What do academy schools mean for Whitstable?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAc4AAAAJDM0Nzk4YjFlLTYyNmUtNGZkZi04MjFhLTMwZmIwMDk4NzNkYwThe government announced last week that all schools must become academies by 2020. This means a change to the management of our schools. All council-run schools will become academies, run by a charitable trust on a paid government contract. There is more about what this means here.

A few days ago I wrote about Community College Whitstable becoming part of Swale Academies Trust.The latest Gazette suggests there will be a consultation on this academy takeover. I don’t think the consultation means much, the decision seems to be already made, the council and the governors believe a quick change is in the interests of the pupils.

I’ve been trying to keep an open mind about the government’s announcement. I actually like academies as an idea, some of the best new state schools are academies, such as Michaela Community School in Brent. Some of the best state schools to convert to academies have also taken on schools and improved them, such as the King Edward VI school taking on Sheldon Heath Academy. The mood of the nation is now anti-academies. I’m not convinced this super-quick system change is good, but I don’t think academies are always a bad thing.

Here’s my thoughts on the positives of an academy system :

    • Schools have less hope of radical change if only local authorities manage schools. Academies offer something new and fresh, and can bring improvements. A poorly run council school might be transformed by a change of management to an academy trust. If schools are only council managed there are no options for management change if the council is handling education badly.

 

    • Our education system is problematic with a mix of council maintained and academy schools. There are different rules and procedures for each and it is confusing to parents. It streamlines our education system if all schools are run consistently in a nationwide system.

 

    • The theory of the academy system is that the best academy chains can influence more schools, so good policies can spread. This allows for education innovation and varied styles of schools that give parents more choice.

 

    • There are some local authorities doing a good job with their schools,  while others are managing education badly. School governors also vary in experience.  An academy system may be a fairer system, with the best academy chains expanding, avoiding regional variation and offering better leadership for more schools.

 

    • Schools can work together if they share the same management, this means teachers can move between schools if there is a need, or ideas and resources can be shared.

 

    • Parents, specialist groups and charities can create academy schools with the free school policy, this creates variety and specialist provision.

 

    • Academy schools are paid per pupil and need to please parents to run financially successful schools, theoretically this should mean they respond to parents needs.

 

Here are my thoughts on the negatives of the academy change:

    • This speedy drive to turn schools into academies ignores the fact many schools are providing excellent education now. They are being forced to find new ‘bosses’ which gives stressful work to school leaders and may unsettle established schools. Many schools see no benefit at all, especially primary schools who so far have mostly chosen not to become academies.

 

    • Most schools join Multi Academy Trusts, chains of schools which have a governing body based at a head office. Academies don’t need to offer local accountability or have school governors, although some do. Management of a school might be far from the school with less awareness of its community’s needs.

 

    • There is a high cost to converting schools to academies. There is a large fee for legal work, for transfer of school land, and academy chains are paid a fee for taking over a school. It also adds a layer of expensive management to schools. Academy chain bosses and trustees are often highly paid, and there will be many more school managers within this system.

 

    • Despite the fact Multi Academy Trusts are ‘charitable trusts’ there is much talk of abuse of the system to give financial benefits to trust managers. Academy trustees are allowed to make deals with their own profit making businesses. There have been cases of school bosses changing uniform to a provider they have a profitable deal with, and there is secrecy about who is appointed to a trustee team. There is certainly a lack of accountability in the current system that makes abuse of power likely.

 

    • There is a clear lack of good academy trusts, yet the government is asking all schools to convert to become an academy by 2020. It seems hard to believe this will be possible when estimates say 1000 new trusts will be needed. I worry that troubled schools will not be wanted by most academy chains, especially as there will be so many schools looking for academy trusts. The plan for an academy trust league table means trusts might seek schools with the best results and avoid troubled schools.

 

    • There is no clear consensus on whether academies have better results than local authority maintained schools. Nicky Morgan said it is no ‘magic bullet.’ There are clearly good and bad academy schools, just as there are good and bad local authority schools. There is little proof that academy schools have better results.

 

    • Academy schools are motivated by results, they have little interest in taking children with special educational needs, and there are examples of academy schools persuading ‘difficult’ children to leave.

 

    • Academy trusts often have standard methods for all their schools, it can mean a business like approach to education that stifles the creativity of teachers and school leaders to create an individualistic local school.

 

Despite the longer list ‘against’ than ‘for’ academies, I just about come out in favour of an academy system. Our local authority system has too many flaws because councils don’t have budget to run schools well, too often they are poor leaders and don’t appoint great staff to run schools expertly. It also becomes harder for councils to find staff to run schools expertly in a competitive environment where academy trusts pay education experts more. So our two-kinds-of-school system puts the councils in a weak position. It’s all very well to say we want the council to run Local School High when it’s doing great and needs little management, but what happens when the school gets in trouble?

Council’s don’t have a great record at turning troubled schools into successful schools. This is possibly because the academies can pay more for education leaders who have better skills. It might also be argued that they run schools better as they use professionals instead of volunteer school governors.

However an academy system needs careful monitoring and the current system is set up badly. It needs a whole lot of good rules and checks in place to stop academy trusts gaming the system, avoiding pupils with poor results or special needs, and in some cases thinking more about money than pupil welfare. However there are some academy trusts that are run by great trusts, some use a co-operative model, and some set up by parents or charities to further specialist provision for dyslexia or special schools. The academy system means a bunch of parents or specialists can set up a school for children they really care about it. The council alternative is time and cash poor education staff creating a special school just because they have to. Great academies made by people who care should be encouraged.

How will this education shift affect Whitstable schools? Of the eight schools in town only one is already an academy. St.Mary’s Primary School is part of the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, an academy sponsor overseeing many local Catholic schools. Church schools are a special case and I think Endowed may find a partnership with other CofE schools to form an academy.

It is hard to predict what will happen with the rest… Whitstable Junior, Swalecliffe, Westmeads, and Joy Lane are the sort of schools that are hit hardest by this change. They are all highly rated schools with good community links. They don’t need this, it offers no benefits to them at all. Their governors must be fuming about needing to give away their school, while not even necessarily retaining control of the governance. I think the best bet may be to club together, anyone for a Whitstable Schools Trust? Or KCC appear to be in the process of forming an academy trust, if this happens they may involve local governors and offer a ‘no change’ system that keeps most of the control with the school. This is a best of both worlds approach, will people who want council run schools be appeased by KCC academy trust?

I don’t know what to say about CCW, this is the school I care about the most. This new legislation makes no difference to its decision to join Swale Academies Trust. KCC pressed for the move, the council management didn’t fix the school’s problems and an academy is the answer. This is after all what the system is all about. Kent County Council’s cabinet minister for schools may have spoken out against the forced academy change, but KCC had no method to help CCW other than to suggest an academy.

Despite a lot of protests I think the academy laws will go through. If you want to read more on either side I can recommend this article for the arguments against, and this article for the arguments in favour of academisation.

I am still, just about, hanging on to a a belief that academies can be a good thing. There is a huge and vital need to fix academy trust’s lack of accountability, the failure to recognise parents and local communities, and the greed of their management. I wouldn’t want them to expand until these problems are fixed, and I think expanding rapidly may make these problems worse.

And all this talk about school management is a distraction and changes little. Bad council schools are bad schools, bad academy schools are bad schools. I wish we would focus on the education issues that matter most, like a lack of teachers and a mad results culture, instead we’re faffing with who pays the bills and manages the teachers and it’s such a small part of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So our local school is now managed by Swale Academies Trust…

049Education is a big part of my life these days, the Kent Education Network is going from strength to strength and we’ll be announcing a website and membership soon. Closer to home my daughter’s school, Community College Whitstable, is going through troubled times. It achieved poor GCSE results, was given a ‘Requires Improvement’  Ofsted and its head has been sent on ‘gardening leave.’

Our current government believes that schools are better managed by academy trusts rather than by local authorities. I cautiously support this idea, mostly because there seemed little drive for overall improvement with most council run schools.

Obviously there are a mix of good and bad local authority schools,  and clearly there are a mix of good and bad academy schools too. Many academy trusts are created by highly experienced education managers and have fine leadership teams; the idea is that these excellent trusts take on more schools and spread their good work. The reality is that there are not enough excellent academy chains, and academy trust’s leadership varies. It is also obvious that changing the managing body controlling a school is not a magic fix for every school problem.

The academy program has grown too fast because our government wants all schools to be run by academies as soon as possible. Academy trusts have been created to meet that need, and most want to expand rapidly. They are supposed to be not-for-profit bodies, charitable trusts with the best interests of schools at their heart. Yet if their motivation was purely to do a good job, wouldn’t you think they’d just run three or four schools expertly and settle for that? Few do this, most are keen to grow and acquire more schools year on year. There are financial incentives for this rapid growth. They are certainly not businesses in the true sense, but I worry that the motivation for most academy leaders is a desire to have a profitable chain of schools, achieve bonuses for their teams, and increase salaries. Is this really in the interests of our school children?

There has been plenty in the news recently about the financial side of the academies movement. UK school academies currently hold £111 million in cash reserves, they spend  £8.5 million a year on consultants, and their CEO’s pay is causing a few eyebrows to raise, as you’ll see in this article.

I don’t mind our schools being run by businesses and well paid management if those executives are doing a good job. The worry is that many academies show average leadership not inspirational leadership. The majority of schools that are turned into academies don’t show much change in their results. The system works if academy chains take on new schools and improve them. No one minds if the system adds a new financial layer to schooling if it’s giving us better education. The problem is that an academy chain can take on a new school, take the money and achieve average results. There is no going back if the results are disappointing or the academy’s decisions are unpopular. Parents or governors can not claim a local school back from an academy if it turns out that academy was a poor choice.

Academy bosses get six figure salaries for the work of making good decisions and caring for a school. All while unpaid, volunteer school governors make decisions, do a great job and care more about their schools. I think payment for school governors is long overdue. Our unpaid governors have to make big decisions and hand over schools to highly paid multi-million turnover academy trusts. I do trust school governors to make good decisions, but we must trust them, because the future direction of our community’s schools are entirely in their hands.

downloadThe governors of Community College Whitstable sent a letter to parents last week to say that the school will become part of Swale Academies Trust. It has happened whether we like it or not. There is no consultation at all, this is a done deal. The theory behind this approach is that a consultation would unsettle an already troubled school. I am trying to be sympathetic to that view, and it would clearly not work to have a bunch of uninformed parents choosing their preferred  academy trust… But still. It hurts that the school I chose for my daughter can be given away to an unknown management team. These new school leaders might veer the school in a different direction, or change it in ways I do not like.

So who are the school’s new management? It seems Swale Academies Trust are a Kent based Academy Trust managing 4 primary and 3 secondary schools, 4 nurseries, 1 sports centre and a skills centre. They are listed on the Kent  Independent Education Advice schools website as being, ‘much favoured by Kent County Council.’ This is clear, as they seem to have been asked to step in by KCC when many of their schools received poor  Ofsted ratings.

They took over at Chaucer Technology School, then the decision was made to close the school. They took over Pent Valley Technology College at Easter 2015, although this is now also going to close.  They also took over the North School, Ashford, after it was placed in Special Measures in March 2014. The school received a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating in June 2015, so that is some improvement. The academy chain is about to formally take on the North School.

Despite their hit and miss record with these troubled schools I have no fears that CCW will close. However their involvement with these schools doesn’t show an inspiring track record of change. I will give them the benefit of the doubt, as the secondary schools that the chain have manged for many years seem to be doing fine. Westlands received an ‘Outstanding’ Ofted rating, while Meopham School and Sittingbourne Community College achieved Ofsted  ‘Goods.’

Reading about their schools makes me think they are a fair to middling academy chain, with discipline as a priority, and a principle who is not afraid to rustle a few feathers as he brings about change. I was told there was a teacher’s strike at one of the chain’s schools due to demands put on teachers (I haven’t found evidence of this so it may be only rumour.) I know the North School was in the news because they changed uniform twice in three years and sent 60 children home for being inappropriately dressed. On another occasion 40 pupils were excluded for behaviour issues. It seems like the chain’s ethos is ‘let’s be strict.’ I don’t mind that, but it seems hard to get a handle on any more to their educational vision.

I had a look at the Swale Aademies Trust finances, and the academy boss is paid £185,000 a year, with other trustees on decent salaries. I am sure this is just the going rate, and most top head teachers are well paid. I looked because academy bosses pay is current news, and because I was curious about the cash they received for taking on two KCC schools for six months before they were closed.

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Swale Academies Trust are certainly an ambitious academy chain with a varied portfolio of education establishments. They have expenditure of 29 million annually and fixed assets of 50 million. And remember that this is just a small multi-academy trust! Education is certainly big business, even when it is ‘charitable trust’ business.

I guess the proof of whether this is a good decision for CCW will come if Swale Academies Trust do what they are here to do – we need them to manage changes that lead to significant improvements at CCW.

There is nothing we can do about this academy trust taking over our local school, but there is a meeting on March 22nd to meet the directors and ask questions. I’ll be there with my hand raised and a list of tough questions. I won’t ask about the uniform or whether academies are good value for money…  I will ask what happened with the other three failing schools they took on, and what they’re going to do to make CCW a school we can be proud of.

‘To Infinity and beyond’ the problems of Kent’s post 16 education

choicestop14_1 copyMy daughter is in Year 11 at our local school, Community College Whitstable. She will take her GCSEs this year and is working incredible hard with her revision. She is predicted to get mostly As.

She was judged ‘not suitable for a grammar school education’ in the Kent Test and I still don’t know what this means. It seems Kent’s 11-plus test tries to judge academic potential, but takes no account of something as important to attainment as a hard working attitude.

These days all children must stay in education until they are 18, and in Kent our 15 year olds are directed to find information at the council’s ‘Kent Choices 4 U’ education portal. My first reaction was to write to the council to and ask them to change the program’s name. I don’t want to encourage our county’s school leaver’s to write, ‘I am applying 4 this job with U.’

When I’d got over the name I looked at the site and discussed school options with my daughter. If she stays at her current school there are four pathways available at sixth form which range from ‘Insight’ which offers GCSE resits, to ‘Inspire’ and ‘Intuition’ which offer BTEC qualifications, the top level is ‘Infinity’ which offers 2 A Levels and a BTEC.

But I want ‘Infinity and beyond’ for my daughter… The A level choices at her  current school are limited, just 4 academic subjects are offered, Psychology, Sociology, History and English. There’s no Maths, no English Literature and no languages. The other A level choices are subjects like Textiles and Photography.

So it is clear my daughter needs to move school next year. The school will not be pushing her enough if they give her just 2 A levels. Her university prospects will be reduced by choosing from this limited subject range.

I am interested in the differences between secondary education in selective Kent and other counties. I do try to be open minded about selective education, but I grew up with comprehensive education and feel positively about it. The three secondary school comprehensives I encountered in my youth each offered a sixth form with an academic A level curriculum. I checked these schools today, and they still do. My daughter would have an easier life in comprehensive Yorkshire.

It is certainly the case that the majority of children at CCW will be fine with the options on offer, the assumption is that the Kent Test gets things right. I guess children judged ‘not academic’ don’t need schools to push them towards A level and a university path at 16.

But I worry that it’s not working.  Nationally 49% of children go to university, but Kent is only sending 20 – 25% of children to its academic grammar schools. How are the rest of the children reaching university? I hope it is not via a path as tortuous as the one my daughter is now experiencing.

The old fashioned ideal of grammar schools is based on university being the aim of the academic minority; but these days most parents aspire to a university education for their children. Don’t we want the same opportunities for all? In Kent we try to judge a university future  for each child at age eleven.

The obvious option for any child is to stay in their current school sixth form. But due to the divide of pupils in Kent we have academic sixth forms at grammar schools, and mostly vocational sixth forms at non-selective schools. I’m concerned that many children go to non-selective schools based on parental preference and don’t try for grammar school at all, so their university chances are limited by their parents choice. Also many children develop later, like my daughter, and need an academic syllabus at 16 but find their school doesn’t offer one. I am sure many children will simply stay at their current school because it is easy to do so. So I feel many children will not be getting the opportunities they need to reach university.

DfE League TablesI love a good statistic or two, and the DfE performance tables offer sortable data on every aspect of every school. There’s even a filter for admission policy so it’s easy to compare ‘selective’ and ‘non-selective’ schools in Kent. So I will have a look at post-16 education in our county. I will try to find out:

Are Kent’s A level results better or worse than the national average?

Is Kent sending as many children to university as the national average?

Is Kent entering as many children for A levels as the rest of the country?

Is Kent’s sorting it’s children correctly? The DfE data lists High Attainers in each school based on ‘Pupils assessed as being above level 4 at the end of key Stage 4.’ I can check the percentage of above average ability children who are not attending Kent grammar schools.

How many children from non-selective schools enter grammar school at 16? (I made a FOI request.)

How many children from non-selective schools try to get entry to grammar schools at 16 but don’t get places?

Is Kent better or worse for post 16 education for its disadvantaged children? (I think this is relevant because we know these children are rarely attending grammar  schools.

I think a selective education system can be justified if it is working well for all its children. I know it hasn’t worked for my daughter. She will be moving to the third school of her secondary school life next year. Her first school went into special measures and closed down, CCW has just suspended it’s head. It is clear that many Kent non-selective schools have troubles as the Ofsted results prove.

My family now have the stress of trying to find a school that offers Computer Science at A level, which pretty much means looking for a place at a grammar school. My daughter is a shy girl and her confidence is low, two of the three local grammar schools interview pupils when they apply. They are not supposed to use those interviews to select pupils, as places must be allocated based on results and distance from school. The interviews are just another stressful hoop to jump through. I know my daughter will be nervous, and feel that she’s not good enough. Who’s to blame her? She was told she wasn’t good enough for these schools when she was ten, now they want her to give a confident interview and tell grammar school teachers they were wrong.

Kent’s selective education has made me angry because it’s hurt my daughter. If it hurts her again my anger is going to reach critical levels. I have a bright daughter who wants to study Computer Science at university. Why is Kent education system making it so difficult for her to fulfill her potential and achieve that?

 

 

 

A meaningful sausage roll

43680011_0_640x640I found a sausage roll wrapper on the kitchen counter today. I knew my daughter had chosen a quick school lunch on a busy day. But why had she taken this sausage roll out of it’s wrapper and put her lunch in a sandwich bag?

I asked her when she got home from school. She explained that it was a Waitrose sausage roll, she didn’t want her friends to know we shopped at Waitrose.

In grammar schools I wonder if an alternative scenario might play out? Perhaps in these schools everyone will have expensive sausage rolls and the poor children hide Aldi and Lidl wrappers.

I know it’s all rather ridiculous, but the timing feels appropriate. Just yesterday I posted my conference speech about the differences between Kent grammar schools and comprehensives. One incident with a sausage roll wrapper explains the class divide in our schools far  better than any of my words.

Education is about lots of things. I think my son might pass the Kent Test and go to grammar school. But I worry that his education will be lacking.  I worry that he won’t learn that some people buy cheaper food and don’t eat out on a whim. I worry that he’ll think everyone can afford new cars and foreign holidays. I worry that he’ll think everyone is smart, and finds school work easy, and then goes to University. I worry a grammar school will teach my son a one-sided world view.

My daughter might have failed the Kent Test, but she has learned the difference between Aldi and Waitrose. She has got wise to the fact our family are lucky to have financial advantage. She has learned that people are different, that some people pick things up quickly and some take longer to get there. She has learned many things my son will miss out on if he gets a grammar school education.

I am sure they will both turn out fine, and the things a parent teaches are just as important as anything children learn in school. Which reminds me, I need to teach my daughter to put wrappers in the bin not leave them lying about.

Unfortunately it may be harder to teach her the confidence to take sausage rolls to school wrapped, and tell her friends her family are Waitrose types.

 

Comprehensive Future Conference 2015

I’m involved in a Kent group exploring ways to make education fairer in our county. The Kent Test divides children into passes and fails aged 11 and I feel it creates inequality in our county’s secondary schools system. Those who can afford to tutor their children or send their kids to private schools, have an advantage in claiming grammar school places which adds to the problem.  I was asked to speak at the Comprehensive Future conference in London, on a panel involving speakers from three other areas that still have the 11 plus. Here’s my speech and selected presentation images.

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When my daughter failed her eleven plus I was shocked; this wasn’t supposed to happen to people like me! We shop at John Lewis, we eat at Pizza Express, we have books at home… And I take the children to museums and art galleries!

When I picked up my daughter I would sometimes look at the other school run mums. I could guess, based on clothing, accent, and attitude, which parents would have a child who went to a good school, and which parents would have a child who went to a bad school.

You shouldn’t be able to look around a playground of ten year olds and predict the educational future of a child. But in Kent you can.

I don’t like to look at the world this way, but this is the way I’ve started to think and it’s horrible.

And Grammar Schools are great, aren’t they? Outstanding, aspirational places. I shouldn’t wish them away. But what of our non-selective schools?

If we have grammar schools we must have these ‘other’ schools. They’re not comprehensives because they’re missing high ability kids. You can’t call them secondary moderns – people don’t like the name. They don’t really have a name, so we don’t talk about them. No one wants to talk about them anyway.

So, I’m a middle class mum, with a daughter who failed her Kent Test. I was looking forward to my lovely choice of five local schools, including three ‘Outstanding’grammar schools. Instead I had the choice of two  local schools, both with bad reputations.

Here’s my pictorial representation of Kent school choice.

SCHOOLS CHOICE DETAILED FINAL
Does this look like equality of opportunity?

 

With an 11 plus pass you have lots of choice, you can choose good grammars, and good comprehensives too. If you fail then your choice of good schools can be improved if you live in a good area or go to church. But if you fail the Kent Test and don’t live in a good area you’re in trouble. If you’re poor or don’t make much effort with your children’s education it’s quite likely your child will go to a bad school.

If you look at the Ofsted ratings of Kent grammar schools you can see the difference in opportunities.

Kent - selection, the damage continues v1

If you pass the 11 plus there’s a 97% chance of a good or outstanding school.

Let’s look at the non-selective schools.

Kent - selection, the damage continues v 2

 

 

If you fail the 11 plus there’s a 24% chance of a requires improvement or inadequate school. Only 3 Kent secondary moderns are Outstanding, compared to 26 grammar schools. A quarter of children who fail the eleven plus will get a badly rated school.

I don’t want to close good schools. Closing good schools doesn’t make bad schools any better… But something isn’t right.

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Supporters of Grammar Schools often talk of their noble ambition of rescuing bright poor kids… But it’s a flawed plan. Why do they even aspire to an education system that helps disadvantaged children that are bright? Why don’t they want an education system that helps disadvantaged children full stop?

And we all know it doesn’t even work. We’ve seen these stats before…

Kent - selection, the damage continues v4

In Kent only 5% of children in grammar schools have received free school meals in the last 6 years. As you can see it’s 26% in secondary moderns.

I fear the education divide in counties like Kent will only get worse. Our government is pressing for academic success with a focus on results. Non-selective schools struggle to meet these academic goals, of course the nature of their pupils makes this harder. So they will sink deeper into trouble. The children under perform and the schools become slaves to the league table.

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If we really cared about our secondary moderns they would be thriving, vibrant places that engage their children. Instead many suffer from disruption, a lack of aspiration, and unmotivated kids. It’s hardly surprising, we tell these children they’re not academic and give them nothing except academic targets anyway.

Ofsted’s Chief Statistician was asked to look at the Ofsted results for secondary modern schools in selective counties.

Kent - selection, the damage continues v5

He said these school’s bad ratings were to be expected. He said any school with a profile of  many disadvantaged children was likely be a failing school. But he explained that schools with low attainers had to be judged against the same criteria as grammar schools. Otherwise we’re entrenching low expectations.

I do understand the idea of setting the bar high. It just feels sad watching schools, and children, jumping to reach that bar, knowing it will rarely be reached.

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My daughter’s eleven plus saga continues… She now needs to move schools to find a decent sixth form.

We visit grammar schools and they are amazing places. It’s not the results that impress me. I am staggered by the extra care that goes into enrichment days, the clubs the children set up themselves, the way children are encouraged to have outside interests, and learn independently. They also hear from inspirational speakers who talk about careers and achievements. These children are taught to have aspirations and succeed.

Secondary modern schools need this attitude more than any other kind of school. If we decide children can’t succeed in exams we should give them something else to be proud of.

But sadly teachers in Kent comprehensives have no time, they spend their energy pushing children to meet exam targets. The children don’t set up clubs, they are glad to head home, they don’t like school.

There is no easy solution. But I will work with my local school to encourage improvements. This school may never excel on a league table, but it might excel in all the things parents might wish were on an Ofsted report instead. Those things that matter as much as exams.

And of course we have a new threat arising from Kent… The Sevenoaks  annex.

We don’t yet know what it will mean, but we worry. And we have a new group in Kent keen to seek solutions to the problems. We are prepared to speak up and tell people Kent’s education system doesn’t work.

Kent country council set up a committee to review social mobility in grammar schools. They admit there is a problem, and I hope they will try to fix it. But I want them to look at the problems of the other, nameless, never talked about schools…. We need to give all children an excellent  education not only those who pass the Kent Test.

Despite the disappointment of eleven plus failure my daughter has turned out fine, she wants to study Computer Science at university. I think the ‘right’ kind of parents will always nurture children to succeed. But perhaps this is more reason to look out for the children who don’t get that kind of help.

Do we help these children by making more grammar schools? Of course not. We need to make education work for the children whose opportunities are limited by a bad test result and then a bad school.

Now my son has an eleven plus coming up. I look around the playground and I worry more about those divided paths to bad schools and good. I know that all Kent’s children deserve the opportunity of a great education.