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Tuesday, 09 April 2013 00:00

Two Catholic schools with failed OFSTEDs but very different futures - St Edmund's Dover & St Philip Howard, Herne Bay; & then there is St John Fisher, Chatham

Now including Updates on St Edmund's and St John Fisher

Two recent failed OFSTEDs at St Edmund's Catholic School (secondary), Dover and St Phillip Howard Catholic Primary School, Herne Bay have seen the schools heading in very different directions. Also, a question. Why does a struggling Catholic School in Medway set out to discourage non-catholics from applying?

St Edmund's, which was a Voluntary Aided School run by the Archdiocese of Southwark Education Commission, but coming under the aegis of KCC, is to be turned into an academy, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Southwark. Even before OFSTED Early action was taken by KCC, issuing a warning notice which saw positive changes noted by OFSTED. It is difficult to see why the Archdiocese should have more success with total control in view of their failure to act with partial control, but this is surely a question they need to answer.

The Archdiocese of Southwark Education Commission has recommended that St Philip Howard be closed and this proposal is out for consultation.....

 

 

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. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 20:20

6 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 01 August 2014 22:26 posted by Gabriella

    I had the misfortune to go to St Edmunds in the early 80's. It failed me, and my brother and sister who went there in the late 70's. Always been a poor school.

    Close it down.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 April 2014 18:12 posted by Nicolas Olivari

    St Edmund's School, Dover, one year on, still in Special Measures...Close it down! No child should go anywhere near it!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 20 June 2013 12:25 posted by P. O' Connor

    The culprits will not be held to account they both 'retired' either just before the 2012 Inspection or during it! What happened was an unfortunate co- alignment of mediocrity. A Head (2008- 2012) with previous in regard to falling pupils numbers and subsequent school closure, a weak and ineffectual Chair of Governors (2007- 2011, judging by the grammar probably Disgruntled and Perplexed), an uncritical governing body (over populated by staff and former staff) and finally a Church that is abandoning Europe by busy liquidating its assets in order to transfer them to the developing world, where numbers of the 'faithful' are growing and the Enlightenment has yet to reach.

  • Comment Link Monday, 22 April 2013 12:24 posted by Nicolas Olivari

    I could not agree more with the article. I was a pupil at St Edmund's Catholic school in the mid to late 1980s. It has always been under-achieving. Moreover, the teaching was below-par. The school tried to launch a 6th form in 1990 but this was a resounding failure. The school should have concentrated on GCSE results first and foremost with able pupils then transferring for A'levels at the local grammar school (which I did). Changing the status of the school to that of an academy will not change anything until you get the basics right...How could the last head of the school (15 years in service)allowed this to happen? What a digrace.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 17 April 2013 12:57 posted by Very disgruntled and perplexed

    I believe that you are overlooking the current political agenda to close schools no matter what and academise them. I am very surprised by you inability to consider the huge amount of work that clearly has gone into these schools especially considering that you were once a headteacher who himself has been through these procedures or is it that you now have forgotten just how tough OFSTED and political agendas are.
    I also ask how you feel it is right that you are telling people to stay away from St Philip Howard when this is in effect demeaning the current teachers at that as the school went into special measures then surely under LA watch have not lost their jobs and ergo must not be failing teachers. Is this the type of support staff in schools should expect from someone who actually should respect the efforts teachers are putting in?
    I have also been led to research the results of St Philip Howard only to find that their examination results have improved...how do you now stand by your disgraceful comments? Or is this just sensationalism that you are aiming for?
    PETER: I am not responsible for the decisions by parents to avoid the school to the extent that it is over half empty, has offered just five places for this year (applications being made before the closure proposal was published) and with 78% vacancies is far higher than the next school down at 66%, is £63,000 in deficit, has a Chairman of Governors from the Diocese who considers that being in Special Measures is good for the school, has a Governing Body that can see no way forward apart from closure, and has lost its rebuilding programme because of its precarious future. I can’t blame the parents; they could clearly see something was very wrong at the school. So sadly this is evidently a school that is not wanted either by the local community or the Catholic Church and it is the governors that have decided to close it WITHOUT replacement by an academy. I am not surprised you are disgruntled! I don’t know who in the school was responsible for this dire outcome, but it is nothing to do with tough OFSTEDs or political agendas. As the 2012 OFSTED records: “This is not a satisfactory school because pupils are not learning to read and write well enough and they have significant gaps in their understanding of mathematics. Teachers are not pitching work at the right level to meet pupils’ needs and the curriculum does not always engage pupils well enough. Pupils’ behaviour is inadequate and lessons are sometimes disrupted. The schools’ leadership has been ineffective in addressing these shortcomings”. Seems clear to me; very few of the many OFSTEDs I have read are as scathing as this. Oddly, you make no mention whatever of the children whose future prospects have been damaged by the poor education they have received at this school. I am not aware of ANY other Kent primary school that is currently being considered for closure without replacement or has been closed in the last four years, so I don't see how this could be part of any general agenda. Of course I am advising parents to avoid the situation where the school is very likely to close this summer as there appears no one who can see how it could be saved. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise. I make and have made no criticism of the current teachers at the school, and would not presume to do so, but I am sure they have a very difficult job on hand. You also say you are perplexed. The above is strictly factual, clear and certainly not sensational. How is it disgraceful to report the facts? Surely, the only reason for perplexity is to wonder by whom and how this dire situation could be allowed to happen and how the culprits are to be held to account, although of course this won’t help the children who have been disadvantaged.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 11 April 2013 08:32 posted by Jeremy Fox

    In my opinion this is just further evidence that faith schools are out of touch with reality. Surely an anachronism with no place in modern society. If the archdiocese has control of these schools is it not more likely that some indoctrination occurs?

    Jeremy Fox

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