Published: 10:00, 21 January 2020
| Updated: 15:03, 21 January 2020
Kent secondary schools had the highest number of exclusions in the south east last year.
The Ofsted annual report for 2018-19 examines how schools are doing based on a range of measures, including Ofsted inspections and exams and shows differences within the 19 areas in the south east.
We spoke to Stephen Long, Assistant Director for Ofsted South East
When it came to pupils excluded, Kent had the highest number for fixed period exclusions - 8,418 - but in percentage terms - 8.4% - was on a par with the south east average of 8.3%. In Medway, 10.7% - 2,026 pupils - were excluded over the year
However, Kent fared well when it came to schools rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding. Some 92% of primaries were in these categories compared to 87% nationally and 90% for the south east. In the secondary sector, 86% were rated good or better - the same as the regional average but higher than the national average of 76%.
Secondary schools did less well on new measures designed to chart progress of pupils. The measure - known as Progress 8 - places the county in the bracket of those areas deemed to be below average on the basis of improvements made by pupils from the time they enter secondary school and when they take GCSEs.
Ofsted reiterated concerns about the performance of schools in coastal areas - although it did not say where they were. It also registered concern about so-called “stuck” schools, those that had failed to make progress. Some 48 schools in the south east fell in to this category - representing 1% - but it is not known how many are in Kent.
Matt Dunkley Kent County Council’s director of young people and education said the results were the consequence of several years of concerted efforts to improve school performance.
But he acknowledged that there was more work to do when it came to closing the gap between less well-off pupils and their peers.
He said the improvements came against a backdrop of a more complicated system with many schools now academies. He said:“Kent has never distinguished between different categories of school, we have just focused on getting the best deal for children in schools regardless of their category.”
Mr Dunkley said there were only one or two schools in the county that were classified as being ‘stuck’ adding: “The issue is generally to do with levels of poverty; we have been successful in Kent in shifting those schools; it isn't a major problem.”
He said Kent had more to do in closing the gap between socially disadvantaged children and their peers.
“We are certainly closing the gap in early years and primary schools; it does get more complicated in the secondary sector and we are not performing as well. We have a very high proportion of selective schools so our mix of abilities is slightly different to other parts of the south east.
"We have a high concentration in our non-selective schools of pupils from a socially disadvantaged background. We have got some things to address there; it is a priority for the council to close that gap at the end of Key Stage 4. The next step for us in a generally improving picture is really focusing hard on closing that gap.”
On exclusions, he said Kent had one of the lowest rates for permanent exclusions in the South East. “That has been the result of a very concentrated work with groups of schools coming together to negotiate fair access arrangements for pupils. There is still more that we can do; we are worried that children who are out of school for whatever reason have a good quality education."
Chris Russell, Ofsted Director for the South East, said: “As in previous years, we remain troubled that pupils from poorer backgrounds often do badly. We are also concerned about ‘stuck schools’ – those that haven’t been good for many years.
"We have just focused on getting the best deal for children in schools regardless of their category”
"While we don’t have the numbers seen in some parts of the country, there are areas, such as parts of the coastal strip, where schools find it particularly challenging to improve.”
There were some mixed signs for Medway schools, with 83% of primaries rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding. Although that was below the regional average of 90%, it represented a 5% increase on the previous year.
And it fared less well in Key Stage 2 tests, placing it among the bottom third of 19 areas for its performance.