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Tuesday, 21 July 2015 07:43

Skinner Street and Chantry Primary Academies: Closure warnings if standards do not improve

Oasis Academy Skinner Street in Gillingham continues and extends the tale of woe for Medway Primary Schools by receiving a Pre Termination Warning Notice Letter from the Department for Education.

oasis academy skinner street

This follows the receipt of a similar letter by Chantry Primary Academy in Gravesend last November.

The Pre-Termination Warning to Academies states that if standards do not improve, the schools could be closed, following the termination of funding. To put it into context, exactly 100 letters warning of the consequences of continued failure have been issued to academies nationally in the past three years, but just four of these are Pre-Termination Warnings, the second most serious category. One school was terminated, the Durham Free School, after failure to improve following a damning OFSTED.  Eleven of the of the other schools receiving Pre-Warning Notice Letters are also Kent and Medway academies, details below, a far higher proportion than the national average.......

Oasis Academy Skinner Street

Skinner Street Primary School as was, was graded “Requires Improvement”, in its two previous OFSTED, most recently being in February 2013. This is a level where government encourages Local Authorities to convert schools to become academies thereby raising standards. However, at this stage  the school was demonstrating improvements in a part of Gillingham where there are socio-economic issues, to quote OFSTED: “Leaders and managers including governors are taking action that is improving the quality of teaching and the progress and attainment that pupils make.”

No matter. Along with a number of other ‘requiring improvement’ schools, Medway railroaded Skinner Street into academisation six months later. In one sense this does make sense as Medway’s incapacity for improving its schools over many years is a matter of record, most recently following a swingeing criticism by OFSTED of the Local Authority’s  School Improvement Strategy. Several of the other new academies have improved showing Medway’s strategy may be the best one for the children, except in Skinner Street.

Will termination happen? I would be very surprised. Oasis is a large organisation with 44 academies but only a limited presence in Kent, the controversial closure of Oasis Hextable Academy being recently in the news. However, this is especially embarrassing, the third Oasis Academy to receive a letter, but the only one with pre-termination. Surely, with all the resources available to the Trust, they will pour these in to turn the school around. 

Chantry Community Academy
The school, housed in the large premises of a previously closed secondary school has had a roller coaster ride for many years, some headteachers taking the school to a high standard, others bring it crashing down. KCC was no doubt happy to see it pass into the hands of Meopham Community Academies Trust (MCAT), led by Meopham Community Primary School. However, this was a disastrous move, the Trust proving incapable of improving either of the two schools in its care the other, Istead Rise Primary, was placed in Special Measures and passed to Meopham to look after, but has since seen five OFSTED Monitoring Reports fail to show improvement. The Executive Headteacher of the Meopham Trust has now left due to ‘ill-health’, having been paid an annual salary of between £155,000 and £165,000, the school also experiencing financial difficulties.

The pre-termination notice preceded June’s OFSTED Inspection that unsurprisingly failed the school finding it has Serious Weaknesses, pointing up the failures of MCAT. It is now to come under the control of the Greenacre Academy Trust, based at Greenacre School in Rochester. The Trust has also taken on responsibility for Warren Wood Primary School in Rochester, the most challenging of all Medway primary schools.

Warning Letters

The Pre-Warning Notice Letter (PWN)is normally the first Department for Education Notice issued “regarding the unacceptably low standards of performance of pupils”. It refers either to a sudden fall in performance or else continued low standards with no sign of improvement. Failure to see results improve will result eventually in a Warning Notice (WN) as issued to Bishop of Rochester Academy last year and probably forced the Diocese of Rochester  to see it could not turn the academy round, hence the transfer to Thinking Schools Academy Trust.

It can be quite brief as issued to Astor College in Dec 2014, or go into much more detail as at Drapers Mills last August.

A Pre-Termination Warning Notice Letter (PTWN) can be a much fiercer document, in the case of Oasis Academy Skinner Street quoting extensively from the recent OFSTED Reports, although without a recent OFSTED, the one for Chantry again focuses on performance. 

Kent and Medway Schools Receiving Letters

Kent & Medway Academies issued with DFE Notices about Performance
Academy Type of Notice Date Relevant OFSTED
 Oasis AcademySkinner Street  PTWN Jun 15  SM - May 15 (down one)
Astor College PWN Dec 14 Good  - Aug 12 
Bishop of Rochester Academy WN Nov 14 RI Jun 15 (no change)
Chantry Community Academy PTWN Nov 14 SM - May 15 (down one)
Strood Academy PWN Oct 14 Good - Jul 13
Horizon Primary PWN Sep 14 Good - Sep 13
Temple Grove Academy PWN Sep 14 RI -Feb 15 (up one)
Drapers Mills Primary Academy  PWN Aug 14  SM - Jun 14
Marlowe Academy PWN Nov 13  RI - Jul 13 (up one)
Bishop of Rochester Academy   PWN Nov 13  RI - Jun 13
 Molehill Copse Primary  PWN Nov 13  SW- Dec13
 Tree Tops Academy  PWN Nov 13  RI - Mar 15 (up from SM)

Looking at the Kent and Medway schools involved most are unsurprising, but a few appear to have come out of the blue following a single sharp fall in performance.

The Notices for Strood Academy and Horizon Primary Academy appear harsh, solely listing single sharp falls in GCSE and KS2 results respectively, and progress, last summer. Shouldn’t have happened and in the case of Horizon could simply be down to an academically weak cohort going through, but these appear to be Good schools, with  recent “Good” OFSTEDs.

Marlowe Academy is of course closing this summer.

The Astor letter follows a fall in performance over the three years since its 2012 “Good” OFSTED and precedes the slightly bizarre events of last May, when an abortive OFSTED took place. The OFSTED Inspection was reported  at a KCC Meeting to have come up with Special Measures reflecting this decline in performance, as widely reported in Kent Messenger Group publications. A few days later these reports were all erased from the internet, and replaced by headlines that the school “is  NOT in Special Measures”. A fresh OFSTED team is to visit the school “in a few months time” which will of course provide opportunity to put right any identified deficiencies. Certainly this action is very rare and I am aware of only one other parallel case, that also took place in a Dover school.

I have also written about Drapers Mills Primary Academy in previous articles. This is part of the The Kemnal Academies Trust, whose Kent schools have generally had a dire performance.

Tree Tops Academy and Mole Hill Copse Primary School, both appallingly run by Associated Academies Trust, have since been removed from AET and handed over to the Leigh Academies Trust.

 

 

Last modified on Saturday, 08 July 2017 17:43

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