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Saturday, 13 January 2018 16:48

Elaine Primary Academy, Hundred of Hoo Academy and the Williamson Trust

Update: See my new article here.
 
The Williamson Trust of six academies currently comprises: one grammar school, Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical school (SJWMS) in Rochester; one All Through School - the Hundred of Hoo Academy (HofH); and four Medway primary schools, All Hallows Primary Academy; Elaine Primary Academy, High Halstow Primary School, and Stoke Community School, three of whom are on the Hoo Peninsula.
                         ElainePA             HundredofHoo               
The Trust is a classic and certainly not unique example of the fallacy that a successful grammar school has the expertise to run other types of school with equal success. The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) for the South East formally raised concerns about Elaine Primary in December 2015, following up with a wider Letter of Concern about poor standards at Elaine, All Hallows and Stoke in January 2016. Then in April 2017, the Trust was issued with a Pre-Termination Warning Notice for Elaine Primary threatening to close the school by cutting off its funding.
 
Earlier this week, a Public Relations Company employed by the Trust sent out a Press Release, not mentioning any of this, but explaining in glowing terms how wonderful it is for Elaine Primary to have the opportunity to transfer to a small London Primary Academy Trust. No mention of the appalling education provided for its pupils for the last five years, and indeed further back under Medway Council.
 
This article looks at the issues around this decision in more detail along with a closer look at the Hundred of Hoo Academy and the Williamson Trust.
Elaine Primary Academy
Elaine Primary School became an academy sponsored by the Williamson Trust in September 2012, a year after an Ofsted Report found it Satisfactory (the now Requires Improvement category), one of a number of schools taken out of Medway Council control because of the Council’s poor performance; so a difficult beginning in an area with high social deprivation.
The Pre-Termination Warning Notice sets out the subsequent history of the RSC’s concerns, reporting consistently poor performance over a number of years. Ofsted Reports in 2014 and 2016, whilst identifying the school as Requires Improvement, both talk of the potential for better things, which sadly has not materialised. The school identifies the highlight of the most recent report on its website as: “Early years teaching is well led and provides children with a safe, nurturing and stimulating environment”.
Whilst under the threat of having its contract with the RSC terminated, the school produced the worst SAT results in Medway. Just 20% of pupils reached the Expected Standard of Achievement, the lowest figure in Medway and well below the low Medway average of 58%. But even worse, Progress in Reading, Writing and Mathematics were all Well Below Average, although it just scraped the government floor level, which it failed in 2015.
 
In addition, Medway Council had expressed concerns about Elaine to the RSC early in 2017, even before this dire performance, an action one hears about rarely.
 
It is crystal clear that either the RSC has acted to remove Elaine Primary Academy from its disastrous sponsorship by the Williamson Trust, or the Trust has abandoned the school, or both. However, one would never guess this from the enthusiastic press release by the PR company employed by the Trust to explain the failure away: ‘The transfer of the academy from The Williamson Trust comes after talks with The Inspire Partnership about how the academy can continue to develop and deliver the best education for its pupils’.
The reason for these amicable discussions is apparently that: ‘Elaine Primary Academy is not geographically a direct feeder school to either The Hundred of Hoo Academy or Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School – the Trust’s secondary schools’. Unfortunately, this fails to mention that SJWMS is consulting on new admission criteria for 2019 entry which, if approved, would give priority to pupils of Elaine Primary whilst it remained a Trust school, thus making it a direct feeder school, so the main claimed reason is false!
The Inspire Partnership currently comprises three averagely performing Greenwich primary schools who came together less than two years ago, none of which has a level of deprivation approaching Elaine’s. They are also Sponsoring Maundene School, the second lowest performing school in Medway, taking Progress Grades into account. It is difficult to see what expertise is on offer to provide the necessary support the Williamson Trust has so patently failed to provide for Elaine Primary.
 
The word ‘Inspire’ is itself an embarrassment for the Trust, as the previous CEO was one of those who ran the calamitous Inspire Special Free School, which crashed into Special Measures less than two years after they had opened it.
  
Hundred of Hoo Academy
Data updated: The popularity of HofH Academy, secondary section, has been falling from 2014, a year, when the school was oversubscribed with first choices on allocation, to 2017, when it had 44 vacancies (although having bizarrely increased its Planned Admission Number to 300). This was before 10 children who did not apply were allocated places to the school by Medway Council, most of whom will have lived on the Hoo Peninsula.  Since allocation, the number  has risen from 254 on allocation to 271 according to the October 2017 census, against the trend for non-selective schools which lose children to grammar schools after appeals. One can only speculate where these children, who did not apply for the school, have come from, but see next paragraph for what many subsequently decide. 
 
To compound the losses, last summer’s GCSE group lost 36 children between Years 9 and 11. Such a loss is consistent with the pattern of off rolling to improve GCSE results described in a previous article, with the HofH percentage drop higher than all but one of the 120 Kent and Medway schools. Update: I now have the October 2017 census figures, which are even more alarming. These show a fall of 52 pupils from the current Year 11 cohort, since it was in Year 9, nearly a quarter of the original cohort, and another fall in the Year 10 cohort over the past twelve months of 38 pupils. These are consistent with the original figures for the number of children opting for Home Education from Hundred of Hoo, reported to me by Medway Council that there were 54 taken out of the school in 2015-16, and 23 by Easter in 2016-17, seriously worrying numbers. Then without explanation, the Council reduced these figures to 18 and 7 respectively. The matter is now in the hands of the Information Commissioner as the scale of the discrepancy is not a simple mistake, and census data points to the former and much higher figures as being correct!
 
One explanation for the sharp fall off is likely to be the reputation of the school as possessing a bullying culture, with little evidence it is trying to address the problem. I am aware of this both through direct parental enquiries about how to avoid the school, and from reliable second hand reports.  
On the departure of the previous CEO of the Williamson Trust in the summer of 2016, the Principal of HofH became Trust CEO, and the academy still has an acting Head of School, suggesting there needs to be a much greater investment in quality leadership to sort out the issues at the school. Surprisingly, there has not been an Ofsted Inspection since 2012.
Text Greenacre
 
The proposal for HofH to offer priority in its secondary intake to children attending four of the Peninsula’s eight primary schools for admission in 2019 may seem an irrelevance at present given its unpopularity in the district and the high number of vacancies. Indeed, the precedent of the Schools Adjudicator suggests the proposal is unlikely to be successfully challenged at this stage, as there is no unfairness to children seeking places from non-Trust primary schools.
 
All Hallows Primary Academy, High Halstow Primary School, Stoke Community School, Hundred of Hoo Academy Primary section.
St James CofE Primary Academy in Grain is also identified on its own website and in Trust documentation (where Elaine has been prematurely deleted) as co-sponsored by the Williamson Trust school, but not on the Trust Website.
 
Hundred of Hoo changed to become an all through academy three years ago, and is proving a popular option in the primary sector, with 14 first choices turned away last year for Reception places, although we have no measure of performance yet.
 
The four primary schools all suffered under Medway Council leadership, but only All Hallows became a Sponsored Academy, the other two joining The Williamson Trust as converter schools. Because of its geographical isolation, All Hallows suffers problems with attracting pupils, just 9 for 30 places on allocation in 2017.
 
Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School
The flagship school of the Trust is a highly successful grammar school in academic terms, through offering a broad education and a wide range of opportunities, and through attracting funding for excellent facilities. It is also very popular, turning away 42 grammar qualified first choices in 2017. Currently the vast majority of its intake is drawn from the urban area around the school, with very few boys succeeding in winning a place from the Hoo Peninsula, because of distance grounds.
 In 2016 the school attempted to introduce new admission criteria, with priority given to children who were at a Trust School, but these were rejected by the Schools Adjudicator on grounds of unfairness, give that the school is oversubscribed. Part of the Trust’s defence was that as so few boys passed the Medway Test from these four schools, just six for 2016 admission, not all of whom would choose the Math, the change was not significant, not exactly a powerful point. 
 
It is therefore somewhat of a puzzle as to why the school is now attempting an almost identical set of admission criteria for 2019 entry, perhaps in the hope that no one will object to criteria that have previously been rejected where there is unfairness caused by oversubscription. 
 
One further point about the school. It is very rare for grammar school pupils to drop out to undertake Home Education, and the Math is the only one across Kent and Medway to see as many as 4 boys leave under these circumstances for 2015-16 in Years 10-11. It also saw boys choosing to Home Educate, fewer than four, for 2017. There may of course be rational reasons to explain this unusual fall out. 
Last modified on Friday, 06 April 2018 07:02

6 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 February 2018 23:27 posted by Escaper

    My daughter is now happy at Strood Academy after we won an appeal from Hundred of Hoo. The Appeal Panel did not seem surprised when we explained the main reason for appealing was to get away form the bullying. They admitted they had heard this several times before.

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 February 2018 17:30 posted by Jonathan M

    Too right Peter. Have read your Tough Love Academies article which appears to have served as a model for Hundred of Hoo. I note that the new head of Hartsdown earned his stripes at HoH. PETER: The Head of Hartsdown was DH of HoH before the change of culture, when the school was popular.

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 February 2018 16:27 posted by One voice

    It's staff bullying too. Screeching in kids faces, jabbing pencils towards them, isolation for going to the toilet, ridiculous "sweety" detentions. This school needs pulling apart and rebuilding the RIGHT way. I have proof of all I claim. PETER: Sounds as if Hundred of Hoo could be veering towards the Tough Love model I have written about before.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 27 January 2018 23:56 posted by Phil Maly

    It might be out of the frying pan and into the fire for Elaine. They are being taken over by a trust whose other Medway school is seriously failing. It's combined sats scores were 30% - making it one of the worst performing schools in the country let alone Medway. They are going to take over Elaine - I pity the staff and pupils. PETER: IF you mean Maundene Primary, they were only taken over on the 1st January 2018, so the failure was hardly the responsibility of Inspire Partnership. Previously run by possibly the worst management in the business - Medway Council! My concern is that like so many other Trusts taking over failing schools now, as good ones avoid problem schools, Inspire has no track record as yet. Too many Trusts have failed to turn round Medway schools after the Authority has failed them

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 23 January 2018 16:52 posted by Concerned parent

    Have you seen that according to the Annual Report of the Directors of the Williamson Trust to Companies House to August 2016, the Trust is running a Pensions deficit of £9.3 million. Apparently this will not have an immediate effect, but this could lead to increased contributions from each academy budget to reduce the deficit. PETER: That sounds an awfully large deficit to claw back from school budgets, but they are not alone.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 14 January 2018 16:42 posted by Michael R

    Good article, but I wish you had never needed to write it. The system we work in has been poisoned and our children are being forced to take the bet. It's crap

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