable families and damaging Units which have enjoyed an excellent reputation over many years. And for what? It has taken six years, considerable expenditure of money, time and energy to discover that what is in place is best, and the main victims of this chaos are of course Kent children with Special Educational Needs whose needs are best met in Units; surely those who deserve the best possible care from the Authority.

Note: The counter for this article went back to zero because of an error by me and was only reset on 18/1/2014 

 

 

Published in Newspaper Articles
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 18:53

Infant Class Appeals: KOS March 2010

It’s that time of year again, when many parents call me or visit my website www.kentadvice.co.uk to ask me about supporting them in an infant class school appeal

Many enquirers are taken aback when I explain that in the vast majority of cases, although parents have a legal right to appeal and the Local Authority is obliged to tell them their rights, they have no chance of success.  For regulations, known as Infant Class Legislation, compel schools to keep infant class sizes restricted to 30 children or fewer with one class teacher, except for certain very specific and rare exceptions. The number of additional Teaching Assistants is irrelevant. Independent Appeal Panels are instructed not to uphold appeals that would take such class sizes over thirty children, again with rare exceptions. The main one is where the Admission Authority, usually the County Council but, in the case of  Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools the school Governing Body, has made a mistake in ranking the children so someone has been omitted by mistake. The regulations can be found at www.dcsf.gov.uk/sacode .

Occasionally an Appeal Panel will be swung by powerful mitigating circumstances to uphold a case against the rules (there has been a spate of twins sent to different schools recently), but continued pressure from above is likely to see even these decisions diminished.

The penalty for the school if the class size of 30 is breached can be severe. An Appeal Panel decision is binding so there is nothing the school can do immediately. However, if there are still over 30 children in the class the following September, the school must either employ another full time teacher to work with that class, or else divide it into two smaller groups each with their own teacher. The number of Teaching Assistants is irrelevant. As you can imagine, either option is a great expense and difficulty for a school, even if it has the room to put in another class.

Sometimes there are mixed age classes and you may see an intake of 20 children (with three year groups combining to form two classes) or 45 children (with two year groups combining to form three classes).  Otherwise, if the number is not an exact factor, as in some small rural schools, there may be chances of a successful appeal.

Also at this time of year we see problems caused by admissions to church primary schools. The 104 Voluntary Controlled Church of England and Methodist schools in Kent have a box to be ticked if parents “have chosen the school because it is a church school” irrespective of the parents’ religion or beliefs if any.  This is a bureaucratic nonsense, has nothing to do with religion and should be abolished, as every year it creates unnecessary grief from parents who didn’t tick the box, and find their child sent to a school miles away. Or even more poignantly, the church going family who  actually chose the school for other reasons, but then find themselves excluded from their own church school. This device does not give priority to a single Christian to attend the school (there is no bar on devil worshippers ticking the box) and it is time for the church authorities to take action.  My advice to every parent is tick the box. Even more bewildering to parents are the 68 CofE and Catholic Voluntary Aided Schools each allowed to draw up individual priority lists of applicants, generally featuring church membership in some way, occasionally bizarrely or ambiguously, although several also give a priority to members of other religions. Such schools are often in rural areas and have become Aided for some distant historical reason, depriving children of non religious families of places at their local schools.  Government plans to increase the number of faith schools, apparently on grounds they are likely to be better schools, although the evidence is that where they are popular and successful it is because aspiring middle classes have better access to them. This is because many such parents are either church goers or else are willing to undergo a temporary affiliation.  A Kent Aided School, recently out of Special Measures with an intake of just four children last year, is not unique and counters the argument.

Published in Newspaper Articles

The BSF (Building Schools for the Future) project was conceived nationally as a series of annual waves of building programmes and has just been scrapped, with all new projects being cancelled. Kent has 16 Academies in existence or planned, some o fwhich have also seen their building projects delayed with an expectation of budget cuts. In addition Kent has seen six schools rebuilt under PFI schemes. This article on my website was linked to a KOS report about the cancellation of Building Schools for the Future.

Kent was first involved in Wave 3 of BSF. Schools are planned to be completely rebuilt under PFI (Private Finance Initiative) funding schemes, subject to a major rebuild from Government grant, or else receive substantial refurbishment again from direct Government grant.

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