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Displaying items by tag: FOI

MEDWAY Council is breaching transparency laws, the Messenger can reveal, with hundreds of queries for information taking more than a month.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act was hailed as opening up local government to public scrutiny when it launched in 2005. Anyone is entitled to get information for free within 20 working days.

 But 48% of FOI replies by Medway Council last year broke that time barrier. The transparency watchdog, the Information Commissioner, is now examining the situation after contact from the Messenger. Information Commissioner spokesman Greg Jones said: “We monitor the worst performing authorities on time limits. The trigger is if they respond to fewer than 85% of FOI requests on time.” Medway’s rate is 52%. Schools expert Peter Read has battled to reveal important stories using FOI. He said the council often escaped scrutiny because facts were “old news” by the time they emerged.

 “I’ve only made one Information Commissioner complaint because frankly you lose the will to live,” he added. “I got the final result two weeks ago after 18 months. I’m appalled, but it’s totally what I expect.” Even the Messenger’s first request for today’s figures took 104 working days, despite the response being a standard two page rejection letter. That challenges the council’s claim that its longest reply has taken 49 working days. Councillor Tristan Osborne (Labour) has protested to council leader Rodney Chambers (Conservative). Mr Osborne wrote: “It is right in a democracy that power be scrutinised, irrespective of who controls the executive.”

 The ruling Conservative group says short-staffed bosses will “raise awareness” of the importance of FOI in a bid to boost responses.

A spokesman said: “This surge in demand, and the complexity of some enquiries, can and does make it difficult to always meet the 20-day deadline. “Research shows each FOI request costs on average £293, which currently equates to more than £200,000 a year for Medway. “Decreases in government funding make it difficult to find the resources to meet the growing FOI demand we are seeing.”

 FOI law has helped the Messenger expose jawdropping stories at Medway Council and beyond. We resorted to FOI after the council failed to detail a mysterious £350,000 cost of closing two schools. It transpired that the money had gone to a private firm simply to cancel a photocopier hire contract.

Published in Newspaper Articles
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On 11th April, I wrote an exasperated Blog article dealing with the failures of Medway COuncil to respond to Freedom of Information Requests. What I didn't know at the time was that four weeks earlier the Medway Messenger had published its own article bemoaning the same failures by the Council. I have managed to obtain a copy of that article, written by Dan Bloom, and reproduce it below: 

"COUNCIL chiefs have taken five months to reply to a formal information request – which asked how many requests were being answered late......

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Thursday, 11 April 2013 13:19

What can I do about Medway Council? - Continued

Warning – this is a very long and somwhat rambling article about Freedom of Information Requests in Medway, but it makes me feel better if nothing else! Back in December 2011, I wrote a blog article on this very topic, complaining about Medway Council’s repeated failure to respond to FOIs with a follow up in February. . Since then the Information Commissioner has ruled that Medway Council is in breach of Section 10(1) of the Freedom of Information Act in failing to comply with a request of mine within the statutory time for compliance. However, this appears to have made no impact on their current poor practices. .......

Published in Peter's Blog
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Latest News & Comments

Just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. News items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule, for I run this non profit making site single-handed.

  • Shocking News: Dr Jo Saxton is the preferred Candidate to be new chief regulator of Ofqual

     Dr Jo Saxton, erstwhile Chief Executive of Turner Schools, the struggling Academy Trust set up by her in Folkestone, is Gavin Williamson’s preferred candidate for the key national education post of Chief Regulator of Ofqual. On the surface, she is an ideal candidate with a powerful background of holding important positions, so the chasm between her rhetoric and the outcomes at Turner Schools may fit in with the DfE’s needs in the role.  

    It is hard to know where to start a performance analysis of her time in Folkestone, but this article concludes with links to the seventeen articles I have written about it, which are replete with startling factual material about the Trust and its four schools. My final article on her period in office begins: For the last three and a half years, Turner Schools has been one of my most prolific themes for articles on this website, aided and abetted by its CEO and founder Dr Jo Saxton, whose passion for promoting the Trust (named after her grandmother) and making fantastical claims for its performance and future prospects was simply breathtaking, as demonstrated in my incomplete collection of slogans, mottos, motivating messages and false claims.

    You will find a list of Turner Schools ‘achievements’ during Dr Saxton’s leadership here, with some of the most striking repeated below and others in the list of news items at the foot of this article.

    Written on Saturday, 19 June 2021 04:50 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Swale Crisis in Non-Selective School Places

    There is an immediate crisis of accommodation in the three Sittingbourne non-selective (N/S) schools, which are overwhelmed with families trying to access them and avoid Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey. I gave a summary in my article on 2021 admissions to Kent N/S schools here, but now have further detail. For families, the chilling news is that by 2023, even when all of the vacant Oasis places are filled with Sittingbourne children, there won’t be enough Year Seven school spaces for local children across the area. KCC’s vague solution is to ‘continue to press for access to the North Sittingbourne (Quinton Road) development to establish a new 6FE secondary school to meet the future need from the population growth and new housing developments’, but with no sense of urgency nor sign of achieving anything.

    I am now told that KCC forgot to allocate some children with Education and Health Care Plans to Swale schools before allocations were made this year, which is the correct procedure, but instead gave them to the Sittingbourne schools afterwards. The result is that numbers became even more swollen, especially at Fulston Manor which received eleven extra pupils in this way. Unsurprisingly with these pressures, not one of the 68 appeals heard for a place at Fulston Manor was successful and, looking at the tremendously strong appeal defence for Westlands, I doubt if there will be much more success there, or indeed at The Sittingbourne School.

    The article concludes with a look at the delays in setting up England's first Secure School, to be run by Oasis in Rochester. 

    Written on Tuesday, 15 June 2021 06:05 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Simon Webb: Kent County Councillor

    Many in the education service will still remember Simon Webb, newly elected County Councillor for  Maidstone Rural West in the recent Council elections, from his previous roles working for the Council. He was Area Education Officer for North West Kent for 13 years, and then became Principal Primary Adviser for the Council in April 2013, having been, in the words to me of a senior Officer, 'moved to where he would do less harm'. In fact, his brief tenure of this post was even more controversial, only partly because of the way he publicly marched headteachers who he considered were underperforming, out of their schools into suspension or gardening leave, without notice. It was no surprise when he suddenly 'left' KCC service eighteen months later, taking up a temporary part-time role as Consultant to Jane Porter, Headteacher of Whitehill Primary School, having previously supported her at various schools with which she was involved. She installed him in an office in the school although staff were not clear of his purpose in being there, but she was later permanently banned from being a teacher because of professional misconduct. I was able to follow Mr Webb's later advisory roles in Suffolk and Essex before he became Chief Learning Officer at Connected Learning, a small primary school academy trust also in Essex on a salary of £95,000. He left this in January this year after just under four years in post.    

    Written on Tuesday, 08 June 2021 20:20 4 comments Read more...
  • Covid-19 and the Kent Grammar School Selection Process for 2022 Entry

    Last summer I wrote a series of articles warning that unless changes were made to the forthcoming Kent grammar school selection process, the pass rate amongst pupil premium children and those from ‘ordinary families’ would fall because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on learning in primary schools. The Education Cabinet Member at the time claimed that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage. This proved a completely empty promise, and nothing was done, apart from a delay in testing. 

    As a direct result of the failure to act, the proportion of children in receipt of Pupil Premium and those in East Kent who passed the Kent Test plummeted along with the proportion of Kent state school children taking the Test, boys in general underperformed, passes for children from private schools and out of county increased, and 13 East and Mid Kent grammar schools had empty places on allocation in March. You will find the evidence for all these facts traceable back from a previous article. Social mobility, one of the principles of the selective school system which is already damaged by tutoring and private cramming schools, will inevitably take another knock in next school year’s assessment process unless the Education Department changes its attitudes and approach to selection.  There are now a new Cabinet Member for Education and a new Director of Education in the county, so the opportunity is there for such a change, necessary if there is not to be further inequality entrenched, with this year's cohort suffering nearly two years of serious disruption in school and learning by the time of the Test in September/October. 

    To be precise, unless there are changes in the selective assessment procedure we shall see another and increasing betrayal of the more disadvantaged Kent children looking towards a grammar school place for the second year running, despite the valiant efforts of so many teachers to minimise that disadvantage. There is a brief note on the situation in Medway, below

    Written on Sunday, 06 June 2021 20:18 1 comment Read more...
  • Halling Primary School: The end of the Affair?

    The failure by the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust to even notice the meltdown at Halling Primary School in Medway after it appointed a totally unsuitable headteacher to the school, has resulted in the Trust being wound up. Its two schools are being absorbed into the Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust (AAAT), subject to consultation, which in my opinion is the best possible outcome for the children of the two schools.

    cliffe woods

     The Trust has sent a dishonest letter to parents presenting this as a wonderful opportunity, which it is, whilst completely ignoring the events of the past eighteen months that show it is incapable of operating in its present form and have forced it into this position.. Whilst I forecast the re-brokering of the school in my previous article, I neither anticipated the extent of the changes nor that AAAT, a Church of England Trust, would take on two secular schools in this way, although it does reflect government policy to bring Trusts together in larger groupings and is a warning to others to keep their house in order – Fairview Primary School and The Westbrook Trust take particular note of my final paragraph

     

    Written on Wednesday, 02 June 2021 06:47 2 comments Read more...
  • Appointment of New Headteacher at Fairview Primary School

    Update: A comment posted under a previous article claims the Vice-Chairman of Governors was not informed by his Chair of the shocking criticism of the governing body in notes of a meeting of staff convened by Medway Council, and dismissed them as either false or held by a small minority. 

    The Governors of Fairview Community Primary School, the third-largest primary school in Medway, have appointed Mrs Karin Tillett as headteacher after a highly controversial recruitment process, the background to which is explained in previous articles, most recently here and entitled: ‘How not to Appoint a Headteacher’. This includes a series of ever-changing arrangements for recruitment and for criteria laid down for the qualities of the new headteacher, as governors sought to narrow down the ‘really strong field of current headteachers with relevant experience, NPQH and CPD/research’.  In the event just two candidates were interviewed, one not fitting these criteria. 

    I have been commenting on education matters in Kent and Medway for over 15 years, but have never seen a rogue governing body like this before. In my opinion, it ignores the welfare of its pupils and staff in pursuit of a narrow agenda to join a small moderately performing academy trust although as a maintained school it is still accountable to Medway Council which doesn’t appear to care, perhaps because it just wants to see the back of the school. The Governing Body and Medway Council have chosen to ignore formal complaints about the headship appointment procedures and academisation

    I do not apologise for covering the events at Fairview in such detail; it is a unique and in my eyes gripping story of how an out of control governing body can behave, apparently with impunity, which has been avidly followed by a large number of readers of this site. 

    Written on Saturday, 29 May 2021 20:18 5 comments Read more...