St Edmund's Catholic School
UPDATE: St Edmund's is being taken over by St Thomas More Catholic Comprehensive School in Greenwich on 1st August. The Head of St Thomas More will become Executive Head of the two schools, with one of his Assistants becoming Head of School at St Edmund's. you can read about this on the St Thomas More website. Oddly, there is nothing published at all on the St Edmund's website since the beginning of January; and no parental newsletter since December. Are parents being kept in the dark? (thanks to a parent who reported this to me).
The previous Executive Principal of St Edmund's and St Richard’s Catholic Primary School, Mr Chris Atkin, left his post suddenly at the end of November last year. He was replaced by a rescue mission headed up by Kim Stoner, headteacher of St George’s C of E Foundation School, Broadstairs, an Anglican church school. Unfortunately, they did not have time to bring about necessary improvements and OFSTED in January placed the school into Special Measures. It considered that: “Despite very recent improvements, leaders, managers and governors have not addressed the shortcomings in the previous inspection and have not significantly slowed the decline in the school’s performance”. A massive indictment of all concerned with the school who allowed it to decline to the parlous state identified by OFSTED.
The Archdiocese of Southwark’s solution is to take over full control of the school and turn it into an academy sponsored by the Archdiocese. This is in line with its apparent policy to convert all Catholic schools to academies, with each of the other secondary schools currently on course to become converter academies, along with a clutch of Catholic primary schools.
This week comes news of further controversy as the school has proposed to shorten the school day and teaching by half an hour every day, and to extend the Autumn half-term by a week. This is because, according to a letter to parents: students can then make their way home in daylight and "Time is needed to allow the regular, professional development of staff. This will have a direct impact on progress – accelerating the development of all students." Whilst that time and input are certainly needed; to quote OFSTED again: “Teaching is inadequate. Teachers do not provide work that is matched to the needs and prior attainment of their students”, surely the students and their education should not be penalised to create time. Early comments from parents endorse this view.
I looked in vain on the St Richard’s website for any further information as St Edmund’s is sparse, but could only find one news item there, dated July 2012, although the Executive Principal is named - Mr Atkin. Oddly, the school does not even mention it has applied to become an academy this month. Is it a secret?
The school only filled 91 of its Year 7 places this year, so the future looks bleak when it comes to attracting students.
St Philip Howard Catholic Primary School
The school failed its OFSTED in May 2012, but back in July that year I wrote an article on this website entitled: 'The Mystery of St Philip Howard Catholic Primary School, Herne Bay'. I believe it covers most of the important issues, but the mystery remains unresolved as to why the Department for Education, the Archdiocese of Southwark and Kent County Council were all determined to shower this school, the one with the lowest take up of children of any school in the county, with enormous sums of money for new and refurbished premises . The school is now over half empty with just 91 children on the roll, a decline from 136 in 2009, the school having a total capacity of 210. Just 40% of the pupils are Catholic. There are only 5 first preferences for admission in September 2013. You will find full details of the proposed closure process on the school website.
The successful bid for new school building via the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) could not be realised given the low roll. As the buildings were to be funded through Private Finance Initiative (PFI) the school would need to be full to capacity to pay the necessary money back over the term of the programme. This only begs the question of how on earth the bid was approved by the Department of Education. If the closure is approved it will happen at the end of this school year and places will need to be found for the children in other local schools. I end this sad story with a quote from the Chairman of Governors at the time of OFSTED and now: “The inspector did say that it is often the case that being in the special measures category is better that heading towards it as access to resources and expertise is greatly increased ". I have heard many reasons why schools succumb to Special Measures, but this one is unique and I would suggest it is best to avoid it.
St John Fisher Catholic School, Chatham
UPDATE: OFSTED has just reported that St John Fisher has a Good standard of Inspection, following an Inspection in March. You will find my comments here.
St John Fisher School had just 99 of its 180 Year 7 places taken up by children who had applied to the school for September 2013 entry, until Medway Council allocated 35 children to it who had not applied, but had no place at the schools they did apply for. The previous year there were just 83 offers including allocations leaving the school with 46% vacancies even before appeals for other more popular schools took place. A disgruntled parent whose child has been allocated a place at the school, sent me paperwork showing how these prospective students who did not even apply for the school are welcomed. The school issues them a supplementary form "for those seeking admission to St John Fisher Catholic School". Apart from the fact that they aren't seeking admission, they have been put there, the form proceeds to require details of religious practice, including attendance at mass, and stresses it requires a copy of the child's baptismal certificate. It is a reasonable assumption that none of the 35 are Catholic, otherwise they would have applied. Surely this can only alienate them, or is the school simply sending out a message that it doesn't want or need them. Certainly, the uncompromising front page of the school website offers them no solace: "It is our vision to provide our young people with a safe and secure environment where they can explore and strengthen their Catholic faith". Actually, looking at numbers, and with secondary rolls in Medway continuing to fall it does need them, otherwise it may fall to the same fate as St Philip Howard. In other words, it appears that this state funded secondary school is actually trying to dissuade non-catholics from taking up vacant spaces in the school.