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Thursday, 20 November 2014 00:00

Drapers Mills Primary Academy; Lydd and Beaver Green Primaries - where do Governors Turn?

Written by
Updated with Salmestone OFSTED Report 24 Nov 2014
 
Drapers Mills Primary Academy, now run by the Kemnal Manor Academy Trust (TKAT), together with its predecessor school, have frequently appeared on the pages of this website. The latest OFSTED Monitoring Inspection in October, after the school was placed in Special Measures again in June earlier this year, has concluded that:

         The proprietor’s statement of action is not fit for purpose. The academy’s action plan is not fit for purpose.

Drapers Mills

Clearly, the Academy proprietors are panicking after a highly critical Special Report by OFSTED in July on TKAT. As part of their Report on Drapers Mills, OFSTED notes:

No action had been taken before the summer holiday except the removal of the governing body and the formation of an IEB….Since the inspection the previous headteacher has left. A new executive headteacher was put in place from 1 September 2014 who is a TKAT regional director of education. Two heads of school were also appointed and began work on 1 September 2014. The governing body was replaced with an interim executive board on 17 July 2014. There have been a large number of changes to the staff since the inspection. Fifteen members of staff have left the academy, including four out of the six newly qualified teachers who started at the beginning of the academic year.Fifteen new members of staff have joined….The executive headteacher and the two heads of school have acted decisively since September to address some of the inspection’s findings…. The proprietor has recently made available an additional team of skilled teachers to support the academy.

But we are now two years on from TKAT taking over a previously Satisfactory school. Two wasted years! Governors of the Primary School with local accountability were no doubt pressured to turn it into an academy. Do they feel responsible for the way it has turned out? Where is the local accountability now?

 

Salmestone Primary School

School became a TKAT academy in Sept 2012, after a previous Satisfactory OFSTED. Headteacher left September 2013, replacement left Easter 2014. OFSTED June 2014, found school Requires Improvement. The October Monitoring Inspection reports:

Half the teaching staff have left and been replaced. The governing body was suspended on 17 July 2014 and replaced with an Interim Executive Board (IEB). The IEB has had one meeting this year. The headteachers continue in part-time acting capacities. One of them is also headteacher of a school in London, and one is an educational consultant.....The external review of governance recommended at the last inspection has not taken place. The academy’s arrangements for governance are unusual as it is governed by the central TKAT IEB which oversees another academy locally. These arrangements are not sustainable if the long-term success of the academy is to be assured because the necessary time and skills for effective governance are spread too thinly.

 

Alternatively, schools in Special Measures may choose/fight to remain with KCC, like Lydd and Beaver Green Primaries, although there are problems with the support provided here also, as explained below.

Beaver Green

School Governors are increasingly being held to account if their school is in difficulties, but it is increasingly difficult to see where they should turn to for help. Has the departure of the Senior Primary Schools Improvement Officer seen a change in the aggressive attitude of some officers in the Authority to schools in difficulty?

If governors don’t know where to turn (and for the first time I have fielded a number of enquiries for assistance from both governors and headteachers this year) what about the distraught parents trying to get a decent education for their children? Unfortunately, with the pressure on primary school places, the only vacancies that exist in many areas are in failing or underperforming schools, and so there is often no alternative. Strangely, the recommendation to move if you don't like what you are getting is often made by headteachers who must know there is no appropriate alternative.  The lucky ones who can afford it have the option of private schools often seen as second choice but, for most, all they can do is watch as their children’s life chances are damaged by those responsible for nourishing them.......

Drapers Mills Primary Academy

My previous article regarding the OFSTED failure of Drapers Mills in June noted:

Last week, Drapers Mills Primary School, Margate, a school with a very chequered history under KCC control, but with its previous OFSTED in March 2011 being “Satisfactory” was placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, after eighteen months of TKAT control. As with both the other two academies: “The Academy Trust acknowledges that it was slow to appreciate the full extent of the challenges and issues affecting Drapers Mills Primary in 2012. Action to address these shortcomings was, therefore, delayed, and only recently have more rigorous systems and procedures designed to eradicate underperformance been established.  However, the list of failings of the academy is so extensive that it begs the question of whether TKAT had any awareness of what was going on. They certainly weren’t taking the tough action KCC had assumed would happen when it handed the school over. Of course, now it is nothing to do with KCC, so they can wash their hands of the school and the children. As is common with such academies, there is a pattern of rapid turnover of senior staff, for staff are appointed to the chain and not the individual school and so can easily be moved around, with no requirement to advertise posts as in: “Action to strengthen the leadership team has only recently been implemented. While the acting headteacher is now well supported by her successor, who takes up position officially in September 2014, the roles of the assistant headteachers and subject leaders are not developed. Consequently, these leaders are not yet held to account effectively for bringing about improvements in their areas of responsibility”.

Clearly, my observation begging the question of whether TKAT had any awareness of what was going on was accurate, and the children of the school have been left to endure a second rate education for even longer after the problem was diagnosed.

There is no doubt that Drapers Mills is a difficult challenge for any school leaders. The 2011 OFSTED Report, which found the school offering a Satisfactory education, before the decline under TKAT began, observes:

The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is well above average and increasing. The proportion of pupils of minority ethnic heritage has recently risen to above the national average and a very high proportion speak English as an additional language. Far more pupils than is usual join the school at points later than the normal school starting age. A well above average proportion have special educational needs and/or disabilities, the most frequently identified needs being behavioural, social and emotional difficulties.

Drapers Mills Primary School provides a satisfactory quality of education. Improving pupils' progress is its first priority, which it is meeting successfully. To support this, the school reaches out to a very diverse community and develops enterprising partnerships that enhance learning well and make an outstanding contribution to community cohesion. Senior leaders show great willingness to tackle weaknesses, be innovative, for instance combining children with similar preferred learning styles into the same class, and are taking rigorous action to improve teaching. This is raising pupils' attainment and progress rapidly and securely. Because attainment and progress are now much better than in the past, and because there has been steady improvement generally since the previous inspection, the school has good capacity to maintain improvement in the future. On starting school a large majority of children have well below age-related expectations and many have difficulties in learning. By the end of Year 6 attainment is a little below average in both English and mathematics. It has improved significantly in the last two years. Currently, Year 6 pupils are making good progress due to much improved learning and teaching in that year.

Well at least in 2011, these children who are the government’s highest priority for providing a good education were getting a half way decent education. However, as results were, not surprisingly, under the national average KCC saw fit to surrender the school to TKAT following Government’s solution of removing schools catering for such children from inadequate Local Authority control. They are then placed in the hands of academy chains who are supposed somehow to have the resources and ability to improve standards. Yet again, TKAT has failed in that task.

The Report makes clear that, since September, TKAT has poured resources into the school in an effort to make up at last for its previous failures; but progress is still insufficient. That is just two years after TKAT took over responsibility for the school. Two wasted years and how many children’s life chances damaged by the failure.

The question remains, what is to happen to schools serving areas of deprivation, that are failing under Local Authority control? Previous articles show that Kent has a record of failing primary schools thee times the national average last year. However, the strategy of converting them to academies run by organisations such as TKAT and AET, is also clearly failing! Clearly such children face a rocky future under either route.

Lydd and Beaver Green Primary Schools

Beaver Green

I have  previously commented on KCC’s appalling failure with Lydd. The OFSTED Report includes criticism made of the Senior Local Authority Officer (now departed), Consultants provided by the LA, and other LA officers. For Beaver Green, on its third Monitoring Inspection in October, after being placed  in Special Measures in December, OFSTED records:

During Day One of the Inspection, the Headteacher went on sick leave …Having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time: The school is not making enough progress towards the removal of special measures..Documents reveal gaps in the execution of the local authority’s planned monitoring and evaluation programme. It had not made an effective enough contribution to the school’s improvement. However, a new, more effective school improvement adviser began working with the school in September and she has undertaken useful work with senior leaders this term. The school remains a member of the ACE local schools hub. However, there are concerns about the appropriateness of this association.

With the Departure of the previous Senior Primary School Improvement Adviser, support mechanisms may improve, but this Report is again hardly a recommendation for school governors to choose to remain with Kent! But what are the alternatives?

Read 4985 times Last modified on Monday, 24 November 2014 18:15

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 15 December 2014 20:20 posted by Angela Dickinson

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-30422468


    My daughter is at this school.

    I'm horrified by the skewed priorities of the management. A new uniform is being introduced and partly funded by the school next term.

    I'm shocked that the governors can be removed without notice to parents.

    The ofsted interim report was stark;y disappointing and the use of the word 'proprietor' gave me chills.

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