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Displaying items by tag: medway

Friday, 13 September 2013 20:09

Medway OFSTED letter: cause for concern

Medway Council has received a letter from OFSTED reporting back on its series of focused Inspections, accompanied by a survey of schools, last June. Whilst there are many positive comments there are, as I expected and forecast, areas of major concern exacerbated once again by Medway Council's refusal to acknowledge the reality.

First, the main positive: Medway Council's support for its primary schools is highly praised by the schools themselves and the letter cites many ways in which that support is delivered. However, this is balanced by the poor performance of those same primary schools in OFSTED inspections, so one has to ask how effective it has been. This may be summarised by a sentence in the letter that reads: "Medway’s drive to raise achievement is acknowledged by schools, but many headteachers and governors cannot readily articulate the local authority’s vision or strategy for improvement". 

Unfortunately, and confusingly, the OFSTED summary figures provided combine primary and secondary, academy and Medway maintained school outcomes, enabling Medway Council to blur the conclusion. The following table spells out the reality:

Medway School & Academy
OFSTEDs Sep 2012 - July 2013
 
  Outstanding Good
Requires
Improvement
Inadequate
% Outstanding
or Good
Medway
Primary
 2  11  15  5 39%
Primary
Academy
 0  1 0  0 100%
Medway
Secondary
 0  1  0  0 100%
Secondary
Academy
 0  3  1  1 60%
Total  2  17 17 6 45%
Total %   5%  40%  40%  14%  

Shockingly and astonishingly, both the BBC website  and Kent Online report that the main response from Medway Council is a statement from the Cabinet Member for Education in Medway, offering as an excuse that Medway is not responsible for its academies, so he is planning to seek clarification of who is responsible for standards at the academies from the Department for Education. How fortunate for the council that Chatham Grammar School for Boys, an academy, was the one school to fail its OFSTED on this occasion and so can be used as a helpful scapegoat (see below)! All this in a year when primary schools run by Medway Council achieved just 39% 'Good' or  'Outstanding' assessments, a figure which is  worse than than the lowest performing Local Authority in the country last year at 42% and well below even last year's figure of 54% when Medway was the ninth worst performing Local Authority in the country. What is crystal clear from the statistics is that in Medway, as distinct from many other Local Authorities, it is the academies which have saved it from an even worse disaster so it is bizarre to imply that the problem is with the academies just because one has failed. 

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042 

I have updated this item with a report on my blog, of a Parents Forum for the school held last week to discuss the Report and map out the future prospects of the school. 

Chatham Grammar School for Boys has failed Its OFSTED Inspection carried out last June and been placed in the lowest category - Special Measures. In one sense It has been unfortunate, as the school failed only one category: "Leadership and Management", although the  other three: achievement, teaching, and behaviour of pupils all "require improvement". This is only the second grammar school in England  to fail an OFSTED (Stretford grammar being the first in 2009), although the school has achieved some of its strongest exam results ever this summer.    The first and most significant casualty is David Marshall, who has been headteacher for nineteen years, but who has retired with immediate effect. He is replaced by Ms Denise Shepherd as Executive Headteacher, with Mr Stuart Gardner, as Interim Principal. A letter on the school website explains this. In one sense, whilst shocked, I am not surprised at the failure, both from The Rochester Grammar School (girls). A previous OFSTED Report in 2012 found the school 'satisfactory', but identified weaknesses in English, and in teaching, learning and achievement in some areas. Mathematics and science are seen as strengths of the school. OFSTED also specified areas where improvement was required. According to the new Report, these do not appear to have been addressed, so the school had to fail.    A great strength of the school for many  years has been Its strong sense of community and a phone in on Radio Kent today bore tribute to that, with many parents so supportive and proud of the school and bewildered at what has happened. Sadly, there is no recognition of this quality in the Report, although inspectors are required to take note of 'Parent View' a section on the OFSTED website where this shines through strongly. There was also concern for the future as the new leadership Is seen as coming from a school whose ethos does not sit well with the 'Chatham way'. We must hope they see a way to blend the best of both cultures.

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As explained below, and as expected, OFSTED has carried out an in depth inspection of the Authority, backed up by 10 school inspections following Medway’s appalling primary school OFSTED and KS2 record,.

Results  of eight of these inspections have been released today, of which six are primary schools.

Of the six just one, All Faith’s Children’s Community School, has been classified as good, the other five: Fairview Community Primary School, Napier Community Primary School, Stoke Community School, Walderslade Primary School and Thames View Primary School all being found to require improvement.

All Faith’s is and has been an academy for the past year so Medway Council can hardly claim responsibility for its performance although it appears to be trying to. Not one of the six has improved its OFSTED Grade and Fairview has in fact declined from its previous “good” assessment. Medway’s press release (below) astonishingly regards this as a good outcome.

BBC South East covered this item, on SE News last night, available on i-player today (Friday). 

The facts: In December, OFSTED published its annual report for 2011-12, showing that Medway came 9th from the bottom in the whole country for OFSTED performance in its primary schools, with only 54% of its primary school inspections being Good or Outstanding, with Kent 10th from bottom at 55%. I have kept records of OFSTED Reports for both Medway and Kent for 2012-13 to date, and these reveal that of Medway’s 34 published OFSTED Reports since September, just 14, or 41%, are now good or outstanding, a sharp further fall on the previous year’s appalling performance.  If these figures had been for last year, Medway would have been placed botttom Local Authority in the whole country. OFSTED, in its explanation as to why it was Inspecting Medway made clear the reason was the poor performance of Medway primary schools in OFSTED inspections, with the latest results for each school shoiwng a total of fewer than two out of five were good or outstanding (consistent with my figures for the past year). By contrast, Kent, which publicly recognised its deficiencies, has seen its percentage of good or outstanding schools rise to 59%. Medway came bottom of the whole country in KS2 performance......

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MEDWAY Council is breaching transparency laws, the Messenger can reveal, with hundreds of queries for information taking more than a month.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was hailed as opening up local government to public scrutiny when it launched in 2005. Anyone is entitled to get information for free within 20 working days.

 But 48% of FOI replies by Medway Council last year broke that time barrier. The transparency watchdog, the Information Commissioner, is now examining the situation after contact from the Messenger. Information Commissioner spokesman Greg Jones said: “We monitor the worst performing authorities on time limits. The trigger is if they respond to fewer than 85% of FOI requests on time.” Medway’s rate is 52%. Schools expert Peter Read has battled to reveal important stories using FOI. He said the council often escaped scrutiny because facts were “old news” by the time they emerged.

 “I’ve only made one Information Commissioner complaint because frankly you lose the will to live,” he added. “I got the final result two weeks ago after 18 months. I’m appalled, but it’s totally what I expect.” Even the Messenger’s first request for today’s figures took 104 working days, despite the response being a standard two page rejection letter. That challenges the council’s claim that its longest reply has taken 49 working days. Councillor Tristan Osborne (Labour) has protested to council leader Rodney Chambers (Conservative). Mr Osborne wrote: “It is right in a democracy that power be scrutinised, irrespective of who controls the executive.”

 The ruling Conservative group says short-staffed bosses will “raise awareness” of the importance of FOI in a bid to boost responses.

A spokesman said: “This surge in demand, and the complexity of some enquiries, can and does make it difficult to always meet the 20-day deadline. “Research shows each FOI request costs on average £293, which currently equates to more than £200,000 a year for Medway. “Decreases in government funding make it difficult to find the resources to meet the growing FOI demand we are seeing.”

 FOI law has helped the Messenger expose jawdropping stories at Medway Council and beyond. We resorted to FOI after the council failed to detail a mysterious £350,000 cost of closing two schools. It transpired that the money had gone to a private firm simply to cancel a photocopier hire contract.

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Medway OFSTED Inspection

I understand that OFSTED is very keen for more parents to contribute to their in depth Inspection of Medway schools. One way of doing this is through Parent View for any school, which you will find here.

A press release by OFSTED published today begins: "Teams of Ofsted inspectors have today begun a week of co-ordinated inspections in Medway to find out why the city has a disproportionate number of under-performing primary schools – and whether the picture is improving. Ofsted’s latest data from the 30 April 2013, found that almost 8,000 children are attending a primary school that, at its last inspection, was judged to be less than good. That’s 29 primary schools not providing the expected level of education to young children. This is much worse than the quality of primary schools across England and is an unacceptable situation".  However, as regular browsers of this website will know, the picture is far worse than this with so many areas of the Department underperfoming or failing in their functions. Just six weeks ago, Councillor Les Wicks lost his job as Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services after having presided over this debacle for too many years, despite calls for him to go from all sides. Other recent lowlights of Medway Council (slogan: Serving You) performance include:

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Three weeks ago I wrote an article about the OFSTED failures of two Catholic schools, and  appended a comment about problems with admission numbers at St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive School in Chatham. However, it looks as if those who have stuck with the school are on a winner, as OFSTED has Reported that the school as having a GOOD standard of education, up from the previous 'Satisfactory' two years ago. St John Fisher is supported by St Paul's Academy in Greenwich, whose Principal spends one and a half days weekly at St John Fisher. Strong leadership is clearly a major factor in the turn-around, OFSTED recording: "The headteacher and the leadership team are passionate about driving up standards at the school.......

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On 11th April, I wrote an exasperated Blog article dealing with the failures of Medway COuncil to respond to Freedom of Information Requests. What I didn't know at the time was that four weeks earlier the Medway Messenger had published its own article bemoaning the same failures by the Council. I have managed to obtain a copy of that article, written by Dan Bloom, and reproduce it below: 

"COUNCIL chiefs have taken five months to reply to a formal information request – which asked how many requests were being answered late......

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Thursday, 11 April 2013 13:19

What can I do about Medway Council? - Continued

Warning – this is a very long and somwhat rambling article about Freedom of Information Requests in Medway, but it makes me feel better if nothing else! Back in December 2011, I wrote a blog article on this very topic, complaining about Medway Council’s repeated failure to respond to FOIs with a follow up in February. . Since then the Information Commissioner has ruled that Medway Council is in breach of Section 10(1) of the Freedom of Information Act in failing to comply with a request of mine within the statutory time for compliance. However, this appears to have made no impact on their current poor practices. .......

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Thursday, 28 March 2013 00:00

Medway wins bid for University Technical College

Government has announced  that Medway will be awarded a new University Technical College (UTC), possibly to  be sited in the Chattenden Barracks area. This is one of 13 in the latest round of UTCs nationally, the previous round awarding another local UTC to be sited in the Ebbsfleet Valley.  To quote David Cameron, University Technical Colleges are planned to "offer 14-19 year olds the opportunity to take a highly regarded, full time, technically-oriented course of study. They are equipped to the highest standard, sponsored by a university and offer clear progression routes into higher education or further learning in work".  The Medway UTC will cater for 14-19 year olds, specialising in engineering and construction, "traditionally at the heart of Medway’s economy", and will be sponsored by the University of Greenwich, MidKent College, Medway Council and local employers. Medway Coumcil states: "work to get the college up and running will start immediately", surely a necessity as the UTC is planned to open in September 2014. As a stand alone institution this looks a sound, well-funded concept, designed to "fill the skills gap in the UK by providing high quality training for technicians and engineers", but.....

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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:...

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