Plans to force all schools to convert to academies will create an even wider gulf between Kent secondary schools, according to Kent Education Network (KEN). The new campaign group said this week that – if academy chains are free to cherry pick secondary schools – they would inevitably swallow up grammar schools first, leaving our high schools out in the cold. Grammars would lend prestige to the academy chains and would therefore provide better value to their future business.
KEN’s Head of Research, Dr Michael Collins, said: “The government’s proposals are deeply unpopular with teachers, parents and local authorities. The planned changes are likely to bring even deeper divisions between our children. There is a shortage of academy chains which can only mean successful trusts fighting over popular and successful schools, while troubled schools will be left with any trust willing to take them on.
“The education divide in Kent is already a serious problem: a quarter of children who fail the Kent Test end up in schools classed by Ofsted as ‘requiring improvement’, yet every child who passes the eleven-plus is assured of a good school. The gap can only get wider as ambitious academy trusts refuse to take on Kent’s struggling schools because the trusts themselves will in future be ranked by means of league tables.”
Dr Collins, who is currently conducting research for the University of Kent into selection at the age of 11, added: “In Kent, the situation could prove especially bad: government proposals include abolishing the requirement to follow the existing admissions code at age sixteen. There seems to be nothing to prevent trusts from setting admissions criteria for children wishing to enter grammar sixth forms from outside schools that differ significantly from the criteria applying to their own pupils.
“Kent children could fail twice: once at eleven; again at 16 – even after they have made significant academic advances in between.”
Kent Education Network does not believe the Kent Test is either fair or accurate in its predictive values. It is our view therefore that schools must offer opportunities for an excellent education to children who continue to develop beyond the age of eleven. It’s well-known that children labelled as “failures” at 11 are frequently quite capable of thriving in a grammar sixth form: this new law could deny them a place. Already Kent has significantly fewer children achieving three A levels than other authorities – this would only make matters worse.