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Displaying items by tag: academy

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 00:00


Last updated  January 2020




A recent article 'Academy and Free School News January 2020', contains much additional material. 

When I started this page nine years ago, it was a simple matter of record. As you read it, you will become aware it is now a very complicated set of data and I am only too happy to correct any errors or omissions that may have crept in. 

You will find a list of Multi-Academy Trusts operating in Kent and Medway here,

An academy is a school directly funded by the Department for Education and independent of direct control by local government in England. However local government Councils are responsible for the funding formulae used to allocate funds among sections of education within an authority. An Academy may receive additional support from personal or corporate sponsors, either financially or in kind, but must meet the same National Curriculum core subject requirements as other state schools and be subject to inspection by OfstedAcademies are self-governing and most are constituted as registered charities or operated by other educational charities.Government policy is to encourage all schools to become academies. Those regarded as the stronger can choose how they are governed (see below); those that are perceived to be underperforming or have failed an OFSTED Inspection come under considerable government pressure to become sponsored academies taken over by stronger schools or by one of the many flourishing Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). They lease their premises from government and set their own terms and conditions for teachers (Headteachers generally attracting considerably higher salaries than for other schools). 

Government has now blocked Local Authorities from setting up new schools, and these now have to be academies, Free Schools, or Voluntary Aided Schools (I can't see the logic for these last in converting, where a Foundation or Trust contributes to building costs and has some influence on the running of the school). In the case of new academies and Free Schools, government provides the building costs and the sponsors run the school. A major expansion of provision in primary schools is needed in parts of both Kent and Medway, so the academy and Free School sectors will both naturally expand. You will find a  parallel information article on Kent and Medway's Free Schools here.  

In Kent and Medway, academies are generally independent of the local authorities in most respects, although a few are directly sponsored by the Authorities (as far as I can see this just means they appoint a governor who does not necessarily report back, and have no other control). However, they all required to obey the same Admissions Code and are members of the Kent or Medway coordinated admissions scheme for all schools. As the two Local Authorities diversify into an increasingly splintered education provision under the academy programme, there are now many types of local model, as explained below. 

Currently nearly three quarters of Kent secondary schools, academies and free schools (77/106) are either academies or free schools, with another four having made a current application (although several are held up because of PFI issues), a total of 76%. There are 41% of all Kent primaries (187/455), another 12 officially in progress, a total of 44%.  In Medway 94% (16/17) of Medway's secondaries are academies and 51/79 of the primaries, along with two more in progress, 67% in all. There  is one academy Special School in Kent out of 21, and four out of five in Medway. Academies exist in either Stand Alone Trusts (SAT) or Multi Academy Trusts (MAT). There are currently 61 Kent  academies in SATs and 178 in MATs, of which 30 are in small units of two schools only, and 46 in MATS with 10 or more academies in Kent. 

The distinction between academies and Free Schools is becoming increasingly blurred, but you will find a list of distinct Free Schools here

I have now heard anecdotal evidence of several schools which signed up to be sponsored or converter academies, in Multi-Academy Trusts, where the agreed level of top-slicing of the academy budget to pay for Trust costs is greatly increased soon after the conversion takes place.

Old Style Academies
First up are the “old style” secondary academies. The rationale for these  was originally based on replacing failing schools in socially deprived urban areas, although this definition became stretched as government sought to increase the number with for example, the Knole Academy in Sevenoaks not qualifying on any of the three counts. The earliest academies have either been completely rebuilt or had plans approved to secure a rebuild on a very generous budget of the order of £30 million each, Isle of Sheppey Academy doing best with premises at a cost of £54 million. Those approved later have still been generously treated usually benefiting from a major rebuild, usually of £15 million or more. Most of these academies have main sponsors who have been given control of the institution for a donation of the order of £2 million, waived in the case of charities or churches. Old Style Academies are generally sponsored by a Multi-Academy Trust.. 

The old style academies are: Brompton Academy, Gillingham (sponsored by University of Kent Academies Trust); Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone (Future Schools Trust); Dover Christ Church Academy (Canterbury Christ Church University);  The Duke of York's Royal Military School, Dover (fully boarding, previously Independent, with a tradition of admitting children of military families, associated with Dover Federation of the Arts); Folkestone Academy (all through, incorporating the previous Folkestone Primary Academy, now Turner Schools, previously sponsored by Roger De Haan); Isle of Sheppey Academy; The John Wallis C of E Academy Ashford (all through, incorporating the previous Linden Grove Primary School, Ashford);  The Knole Academy, Sevenoaks; Leigh Academy, Dartford (Leigh Academy Trust); Longfield Academy, Dartford (Leigh Academy Trust); Marsh Academy, Romney Marsh (previously Tonbridge School, now Skinners Company); New Line Learning Academy, Maidstone, (Future Schools); Orchards Academy, Swanley (TKAT); St Augustine Academy, Maidstone; Strood Academy (Sponsored by University of Creative Arts); Skinners Kent Academy, Tunbridge Wells (Skinners Company); Spires Academy, Canterbury; Victory Academy, Chatham (Thinking Schools Academy Trust, previously Bishop of Rochester Academy, Rochester Anglican Diocese); and  Wilmington Academy, Dartford (Leigh Academy Trust).

Newer academies fall into two types: 'sponsored' and 'converter'. Both types of academy are able to bid for capital developments in competition with other schools under two categories: where numbers of children are expanding in the area; and where the school buildings are identified as in need of improvement. In neither case is it yet clear by what criteria these funds are awarded. In my opinion certain academies attracted undue priority for their bids in the most recent capital allocations I have analysed. Many academies are expanding fast, including grammar schools.
Sponsored Academies
The first type are the Sponsored Academies, who are taken over by more successful schools, academy chains or other organisations. Increasingly, they are new schools. Not all are underperforming and some have chosen to take up this arrangement.  Currently government is putting pressure on Local Authorities and school governing bodies in an attempt (almost wholly successful but often controversial) to force underperforming schools. into academy partnerships. There is no required public consultation for these takeovers and it is not until the decision is announced that one can be sure this is happening. Often there is great secrecy about the process. 

There is no pattern for these schools, but I have attempted to identify the Multi Academy Trusts  that operate in Kent and Medway with information about them and their other academies elsewhere in the country. I provide a summary list of the sponsored academies below, cross check with the Multi Academy Trust groups page to find the sponsor.  

The sponsored academies are (in their academy groups here):

Kent secondary schools

Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs; Ebbsfleet Academy (previously Swan Valley School);  Goodwin Academy (previously Castle Community College); High Weald Academy (previously Angley School); The Lenham School, (previously Swadelands School); Meopham School; Orchards Academy (previously Swanley Technology College); St Edmund’s Catholic Secondary, Dover; Sittingbourne Community College.

Medway secondary schools: Holcombe Grammar (previously Chatham Grammar for Boys); Hundred of Hoo Academy (5-19); Robert Napier; Waterfront UTC (previously Medway UTC) 

Kent primary schools:
Ashford:  Beaver Green Primary; Brenzett CofE; Chilmington Green Primary; Finberry Primary; Kennington CofE Juniors; Kingsnorth CofE; John Wallis Academy (Primary Section,previously Linden Grove).

Canterbury: Petham Primary;  Pilgrims Way Primary School and Nursery; Reculver CofE Primary 


Dartford: Cherry Orchard Primary Academy; Dartford Community Primary; Dartford Primary Academy (previously York Road Junior School and Language Unit, and St Alban's Primary); Knockhall Community;Westgate Primary.  

Dover:  Charlton CofE Primary; Water Meadows Primary School (previously Hersden Village, F); Temple Ewell Church of England Primary. 

Faversham: St Mary of Charity CofE (Aided) Primary School

Gravesham: Chantry Community AcademyCopperfield Academy (previously Dover Road Primary); Istead Rise Primary ; Riverview Junior; Rosherville CofE Primary; Tymberwood Academy (previously Raynehurst Primary School) 

Maidstone: Archbishop Courtney Primary; Barming Primary; Holy Family RC Primary; Molehill Copse Primary; Oaks Academy (previously Oak Trees Community School); St Francis Catholic Primary (in progress); St James the Great Academy (previously St James the Great Primary Community and Nursery School); Treetops Academy (previously Bell Wood Community Primary School).

Malling: Aylesford Primary School; Valley Invicta Primary School at Holborough Lakes (Snodland); Valley Invicta Primary School at Kings Hill; Valley Invicta Primary School at Leybourne Chase (Maidstone); St Katharine's Primary, Snodland


Shepway: Brenzett CofE; Lydd Primary; Folkestone Academy (Primary Section, previously Park Farm Primary); Martello Grove Academy, with SEN Unit; Morehall Primary; St Nicholas CofE, New Romney.

Sheppey:  St Edward's Catholic; Thistle Hill Academy; 

Sittingbourne: Kemsley Primary; Lansdowne Primary; Milton Court Primary; Richmond Primary; South Avenue Junior;  Westlands Primary School

Swanley:  Horizon Primary School;

Thanet: Chilton Academy Primary School; Christ Church Church of England Junior School in Ramsgate; Cliftonville Primary; Dame Janet Primary Academy (previously Dame Janet Infant & Junior Schools), Drapers Mill Primary School, Margate; Newlands Primary, Northdown Primary; St Laurence in Thanet Church of England Junior School;  & Salmestone Primary,

Tonbridge: Cage Green Primary; Royal Rise Academy (previously St Stephen's Primary)

Tunbridge Wells: Skinners' Kent Primary School; Temple Grove Academy, (previously Sherwood Park Community Primary School) 

Medway primary schools:
Allhallows Primary School; Byron Primary; Cedar Children's Academy; Cuxton Community Junior; Deanwood Primary; Elaine Primary Academy; Featherby Junior; High Halstow Primary; Gordon Infant and Junior (operating as Gordon Schools Federation); Kingfisher Community Primary; Lordswood Primary; Maundene School; Napier Community Primary & Nursery, Gillingham; New Horizons Children's Academy, Chatham; Oasis Academy Skinner Street; Phoenix Junior Academy (previously Glencoe Junior School); Saxon Way Primary Academy; St James Church of England Primary Academy, Isle of Grain; St Margaret's CofE Junior; Temple Mill Primary; Twydall Primary; Warren Wood Community Primary & Language Unit.
Sponsored Academies in Development
You will find further  information on the PFI obstacle to academisation here
 Aylesford School (PFI); Holmesdale School, Snodland (PFI);  Royal Harbour Academy (Coastal Academies Trust, PFI);  St Francis Catholic Primary, Maidstone (Kent Catholic Schools Partnership); Sunny Bank Primary; West Kingsdown CofE VC (Rochester Diocesan Board); 
 Converter Academies
Secondary SAT: The Abbey, Faversham;  Borden Grammar, Sittingbourne; Brockhill Park Performing Arts College, Hythe; Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School, Ramsgate ; Cranbrook School; Dartford Grammar; Dartford Grammar Girls; Folkestone School for Girls; The Harvey Grammar, Folkestone; Herne Bay High School; Highsted Grammar, Sittingbourne; Highworth Grammar, Ashford; Hillview, Tonbridge; The Maplesden Noakes, Maidstone; Mayfield Grammar (previously Gravesend Grammar Girls); The Norton Knatchbull, Ashford; Oakwood Park Grammar, Maidstone; Queen Elizabeth's Grammar, Faversham; Sandwich Technology; Sir Roger Manwood's, Sandwich;  Tonbridge Grammar;Towers, Kennington; ; 

Secondary MAT: Astor College for the Arts; Barton Court Grammar, Canterbury; Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, Tunbridge Wells; The Canterbury High; Cornwallis, Maidstone;  Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs; Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne; Gravesend Grammar; Hayesbrook, Tonbridge; Hartsdown Technology College, Margate; Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Tenterden; Invicta Grammar, Maidstone;  King Ethelbert's, Westgate; Mascalls, Paddock Wood; St Anselm's Catholic, Canterbury; Saint George's Church of England, Gravesend;  St Gregory's Catholic Comprehensive, Tunbridge Wells, St Simon Stock Catholic Maidstone; The Skinners', Tunbridge Wells; Stone Lodge School, Dartford; Ursuline Convent, Westgate -on-Sea; Valley Park, Maidstone; Weald of Kent Grammar, Tonbridge; Westlands, Sittingbourne; Wilmington Grammar Boys; Wilmington Grammar Girls; Wrotham.

Medway: Chatham Grammar School for Girls (S);  Fort Pitt Grammar School (M); Greenacre School (M); Howard School, Gillingham (M);Rainham Mark Grammar School (M); Rainham School for Girls (M); Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (M); The Rochester Grammar School (M); The Thomas Aveling School (M); and Walderslade Girls School (S)

Ashford:  Adisham CofE Primary (S); Charing CofE Primary (M); Furley Park Primary (S); Godinton Primary (S); Hamstreet Primary (M); Kingsnorth CofE Primary(M); Pluckley CofE Primary (M); Rolvenden Primary (M); Smarden Primary(M); St Michael's CofE Primary (Tenterden)(M); St Simon of England RC(M); Tenterden Infant(M): Tenterden CofE Junior(M)

Canterbury: Canterbury Primary(M)Hampton Primary (S); St Stephen's Junior(S); Sturry CofE Primary(M)

Cranbrook and Weald: Horsmonden Primary (M); Paddock Wood Primary (M); Brenchley and Matfield Primary(M);

Dartford: The Brent Primary (S); Gateway Primary(M); Greenlands Primary (previously Darenth Community Primary)(M); Hartley Primary Academy(M); Joydens Wood Infant (S); Joydens Wood Junior (S); Manor Community Primary, Swanscombe(M); Oakfield Community(M)Our Lady of Hartley Catholic Primary(M); River Mill Primary (M); Temple Hill Community (S); Stone St Mary's CofE(M); Wentworth Primary(S); Sutton at Hone CofE(M)Wilmington Primary (S); West Hill Primary(S).

 Dover, Deal and Sandwich: Barton Junior(M)St Joseph’s Catholic Primary (Aylesham)(M); Deal Parochial CofE(M); The Downs CofE(M); Hornbeam Primary, Deal(M)Priory Fields(M); Northbourne CofE Primary(M)St Martin's(S); St Mary's Catholic Primary(M)Sandown School(M); Sholden CofE Primary(M)Shatterlocks Infant(M); Vale View Community(M); Warden House Primary, Deal(M); Whitecliffs Primary College of the Arts(M);

Faversham, Herne Bay, Whitstable:  Graveney Primary (S); Luddenham (S); St Mary's Catholic (Whitstable)(M); Selling Primary(M)

Gravesham:  Culverstone Green Primary(M); Meopham Community Academy (previously Meopham Primary School)(M); Riverview Infants(M); Shorne CofE Primary(M); St Botolph's Church of England VA Primary(M); St John's Catholic Primary(S); St Joseph's Catholic Primary School(M); Westcourt Primary(M); Whitehill Primary(M); Wrotham Road(M).

Maidstone: Allington Primary(M); Coxheath Primary(M); Loose Primary(M); St John's CofE Primary School(S); South Borough Primary(M); Valley Invicta at Eastborough(M)

Malling: Leybourne St Peter & St Paul CofE, VA(M); More Park Primary(M); St Mark's CofE, Eccles (S); West Malling CofE Primary and Language Unit (S);

Sevenoaks: Amherst School (S); St Thomas Catholic Primary(M)

Shepway: Christ Church Cof E Primary (S); Dymchurch Primary(M); St Eanswythe's CofE Primary (S); St Mary's CofE Primary(S); Stella Maris Catholic Primary(M);

Sheppey:  Halfway Houses(M)Minster in Sheppey(M); St George’s CofE Primary(M);

Sittingbourne & Rural Swale: Bobbing Village(M); Borden CofE(S); Bredgar CofE(S); Grove Park Junior(M);  Iwade Community Primary(M); Lynsted and Norton Primary(M); Milstead and Frinstead Church of England Primary School(M); Minterne Community Junior(S); Oaks Community Infant(S); Regis Manor Community Primary(M); Sheldwich Primary(S); South Avenue Infant(M); Westlands Primary(M);

Swanley: Horton Kirby CofE(M)

 Thanet: Chilton Primary,Ramsgate,(M); St Gregory's Catholic Primary, Margate(M); St Joseph's Catholic Primary, Broadstairs(M); Upton Junior, Broadstairs(M)

Tonbridge:  Chiddingstone Primary (S);St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary(M);

Tunbridge Wells: St Augustine's Catholic Primary(M);

Primary academies in Medway, all MATS: All Faiths' Children's Community Primary, Strood; All Saints CofE Primary, Chatham; Balfour Junior Academy; Barnsole Primary; Bligh Infant and Junior Schools; Brompton-Westbrook Primary; Chattenden Primary; Castle Academy, Rochester (previously Delce Junior); Cliffe Woods Primary;  Cuxton Community Infants;  Deanwood Primary;  Featherby Infant and Nursery; Halling Primary; High Halstow  Primary; Hilltop Primary; Hoo St Werburgh Primary; Maundene School; Miers Court Primary; The Pilgrim School; Riverside Primary; St John's Cof E Infant; St Margaret's at Troy Town CofE VC Primary;St Margaret's Infant, Rainham; Stoke Community Primary; Thames View Primary; Wainscott Primary; Walderslade Primary; Wayfield Community Primary & Nursery; Woodlands Primary, Gillingham; 

 Special schools: 

 Milestone Special School, New Ash Green, (M). And in Medway: Bradfields Academy, Chatham (M); Danecourt Community Special School, Gillingham (M); Rivermead  School, Gillingham, (M). The Rowans (Pupil Referral Unit).

Converter Academy applications in progress
Schools with applications in progress are:  

Bean Primary, Dartford; Bethersden Primary, Ashford;  Briary Primary, Herne Bay; Bysing Wood Primary, Ashford; Holywell Primary, Swale; Lamberhurst St Mary's CofE; North School, Ashford; Queenborough School, Sheppey; Roseacre Junior, Maidstone;  St Ethelbert's Catholic Primary, Ramsgate.

In Medway:  Park Wood Infant and Junior Schools. 

Several schools that applied for Academy status appear to have withdrawn their applications as they no longer feature on the government data base of Applications. I would be happy to receive further information on these schools. They are: Borough Green Primary School; Bromstone Primary School, Broadstairs; Lady Boswell's Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary, Sevenoaks; Mundella Primary School, Folkestone; Oakfield Community, Dover; Riverhead Infants (Sevenoaks); ;  Sandgate Primary (Shepway); St Mary's Catholic (Canterbury); St Richard’s Catholic Primary School in Dover.

West Kent Health Needs Education Service for Tonbridge and Malling (Pupil Referral Unit);  

Final Thoughts 
For me, the major concerns are the two tier financial structure being created and a lack of accountability. The threat to a failing school was that it would be closed and turned into an academy. What happens to a failing academy (they do exist and numbers will inevitably increase)? Against this, there is no doubt that academies are raising the status of schools, and some are notable successes. The myth of higher standards can be seen from research quoted by the admittedly partisan Anti-Academies Alliance. Sadly this does not appear to create as many headlines as the vast pro-academy public relations exercise mounted by government amongst others.

The concern over lack of accountability sees parents unhappy with provision finding it very difficult or impossible to get satisfaction, for the local authority does not have responsibility for the internal running of Academies, and Department of Education processes can often appear impenetrable. The Local Government Ombudsman has no role in complaints about academies or appeals for admission or permanent exclusion, as they do not come under the aegis of local authorities. For complaints about academy admission appeals see my website article here. The correct route for complaints about academies, is via the DofE. You will find the procedure here.  Oddly, the DfE website recommends a private charity, Coram Children's Legal Centre  for legal advice about such matters.  I have no information about this charity other than what is on their website. 

Parents who send their children to academies need to understand the issues, although for most it may well be the best or only option available, and a very positive experience.

Tagged under
Thursday, 07 April 2011 16:45

Bishop of Rochester Academy (Updated)

The Principal of Bishop of Rochester Academy has been suspended today for unspecified reasons. A statement  from the three Sponsors: Rochester Diocese, Canterbury Christ Church University and Medway Council states: "The strategic direction and performance of Bishop of Rochester Academy is of the utmost importance to the academy sponsors and Board of Governors....

Published in News Archive
Tagged under

Another knotty problem for Michael Gove.

Following Kent secondary school allocations on 1st March just gone, 9% of places in Year Seven were left empty or occupied by children who had not applied for the schools in question. The Audit Commission considers there should be no more than 5% empty spaces in any area or authority. So there is a problem in Kent. However, with 49 of the100 Kent secondary schools either Academies or well on the way and another 36 Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools partially independent of KCC,  the county has lost all control of its ability to plan numbers of places to fit the population, and so has no way of meeting government targets...... (read more)

Published in Newspaper Articles

The following article appeared in the first edition of the new "The Reporter" newspaper, reflecting the pressure on the newspaper industry as it replaces the old established Gravesend Reporter and the Dartford Times.


Kent County Council has made a largely successful commitment in recent years to improve the quality of the school building stock following many ‘drought’ years when this aspect of our children’s education was neglected. Projects such as: the ‘Old Style’ academies - 10 brand new luxury schools brought into being (including Leigh in Dartford and Longfield); the six PFI project schools; and the first eleven schools completed under the now defunct Building Schools for the Future programme (including Northfleet Girls, Northfleet Technology, St Johns and Thamesview in Gravesend), have resulted in over a quarter of Kent’s secondary schools being completely replaced.  The Special School Review saw many of Kent’s Special Schools rebuilt or refurbished (including Ifield in Gravesend), and many readers will be aware of major primary school rebuilds, and new schools in the area (including Manor Community at Swanscombe) that have transformed the learning of so many of our children. Kent has also been working on a schedule to reduce major maintenance issues, which saw a reduction in the backlog from £147 million to £98 million over the past four years.

However, all this has come to a juddering halt with government cuts in education spending, some of which is retargeted at other priorities. Seven ‘Old style’ Academies (including Wilmington and Orchards in Swanley) are waiting a government review which will probably provide them with budget new  buildings and KCC has gone to court to try and recover the BSF programme for the remainder of Gravesham’s secondary schools (or more likely the millions of pounds lost in preparation works.  You will find further details of these projects at

Meanwhile, all schools are grappling with a swingeing 80% cut in their own grants for the repair, maintenance and improvement of buildings and provision of ICT from 1 April 2011. Whilst this is a hammer blow, worst affected will be the ten schools which lost out under BSF  (including Gravesend Grammar, Gravesend Girls, Meopham and St George’s). For they will all have cut back on their maintenance and building plans expecting that BSF would solve their premises problems, but now there is no money to carry out essential repairs and improvements. A typical secondary school would have been awarded some £120,000 for this work last year, but now sees this reduced to £24,000, inevitably leading to safety concerns. This comes the week after compensation was awarded to families whose children were taking examinations in the school hall at Minster College (now The Sheppey Academy) when central heating ducts fell on them. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries or deaths, but this will certainly not be the last such incident now that schools have been deprived of sufficient funds to carry out repairs.

All this leaves KCC with a backlog of maintenance problems, currently totalling £90 million, its main hope of shrinking this being to say goodbye to schools who are choosing to become academies. Some of these will be leaving because increased budgets may give them the opportunity to resolve these issues, but when all secondaries have become academies, the pain will need to be shared equally once again.

Published in Newspaper Articles

THe following article appeared in an abbreviated version (missing out some of what I thought were the best bits!) in Kent on Sunday 16 January


The face of education in Kent is changing with astonishing rapidity, driven by the Academy movement. Currently, there are 28 secondary Academies in the county with another 5 in Medway, and 10 Kent and 2 Medway secondary schools on the way. You will find a full list at Many others have begun the process, so Kent is close to losing 50% of its 101 secondary schools. This is surely well past the ‘tipping point’, where KCC has confirmed it will encourage all remaining secondary schools to become Academies, as it becomes uneconomic to run a system for the rump.  Instead, KCC plans to change its focus to supplying services to schools who wish to buy them in.

What does this mean for the schools, and more importantly for the children? 10 of the original ‘luxury model old style’ Academies, mainly replacing failing schools, have been completely rebuilt at an average cost of around £30 million apiece, so the students are being educated in superb surroundings designed to offer exciting curricula,  often attracting highly talented leaders.  The remaining 6 ‘lean old style’ academies face a more difficult future as the plug was pulled on their building programmes, although several have been promised a watered down development.  However, as this week’s GCSE results tables show, many of these have yet to convert academic promise into real progress.

The remaining Academies are the new ‘Gove’ models, having converted since September, the government aggressively encouraging all schools to change status. It promotes the following advantages: freedom to reward staff appropriately; freedom in the delivery of the curriculum; freedom to change lengths of terms and school days (why not offer all these to all schools?); and freedom from Local Authority control. However, to quote the headteacher of one such Academy this week: “parents and children will not have noticed the difference; for us the main advantage is a short term financial gain of some £350,000 for the year”. The first crop of  Gove Academies are OFSTED ‘outstanding’ schools, so one is unsure why they need to be financially subsidised at the expense of others, as school budgets shrink to pay for them and because of the national financial crisis.

Kent County Council will probably continue to  support the majority of Primary and Special Schools (just 4 primaries have changed so far, with another 2 underway), otherwise it will be reduced to offering key services such as Special Education Needs and School Admissions, although these will be undermined by the independence of Academies.

It is already evident that there is a worrying lack of accountability of the Academies, with parental concerns having nowhere to go except the Department of Education that hardly appears geared up to deal with them. Some schools are already bucking the Admissions system with no sanction available, and others are actively discouraging children with Special Needs, so that shortly these will become a greatly disadvantaged group. I have already expressed concerns about pressure on primary school places in West and North West Kent, and cannot see how KCC can carry out its planning role in the new climate, as new provision moves over to the market place for individual schools  which wish to expand. One interesting development is the encouragement to successful schools to take over others, and there are successful examples of this, but no rationale to the decisions being made; indeed one civil servant is reported to be visiting Academies with a shopping list of primary schools across a wide geographical area, encouraging bids to take them over.

Soon nearly all secondary schools in Kent will be Academies, each ploughing their own furrow.  One can already see some adopting business models, seeking to expand their activities rather than putting the education (not just the league table outcomes) of their pupils first. Kent County Council which once billed itself as ‘champion of children’ has no role in the new set up so there will be no one who will stand up for the children of Kent as a whole, until government recognises there needs to be accountability and takes more central control. Then, when the number of schools is too great, it will set up local centres to administer schools. Presumably these will be without local accountability, unless they delegate responsibility back to KCC following the Eric Pickles philosophy of localism.

One final question. If government has the power to close failing schools and turn them into Academies, what will it do with failing Academies?

Published in Newspaper Articles
Tagged under
Thursday, 18 November 2010 00:28

The Irony of the failing Marlowe Academy

Today, Michael Gove has announced that schools with 'Good' OFSTED Reports can apply to become Academies. Historically, Academies were failing schools that by changing to become Academies, by some alchemy suddenly become a good schools (or is it the resources that do it!). What then happens to failing academies? For today, a published OFSTED Report for the Marlow Academy, Ramsgate, serves it with a 'Notice to Improve' - that is to say, the Academy is failing!

Published in News Archive
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 18:14

Academies: KOS Jan 2010

Kent and Medway secondary schools have suffered from a historically low level of investment into school buildings. However, in recent years there has been a transformation of many premises to produce school buildings of which we can be proud, a tribute to the investment policies of Kent and Medway councils.


With programmes such as Private Finance Investment (6 schools) and Building Schools for the Future (10 schools underway), the pace of redevelopment is increasing in line with the target of replacing all Kent secondary schools in the next 12 years. These two initiatives rely heavily on private finance, which needs to make a profit, and so they face uncertain financial futures in terms of running costs. What happens at the end of the borrowing term? What about the current difficult financial climate?


However, as each new school flourishes, alongside it there is too often a school that is not so fortunate, often which has worked hard to achieve high standards, that then suffers by comparison. An unfair world, where many children benefit while others are at good schools that go into decline.


Academies are in a different programme and are the flavour of the day, bringing much-needed funds from government to build plush new premises, often on fresh sites. They also need to attract sponsors who often put up a small proportion of the total costs, and are independent of the local authority, controlled by the sponsors. Church and university sponsors no longer need to invest funds.


Increasingly local authorities are also minority sponsors. Between them, University of Kent at Canterbury, Christchurch University Canterbury, and the University of Creative Arts are minority sponsors of most local academies.


City academies were originally designed to replace failing schools in socially deprived urban areas, but the concept is changing fast and now even some prestigious independent schools, fallen on hard times are becoming academies in other parts of the country. Already the 17 open and planned Academies make up one in seven of all Kent and Medway schools. Academies do not need to follow the national curriculum, and all students at new Academies start off with free uniforms. So far there is no convincing evidence that they raise standards, although many often do well, some by attracting more able pupils. Others (not in Kent) have been spectacular failures.


I consider that Kent has generally used the concept well, attracting investment into the county and maintaining a level of influence that is lacking in some academies elsewhere. However, local authorities are required to have less than 20 per cent of the voting power on the board of governance of an academy.  Parents are not represented on all governing bodies but can have an influence through parent councils.


Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) statistics for permanent exclusions 2007/8 show the rate of permanent exclusion is twice as high for academies as in council-maintained schools. This confirms that one reason for academy ‘success’ may be their capacity to move ‘problem children’ out into other neighbouring schools - which suffer as a consequence.


I am starting to receive reports underlining one of the main drawbacks of city academies – lack of accountability. Parents unhappy with provision are finding it impossible to get satisfaction and the local authority does not have responsibility for the internal running of Academies. The Local Government Ombudsman has no role, as they do not come under the aegis of local authorities. The correct route is via the DFCS. As yet I have no experience of these, but have followed other education complaints through to the government and have found this to be generally a frustrating, drawn out and negative experience.


Parents who send their children to academies need to understand the risks, although for most it may well be the best option available and a very positive experience.

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The BSF (Building Schools for the Future) project was conceived nationally as a series of annual waves of building programmes and has just been scrapped, with all new projects being cancelled. Kent has 16 Academies in existence or planned, some o fwhich have also seen their building projects delayed with an expectation of budget cuts. In addition Kent has seen six schools rebuilt under PFI schemes. This article on my website was linked to a KOS report about the cancellation of Building Schools for the Future.

Kent was first involved in Wave 3 of BSF. Schools are planned to be completely rebuilt under PFI (Private Finance Initiative) funding schemes, subject to a major rebuild from Government grant, or else receive substantial refurbishment again from direct Government grant.

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A full list of the schools affected with their designations is here.

Headteachers at 28 Kent secondary schools, 8 Special Schools and 4 Referral Centres were devastated on Monday to learn that the plans to rebuild their schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme had been scrapped. The vast number of hours spent by heads and governors in negotiating with architects and officials are wasted. The many hours of planning by staff to develop new methods for teaching and learning using opportunities created by purpose designed premises will be consigned to the scrapheap. Some of the Special Schools are required to admit children with complex physical and learning needs, but will now find it impossible to cater for these unless alternative funding can be found. Also spare a thought for KCC officers who have worked tirelessly through the mass of red tape imposed on them, to try and ensure the best for our schools.

For the following schools in Thanet - Clarendon House Grammar, Chatham House Grammar, Foreland Special, Hartsdown Technology College, Hereson, Laleham Gap (Special), Northwood Centre, St Anthony's (Special), Stone Bay (Special) and Ursuline College; and in Gravesend - Gravesend Boys & Girls Grammars,  Meopham, and St George's CE ,along with Portal House (Special) in Dover, the shock was so much greater. For in these schools building plans have nearly all been finalised and construction due to begin in the near future. They will now have to compete for students with the gleaming new premises of those schools who have benefited from BSF. Hartsdown is not alone in Thanet in having very poor buildings and now little prospect of these being eased. 8 newer Academies already operational or in the planning stage whose replacement buildings have not begun (at an average cost of some 40% more than mainstream schools), are to have any plans reviewed in the summer. It would, however, be bizarre if many of these were upheld, as new Academies converting from mainstream schools join them on an equal basis in September with no prospect of new buildings.

This is a sorry end to a project that promised so much. However, it is important to realise what has been achieved. Paul Carter, KCC Leader has taken a personal interest in attracting maximum capital expenditure to Kent, which historically had low levels of investment in school buildings. His drive and vision means we now have new schools worth some half a billion pounds, either completed or in construction. These include all other secondary and Special Schools in Gravesham and Thanet through BSF (most of which are close to completion), 9 Academies, and 6 secondary schools built under separate PFI funding.  Parents in many parts of Kent will be aware of other major investments in new or replacement buildings for schools of all types. Whatever the future holds, these remain and nearly 20% of secondary schools will have been completely or substantially rebuilt; an impressive record of investment in the future of our children.

I saw a few of the complications of BSF as a Governor of Ifield Special School, the first Kent school to be completed with BSF funding. Because of the special nature of our project, involvement with bureaucracy was mainly limited to agreeing contracts for ICT equipment and services. Three governors spent innumerable hours grappling with details of complex documents and requirements to meet impossible deadlines (we are of course all unpaid volunteers). The headteacher and senior staff spent much greater time. However we did have the satisfaction of seeing our work come to completion. What about those governors who see their work junked? Sadly a few will walk away in disgust, never to return. What about children whose education has suffered, as heads and staff have had long periods of absence dealing with BSF issues? That cannot be restored. It would have been good to see Michael Gove acknowledge this labour and sacrifice.

Whether this dramatic purge was necessary in full is for others to pronounce on. I only know it must be wrong to put part of the proceeds towards the bribe to persuade mainstream schools to become academies themselves, with another portion going to start up free schools that will often be set up to suit self-interest groups who have little interest in the education of the majority.

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Monday, 04 October 2010 13:02

Academies, Old and New, KOS, September 2010

As Kent diversifies into an increasingly splintered education provision, it is perhaps time to revisit the world of academies. It appears there are now four types. First up were the luxury model “old style” academies. These have either been completely rebuilt or had plans approved to secure a rebuild on a very generous budget of the order of £30 million each. Secondly, what promise to be the lean “old style” academies, whose rebuilds will be subject to the economies of the Autumn Spending Review. The original concept for these schools was that they were failing their children or were sited in socially deprived areas, and most fit part of that concept.

Then there are the “new style” academies, a very different animal although subject to the same regulations. Currently there is no indication how they will raise funds for major capital projects, so I do not anticipate major rebuilds (but current policy certainly has capacity to surprise). As distinct from the first two groups, the third group are judged “outstanding” by OFSTED, having been offered an exceedingly generous financial package to convert (although there is no evidence that they need such funds!). From October onwards any primary or secondary school can apply to become a fourth model academy, Special Schools being allowed in 2011.

Academies are independent of KCC in most respects although they obey the same Admissions Code. They own their premises and set their own terms and conditions for teachers (Heads of old style academies generally attract salaries of some £30,000 more than for other schools). For group three this will allow highly successful schools to lure teachers away from other schools whose needs are greater.

KCC now has 16 old style academies, and 17 outstanding schools on their way, making nearly a third of the secondary schools in the county.  The Authority appears to be moving to a policy of encouraging all secondary schools to go down this route, arguing that any additional resources from government should benefit all Kent secondary schools. Primary schools have far less infrastructure to support independence and so there are concerns here, although two standalone primaries are going through the process.

You will find a list of all existing and proposed academies on my website

For me, the major concerns are the two tier financial structure being created and a lack of accountability. The threat to a failing school was that it would be closed and turned into an academy. What happens to a failing academy (they do exist and numbers will inevitably increase)? It is worthy of note that the Ombudsman has no role in academies. Any complaints go to the black hole that is the Department of Education.  Against this, there is no doubt that academies are raising the status of schools, and some are notable successes. It is no coincidence that the most oversubscribed school in Kent and most successful on a number of counts is an academy which is now spreading its wings and oversees the working of two others that have seen greatly improved exam results this year. See my website to learn out which it is!!

In conclusion, the jury is still out and the next few years look very “exciting” in terms of school organisation.

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