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Sunday, 28 December 2014 00:00

Academy and Free School News; November-December 2014. Also: Twydall; The North; and Kings Farm/Whitehill

Most of the activity of conversion to academies this year has been in the primary sector, as those secondaries looking to convert have already done so. There is one batch of secondary schools that, even if they are willing to convert, are still in difficulty about doing so. These schools were built under Private Finance Initiative and would incur heavy charges for themselves and KCC if they converted, as explained in two previous articles I wrote last year and a follow up to come.  

Once again, the majority of the nine conversions listed below are to join church academy groups either by federation, or under sponsorship for underperforming or failing schools. 

My information pages on academies and Academy Groups provide a comprehensive list of all academies open or in development across Kent and Medway. 

Currently in Kent, 72% of secondary schools and 28% of primary schools have converted to academies, are in progress or are Free Schools. The corresponding figures for Medway are !00% secondary and 42% primary. These figures are based on my own records and are not official. 

I also comment on three schools that have run into difficulties over possible conversions - Twydall Primary in Gillingham; Kings Farm Primary in Gravesend and The North School in Ashford; together with the proposed new Free School in Sittingbourne for children with high functioning autism.......

Current situation

Academies and Free Schools in place and in Progress 
 in Kent and Medway as of December 2014
  Kent Medway
Secondary 73 19
Total Secondary 101 19
% Secondary 72% 100%
Primary 125 28
Total Primary 450 67
% Primary 28% 42%

You will find a full list of academies and academy conversions in progress here, and of Free Schools here

New and Proposed Academies

New Converter Academies in  November and December: Shorne Primary and St Botolph’s CofE Primary, Gravesham;  St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Northfleet, and Our Lady of Hartley Catholic Primary, Hartley, Federated with Kent Catholic Schools Partnership (KCSP); St Albans Road Infants, joining the Leigh Academy Trust.

New applications to be Converter Academies: Culverstone Green Primary; Riverview Infant; St John's Catholic Primary - all Gravesend.

In Medway, Stoke Community Primary is joining the Williamson Trust. 

New Sponsored Academies: Kennington CofE Juniors, sponsored by the Diocese of Canterbury; Lansdowne Primary, Sittingbourne, sponsored by Stour Valley Trust; Rosherville CofE Academy, Northfleet, sponsored by Rochester Diocesan Board of Education.

New proposals for Sponsored Academies include: Charlton CofE Primary, Dover (Diocese of Canterbury); Lydd Primary (The Village Academy Trust); St Edmund’s Catholic Secondary, Dover, St Edward’s Catholic Primary & St Francis Catholic Primary, Maidstone (all Kent Catholic Schools Partnership).

New build sponsored primary academies  to be opened in September will be: at Kings Hill and Holborough Lakes, Snodland, also London Road Primary, Leybourne, all three sponsored by VIAT; Martello Grove Primary, Folkestone & Thistle Hill, Sheppey (Lilac Sky Academy Trust). . Each of these schools is to have an SEN Unit attached. There will also be one in Tunbridge Wells (The Skinners Company). 

Twydall Primary School

Twydall Primary School in Gillingham was placed on an academy conversion route by Medway Council after being placed in Special Measures back in March, having fallen by two levels from Good at its previous Inspection. The Inspection was undertaken following two complaints about the school, which were not upheld, and the initial Report itself was challenged and amended, the final version being marginal on SM, but had to fail because of leadership issues. Two monitoring inspections continued to raise similar issues and the headteacher resigned for Christmas. However, KS2 results last summer were very strong, with Twydall coming second in the Authority on proportion of pupils with Level 5 in all subjects, and 20th with Level 4s, out of 67 schools.

In this context, Medway Council’s proposal for the school to join the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) was challenged by the Governing Body, who wished to look at other options. The matter split the GB, and several members resigned, to be replaced by others nominated by Medway. Two of these were identified as having close links with TSAT and have now resigned reportedly because of a potential conflict of interest. Governors have launched a full consultation on the matter before a decision as to a Resolution about joining TSAT is discussed in January.

The North School, Ashford

The North School conversion has always been problematic, because of the PFI issues described previously. Only Ebbsfleet Academy of the other six PFI schools has managed to resolve the issues and convert, possibly because KCC was happy to pick up a smaller outstanding bill on the first of the PFI schools to be built, although it has had its own problems. In spite of this, I am told that Swale Academies Trust has stated the conversion is to take place, although the financial issues have not been resolved. 

Kings Farm & Whitehill Primaries

Gravesend Grammar School has now withdrawn from the Kings Farm proposal because of the scandal surrounding Whitehill and Kings Farm primaries, with the Executive Headteacher of the latter, provided by Gravesend, being removed from her post as described elsewhere.

Whitehill

I have had concerns expressed by both staff and parents at Whitehill, about the suppression of last summer's Key Stage 2 results, for what appears to be fraud. Questions are being asked about what governors are doing about this very serious  matter, why have the parents concerned not been told their children's SAT results are no longer valid, and have the receiving secondary schools been told, KS2 results being important in some schools for allocating children to sets by ability? I am told that allegations were also made about the surprisingly high KS2 results in 2012 and 2013, although these were not investigated. 

Free Schools: Proposed Aspire Free School

Little to update the Free School page on this website, except that I have had a message from the proposers of the Aspire Free School for children with high functioning autism in Swale. This would complement KCC’s proposal to change the role of the Furness Special School in Hextable to cater for such children living in West & North West Kent, and the current provision at Laleham Gap in Margate.

The Department for Education has invited the proposers to an interview in January to further discuss the bid. They are also keen to hear from parents in support of their plans, to assist in providing enough proof of demand for the school is fundamental to the bid.   

Last modified on Monday, 09 February 2015 14:36

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