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Monday, 14 July 2014 00:00

The Mystery of Twydall Primary School, Gillingham - and another look at Medway's appalling primary OFSTED results.

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Back in March, OFSTED inspected Twydall Primary School in Gillingham, and found it Inadequate, placing the school in Special Measures. This will have been a great shock to many parents as the school had previously been found to be Good just 18 months previously in October 2012.


Unusually, but now happening more often, the Inspection was triggered by two parental complaints. Whilst we do not know the details of these complaints, OFSTED suggests that they were about the alleged failure of the school to respond to children presenting challenging behaviour, a growing issue in schools which have to balance the needs of these pupils with those of the whole cohort, including safeguarding and learning issues (I am often consulted on both sides of this argument!). There is a suggestion that this may have been partially triggered by poor behaviour management procedures relating to pupils with disabilities. The school has specialist provision for 43 children with physical disabilities or complex medical needs, along with a hearing impaired Unit, all children being taught in mainstream classes........

The mystery comes with a Report in KentOnline, presumably echoed in the Medway Messenger, that stated "education chiefs made a dramatic U-turn following an outcry from parents and staff and upgraded their Ofsted findings to “requires improvement”. Inspectors admitted that mistakes had been made and apologised to head teacher Sue Fedosiuk'Oddly, I can find no reference to the apology or the upgrade on the school website, merely the statement that: "Although we have to accept Ofsted’s judgement, we do not consider this is a true and accurate reflection of the quality of our school’s provision. Ofsted has graded all aspects of the school as inadequate and therefore this places the school in the category of Special Measures".  The OFSTED website does not refer to what would be an exceptional action either. In fact, I was so intrigued by the reported apology and errors by OFSTED that I contacted the school myself to try and confirm this, without response.

OFSTED has now carried out a Monitoring Inspection, as with all failing schools, which contains no clues about the issues the school identified as mistakes by OFSTED and reaffirms the school as being in Special Measures. Although the  Inspection Report finds some improvements, it considers the School Action Plan not fit for purpose, and strongly criticises Consultants brought in by Medway School Improvement Department as failing to focus on the areas identified in the original Inspection Report and not giving a clear enough view about to whether progress is being made. One wonders what they are being paid for - will Medway Council ask for its fees back and will these Consultants be used again?......

Certainly, this OFSTED Report and failed Monitoring Inspection will sadly come as no surprise to those browsers who have followed my previous analyses of Medway primary schools’ performance.  It brings Medway’s proportion of failed schools to 19%, nearly three times the national average, with almost half the schools inspected seeing a fall in their grading.

Twydall Primary School was formed by the amalgamation of the Twydall Infant and Junior Schools in September 2011.The Infants School had previously received an Outstanding OFSTED, with an experienced and inspirational Headteacher who took over the leadership of the combined school. The Junior School was classified as Good. The original OFSTED Report makes clear that the problems are concentrated in the Junior  part of the new school, whilst in contrast, "Key Stage 1 pupils make good progress and reach above average levels of attainment". In short, a failed amalgamation. 

The Monitoring Inspection criticises Medway Council for failing to identify the faults in the school's Action Plan, leading to its unfitness for purpose. It considers that "it is disappointing that the local authority did not identify the weaknesses in the school’s action plan when the draft was shared", begging even more questions about Medway Council's competence to bring about improvement. 

The Report also reports the large number of staff changes some as a consequence of the OSTED failure. The Deputy Headteacher and four class teachers are leaving the school at the end of term, although remarkably the Report states that the school plans to cover the class teacher vacancies by redeploying current staffing. An Acting Deputy Headteacher has made a considerable impact on progress, especially in mathematics. A Sports Coach has also been employed who has also had a positive impact on behaviour during playtimes. The Local Authority has made considerable effort into providing support for the school, but OFSTED strongly criticises the input of Consultants, presumably arranged by the Medway School Improvement Department, who have failed to  carry out their responsibilities properly. 

The Monitoring Inspection Report states that the headteacher of a local Outstanding Primary School (there are just three possibilities in Medway!) which also specialises in supporting disabled pupils and those with special educational needs, is to support the headteacher for two days per week. 

As usual in such cases, the Report confirms Medway's solution to its many failing schools,  to hand it over to an Academy Group as a Sponsored Academy. It is reported that this will be The Rochester Grammar School/All Faith's Thinking School Academy Trust, although this is not confirmed. 

The reason I have quoted Medway Council's School Improvement Service several times, is that I have been told on radio by the relevant Deputy Cabinet Member that I fail to appreciate the Department's excellent work. Sadly, for the children of Medway I can see no positive result of their efforts, as confirmed yet again in the following  appalling record of primary OFSTED outcomes since September: 

Medway Primary OFSTED Report Outcomes to May 2014
  Outstanding Good
Inadequate Total Up Down
Sep 13-
May 14
% Sep 13-
May 14
0% 41% 41% 19%      
% 2012-13
6% 34% 46% 14% 35 7 6
Sep13 -
Mar 14
 6%  53%  36%  5%      

I have commented critically on Medway's appalling performance at primary school level in both OFSTED outcomes and Key Stage 2 results many times before, without perceptible effect in the complacent attitude adopted by the Children's Services Department. Amazingly and tragically, OFSTED outcomes are on an even worse trajectory than last year which saw Medway coming 151st out of 152 Local Authorities in terms of OFSTED outcomes, this year with nearly four times the national average of schools failing their Inspections. Even more shocking is the movement of schools OFSTED outcomes in relation to the previous Inspection. Of the 27 schools inspected, nearly half have seen their assessment decline. Whilst Medway's School Improvement Department appears to be delegating much of its role out to external consultants (many of whom are previous employees of the Department), Medway schools are deteriorating in performance at an alarming rate. Is anybody interested or prepared to do something about this dreadful situation which is damaging the futures of so many Medway children. 

A calculation By Tristan Osbourne, Medway Council Labour Member, shows that, unsurprisingly, 45% of reception places are being taken up by children in schools rated "requires improvement" or "inadequate". That means that up to 1575 families will be unhappy with the provision offered.

Meanwhile, Medway secondary schools continue to show that the problem is not with Medway children. Over the past two years, they have achieved: one OUTSTANDING classification - Rainham Mark Grammar School up from Good in the inspection of last month; seven GOOD (all non-selective schools); one REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT and one SPECIAL MEASURES. That is 80% GOOD or OUTSTANDING, well above the national average, and in line with Kent outcomes





Read 10472 times Last modified on Saturday, 26 July 2014 19:50

1 comment

  • Comment Link Sunday, 20 July 2014 08:41 posted by kentinfo

    It is no surprise to the parents that another head teacher has been called in to baby sit the current head teacher.
    One Governor reported to the press that they are in a Disability Discrimination Tribunal as well. PETER: It has been put to me that Medway Council are in a hurry to resolve the academy issue before The DDT decision is made. I have no evidence for this.

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