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Peter Read

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. 

The National Schools Commissioner, on visits to Folkestone Academy and the Turner Free School is reported to have praised the progress of the two schools without apparently noticing the many failures documented on this site. These amount to nearly 10% of all the academies he has visited since he was appointed last September out of a total of  8,678. In a fresh controversy, it has now been alleged that  the Turner Free School lost a Vice Principal, in employment for just eight weeks from the opening of the school last September, who left the school and teaching in part because of alleged homophobia by his employer.

I wrote about the Ofsted Inspection that placed Delce Academy in Special Measures, in June, describing what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism on the part of the school and the Castle Trust which ran it. I concluded: ‘This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body’. Last week the Trust wrote to parents to tell them the school was being transferred to the Inspire Academy Trust.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was once again found to Require Improvement in its recent Ofsted inspection, but what specifically caught my eye was the  phrase: ‘however, recent changes to the support available for vulnerable pupils have led to a reduction in fixed-term exclusions’. Hardly consistent with my recent FOI request that found a further increase from the previous year when Oasis had the second highest number and proportion in Kent! The inspection took place shortly after a fundamental structural change for September was announced which will see all Year 7 to 11 pupils taught on a single site, the current two bases being nearly two miles apart. This positive decision is only made possible by a remarkable decline of 550 pupils on roll since Oasis took over in 2013, a loss of over a quarter of the total since then. 

I apologise to the many browsers who have asked over the past six months when this annual article was to be published. There have been a multitude of delays and I have only recently received the authorised data from KCC. 

The table below shows that almost exactly 25% of Kent children were found selective by the Kent procedure, with the pass mark presumably set to fit in with the expected 6% of children found selective (nearly a quarter of the total) through the Head Teacher Assessment procedure. 

Possibly the main news headline should be that for the best chance of success at the Kent Test from a state school, you should be a girl living in Canterbury or a boy living in Sevenoaks. 7 schools saw over half of the cohort found selective, the highest proportions being at St Thomas' Catholic Primary, Sevenoaks (68%), followed by Gateway Primary Academy, Dartford (61%), Ethelbert Road, Faversham (60%); Blean, Canterbury (57%) and Selling CofE, Faversham (56%).  
       Gateway               Sheldwich 4
 
For the first time in many years the proportions of boys and girls being found selective are almost identical, 25.3% and 25.0% respectively, girls being on top for several years previously.

Canterbury has by some way the highest proportion of successful HTAs at 11% of the whole cohort, driven by 14% of all girls being found selective in this way, almost half of the total grammar assessments in Canterbury at 30% of the cohort. 

There is a further increase in the proportion of children on Pupil Premium being found selective to 10.3% of the total. 40% of these are via HTA, as against 25% for all pupils showing that the system is supportive of those children, contrary to some views expressed elsewhere. Further details on PP below.  

40% of the 427 children with Pupil Premium were selected through Headteacher Assessment, having not reached the automatic pass mark. Government policies to improve the PP rate of grammar school selection by lowering the pass mark are therefore irrelevant in Kent (but not Medway)

 The number of Out of County children tested and the number of passes continue to rise inexorably, by 330 this year to 3065,  but with a number of Kent grammar schools reprioritising  to give preference to Kent children, the number eventually being offered places for 2019 admission fell to 399, down from 454 in 2018.

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. 

I do not normally extend my coverage of news and information about Kent and Medway schools to look at the world of Kent Further Education. But for those not aware of the ongoing scandals most recently swirling about  the Hadlow Group of Colleges, you should know that these dwarf anything seen in school education.

The FE Commissioner has heavily criticised the Group, currently comprising West Kent College, Ashford College and Hadlow College together with six subsidiary businesses (including Hadlow Rural Community School) for a ‘corporate failure of leadership, financial management and governance’ .  The link article is an excellent outline of the Group's structure and the cause of the problems. He has recommended that it be broken up and split between North Kent College and East Kent Colleges Group (which itself recently took over struggling Canterbury College), a small part concerned with animal management going to Capel Manor College in Enfield. A follow up letter from the relevant Minster in the DfE refers to the College as being in a perilous position. 

Following my two previous articles about the failings of those running Copperfield Academy and its predecessor school to provide an adequate education for the children of the school over too many years, I explored further the alarming position described in the most recent Ofsted Monitoring Report. This revealed that half the class teachers in the school were not qualified to teach, out of a total of 18 classes listed on the website and that: ‘the quality of teaching remains highly variable. This is further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent’. The recent pattern of appointments is (presumably matched by an equivalent rate of resignations): 

Copperfield Academy, Gravesham
New Staff Appointed for 18 classes in September
Teachers
Appointed
Source Notes
2016 13 Ofsted 2016
5 NQT*, 6 teachers new
to English system
2017 11 Ofsted 2017
2018 5 School data
Ofsted 2019 describes staffing
changes as 'turbulent'
2019 10  Ofsted June 2019 planned, so likely to be more

 Note: * = Newly  Qualified Teacher

The whole amounts to a shocking rate of attrition of teachers, with the added tragedy that many of those leaving each year are no doubt being disillusioned by the experience and so have become a loss to a profession already suffering from the severe shortage of new entrants who stay the course.     

Accordingly, I submitted a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) to the REach 2 Academy Trust which runs Copperfield to find out the detail and received back a report of a different pattern of events as explained below, which put the school in a much better light. So, I followed it up and was told there was no discrepancy with the Ofsted comments in my first paragraph, which is untrue. One key admission  was that Higher Level Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants who have been 'covering classes' during the year will return to their substantive roles in September (presuming of course that all the ten new appointments turn up). Sadly, I regularly get reports of other schools engaging in such practices with the result that children are not being provided with an adequate education. 

Friday, 05 July 2019 07:12

Turner Schools: More Self Promotion

The National Schools Commissioner (NSC), Dominic Herrington, recently paid a visit to Folkestone Academy, proudly announced on the Turner Schools Trust website, in yet another article expounding the school's brilliance, and explored below. Mr Herrington is also currently Regional Schools Commissioner for the South East so, although this is not mentioned, he may have come in that capacity. One can only speculate on the reasons for this unusual visit to a school which is part of a Trust recently described by several ex members of staff as being run like a personality cult ( You will find a profile of CEO Dr Jo Saxton with photographs from the TES back in October, centrally featured on the Trust's 'Latest' news items, displacing the NSC's visit). 

TurnerSchools

Was it that the National Commissioner wished to see at first hand the issues that Turner Schools have created at Folkestone Academy and the two primary schools of the Trust, as detailed in various articles on this website and summarised below; or was it to look at the way the largesse that has been lavishly showered on this small struggling Academy Trust has been used and why it was needed in the first place; or was it the false claims of a severe shortage of places across Folkestone and Hythe in five years’ time in this article grandly entitled 'How Turner Schools is helping Kent meet the growing secondary school population'.

Overall, the Turner Schools website appears specifically designed to impress important people rather than target the population of Folkestone with children considering secondary school places. 

Just two weeks ago, when I published an article on Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Primary Schools for September 2019, I was so concerned about the self-evident mismanagement at Delce Academy, that I devoted a special section to the school, the only one I picked out in this way.

It was therefore no great surprise to me that yesterday Ofsted published a Report on an Inspection which placed Delce Academy in Special Measures concluding that: ‘Since the last inspection, leaders and those responsible for governance have been ineffective in ensuring that pupils have received an acceptable quality of education’

Delce Academy

Just two years ago, a previous inspection concluded that the school Required Improvement, down from Good, but in this latest verdict there is no indication that the school or its leaders, including the Local Advisory Body for the school and the Directors of the Castle Trust, have drawn lessons from this or have any clue how to improve matters.‘Parents and carers told inspectors that they had lost faith in the leadership of the school. Parents are deeply concerned by high staff turnover, standards of behaviour at the school and the lack of communication from the trust and school leaders’.

This indictment surely goes some way to explain why numbers applying for places at the school have fallen away so sharply in both the Junior and controversial new Infant sections but, as always it is the children that pay the price, in stark contrast to the school motto: 'Learning Towards a Brighter Future'.  Those responsible for this totally preventable disaster will as usual walk away unscathed. 

The headteacher of the Foundation Archbishop’s School, Canterbury, has stood down from his post with effect from June 14th, after several years of decline in a school that was until recently one of the most oversubscribed in the county. The number of first choices for the school has nearly halved over the past two years, falling from 125 to 64  applicants for its 140 places. The 38 spaces left unfilled were taken up by Local Authority Allocations (LAA) to the school in 2019, being children who did not apply for it but were awarded no school of their choice. This is over half of the total LAAs in Canterbury District, where not a single place was left vacant before successful grammar school appeals, which will have freed some up in non-selective schools. 

Archbishops

GCSE performance placed the school in the bottom half of Kent non-selective schools for the key measure Progress 8 for the past three years, and well below the much stronger outcomes in 2015 and previously. . This was for a cohort that was strongly selective for most children in Year Seven, in terms of Church Membership, with the remaining 10% of pupils highest performers from a test of ability.

Update: See follow-up article here

Ofsted has released a remarkable Monitoring Inspection Report describing a strong performance at the failed Copperfield Academy (published only by the school at the time of writing but not yet generally released). However, it raises more questions than it answers, suggesting how a Trust might manipulate the system.

First, bring in a 'Super Head' and two Acting Deputies as the senior leadership team, to carry out a short term fix, who will then then no doubt depart to another troubleshooting exercise, as the REAch2 Trust tried  previously in 2016 at the same school. Secondly, make sure there are persons in front of each class to teach.

My previous article, which looked at the shocking failings of the Copperfield Academy and REAch2 in some detail, identified the massive turnover of teachers and headteachers as the central issue during the Trust's six years in charge, spelled out in full below. This is an issue which still continues, as incidentally revealed by the Report in a throwaway comment.    

The Report reveals that half the current teaching staff are not qualified to teach and that the Monitoring Inspection found: ’the quality of teaching remains highly variable. This is further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent’. So, there are still staff changes going on mid-year as the inspection was taking place. In some schools absentee teachers are not unusual feature when Ofsted is coming in, with Trusts being known to ship in experienced staff from other Trust establishments for the period to cover the gaps.

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