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Monday, 06 April 2015 22:31

Thinking Schools Academy Trust: Bishop of Rochester Academy and Twydall Primary School

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Parents of children at Bishop of Rochester Academy in Chatham learned on 10th March that the school was to pass from lead sponsorship by the Anglican Rochester Diocesan Board of Education to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), headed up by The Rochester Grammar School and All Faiths Community Primary School and that the Principal had already left the school. The other two sponsors, Canterbury Christ Church University and Medway Council, will also have withdrawn from Bishop of Rochester as it becomes a TSAT Academy this month.

Meanwhile, TSAT has withdrawn from its intense campaign to secure Twydall Primary School as a Sponsored Academy.....

Bishop of Rochester Academy (‘A Passion for Excellence’)

As is usual in such cases, parents just get told about a takeover, not consulted, and those that sent children to the school for its very strong Christian ethos, as highlighted on the school website and in its prospectus, will be dismayed to see no mention of this continuing in the most recent statements by the school.

The school has had a troubled history since its opening in September 2010, with the first two heads both being removed. It has never been popular with parents, the most recent allocation figures showing just 111 of its 240 places being offered to children who applied for it, in spite of its new purpose built premises, although another 58 children were allocated by Medway Council who have not applied to the school. The latest Principal, Ms Kuljit Rahelu, has avoided the fate of her predecessors and moved on mid-term to prepare for her new role as head of Hornsey School for Girls after spending just 14 months in post, although she had been Acting Principal for six months previously.

A new Executive Principal, Stuart Gardner took over the school mid-March, also seeing his post of Principal at Chatham Grammar upgraded to Executive Principal, although this is not yet recorded on the Chatham Grammar website. Whilst parents at Bishop of Rochester may be delighted by his track record, I am not sure that parents at Chatham Grammar will be thrilled by this news. For Chatham itself has had a troubled past being placed into Special Measures in June 2013, but after a year in TSAT under the leadership of Mr Gardner, the school was reclassified as ‘Good’ and parents will be concerned if he is seen to be taking his eye off the ball.

Twydall Primary school

Twydall Primary school, having failed its most recent OFSTED, has been placed under intense pressure by Government and TSAT to become an academy sponsored by TSAT. I have previously described much of what became a very unpleasant battle as Governors and parents at Twydall, whilst accepting the principle of academisation considered that TSAT was the wrong sponsor, as described in previous articles. The school has one of the most informative school websites I have visited, and the battle can be followed in detail through correspondence published there.

Eventually, TSAT backed down and withdrew from its robust attempts to take the school over. This has been followed up by letter from Lord Nash on March 24th, on behalf of the government acknowledging the withdrawal but still seeking to pressurise the school to find an alternative sponsor. All has gone quiet since then, and we await further developments. One of the most bizarre events in what became a complex situation occurred when the Executive Head of the Federation of Gordon Infant and Junior Schools in Chatham, a TSAT school, was removed from his post after less than a year in post. He then reappeared at Twydall after Christmas as a class teacher, although he then vanished from the school part-way through last term. Twydall has had an excellent interim headteacher since Christmas, Mrs Ann Pratt, and the post of permanent had has been advertised.

Read 5032 times Last modified on Friday, 05 June 2015 18:47

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