The reputation of the school is sullied in the town because the notorious Whitehill Primary School is the second half of the Gravesend Grammar School Academy Trust. I have written previous articles about this school that appears to be able to carry on its dubious practices unchallenged. I have talked with past members of staff who are damaged by their experiences at the school. I have seen and reported on the grievance submitted by nine members of staff at Kings Farm Primary about their horrifying experiences when the school was placed under the management of Whitehill in preparation for it to become an academy sponsored by the Gravesend Grammar Trust. This scheme was aborted when KCC removed the Executive Head of Whitehill from her additional post as Executive Head of Kings Farm. The grievance was fully upheld by a Kent County Council Investigation team led by KCC’s Principal Safeguarding Officer who, amongst many other issues, found serious concerns relating to safeguarding and health and safety. This grievance is now circulating in the public domain and all I know who have read it are shocked by the findings about the way the school was run whilst under the ‘care’ of Whitehill, including the deplorable attitude and language of senior staff to parents, pupils, staff and even a visiting headteacher. The refusal of Whitehill staff to co-operate with the investigation means that no defence has been put forward and, as KCC removed the Executive Headteacher from Kings Farm who then returned to Whitehill along with another senior member of staff, no disciplinary action can been taken, although KCC regards some of the actions as “a serious breach of professional conduct”.
The school enjoys the doubtful soubriquet of being the most disliked school in Kent, with 30 children allocated to it who didn’t want to go there, the highest figure in the county. However, with every other school in urban Gravesham now filled, they have no way out except to keep their children at home, which several are now planning to do. I have more enquiries about how to avoid Whitehill than for any other school in the county, but very sadly have no solutions. What a start to a child’s education at the age of five, going to a school whose reputation the parents rightly fear.
Oddly, the Chairman of Governors of Whitehill Primary is a freelance education correspondent writing mainly for the Guardian, which two weeks ago published an expose of some of the issues at Whitehill, but who seems happy to allow this state of affairs to continue, as does the Gravesend Grammar school Academy Trust of which she and the Executive Headteacher of Whitehill are Directors. The Chair of the Gravesend Trust used to be Chairman of Governors of Whitehill.
The ex-chairman of governors of Whitehill proudly states on his Linkedin profile: “Responsible for assisting the Headteacher and Governing Body in achieving the top place in added value in Kent “. Perhaps he is unaware that when Whitehill was in charge at Kings Farm, it is now confirmed that staff were instructed to deliberately lower KS1 results and destroy other records to improve added value from KS1 to KS2. One can only wonder how many similar records have been removed from Whitehill. The Key Stage Two results at both schools were annulled by the Government Standards and Teaching Agency last year, following the establishment of maladministration and “concerns over how all of the tests were administered”.
The burning question is: “How on earth can the Board of Directors of the Gravesend Grammar School Academies Trust and the Governing Body of Whitehill Primary School allow this scandal to continue?” Gravesend Grammar School should stand in the town’s highest esteem as a result of this brilliant OFSTED, and its leaders and governors are rightly highly praised by OFSTED for their high standards and for nurturing a caring school, where “Governors are dedicated to the well-being of every student and have worked hard to ensure that the arrangements for safeguarding and child protection are as tight as possible”.
Footnote about Kings Farm Primary School.
Ifield Special School (outstanding OFSTED) and Kings Farm Primary School have agreed to form a Federation with effect from September. As a prospective governor of the new Federation, I have visited Kings Farm twice this week. What I found was a very different situation from last year when over half of the staff had resigned, and parents were in revolt over the events described in the grievance and elsewhere. Today was sports day and traditionally parents hold a picnic on the school site with their children at lunch time between the KS1 and KS2 events, a tradition that was scrapped last year, as the school leadership did not consider good relations with parents were a constructive use of time. In the same way, the parents room was closed down as it was redundant with few if any formal meetings arranged with parents (it has now been re-opened). To quote from the grievance: “Newsletters sent home to parents are aggressive in tone and lecture parents how to behave”. This from a school in a community where good relationships with many parents are invaluable and had been painstakingly built up over the years.
All is different now. I saw and talked with families who clearly felt part of the school community. Children and parents who had faith in their teachers, and a lovely supportive caring ethos, in which children wanted to learn. I visited the Nursery twice which is shared between Ifield and Kings Farm. Last year, although the nursery had been funded to the tune of £200,000 as a joint provision, Whitehill staff set out to drive Ifield staff and children out. Now I saw children heading for both schools learning happily together and sharing staff from both schools. I could go on. There is much to do, but it was also a delight to see staff shared between the two schools improving their own understanding of education, and to meet a highly experienced and talented Ifield teacher working with Kings Farm children on a 1:1 basis raising their reading standards. Kings Farm could usefully adopt as its motto: “Happy, Helpful and Hardworking” as it reflects everything I saw this week. Unfortunately and ironically, this aspiration has already been used by Whitehill Primary.