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Displaying items by tag: academy - Kent Independent Education Advice

The letter that follows this article sets out in some detail the shameful process by which Paddock Wood Primary School converted to become an academy within the Leigh Academy Trust (LAT) on 1st September, along with Horsmonden Primary. Paddock Wood applied to become an Academy on 6th December 2018, without the legally required Governing Body consent, although the consultation to consider possible conversion only began in May this year, five months later (surely a pointless exercise!).

Leigh Logo

 

 

The chairman of governors sent an email in the cover up to what was in effect a secret process, stating: '"We should have had FGB approval to apply instead of simply a quorate for the academy working part [a sub group of the governing body]. I think this was an error" (!!!!). In fact probably making the whole process unlawful. Subsequently, it is alleged that governors made up a fictional meeting (for which neither they nor their solicitors have been able to provide minutes) at which the resolution was supposed to have occurred, despite one of the governors who  was alleged to be present, stating in writing that it never took place. The Information Commissioner was highly critical of various aspects of the process, whilst admitting its findings were too late to influence proceedings. Both the Department for Education and the Regional Schools Commissioner also had concerns, but again were too late in considering these to  affect proceedings. 

Published in News and Comments

The Delce Academy story continues to unfold, one of my correspondents having sent me a Medway Council Cabinet Meeting Minute from last year. This contains the astonishing information that the Council awarded a commercial loan to the Academy of £400,000 to fund capital expenditure on the installation of a four classroom block of modular buildings at the Academy for its new Infant provision which was never going to be financially  viable.

The provision would have seriously damaged the two Council run infant schools which feed into the Junior section of the school, if it were not for the appalling standards to which the academy has sunk under the leadership of the Castle Trust. It will still damage them if the school recovers under its new management, having been removed from the Castle Trust by the Regional Schools Commissioner, because of its poor performance.  Currently the arrangements have cast a cloud over the whole of the area with a decline of nearly 20% in the number of children joining these three local schools since before the new provision arrived.

Published in Peter's Blog
Monday, 19 August 2019 06:23

Academy and Free School News, August 2019

This article looks at news items since my previous Academy article in June, together with various happenings earlier in the year that I have not covered before. 

It includes academy conversions at Cage Green, Rolvenden, Brent, Dartford Bridge, All Souls CofE and Wainscott (Medway) Primary Schools. It also considers events at Leigh Academies Trust (with another article on the events at Paddock Wood and Horsmonden primaries to come). It looks at changes at: Barming, Hersden and Lansdowne Primary Schools, together with Phoenix Junior Academy in Medway (shades of the Delce Academy scandal); Bennett Memorial Diocesan School (and its CEO); Cranbrook School; Norton Knatchbull School; Rainham Mark Grammar and St Joseph Williamson’s Schools, both in Medway; finishing up with a brief look at Maidstone & Oakwood Park Grammars and Ebbsfleet Academy. 

Published in News and Comments

Update: The Schools Week website has followed up on this story. Also contains further updates

Kent County Council is pulling out of its management agreement with Swale Academy Trust for The North School, Ashford, at very short notice, formally serving that notice on 22nd July that the contract would end 31st August. Until that point it had  providing no formal reason for its action, leaving considerable uncertainty about arrangements for September. This follows a similar decision by KCC last year at the Holmesdale School in Cuxton, which proved highly controversial, created chaos and which I covered extensively here and here.

Swale Academies Trust has managed The North since early 2014, after the school was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted in December 2013, although there is a considerable background  to this as described here. Swale took the school back up to Good less than four years later, although managing to overspend some £200,000  pounds per year to achieve this, reducing a financial surplus of £244,000 to a large deficit of  £768,357 at the end of this financial year, which now needs to be paid back. The Trust took robust actions to achieve the strong performance, its usual style and although the school  suffered a slump in popularity, with for example the large staff turnover, it has now recovered this following the successful Ofsted Inspection.

The North 2

There is no doubt that the school and the Swale Trust are now integrated to a considerable extent through: staffing - some teachers being Swale employees; school support; and the Swale culture, through combined training events for staff, etc It could be that this is just a money saving decision, saving £150,000 per annum management fee, although there has been no such suggestion put forward, but there is surely a contract between the two parties in place. To tear this apart at such short notice will be immensely damaging to the school. Whatever, there will be no £200,000 extra to spend next year which is going to lead to considerable economies.  According to Schools Week, SAT’s chief executive Jon Whitcombe has warned staff that the possibility of the school joining SAT is “now in doubt”. 

It is reported that shockingly no information has been sent to parents about this damaging situation. 

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 05 June 2019 22:57

Academy and Free School News: June 2019

Index

UPDATE: Government has approved Chilmington Green Secondary Academy in Ashford, a new school sponsored by United Learning which also runs the private Ashford School and Wye Free School. 

This article looks at Academy and Free School news in Kent and Medway since September.

The biggest story is surely the mass conversion of seven Deal primary schools to become converter academies in the Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust (DEALT), taking the proportion of Kent primary academies, and those still in the pipeline to over 40%. The other two Deal primary schools are already academised. Just two other primary schools have converted, Greenlands in Dartford and Halling in Medway. The new Chilmington Green Primary School in Ashford is fully opening in September, as are Stone Lodge School and River Mill Primary School in Dartford, whilst St George’s CofE Comprehensive in Gravesham is opening a primary section. The new Alkerden School is opening in Ebbsfleet in September 2021 (page 37 of link) with eight forms of secondary pupils intake,and, at the time of writing is consulting on a two FE primary extension. 

I have updated my comprehensive list of academies in Kent and Medway here and of Multi-Academy Trusts here.

I also look at various other news items relating to academies and Free Schools below, including; other new academies; new schools; expanding grammar schools; academy performance; individual academy trusts and schools; and 'Minded to Terminate' letters . This is an exceptionally long article, one of a series produced several times a year since the website began. However, I have been very busy on other matters so there has been a long period to cover since the previous item back in September.

Published in News and Comments

 I was invited to comment on Meridian news yesterday (Wednesday)  about the most sensible proposal for a Multi Academy Trust I have come across for a long time. Unfortunately, it may fail through being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Seven primary schools all local to Deal, who form part of the Deal Learning Alliance, a community of local schools already working together, are proposing to come together to form Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust ( DEALT). Most of the schools provide a large amount of information on their websites, for example here, which leaves one in little doubt about the reasons for the proposals. The schools have also held a number of meetings for parents, all focused on the proposed Trust being there to support the local community.

There is one strong negative influence which should not play a part in the debate but inevitably is doing so and will continue. This is the debacle of the Goodwin Academy, the secondary school in Deal which was brought to its knees whilst still a KCC school, aided by advisers from SchoolsCompany. This organisation, run by an entrepreneur, then took over the school as an academy and helped it even further down leaving it with massive debts. Much of these were incurred by large fees paid out to the Company, others by gross financial mismanagement, The current proposal has no similarity with this scandal, although campaigners against the proposal try and make a link. 

Published in Peter's Blog

Elias Achilleos, the founder and until recently, CEO of the financially mismanaged SchoolsCompany Trust, responsible for SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy in Deal and three PRUs in Devon, has at last resigned, on 18th May (my thanks to a subscriber to this website for informing me). My previous article sets out the background to this debacle.

Goodwin Academy

All the other Directors with responsibility for the Trust as it plunged into deficit taking Goodwin Academy with it, had previously departed along with the salaries most drew from the Trust, and it is now run by a team put in by the Regional Schools Commissioner.

Published in Peter's Blog

Update 6th April: events elsewhere in the Trust see 'Central Devon Academy' below.

Updated 15th February: see also comment below.

KM Online 16th February shows details of the job losses at this previously recovering school, expected because of the failures of SchoolsCompany. 

The new Interim Chief Executive of SchoolsCompany Trust has apologised in a letter to parents of pupils at the Goodwin Academy for ‘previous financial failings, which are unacceptable’.

Sadly, this has come as little surprise to me, as I foresaw issues as early as 2014, when I noted in an article that SchoolsCompany had contributed to the startling decline of the predecessor school Castle Community College (CCC), in Deal from Ofsted Outstanding to Special Measures in three short years. As a reward SchoolsCompany took over as sponsor of the school as recently as July 2016. The school was awkwardly renamed SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, presumably to advertise the name of the Sponsors as a priority, above creating a new school image.     

The Academy limped on for a period, after 2014, with the 'support' of SchoolsCompany,  unpopular with a third of its places unfilled, and underperforming, although there have recent strong signs of improvement under new school leadership. Unusually, eight of the eleven Company Trustees were paid a salary by the Trust, hardly an inducement for encouraging scrutiny. After the school received a Financial Notice to Improvefrom the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in October, seven of the Trustees resigned including the Executive Principal of the Company This left the school with just four Trustees including the CEO and founder of the company, Elias Achilleos, although he now appears to have been replaced by the new Interim Chief Executive.  The Trust has demonstrably failed some of the Financial Notice's requirements for improvement. 

Goodwin Academy

The school will clearly have a future in its new £25 million premises opened four months ago on October 6th, just three weeks before Trustees resigned en masse, but it looks increasingly likely it will not be with Schools Company. Indeed a more than doubling of first preferences to 173 for 2018 admission, shows confidence in the school and its leadership, achieved without obvious input from the few remaining Trust members. 

Published in News and Comments
Update on Aggressive MATs and illegal Sixth Forms below
Another eleven schools have become academies in the past few months, bringing the Kent total to 84% of 100 secondary schools, and 33% of 456 primaries. In Medway 16 out of 17 secondary schools and 58 of the 79 primaries are academies. You will find all the latest changes below, along with new applications to become academies. There is a full list of Kent and Medway academies here.
The number of Multi Academy Trusts continues to proliferate, some with ever more exotic names; you will find a full list of Kent and Medway Trusts here
The government Free School programme appears to be in difficulties, with problems for some new schools of financing appropriate sites and finding suitable sponsors. There is a full list of local Free Schools here; and examples of the difficulties here.…
Published in News and Comments

I am regularly asked regarding possible complaints about Admission Appeals to academies and Free Schools, and respond that it is rare such complaints succeed.

I now have the data for academies and Free Schools for the past two years, and this underlines how difficult it is. Across Kent and Medway there were 53 complaints to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) in the two years, and not one was successful, although two found maladministration without injustice, i.e. the panel made mistakes but these made no difference to the outcome.

Nationally there were 461 complaints, possible injustice was found in 20 of these, and 36 were found to have maladministration with no injustice.

Further details and comment below.

Published in News and Comments
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