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.
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.