We speak to Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Education Roger Gough to find out how local schools are faring, and how the face of education is altering
How are schools faring in the local area?
As we head into a new school year I am delighted to say that standards in Kent schools continue to progress; in fact they are now performing better than the national level.
Ofsted is continually raising the bar in terms of standards in schools. Kent schools have risen to the challenge and the latest Ofsted data shows that 87.4% of our schools are rated good or outstanding compared to 84% nationally. In July 2015 82% were good or outstanding and in 2014 this was 75%.
Tunbridge Wells primary schools have made excellent progress with 84% good and outstanding compared with 81% last year. Sevenoaks primary schools are performing even better with 93% good and outstanding compared with 86% last year.
We have set an ambitious target of at least 90% of primary and secondary schools to be judged good or outstanding in the next year or two.
How has the role of education changed within the area?
The role of local authorities has changed dramatically over the last five years, due mainly to the introduction of academies and free schools. The government’s vision for education still encompasses a significant role for local authorities. This includes coordinating admissions and ensuring that there is a good supply of school places; in a time of rapidly rising school rolls, this will continue to be a major task.
Most of our secondary schools are now academies and, in fact, the three in Sevenoaks are academies or free schools. However, most primaries are still maintained by the county council.
Kent County Council also has responsibility for making sure there are sufficient school places, and to do this we work closely with all the schools in Kent including academies. We produce a commissioning plan each year which is regularly updated to keep track of any changes in the number of school places required.
What changes do you anticipate over the coming academic year?
The number of primary age pupils is expected to continue to rise significantly until 2021-22, after which it is expected to fall. In Tunbridge Wells, we are planning on building a two-form entry primary school by 2018 or 2019, to replace St Peter’s Primary School at Hawkenbury to help provide sufficient places for the new Berkeley Homes development of 235 homes.
Planning for additional secondary provision is now becoming a significant focus of activity as the number of secondary age pupils in Kent schools is expected to increase from 77,931 in 2014-15 to 96,581 in 2024-25.
In Sevenoaks, The Trinity Free School will open in its new building in September and work will be starting soon on the new grammar annexe building for girls provided by Weald of Kent Grammar School, which should be ready by September 2017. KCC will continue to pursue options for boys’ grammar school provision in the district.
Why should parents consider sending their child to a local facility?
There will always be very strong demand for school places in tight urban areas, particularly in districts like Tunbridge Wells. Overall our record of meeting parental preference by expanding schools has been very successful.
Our vision is that every child and young person should go to a good or outstanding school, have access to the best teaching, and benefit from schools and other providers working in partnership with each other to share the best practice as they continue to improve.