Agenda item

Michaela Lewis, Headteacher - Upton Junior School, Broadstairs and Cliff Stokes, Headteacher - Newington Community Primary School, Ramsgate


1.    Mrs Whittle welcomed Headteachers and members to the information sharing session to discuss possibilities for improving social mobility through increasing the numbers of FSM children within grammar schools. She invited the Headtechers to briefly describe their respective roles and responsibilities.


2.    Qus.  Why are disadvantaged students, who are eligible for FSM, less likely to enrol in a grammar school, despite the fact that they may be academically high achieving?


Mr Stokes explained that Primary school have children 18% of their lives- home influence is paramount. Linguistic ability is determined by the age of 3-parental engagement is key.


3.    Qus Please expand-what is preschool provision for primary school intake?


Mr Stokes - The Children’s Centre attached to Newington Primary does not service local families. If the Headtecher was given free rein he  would like to incorporate the CC into the overall offering and would hence have far more potential to engage with all of the estate families and impact the under 3’s which was crucial.


4.    Qus Is the Children’s Centre intake from the Estate?


Mr Stokes -  No, parents drive through, they use the CC and then move on


5.    Qus Do you have an outreach policy?


Mr Stokes - FLO support. We mainly work with children enrolled in school. When necessary we force engagement by making repeated ‘phone calls, knock doors, distribute story sacks, instil self-regulation and enforce parental responsibility.


6.    Qus We have evidence of Childrens Centres that do work well, classes run to teach parents how to read and write-do you have in-house education for parents?


Mr Stokes - Yes, daily e.g. story time sessions with all parents invited,(some parents work daytime)but still major issues reaching hardest 10%.It would be far more efficient if the HT ran the Children’s Centre. He could see no reason why this would not be possible.


7.    Qus Do you try and engage with Children’s Centre?


Mr Stokes - Yes. I would close and reopen for the benefit of the Estate children.


8.    Qus What do Children’s Centre say?


Mr Stokes - Due to funding cuts they are only able to open 60% of time. Schools with a nursery attached reach 3-5 year olds more successfully and do help narrow the gap in inequality with more success than nurseries in the private sector.


9.    Qus What do you think about parents perception that there is too much pressure on primary age children, what can be done to alleviate concern and foster a more positive attitude?


Mrs Lewis - Upton set homework throughout whole school, Years 5 and 6 are in preparation for secondary school, whichever school they move onto. Most primary schools provide homework clubs at the beginning or end of the school day.


Mrs Lewis - 43% of Upton children go on to grammar schools. They often coast during year 7 and grammar schools need to “up their game” to accommodate the more able students.


10.Qus Do you encourage aspirations in the deprived areas?


Mrs Lewis - Have a display in reception area-Hope and Dreams, talk about values, hard work can result in a University place.


Mr Stokes, a concentration on ‘core values’ such as grit.


11.Qus Is it difficult to inspire aspiration in an area where the economy is slow?


Mrs Lewis - We reinforce to parents daily that school can equip children for jobs we don’t even know exist-they need the education to facilitate good life choices.  Further reading key and parental aspiration.


Mr Stokes - Every assembly questions what can be done to gain higher achievement. It is a big world , not bound by the estate where they a trip to London can enthuse learning and widen horizons-life is exciting!


12.Qus. Is there evidence that greater aspirations increase 11+ take up?


Mrs Lewis - Primary schools have to get pupils Secondary ready, not Grammar ready.


Mr Stokes - At Newington, on average  6 children will go on to a selective education  and 54 will not. The reaction/impact on the children will remain with them for life. Secondary school  choices are lifelong reaching.


Mrs Lewis The appeal process is very dependent on the parents ability to articulate well and present a persuasive case to the Independent Panel.  ML always writes a letter of support, not wanting to have the final responsibility of the child’s placement. Upton has 10% pupil premium, the majority are working parents who will put energy into their appeal and evidence gathering.


13.Qus. If parents are not competent would you as HT attend appeal?


Mrs Lewis never been asked. Deputy has attended  and found the whole experience very daunting (in relation to her own child).


14.Qus  A, Could Members recommend/assist those with less parental encouragement-deprived backgrounds through the appeals process? Should there be ancillary assistance eg years school work?


Mr Stokes It is possible to coach for any test, could be identified in Year 5  e.g. 10 hours coaching for all to give equal access.


Mrs Lewis - 4 years ago, Upton began hiring out 2 classrooms at the weekend for coaching and parents pay £25 per 2 hour session.120 attend with a waiting list.  This is a growth market. In Thanet parents feel there is no choice other than Grammar, as parent choice for High School does not offer them with a selection of ‘Good’ school choices. Also over subscription criteria mean that places in the more successful High schools are difficult to obtain.


Mr Stokes PESE should not just be a snapshot on one day- there needs to be backups for those who do not perform.


Mrs Lewis - Results arrive in school before published and HT can lodge appeal. Upton appeal for approx.30 children- to give them a chance. The process is very arbitrary, with little common criteria applied to the process, which is applied to all-not just pupil premium pupils.


Mr Stokes - I do not agree with process and do not take part. Grammar education is denied to 82% of Thanet children. They should not be segregated at age 11 and can be irrefutably harmed for future life choices.


Mrs Lewis - In Kent 11+ taken at beginning of Year 6, most of Upton children are coached throughout the 6 week summer holidays between year 5 and 6. Some parents prefer move at 13.To make fair to all, whole process must be open to all equally. Now pressure of league tables/Government targets encourage High schools to resist transfer of more able pupils and they can refuse to support parents at casual appeal later in the child’s school career.


Mr Stokes Remedy is for ALL schools to be graded outstanding. Children in a Grammar school are much more likely to go to an outstanding school and children who go to a non-selective school are much more likely to attend a school which has a cause for concern.  Every child should be given the opportunity of coaching financed by KCC, not through pupil premium.


Mrs Lewis - Not possible to fund from dwindling school budgets, Upton encourage parents to coach. It is possible to teach towards a test, all encouraged to enter test, give best chance. All parental meetings from Year 5 will be concerning the Kent test. Upton parents are desperate to gain a grammar place for their child. Newington, 10 minutes distance are not.


15.Qus Can Grammar schools help? Evidence of Opening Doors Project, Birmingham


Mr Stokes Do give familiarisation, Children at age 3 are so far behind, they cannot catch up at age 11.Need to consider short and long term.0-3, 3-5 year provision, which factors work towards narrowing gap to make the start base line closer.


16.Qus Is there evidence some children refuse a Grammar place and opt to attend a High school with their friends?


Mrs Lewis No, not at Upton.


Mr Stokes 3 or 4 in my career, perception can be that High schools have superior pastoral care facilities .


17.Qus to Mr Stokes. The 11+ is a tried and tested system, why do you believe it is wrong?


Mr Stokes Tried and tested for affluent families, in general a child’s life chances are defined in one day at age 11.Years 7,8 9 are wasted years in secondary school, the primary model should be continued, with assessment/selection at age 14 when children are emotionally and socially more mature.


18.Qus. Should Kent return to 13+?


Mrs Lewis Does Kent do something so special that other none-selective counties do not and therefore attain higher results? If yes, the system works, if not, is it time to try another system?


19.Qus. Is problem perception of varying school standards in Kent?


Chair-all agree every child should have access to a good or outstanding rated school.


Mrs Lewis Parents do not have the choice of every High school in Thanet being rated ’Good’ or better in Thanet. Top 25% of pupils have been creamed off to grammar sector-,High schools are judged on attainment as key factor and it is not a level playing field.

If all schools were at least ‘Good’ then parents would have a choice but with 25% academic students in grammar then High Schools will find attainment criteria much more difficult to meet for Ofsted Good criteria, certainly for Outstanding’.


20.Qus  Does coastal deprivation impact on the education in Thanet?


Mrs Lewis - In Key Stages 1 and 2 Sat’s are a different type of measure to the Kent Test. How do they transfer to GCSE scores? Grammar school take most of the children scoring 4 or 5 in Sat’s which cater for the top 25%.


The Chairman thanked both HT’s for their input. She expressed concern about Mr Stokes views regarding the Children’s Centre in Ramsgate and the lack of partnership. The Chair asked if a meeting with Mr Leeson would be helpful and Mr Stokes agreed to investigate and then contact her.

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