Today’s worrying news that there will be pressure on all schools underachieving in the government’s eyes, including those “Requiring Improvement” to be taken over by academy chains, places closer scrutiny on those chains. The Anti Academy Alliance has produced plentiful evidence that overall academy chains do not improve standards, and one only has to look at some of those operating in Kent to see this. I have written previous articles about the poor performance of some such as AET and TKAT, to see that this is a political and not an educational argument.
I take nothing away from the excellent performance of Kent primary schools overall, but there are some individual outcomes worthy of further note. Amongst the best results is Tree Tops Academy in Maidstone, a statement I never thought to write following its previous torrid experience at the disastrous hands of AET. The Trust has now had its three worst Kent performers taken away and placed under the management of the much better Leigh Academy Trust, which has already seen Tree Tops improve from Special Measures to “Requires Improvement” in a few months. St Francis Catholic School in Maidstone, whose headteacher was removed in a highly controversial way by KCC two years ago with the case still being considered in an Employment Tribunal, has improved by two grades to “Good”. Along with St Edward’s (below) it is being taken over as an Academy by the Kent Catholic schools Partnership). Temple Grove Academy, Tunbridge Wells is still suffering from its reputation in terms of numbers, but at least under its new sponsors it has lifted itself out of Special Measures to ’Requires Improvement’. The other schools showing improvement to “Good” are: Bromstone, Broadstairs (controversial headteacher departed); Coxheath, Maidstone (another school with a difficult past history); Horton Kirby CofE, Dartford: Shipbourne, Tonbridge; and Whitstable Junior.
Kent has had just one of its 49 primary schools placed in Special Measures since September. This is Kings Farm in Gravesend, and OFSTED makes it absolutely clear that responsibility for this is down to the performance of the temporary Executive Headteacher who ran the school from Christmas 2014 until she was removed by KCC in September 2015, shortly before the OFSTED Inspection. Coincidentally, she was placed in this post by the then head of School Improvement for KCC who, after his own enforced retirement now works as a Consultant one day a week in her own school, Whitehill Primary. The follow up Monitoring Inspection of January 2015 was full of praised for the repair work carried out by the Interim headteacher and other leaders: "The section 5 inspection judgements did not come as a surprise to you or your governors, as you had already accurately evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the school. Following the inspection, you acted decisively and rapidly to tackle the key problem of poor quality teaching in the school. Your strong leadership, passion and high expectations act as an inspiration to others. You bring a relentless approach to monitoring and evaluating the work of the school and show flexibility when responding to problems which arise......The local authority has rightly increased its level of support for the school. You are being assisted well by a National Leader of Education and her school which is a National Support School. Together you are taking the necessary steps to tackle weaknesses, train staff and challenge underperformance. This well-directed support is building the confidence and skills of staff in the school".
One of the Kent TKAT schools, Drapers Mills Primary Academy, had the following comment in its Monitoring Inspection in December: “Since the inspection the previous headteacher has left. A new executive headteacher was put in place from 1 September 2014 who is a TKAT regional director of education. Two heads of school were also appointed and began work on 1 September 2014. The governing body was replaced with an interim executive board on 17 July 2014. There have been a large number of changes to the staff since the inspection. Fifteen members of staff have left the academy, including four out of the six newly qualified teachers who started at the beginning of the academic year. Fifteen new members of staff have joined”. What an indictment of poor management, and OFSTED reasonably concluded that “proprietor’s statement of action is not fit for purpose. The academy’s action plan is not fit for purpose”. The follow up Monitoring Inspection in March recorded “Since the last monitoring visit, 23 members of staff have left the academy. Five new teachers have joined the academy, three of them in February 2015”. Unbelievable. Hardly surprising that it is just one of two primary schools in the Ramsgate/Broadstairs area with vacancies, with 19 unfortunate families having had their children allocated to the school without applying for it.
St Edward’s Catholic Primary, Isle of Sheppey, has also had two failed Monitoring Inspections this year, following three previous ones after it was placed in Special Measures. The first stated: “Since the last monitoring inspection there have been significant changes to the school’s teaching staff, leadership and governance. Six of the seven teachers are new. Currently one teacher is on sick leave and the class is being taught by a supply teacher. Further changes will take place at the end of term. The previous executive headteacher, head of school and pastoral support worker left at the end of the academic year. In September a new executive headteacher was appointed to lead the school for three days a week for one year. At the same time, a local assistant headteacher was appointed to be the full-time head of school for one year”, the second: “Since the last monitoring inspection, there have been a number of staff changes. One teacher left at Christmas and another in February. Teaching in the Reception class has been shared by two temporary teachers since January…. Weaknesses in teaching remain a barrier to the school’s improvement”. It adds: “Uncertainty remains about the school’s conversion to an academy” without explaining why - or is it simply too much of a challenge for the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership!
Stansted Primary in Sevenoaks District, following two failed Monitoring Inspections, is now to close its doors at the end of July, most parents having long ago fled the school for other better options, there being just 2 pupils at the school at the beginning of this month. Riverview Junior “Requires Improvement”, in Gravesend, has no business being in this group but in this new ruthless climate where pressure to become an academy can be irresistible, should be fearful after it has had two monitoring inspections both highly critical of the headteacher’s failure to take action. This in spite of KCC pressure and strong OFSTED pressure to do otherwise. In spite of this, the school has maintained sound KS2 results throughout, but could be regarded as academically “coasting”. The head has now been removed by KCC and the latest OFSTED Report indicates appropriate action being taken by an Interim Headteacher to restore the school to the standards it should be able to deliver.
One wonders what change the departure of Kelly Tolhurst, Medway Council’s Cabinet Member for School Improvement to become MP for Rochester will bring. Given the low performance of so many Medway schools in the past, those recently inspected recently clearly do not form a typical cross-section, and overall there is still limited improvement in rating with 4 up and 3 down over the year so far, but it still good to see some better performances than normal and no further decline.
Oddly, in spite of Cliffe Wood’s excellent 'Outstanding' performance, the headteacher appears to have gone ‘missing’. Pilgrim Primary in Borstal is also to be congratulated in being judged 'Outstanding', up from 'Good'. The schools to have improved to 'Good' are: St John’s CofE Infants, Chatham, and Burnt Oak in Gillingham. Wainscott has slipped from 'Outstanding', those unchanged being: Brompton-Westbrook (having recently navigated its child-safety controversy), Miers Court and Park Wood Infants, all in Gillingham.
Update: Temple Mill, Strood, placed in Special Measures by OFSTED in October 2014, continues to be a disaster since the removal of its headteacher after a Monitoring Inspection at the end of 2014, where the school was criticised for not taking appropriate action following a 'Requiring Improvement' Inspection the previous year. At the time I wrote an article highly critical of the failure of Medway Council's 'School Improvement' Service to tackle the issues at Temple Mill and four other Medway Primary Schools, which preceded the OFSTED failure. Since then and two Acting Headteachers later, the school now has a permanent head. As the most recent Monitoring OFSTED Report states: "During the period of interim leadership, progress was too slow. Staff absence and the changes in leadership slowed the rate of improvement. There was no cohesive action plan and, as a result, there was no strategic approach to drive school improvement." This in spite of an Interim Executive Board brought in to replace governors with a responsibility to fast track improvements, and presumably Medway's 'School Improvement' Department which once again failed the children of what should surely have been their highest priority failing school, amongst too many candidates. The Monitoring Inspection, after confirming the school is failing to make sufficient progress to remove Special Measures puts this failure to provide a proper education for the children into context: "A new substantive headteacher took up post in April 2015, following a period of interim leadership since November 2014. The deputy headteacher and assistant headteacher left the school at the end of March 2015. Temporary teachers are covering their Year 1 and Year 2 classes until the end of the summer term 2015. The Year 4 class teacher, who is also subject leader for English, has been on sick leave since January 2015 and is currently making a phased return to work. The Year 4 class has been taught by temporary staff during this teacher’s absence. Governors continue to explore academy status". As too often in the failing school outlined above, the removal of the headteacher has also lead to a considerable period of instability which should surely be anticipated by the Local Authority as a potential risk to the pupils' education. Never mind, as with the other schools it has failed, Medway Council can pass Temple Mill over to the vagaries of an academy chain and then can ignore its problems.
|Kent & Medway Primary OFSTED Outcomes: September 14- April 15|