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Displaying items by tag: academy

Wednesday, 15 January 2020 18:40

Academy and Free School News January 2020

IThis article first looks at the two new Free Schools opened in Dartford in September: Stone Lodge School (secondary) and River Mill Primary. Six schools have become academies: Dartford Bridge Community Primary School; Horsmonden Primary; Paddock Wood Primary; Rolvenden PrimarySt Katherine’s Primary; and Wainscott Primary. A group of primary schools in East Kent are  proposing to academise together: Briary; Bysing Wood; Holywell; and QueenboroughSunny Bank School  in Sittingbourne has an Academy Order. The re-brokering of the failed Delce Academy; the Private Finance Initiative and academy conversion; a roundup of the names and numbers of Kent and Medway academies, and various other academy matters.

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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. 

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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 Cabinet appeared to approve 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. 

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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

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.

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Update: This went ahead as reported here, with the six of the seven Deal schools academising simultaneously in March 2019Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE Primary has either pulled out, or is delaying conversion. 

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
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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
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 21:39

Academy and Free School News: September-November 2017

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.…
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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.

  • Kent and Medway School Transport in September

    Most recently updated 12th August - and probably more to come in a fast-changing situation. 

    Government Policy
    'It is our plan that all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term'.

    Government Advice
    'We expect that public transport capacity will continue to be constrained in the autumn term. Its use by pupils, particularly in peak times, should be kept to an absolute minimum'. 
    ' I am asking every staff member and student to plan now how they will get to school or college. If it is possible to walk or cycle, please do' (Secretary of State for Education)

    I wholeheartedly support the government policy principle of encouraging all pupils to return to school in September, and those schools are working incredibly hard to deliver it. However, one of the many intractable Covid-19 related challenges facing some secondary schools and families when re-opening in September is that of pupil transport. Many Kent schools are especially vulnerable, for the county is rural in places with pupils having to travel long distances to their nearest school, and faith and grammar schools will also have pupils who travel considerable distance by public transport. Most readers will have seen or encountered the publicly accessible double-decker buses packed with pupils on their way to and from school in the past, but this won’t be the situation in September. For social distancing rules reduce the number of passengers on each bus by up to two thirds and there is not the spare capacity at peak school times to increase bus numbers to compensate.

    We are now just three weeks away from the start of term and there is no sign of a solution to the transport difficulties, although the government has recently released two documents covering the challenges. KCC considers that: ‘the financial impact on bus services and operators has been significant so it could be that more services than usual are subject to change or cancellation. In addition, at the moment, operators are only able to let about half of the usual numbers of passengers on their buses and if this remains the case, then providing enough space for all passengers could (!) be a problem, and so students that can travel in a different way should do so at the moment’. This will inevitably have major knock-on effects, with a sharp increase in private traffic on the roads at key times.

    There is no doubt that unless there are considerable improvements to what is currently on offer, too many pupils will regularly miss large parts of the school day, with some not being able to make school at all. 

    Written on Friday, 07 August 2020 19:47 3 comments Read more...
  • Comprehensive Future Knowingly Re-Publishes False Data about Grammar Schools and Pupil Premium

    Two years ago, Comprehensive Future published as a fact that: When asked how many pupils were admitted through these priority policies 80 schools responded, revealing that just 574 disadvantaged pupils were offered admission out of their 12,431 available places... there were 22 selective schools who responded to say they had failed to admit a single disadvantaged pupil through their policies’.  This claim was picked up by the media including the BBC. Unfortunately, this is twice completely false, as I demonstrated in an article last month after the organisation publicly attacked me for querying the data, repeating it in the process. False firstly, because the organisation had quoted completely the wrong data column from their own database, and secondly because the whole database is self-evidently rubbish, see below. As I wrote then, a prime example of the ICT mantra Garbage in, garbage out.  

    I have now been informed by CF’s Chairman, Nuala Burgess, that CF is not prepared to discuss the matter further, the bogus claims remain on their website and that of the BBC and so this must cast doubt on any other claims made by CF on data they have harvested to forward their aims.

    Written on Thursday, 06 August 2020 15:25 4 comments Read more...
  • The Kent Test 2020: Throwing down the gauntlet

    I had an extended interview on Radio Kent last week about the unfairness created towards ‘children of ordinary families’ in the Kent Test for this extraordinary year. At the conclusion, Julia George who was interviewing asked me to ‘throw down the gauntlet’ with KCC over my deep concerns, repeated several times over recent months. I did this by simply challenging the Council to respond to the recently published Government Guidance to Admission Authorities, Kent County Council being one of the largest in the country. KCC’s response to the BBC over the challenge wrongly dismisses the guidance because it ‘will cover individual schools and consortia which test far fewer children’. More importantly, it completely ignores the main part of the guidance and my concern, which focused on the unfairness created for lower-income families in Kent, as explained below.

    At about the same time, Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education at KCC replied to a letter from Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, which echoed my concerns. This response covers somewhat different territory, but again completely ignores any strategy for promoting fairness for disadvantaged families as laid down by the government advice. Moreover, he dismissed my idea for creating flexibility in these increasingly uncertain times and of supporting ordinary families, or any alternative, having set up a false description of it to dismantle!

    Written on Wednesday, 05 August 2020 10:35 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • The Struggling Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Appoints its Fourth Leader in Seven Years.

    Oasis Academy Trust is trying once again to reverse the inexorable decline in the fortunes of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIOS) by bringing in a new Executive Principal over the head of Tina Lee, the current Principal.

    Oasis Sheppey

    Ian Simpson, currently Principal of Oasis Academy Lister Park in Bradford, makes the eighth leader since the school became an academy in 2009. Most of his predecessors have been moved on after failing to turn the school round. Both of the previous two post holders were appointed from within the school only after the Trust failed to attract anyone from outside, despite extensive advertising. Both have been a disappointment. It is not clear if the role of Executive Head is permanent or just a short term firefighting job.

    All this is taking place in the context of a forecast crisis in the provision of non-selective places in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, which will come to a head in 2021, if it has not already arrived. 

    Written on Friday, 31 July 2020 06:45 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Government 'Expectation' on Managing Selection Test Arrangements in Kent and Medway

    Hot on the heels of Kent County Council's confirmed arrangements for the Kent Test, as reported in my previous article, the government has now released its formal advice on assessment processes for selective school admissions. This is quoted extensively below in blue and italics. It greatly expands the frameworks set out by KCC and Medway Councils, urging admission authorities to look closely at minimising disadvantage for protected groups, socially and economically disadvantaged children and children who are unable to attend the test centre, as I had hoped KCC itself would. The current KCC proposal heavily discriminates against lower-income families who can't afford private education or extensive private tutoring.  It remains my conviction that, if KCC were to adopt a model such as the one I have proposed before, it would go a considerable way towards meeting the requirement to minimise this acknowledged disadvantage in the current circumstances which has not yet been addressed. However, there is still the flexibility to do so. Medway Council has a more structured procedure for assessing children, but no apparent will to change it as this document advises, so I have little hope that greater fairness will emerge there.  

    Several pieces of government advice, considered further below, relate to the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers which is likely to be magnified by their absence from school during the coronavirus outbreak’. In particular, ‘we therefore strongly advise that tests for grammar and partially selective schools are moved back into late October or to November if local admission co-ordination processes allow’. Along with the other recommendations below which now need addressing, this is considerably more radical than the KCC and Medway decisions which place the revised test dates in the first half of October and offer no further mitigation of disadvantage. 

    The immense logistical problems faced by KCC and, to a lesser extent by Medway Council, in providing facilities to test some 5,000 out of county candidates are also explored further below.

    Written on Saturday, 25 July 2020 11:59 3 comments Read more...
  • Education, Health and Care Plans in Kent

    Update: You will find an article exploring the government's announcement of 35 new Free Specia Schools to be set up here

    Further Update: KCC and government have announced the opening of a new secondary special school on the Isle of Sheppey for September 2022. 

    This article looks back at provision for children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) for the year 2018-19 across Kent, success rates for those appealing against decisions, along with other related matters. The data shows a sharp rise of 80% in EHCPs awarded in under three years, with a corresponding increase in budget putting enormous pressure on KCC education finances.

    The data below shows that for nearly half of families requesting a statutory assessment of SEN this is not followed through for some reason, often lack of support from the school which may be for good reason. However, for most who get that far, the overwhelming majority were awarded an EHCP, so it is worthwhile persevering. I imagine that the difficulties of securing an EHCP over the past six months have been immense.  Those unsuccessful in securing an EHCP or one that is adequate for the purpose have the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, although large numbers starting down this route did not follow through, often where KCC decided their cases were not worth defending and concede the EHCP, as suggested by the data.

    The article also looks at placements of children with EHCPs, with 40% of primary and 30% of secondary pupils remaining in mainstream schools, along with the number of children being with EHCPs being de-registered from school for Elective Home Education, together with a brief look at the powerful performance of Medway Special SchoolsI also look back at a damning Inspection of Kent’s ineffectiveness in implementing the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014 which took place in the middle of this period; consider the current situation and the financial pressures imposed by the increase in EHCPs; and the number of families taking up places in private schools, funded by KCC often after Tribunal. These include one which charges more than twice as much as Eton College. 

    Written on Friday, 24 July 2020 15:54 1 comment Read more...