I have recently published a separate article on the eleven Kent and Medway academies that have received warning letters from the Department for Education relating to poor standards.
The Victory Academy: The Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) has announced the new name of Bishop of Rochester Academy, which it took over at Easter following the failure of the previous sponsors: Rochester Diocesan Board of Education and Medway Council to turn it round or live up to its motto “A Passion for Excellence”. This failure was underlined by a Warning Notice about standards issued by the Department for Education in November. It is to be called The Victory Academy (TVA) celebrating the 250th anniversary of the launching of Nelson’s flagship “The Victory” from Chatham Dockyard. We hope that the re-launch sees an improvement in the fortunes of this purpose built academy with its fine new buildings. One group of parents who may be disappointed are those who sent their children to BORA on the grounds that it was a church school, as it no longer has a religious affiliation.
Pent Valley Technology College in Folkestone has been taken over by The Swale Academies Trust after the previous Principal and his two Deputy Head Teachers all left with immediate effect at Easter. Although the school’s most recent OFSTED was ‘Good’ it has had great difficulties attracting students, partly because of the high rate of selection by the grammar schools in the district, running at some 33.5% last year, the school having a projected intake of 45 before grammar school appeals for September 2015. In spite of this very doubtful future, I understand that the Swale Trust has attracted funding for improving the premises. Swale also took over the North School in Ashford in similar circumstances last year and is already running Meopham School, a converter academy.
Meopham Community Trust, run by Meopham Community Primary School has seen its headteacher removed following the failure of the Trust to manage the two schools under its control, Istead Rise Primary School and Chantry Primary (already an academy) both in Gravesham, along with other issues. Instead Rise has now passed into the control of Swale Academies Trust, and Chantry has gone to Greenacres School in Chatham.
The benighted Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate shut its doors for the last time on Friday after opening ten years ago as Kent’s first purpose built academy, condemned by a decade of poor governance. The premises are being taken over by The Ellington and Hereson School also in Ramsgate. The long term plan is for Ellington and Hereson to become a converter academy as part of the Coastal Academies Trust headed up by Dane Court Grammar School but, like the North School (above) the financial difficulties of the PFI scheme under which both were rebuilt have proved intractable to date, as KCC rightly continues to resist picking up the consequent financial penalty.
Twydall Primary School, whose successful battle to avoid forced academisation I have chronicled elsewhere, is now planning what appears a mutually acceptable sponsorship by Rainham Mark Grammar School.
Oasis Academy Hextable continues to wind down to closure at a time when KCC is looking to see 10 new secondary schools opened in the next four years to cope with rising roles with around 100 Dartford district children being allocated schools in Bexley for September because of the closure. OFSTED, however, does not falter and has carried out an Inspection that focuses on the arrangements for closure. The school currently contains a small rump of Year Nine students and those who will go into Years 11 and 13 in September. Apparently the school is taking effective action to deal with the issues raised in the previous Inspection and the students are learning to become more resilient in their studies. However, there is a significant problem with poor attendance and “Further work needs to be done to ensure that the penalties of not attending the academy more regularly are understood by the students and their parents or carers”. A great pity the academy has let the students down so badly by closing their school around them, which may of course be a contributory factor to the poor attendance. The academy has managed to “retain a small group of staff who are able to teach effectively the remaining parts of the courses followed by these students”, but “You are aware that not all teachers will be teaching their specialist subject in September“. 30 staff are leaving at the end of term but as we have seen with other closing schools, more will go as soon as they can make alternative arrangements.
Aspire Free School This proposed Free Special School for children aged 7 – 19 with high functioning autism, to be situated in the Sittingbourne area, has had its latest application turned down by the DfE, the third time this has happened. This is in spite of KCC offering to commission all its places (i.e. fund them and then identify students to take them up) for the latest submission. However, the good news is that Broomhill Bank North, in Hextable, has received full approval to open in September, also for high functioning autistic children aged 11-16, extending to 11-19 in 2016. It already has 30 children signed up and plans to expand to 74 students with 24 residential places. This is a satellite site for Broomhill Bank School, which already has a specialism in autism, and replaces the now closed Furness school, being an ideal solution to what has been a fierce controversy. Oddly, in the run up to the closure of Furness KCC was arguing there was little demand for Special School provision for ASD, but is now backing two schemes, which might have meant overcapacity at secondary school level if Aspire had been approved.
Medway University Technical College still has places vacant in Year 10 for September but even so, as I have forecast previously, may hit certain local schools disproportionately. However, it is likely to prove difficult to recruit initially; the equivalent Leigh UTC in Dartford only filled 54 of its 150 places in September 2014, when it opened, but proved more successful in the Sixth Form with 68.
Medway UTC is offering 90 places with three priority zones each taking 30% of the places. After places are offered to children with SEN Statements and Looked After Children: Zone A is - Rochester, Strood and Hoo Peninsula areas of Medway; Gravesham Borough Council and areas west of Medway; Zone B - Gillingham and Rainham areas of Medway; Swale Borough Council and areas east of Medway; Zone C - Chatham and Walderslade areas of Medway; Maidstone Borough Council and areas south of Medway. If oversubscribed it will select on a random basis from within those zones. The reality is that it should draw mainly: from aspiring young people with a technical interest; living locally; dissatisfied with the quality of education in their current school. It is likely that The Victory Academy will probably be the worst hit; a loss of 10 students from the current Year 9 and on an annual basis would represent a 10% fall in roll.