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Education in Kent


John Simkin
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According to Ed Balls, the schools secretary, the government will now close around 270 “failing schools” for “underperformance” and replace them with academies and trust schools. Kent has 30 so-called “failing schools” and so is about to get a lot of new academies. I wonder if Balls has considered the main reason for this is that Kent has more grammar schools than any other educational authority in the country.

The government has agreed that wealthy entrepreneurs can sponsor these academies without being named. This is to disguise the corruption involved in this sponsorship. In this way there will be no bad publicity when sponsors are given honours or government contracts in exchange for this money. Outside of Italy we have the most corrupt political system in Europe.

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According to Ed Balls, the schools secretary, the government will now close around 270 “failing schools” for “underperformance” and replace them with academies and trust schools. Kent has 30 so-called “failing schools” and so is about to get a lot of new academies. I wonder if Balls has considered the main reason for this is that Kent has more grammar schools than any other educational authority in the country.

This is of course the reason for the relative low performance of Kent secondary schools. In North Kent where I work around 33% of the top ability students are creamed off to go to archaic grammar schools. These institutions are lauded as "outstanding" and "excellent" by Ofsted because they obtain a 95-99% pass rate. My maths may not be that strong but isn't anything less than 100% when you have the top 33% something of a concern?

The non selective schools are left to fight the good fight to raise their level above 30%. Even those who do so, (like my own school at 44%) get no more than a 'satisfactory' judgement from Ofsted who appear incapable of distinguishing between standards and achievement or of understanding the context in which such schools operate.

The non selective schools which fall below 30% now face the prospect of closing and becoming academies. The big idea behind academies was that private businesses would sponsor these new schools and bring high level senior management skills, experience and money to beleaguered schools. A fatuous concept even if it were to occur as planned. Unfortunately few such sponsors can be found and we now have a series of proposals in Kent where the county council proposes to be the main sponsor of a new privatised academy. We even have a current proposal of the county with an existing academy (which itself is on the failing list) sponsoring a new academy in some odd form of conglomerate merger. .... Is it me or wouldn't it be easier and more desirable for the county just to fund state schools properly in the first case? Better still to have a close look at the county's overall performance when measured against comprehensive boroughs and start to tackle the problem in a meaningful and structural way.

Education policy in this country and in an exaggerated form in this county is so ideologically wedded to the flawed ideas that privatised is best and that selection is desirable that it is failing the next generation on a grand and disturbing scale.

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