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Tuesday, 25 February 2014 00:00

Chaucer Technology School: Decision made to close in the summer

My previous article on this topic attracted over 4000 hits in five days, counting in my regular subscribers, the fastest hit rate ever. Feel free to add another comment at the bottom of either item.  

You will find that item below, here. KCC has now sent out the Consultation document for the proposed closure, which you will find in my blog, together with further comment.

Chaucer Technology

The Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury is to close at the end of the summer term, subject to a legally required consultation process, apart from the current Year 10 students who will need continuity to complete their GCSE courses. I offer advice to affected families on their next steps, in the second highlighted box below. The Council has provided the following statement, explaining the decision and the consequences:.....

Proposal to close Chaucer Technology School

Kent County Council has, with regret, announced a proposal that would see the Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury close. Individual letters explaining the proposal have been sent to parents of all 609 pupils. The letter will also include information about alternative school provision. Each pupil currently in Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 is being offered a place at an alternative secondary school from September 2014. Those currently in Year 10 will continue to be educated on the Chaucer site as they complete their GCSE courses. Pupils currently in Year 11 and Year 12 will also get help with finding places at school, in college or in work with training. Falling pupil numbers have left the school particularly vulnerable, with the reduction in children on roll meaning that there is not enough funding to provide the necessary breadth of curriculum and minimum teaching staff.Pupils who live more than three miles away from their allocated school will receive help with transport, in line with the council’s policy on home-to-school transport – and help will also be made available for school uniform. Roger Gough, KCC Cabinet member for education and health reform, said: “Any decision to close a school is taken with a heavy heart and is only ever the very last resort. As ever, the council is committed to making sure that children are taught in the most effective environment and get the best possible education. “Since the inadequate Ofsted inspection report a year ago the school has been doing well and making good improvements under the strong leadership of the Swale Academies Trust. Recent GCSE results show that there has been an improvement in attainment. Many people recognise the improvements the school has made over recent months and these improvements will continue regardless of the consultation process. The local authority, the school and Swale Academies Trust will continue to work together to secure a good education for current pupils. “However the future of the school depends on being able to provide the resources that children need in the longer term. With numbers dropping, the school is no longer viable – it does not have enough pupils to bring in the funding required to provide the resources needed. In this situation, the county council has little option but to find alternative places for the children currently at Chaucer. “However, given the size of the current Year 10 group – 153 young people – and the improved results this year, the council will work with the school and the Swale Academy Trust to keep this year group together on the Chaucer site to complete their GCSE courses. “I believe that, while it is particularly unusual to occupy a school with one year group, this will be less disruptive for this group of students than to be spread around other schools in the area. “At the same time, KCC will carefully consider the future of the site – paying particular attention to the forecasts of future pupil numbers in and around Canterbury.”

My previous article looked at the background, so this one concentrates on the decision and its consequences, including what should affected parents do next? 

The previous article has already attracted over 4000 hits in five days, counting in my regular subscribers, the fastest hit rate ever. Feel free to add a comment at the bottom of either item.

KCC has to go through a process of consultation before closing the school, which has begun today, but the reality is that it had no option given that the school is fast running out of pupils and is carrying an unacceptably high financial deficit that has built up over at least the last three years. The number of children to be offered places in Year 7 next week is down to 40, just a quarter of the number in Year 10, the dramatic fall being indicated by the tables below

Numbers in the school at present
Year Group
Year
7
Year
8
Year
 9
Year
10
Year
11
Year
12
Year
13
Number of
students
54 77 106 159 132 37 37

 

 Number of First Choices 2010-2014
Year 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
Number of first
choices
26 58
89
115 163

These tables beg the critical question: why did no one notice what was going on? The answer I have heard too often in the past few days is 'complacency'. What did governors, who have already admitted negligence according to OFSTED in June 2013, say and do about the dramatic fall off in numbers and first choices over the preceding three years? How come they didn't even know the school had a serious financial problem at the time of the first OFSTED Report in February 2013.  They carry a great deal of responsibility for the debacle. Chaucer Technology School was by far the most popular school in Canterbury just five years ago with a fine reputation. Over the past four years, it is clear that families thought otherwise and voted with their feet.  

KCC has now confirmed that the size of the school’s financial deficit is some £600,000 which could only spiral upwards if the staffing to deliver an appropriate curriculum were provided for so few children. Indeed, for example, if the current Year 9 began GCSE courses in September, or Year 11 to start A Level, there is no way they could be offered an appropriate  range of courses.

KCC appears to be trying to shift some of the blame on to The Canterbury Academy, which along with other popular schools has chosen to expand its numbers this year to meet popular demand.  However, the bottom line is that this is neither relevant to the sharp decline in take up of places at Chaucer over the previous four years, nor the dramatic fall in first choices, culminating in the 26 for 2014 entry. This figure is lower than for any school in Kent for 2013 entry, bar the now closed Walmer Science College.  

And so what happens next? Clearly, some parents will be pulling their children out of the school now, if they can find alternative school places, rather than wait for KCC to come up with alternatives, which will therefore become even more restrictive. This will actually mean that the school may implode as class sizes shrink, and some staff look for alternative posts at their earliest opportunity.

For the higher age groups, when the school was more popular, some children chose to travel long distances, for example from Thanet, to get to Chaucer. These will no doubt look to Thanet schools to absorb what may be much lower numbers. The one/only piece of good news is that according to KCC’s letter to parents, which you will find on the Chaucer Technology School website, they have secured agreements with other local schools (unspecified at present) to ensure places are available. The problem is that The Canterbury Academy, Archbishop’s School and St Anselm’s Catholic School are all either full, or nearly full. The problem is that KCC has no powers to allocate children, and must seek agreement. Two Canterbury District schools have significant vacancies: The Community College Whitstable, which has around 80 in each age group; and Spires Academy in Sturry, which has 30-40. There are also other schools with vacancies on the Swale side of Canterbury, from where the Chaucer has traditionally drawn some of its students. These are the Abbey School in Faversham and Sittingbourne Community School.

At the moment, KCC will therefore be looking for places for 237 children in Years 7-9 in these schools, and letters offering each child a school place for next September have now been sent out.  

What to do Next?  

Parents of students in Years 7-9 have a number of options.

  • You can and probably should, accept the place offered at another school for September.
  • You can then let your child see out the year at Chaucer and move to the new school in September.
  • Alternatively, you can apply independently  to any or as many schools of your choice now. Put it in writing. If the school has free places in that Year Group, it is obliged to offer one to your child, who can then start at the new school without delay. If not then it will reject the application, and you then have the right to make an appeal to go before an Independent Appeal Panel.  If the Panel upholds your case, then your child can start at the new school immediately. This process can take up to six school weeks.
  • Accepting the school offered by KCC does not stop you going down this path, neither does it lose you the place at the school offered if you have accepted it. 
  • You can also apply independently to the school you have been offered, to start immediately. If turned down, even if you have an unsuccessful appeal, you can still take up the place in September. 

NOTE: Whilst KCC is consulting on the closure as it is obliged to do, I can see no way in which the proposal to close the school can or will be reversed. 

 Year 12 has special difficulties with some of the 37 students being part way through two year courses. KCC in the letter to parents, proposes to work with other Post 16 providers to attempt to offer continuity elsewhere. Year 11 will be able to look to start Sixth Form courses in other schools or Colleges.

That leaves the 40 children to be offered places in Year 7 at Chaucer next week. The decision to move to closure was made too late for them to be provided with alternatives now so they will be offered the Chaucer School as it is still technically open. I understand they will be given the opportunity to apply for an alternative school at the same time, to be considered through the re-allocation process, results of which are given on 23rd April - a long wait, I am afraid. Sadly, this is a heartbreaking situation, especially for the 26 who made the school their first choice.

Whilst I have tried to be factual in the main in this article,  I do not under-estimate the understandable bitterness and rightful anger of many students, or their families who are affected. None of this is their fault, and they all now have the anxiety of whether or not they will get a decent education elsewhere in a school they never chose, but that is reasonable accessible and with an appropriate ethos (amongst the schools are two church schools which may present problems for some). Twice in my own career, I have been working in schools that have admitted students who had seen their schools taken from under them. I shall never forget their feelings that the education system had betrayed them, and many of the comments made beneath my previous article, and possibly this one in time, express similar feelings. Each of those comments is well worth reading, as I have read them. They identify different reasons for the calamity, but all reveal a similar vein of hurt and anger at someone. Sadly, I suspect that each of their targets bears some culpability for this dreadful, but inevitable, decision. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 21:58

5 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 10 March 2014 13:58 posted by hayden lightfoot

    abbey school faversham rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 27 February 2014 17:29 posted by Joshua Hoare

    As a current year 13 at the school I can't believe that kcc are doing this. Leaving all year 12 to find there own placement else where! The council can easily resolve the debt situation there just more interested in the sale of the land. This is a massive distraction to the education of the pupils, but what do you expect when you leave an incompetent conservative in charge of the education system. Kcc have let every pupil and member of staff at this school down and should feel ashamed. PETER: As always, I admire your loyalty to the school which has obviously done well by you. However, as the figures above show, you went through on a Year Group of 235, which itself has produced a Year 13 of just 37 students. For whatever reason, not enough children are now choosing the school to keep it open. If the school had remained open, Year 7 in September would have had fewer than 40 children in it. No school in Kent could survive such an intake. Yes, KCC have made big mistakes and I sincerelyhope that support and continuity for the Year 12s to finish their courses is forthcoming, although I haven't yet seen signs of it. But, if you have freedom of choice to go to a school, you also have freedom of choice not to go there. This is the consequence for what was the most popular school in Canterbury when you joined it.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 26 February 2014 14:15 posted by Adrian D

    How exactly is this going to work if Barton Court moves to Hearne Bay too? Where will all the kids from the 'family homes' they'll wedge into the land be taught I wonder.

    The 'market' seems to be deciding that it will be miles away.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 25 February 2014 23:37 posted by P Karnavas

    Ms Chow, I apologise as that most certainly should not have been your experience at The Canterbury Academy.

    Please email me as soon as you can on -pkarnavas@canterbury.kent.sch.uk - and although, as I hope you will understand, I cannot promise to offer your son a place I or the head of school, Jon Watson, can promise to meet with you and discuss it. Once again please accept my apologies as I know what a difficult time you and your son will be going through and that this experience will have done nothing to help.
    My regards
    Phil Karnavas. PETER: The first piece of practical understanding of what people are going through! However, as he makes clear, this doesn't mean he will offer a place,just that you will get a fair hearing.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 25 February 2014 22:09 posted by Ms Chow

    Starting from last Friday, I think it is a heart breaking news and it was a difficult time for all the parents,students and the teachers in Chaucer School.
    My son is in Year 8 who is at top set for all his subjects. He always has good behaviour and concentrates on his study. After I read the newspaper on Saturday, I decided to pull him out from the school even if it closes down or not. Yesterday I called three schools which are CCW, Herne Bay High School and Canterbury Academy. Two of them went to voice mail and one asked me "Is he from Chaucer?" then she replied "No space.". The receptionist told me to leave down my son's name and contact number and said she will call us today. Of cause I haven't received any call from schools.
    I printed out the "In Year Admissions" form and went to Herne Bay High today to see if there is any luck. I was totally upset when I went out. As a parents I can't make any decision for my son.
    If KCC really want to close the school, why they don't let the children settle down early in the alternative school but the students have to wait until September? Who knows, the students might still receive good education at Chaucer? It is only a waste of their time. PETER: You have the same rights as an individual to apply to a school as anyone else. If there are vacancies, then make a formal application and they cannot refuse you, nor refuse to make a decision until some point in the future. This is certainly true in the case of CCW which has vacancies in every year group. If there are no vacancies, the you have the right to formally appeal for a place to an independent appeal panel. These rules cannot be overridden by a deal between the schools and KCC to stop people applying through the legal In-Year admission process. You can move as soon as a place is offered and cannot be made to wait until September. The exception to this would be where places are being created by the formation of an additional class where this can't happen until September. This may well apply to some of the offers through KCC.

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