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Thursday, 04 December 2014 00:00

Kings Farm Primary OFSTED Inspection: Special Measures and investigations into 'wrongdoing'

Kings Farm Primary School in Gravesend has been placed into Special Measures by OFSTED in what must be the unique circumstances of: missing performance data, allegations of wrongdoing, multiple investigations by the authorities, suppressed KS2 results, public protest by parents, self-reporting of safeguarding issues by the school, and a staff turnover of around two thirds shortly before the Inspection. OFSTED is required to make its judgments on the school as it is, and yet this Report is massively influenced by the dreadful period from January to July 2014 when the school had a temporary Executive Headteacher who was removed by KCC over the summer.

Kings Farm

 First the good news: 

A new Consultant Headteacher was appointed in September. OFSTED reports: 

 "The consultant headteacher has made an excellent start. She is very clear about what needs to be done. The school is more stable and there is an air of optimism. Senior leadership is being strengthened rapidly. The school provides well for pupils’ personal and social development.   The consultant headteacher has taken decisive steps to improve behaviour in lessons and around the school. As a result, there have been no exclusions this term, and most pupils show enthusiasm for learning. Relationships with parents and carers are improving rapidly. All procedures for the safeguarding of pupils have been reviewed and are now secure.". 

However:  

"It is not possible to report whether the school met government floor standards in 2014, as the 2014 school data for the achievement of Year 6 pupils has been suppressed by the Standards Agency, pending investigation. Most of the school’s data on pupils’ past performance cannot be located. The local authority considers the submitted data for the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2014 to be inaccurate. Consequently, the school has little information on pupils’ achievement in reading, writing and mathematics. No evaluation of the impact of pupil premium expenditure was carried out in the last school year. The inspection team was aware during the inspection of several ongoing investigations by the appropriate authorities into allegations of wrongdoing. A review of safeguarding was carried out by the local authority, at the school’s request, in September 2014. The school community has experienced extensive disruption and instability recently. There has been considerable discontent among the staff, culminating in significant changes in staffing. Parents and carers have publicly demonstrated their lack of confidence in the school leadership. These matters, the rapid deterioration in standards, and the ongoing investigations have adversely affected morale and contributed to wholesale changes in leadership and management".......

I have reported on the background to this appalling and preventable disgrace twice previously. The Executive Head appointed in January remains headteacher of neighbouring Whitehill Primary school, which is in Federation with Gravesend Grammar School to form the Gravesend Grammar School Academy Trust and of which she is a Director. Kings Farm was planned to join the Trust as a Sponsored Academy and the Trust had appointed two governors to the school, other representatives attending Governing Body meetings. It is reported that Whitehill Primary has also had its provisional KS2 results for 2014 suppressed by the Standards Agency which must be a matter of grave concern to the Grammar School Trust.  OFSTED reports that the academy proposal is now on hold, and indeed it is difficult to see how it could be allowed to go ahead given recent events especially as this would presumably return the school to the control of the headteacher of Whitehill. 

The issue has now been picked up by The Guardian newspaper, about half way down the page.  

By one measure, Whitehill is the least popular primary school in Kent, in that in recent years it has regularly seen up to a third of its 90 places allocated by KCC to children of parents who have not even applied to it. 

In spite of an excellent start to the current school year, there is no doubt that serious problems still exist for Kings Farm Primary, and its future needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency for it evidently needs some form of stable management and support for the sake of the children. For this is a school with built in challenges, whose children deserve so much better than they have endured in the past year.  

Around two thirds of the teaching and support staff left the school in July 2014. Of the four members of the senior leadership team who were in post when term started in September 2014 only two, including the consultant headteacher, now remain. 

 The proportion of disabled pupils and those with special educational needs supported through school action in 2013/14 was above the national average. The proportion supported at school action plus or with a statement of special educational needs was well above average.  The proportion of pupils eligible for support through the pupil premium (additional funding for pupils known to be entitled to free school meals and those looked after by the local authority) is well above average.  

Teaching over time has not enabled pupils to make sufficient progress in reading, writing and mathematics.  Achievement in the Early Years Foundation Stage is inadequate. Despite recent improvements, children make insufficient progress because the planning of work is not sufficiently aligned to their needs. Only a few children were said to have left Reception having achieved a good level of development. Standards in all subjects by the end of Year 2 are well below average. Pupils do not make enough progress during Years 1 and 2 to make up for their low starting points and catch up with other pupils of their age. There is no validated data to demonstrate the performance of Year 6 pupils in 2014 in reading, writing and mathematics and no record of their prior progress. In 2013, Year 6 attainment levels were exceptionally low in all subjects The more-able pupils have not been supported well enough to enable them to achieve their potential. 

More positive signs for the future and to build on: 

The school is re-establishing positive links with parents and carers following a significant breakdown in confidence. Inappropriate behaviour is now rare. 

Actions taken following a recent safeguarding review have ensured that current arrangements meet national requirements.  

A strong partnership exists with Ifield Special School. A small number of children in the Kings Farm Nursery are supported directly by the staff of Ifield Special School on an observation and assessment basis, to facilitate decisions as to their future educational needs. Some then transfer to the Reception class at Ifield when they leave the Nursery.Under a recent agreement, the school is supported by a National Leader of Education who is the headteacher of Ifield Special School in Gravesend.  

However, there is no doubt that what was previously an excellent working relationship between Ifield and Kings Farm over the innovative Nursery arrangement on the Kings Farm site set up and funded by KCC sadly became a major source of conflict from January. 

Another crucial area where the school needs to make rapid progress is in the appointment of a full team of permanent staff. The Report leaves us in no doubt that those currently in post, many no doubt on temporary contracts are doing a first class job, but a return to a stable staffing structure will be critical to the long term success of the school.  

The public protest by a small group of parents in July about conditions in the school, which made the national and local media, which was sadly ridiculed by some who could not be bothered to try and understand the issues, has been totally vindicated.  Congratulations to them for making a stand; it cannot have been easy. 

What is not clear in all this is the role of the recent Senior Primary School Improvement Officer for Kent (see previous articles on 'Disappearing Headteachers") although he will have been involved in the sudden disappearance of the previous substantive headteacher last December, which triggered the whole debacle. He had been closely involved with both primary schools before this time and up to his own sudden departure in September. 

Fortunately, this period of serious disruption for children whose needs are the greatest is coming to an end following decisive action from Kent County Council, although there still remain grave issues to resolve. One can only hope that KCC, together with government which still has a role through the current academy order, have the will and the power to come to a long term solution for the benefit of the children of Kings Farm and not for any political dogma. 

NOTES: 

I have quoted extensively from the OFSTED Report and limited my comments partially because of my personal connection with three of the four schools and having been recipient of concerns expressed by Kings Farm parents, staff and governor. 

Although the comments may read as a continuous whole I have merged sentences from different sections to help the flow and for brevity.

Congratulations to three Gravesend non-selective schools  which all have "Good" OFSTEDs published on the same day: Meopham; St John's Catholic Comprehensive; and Thamesview

 

Last modified on Friday, 03 February 2017 22:27

4 comments

  • Comment Link Sunday, 14 December 2014 08:53 posted by Saint- Elme

    You could not make this stuff up now could you?

    How was this ever allowed to happen? Is it because the guy now working one day a week at the remaining suffering school is the same one who appointed her to do untold damage at Kings Farm? This begs a number of questions:
    1) What on earth are the governors doing at Whitehill?
    2) Is there a general cover up within Kent Education? And if so, who is going to clean this mess up?
    3) What of the children at Whitehill? Who will rescue them? PETER: Answers to questions: 1) Indeed, what are they doing, or being told? You will find a list of governors at: http://www.whitehillprimary.kent.sch.uk/default.cfm?pid=6188. 2) Whitehill is an Academy, part of the Gravesend Grammar School Academy Trust. Nothing to do with Kent County Council 3) Therein lies the real tragedy whilst others play politics elsewhere. .

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 10 December 2014 21:56 posted by Wildpoppies

    Sadly she was also appointed as Executive Head at Raynehurst Primary as was, before it was academised. (ALLEGATIONS REMOVED, ALTHOUGH CREDIBLE AND CONSISTENT OTHERS I HAVE SEEN FROM KINGS FARM AND WESTCOURT) Fortunately she was replaced before any lasting damage could be inflicted.
    Many complaints were made but instead of being reprimanded she was made Executive Head at King's Farm. I wonder how she has managed to be a rising star for so long? PETER: Staff at all three schools have commented that complaints have been lodged with KCC.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 09 December 2014 12:20 posted by Anon

    Peter,
    Thank you for not letting this disappear off the radar; it is a disgrace that it is being allowed to continue at Whitehill. Thought you might like to know that Simon Webb is now consulting at......... Whitehill Primary School, every Monday! PETER: Of course this is not verified, but if true it is astonishing. However, the finance for this will have been approved by the Governing Body who no doubt consider it appropriate expenditure

  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 December 2014 18:31 posted by Ewellwood

    The tragic reality is that Kings Farm is just one of the school to be totally torn apart by the same executive head. The only reason Kings Farm has become more newsworthy than the others is because staff and parents spoke out about many of the issues, including maladministration of SATs. Kent ignored all complaints about her from staff in these other schools and justified her appointment by pointing out how standards had risen under her leadership. It is now glaring obvious, even to Kent, how that was achieved.

    My sympathies lie with the children, parents and many of the staff at Whitehill who are still enduring the conditions Kings Farm is finally free of. It may be a long uphill struggle ahead for them but with the right leader and a good strong team, it will improve. Not sure the same can be said for Whitehill.

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