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Displaying items by tag: folkestone

Sunday, 13 September 2020 19:36

Turner Schools: Update

here

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. She departed the Trust in March, after just three years, to become a Political Adviser to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, whose subsequent gaffe ridden career is well documented, but presumably is coincidental.
TurnerSchools
Her successor, Seamus Murphy, has wisely not sought headlines in the same way but has still made his mark. Subsequently, school leaders in two of the four Turner schools have bitten the dust, both controversially. Teacher turnover has continued unabated at a high level, well over twice the national average for the past three years. There has also been a high turnover of Trustees and Members of Turner Schools, the two distinct bodies responsible for governance. Mr Murphy still has to manage the legacy of a massive financial deficit left by Dr Saxton.

The EKC Group, which runs Folkestone College, has sensed an expansion opportunity and has opened the Folkestone Junior College this month. This offers a full-time alternative to the Turner Schools monopoly of non-selective education in Folkestone, in Years 10 and 11, surely a major challenge to the Trust.

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 10 June 2020 17:58

More drama at Turner Schools

Update in blue below., about Jo Swash, Vice Principal vanished 'in the night'.  
Since its arrival in Folkestone at the Easter of 2017 under the leadership of CEO Dr Jo Saxton, Turner Schools has indulged in an ad hoc adventure: appointing and removing staff at short notice amidst a flood of changing job titles, along with other multiple changes of direction; low academic standards and unpopular schools; and a massive variation in exclusion rates, at its peak the highest number of any school in Kent. Headteachers have come and gone in attempts to fix the problems, six at Folkestone Academy and another half dozen at Martello Primary, along with a multitude of other senior leaders as changes in the structure become bewildering in their frequency.

Dr Saxton has now moved on to advise Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education in March this year (see below) and Seamus Murphy, her successor as CEO, is wasting no time in making his mark on Turner Schools. Having arrived in April 2019, he is now on his fourth role in the Trust.

One of his early actions on taking on full responsibility has continued the Turner Schools tradition of creating a high turnover of senior staff, with the Executive Principal of the two Trust primary schools departing at very short notice on Friday last, after just one week of Term Six. Monday’s letter informing parents of the decision can be found by a link on Facebook but is well hidden. It is also very short on detail about Mrs Sowden-Mehta who has been at the school for three years, having been promoted twice. In spite of this success, she has very suddenly ‘decided to leave Turner Schools to pursue new opportunities’, a time-honoured phrase used to cover leaders who have been forced out of their schools. The previous Principal of Folkestone Academy has also recently vanished after first being demoted. 

Update July: Jo Swash, Vice Principal has left Folkestone Academy suddenly, my correspondent says'mysteriously'. When I checked this recently here, he was present in the photographs but has now gone, but is still present on the list of all staff, below

Published in News and Comments

Update 11 April: If you wish to apply for the vacant post of Head of School at Folkestone Academy, you will find details here. The 84 point Job Description defining the post-holder's responsibilities shows that Turner Schools has not lost its touch for covering all the bases.    

Update: To add to Dr Saxton's Achievements, below, the number of families putting Folkestone Academy as their first choice school for 2020 has fallen yet again, from 153 in 2019 to 127 in 2020. 23 children, probably all from Folkestone, were allocated to the school, refusing to put it on their application form.

Dr Jo Saxton is leaving her post as co- founder and Chief Executive of Turner Schools, the small Academy Trust in Folkestone, but being paid one of the largest salaries in the country for a Trust of this size. Her departure comes after just three tumultuous and underachieving years and a big vision, along with a huge number of unfulfilled promises including for the two Folkestone secondary schools the fantasy claim: both schools will outperform all schools in the south of England – excluding grammars - and provide “success without selection’.

She had already effectively thrown in the towel a year ago, when she appointed a new Deputy Chief Executive, now her successor, so that 'she could focus on curriculum matters, being the original reason she took on the Turner Schools post’, although I can find no other mention of this focus anywhere else.

TurnerSchools

The news of Dr Saxton's departure was contained in Kent Live published earlier today, 11th March. I have never before received so many emails in half a day informing me of a news item in such a small time. None of them regret her departure.

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The Turner Schools Annual Report to Companies House, posted on the final due date, 31st January 2020 suggesting some difficulties in completion, continues the saga of well rewarded underperformance. CEO Dr Jo Saxton whose recent main focus has been on Curriculum across the four Turner Schools, was paid a salary of £149,783, conveniently just below the £150,000 level at which government looks askance. The salary is in return for running a small, struggling Academy Trust and is highest of the Kent Trusts I have found so far, excepting four which are large and successful. The Report works hard, as is usual for Turner Schools, on blaming its problems at Folkestone Academy on legacy issues despite the evidence that standards have only declined since it took over. Amongst other own goals: it also manages to excuse the failure of the two Turner primary schools to attract pupils, including Morehall with the highest vacancy rate in Kent; has run up a loan repayable to government of £1.3 million; and has two of its four schools running at a sizeable deficit.

Turner Schools Logo

In other news, Government has at last released a Free School Impact Assessment for Turner Free School carried out in 2018, looking at the likely effects its opening would have on neighbouring schools. The good news (??) according to the DfE was that there would be a Minimal Effect on Folkestone Academy in terms of recruitment, but a Moderate Effect on Astor College in Dover. For the Sixth Form there would be Moderate Effects felt by Canterbury College, East Kent College (which have now merged) and Hilderstone College. How much more wrong could government be! See below.

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The following article may not be of direct interest to families but it identifies the chaos and machinations at the top of Turner Schools and as such I consider it is an important testimony. The consequences for schools operating under this chaotic level of leadership cannot be good.   

The mystery of the resignation of the Chairman of Directors and Founder of Turner Schools, Professor Carl Lygo, along with Dame Susan John and four other Directors continues to deepen in what appears to have been a meltdown amongst the Board of Directors back in  May. Amongst other developments below, the Trust has quietly announced the appointment of Mike Buchanan as the new Board Chairman in the middle of an article about building works, although completely forgetting to mention why another Chairman is needed, or to give any mention or credit anywhere to Professor Lygo, Dame Susan John, or Jenny King amongst others for their important contributions to the Trust.

TurnerSchools

Since I wrote my previous article, Folkestone Academy has had another set of poor GCSE results. Although it has improved on its record of awarding more than one in seven fixed term exclusions for the whole of Kent in 2017-18, the 2018-19 performance of being the third highest percentage in Kent is nothing to be proud of, nor are the high exclusion rates at Martello Primary and the Turner Free School. 2017-2018 had seen a mass exodus of staff, another large swathe going in July this year. Folkestone Academy has got through five headteachers since Turner Schools took over. Sixth form numbers have slumped, as has intake. The Trust has made multiple false claims about its ‘successes’ over the past two years to cover this record up. There is more to come before Christmas.

Published in Peter's Blog
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. 

Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 07:37

Turner Schools: Fresh Blessings from on High

Update: In spite of claims that the two Trust Primary schools are proving popular with parents, recent data shows that Morehall Primary has 75% of its Reception places empty on allocation for September, the highest proportion in the county (along with two other schools), with Martello Primary not far behind at 63%. 

Turner Schools, a small academy Trust with a CEO being paid the disproportionate £140,000 – £150,000 a year, has appointed a Deputy Chief Executive Officer, on a salary likely to be above £120,000, to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum matters. His salary will be met from a Grant  of £143,100 from the government’s Multi Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund, at no cost to the school, as explained in a letter to staff. Such grants are only available for MATs which have a “proven record of working with underperforming schools to improve performance” . This should surely have ruled Turner Schools out, given the damage they have wreaked on Folkestone Academy, as demonstrated in various articles on this site, most recently here

TurnerSchools

 

The letter provides three reasons for the appointment, explored below:

  • To join our mission to deliver a powerful education that overcomes educational underperformance.
  • To provide executive principal function when and where needed in our trust schools
  • To create additional capacity to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum.
Published in Peter's Blog
 
You will find a fresh news item about Turner Schools here (27/4)
 
Update:  In a critical two page article about Folkestone Academy in the Folkestone Herald and online, Turner Schools once again attempts to deflect the criticisms by answering irrelevant 'concerns'. See my analysis at the foot of this article, below
 
Turner Schools has published a bizarre advertisement in the Folkestone and Hythe Your District Today magazine published by the Local Council, purportedly to answer the question ‘What is Turner Schools’?
TurnerSchools
It begins: ‘Turner Schools blazed onto the Folkestone scene just a few years ago’, and is in the form of a pseudo interview with the CEO Jo Saxton. The second of the initial two brief paragraphs justifying the takeover of Folkestone Academy by Turner Schools also describes the high quality of food now provided for students.
The next section asks about an artificial controversy I have not seen aired before amongst all the major criticisms of Turner Schools published here and elsewhere,  about whether Turner Schools is only interested in purely academic routes.
Then follows a justification of the CEO’s very high salary for running a small low achieving Academy Trust, the article finishing with ‘We know that some people find change hard, so don’t believe all the negatives you’ve heard or read about Folkestone Academy’ . There is no mention at all of the other three schools in the Trust, and the initial question is ignored for start to finish. 
I am left bewildered why the Turner Schools remorseless publicity machine, examined in detail across previous articles on this website, most recently here, can have produced such an inept article in the official Council publication, an article which raises more questions than it answers and does nothing to promote its image.
 
Also below is the answer to a question I posed in a recent article: Turner Schools: What were they trying to hide?
Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 21 November 2018 10:18

Folkestone Academy - Further Troubles

Update: In spite of using the Turner School headhunters, Saxton Bampfylde, the Trust has been unable to appoint an Executive Principal for the Academy. See below

I make no apologies for yet another table topping statistic for Folkestone Academy after it ran up a debt of £708,707 in 2017-18 for overestimating its pupil roll for last year, the highest figure in the country, as confirmed by SchoolsWeek. A spokesperson for Turner Schools trust, which runs four schools including Folkestone Academy, pointed out the calculation was made in November 2016 before the school transferred to the trust. 

Turner Schools Logo

However, it is clear that the reason the school saw a fall of 50 Sixth Form students (or 21%) leading into the year 2017-18  is because of decisions made by Turner Schools  after it took responsibility for the school in April 2017, as it chased higher academic performance. This will have been exacerbated for 2018-19 by the sharp fall in GCSE provisional performance, with Progress 8 diving to -0.78 from -0.22, sixth worst in the county, and Performance 8 falling to 31.0 from 36.4, fifth worst in Kent after over a year of Turner Schools' control. 

The academic ambitions of the Trust are clear from a quotation by Dr Jo Saxton, CEO of Turner Schools, and from many other quotations: ‘This past summer, 101 students went on to university but only one per cent went to a Russell Group university. Some are dropping out of university before finishing their degree’These ambitions may be laudable but surely the Trust has to secure its base instead of collapsing it along with young people’s education and aspirations, before driving ahead without foundations. These would include a lawful admissions policy for Sixth Form admissions (see below). 

My previous article recorded that the school had by far the highest number and rate of Fixed Term Exclusions of any school in Kent.

Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 10 October 2018 00:25

Turner Schools Part 3: Folkestone Academy

This is my third article on The Turner Schools Trust which operates three academies and one Free School in Folkestone, a town described recently by a Turner Schools speaker as comparable with an American rust-bucket city.

TurnerSchools

The start of term saw Chief Executive Dr Jo Saxton addressing the staff of Folkestone Academy on the subject of the school's dreadful 2018 GCSE results. She informed them that these were the result of five years of poor teaching. It did not go down well especially as these are a sharp fall from the solid outcomes of 2017, after more than a year of Turner School oversight.  Nevertheless the school website falsely reports Folkestone Academy as ‘Celebrating an Encouraging Uptick in Students Securing Top Grades’  (uptick – a financial term relating to small increases in share price).

2017-18 saw a teaching staff turnover of 33.1%, more than twice the average of local secondary schools but in line with them, according to the Trust.

Contrary to claims by Turner Trust, the opening of Turner Free School has badly hit the Folkestone Academy intake with a fall of over a quarter in its new Year Seven numbers.

On the strength of its 'success' in Folkestone, Turner Schools is, according to yet another exclusive article in the TES, contemplating opening a university to follow on from its Sixth Forms in Folkestone. Many would argue it needs to show it can run its two secondary schools successfully before even thinking about developing this further vision.  

Turner Schools uniquely (?) refuses to follow the Freedom of Information Code of Practice about handling Requests for Information....

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  • Turner Schools: Update

    here

    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. She departed the Trust in March, after just three years, to become a Political Adviser to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, whose subsequent gaffe ridden career is well documented, but presumably is coincidental.
    TurnerSchools
    Her successor, Seamus Murphy, has wisely not sought headlines in the same way but has still made his mark. Subsequently, school leaders in two of the four Turner schools have bitten the dust, both controversially. Teacher turnover has continued unabated at a high level, well over twice the national average for the past three years. There has also been a high turnover of Trustees and Members of Turner Schools, the two distinct bodies responsible for governance. Mr Murphy still has to manage the legacy of a massive financial deficit left by Dr Saxton.

    The EKC Group, which runs Folkestone College, has sensed an expansion opportunity and has opened the Folkestone Junior College this month. This offers a full-time alternative to the Turner Schools monopoly of non-selective education in Folkestone, in Years 10 and 11, surely a major challenge to the Trust.

    Written on Sunday, 13 September 2020 19:36 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • The New No Win Park Crescent Academy, Thanet

    Kent County Council has now applied for Planning Permission for the controversial new secondary school in Thanet, exposing further problems with the project.

    The background to the new school briefly is that, first of all, KCC overestimated the number of secondary aged children coming through the system in Thanet to justify commissioning a new school. The Council then backtracked, with the 2020-2024 Kent Schools Commissioning Plan explaining (p137) how they could comfortably manage the small long term pupil number deficit by expanding two of the District’s six non-selective schools.

    Park Crescent Academy

    The real problem is that two of the Thanet schools are so unpopular with some families to the extent that 189 children were allocated to them in March who never applied to either. Others were offered places in Sandwich and Deal schools, some miles away. The full background to the controversy is explained here. When the new school opens, with a planned intake of 180 children, at least one of these schools is likely to become unviable. As a result, KCC’s introduction to the Planning Permission Consultation is quite simply dishonest, as explained below.

    One of the problems with the new school, now to be called Park Crescent Academy after one of the adjacent roads, is that the site on which it is to be built is very cramped as can be seen from the projection above, and explained below. The new academy will replace the residential Royal School for the Deaf which was closed down in 2015, see below. One of the consequences of the limited space, set out below, is that the school will have no sixth form.

    Written on Saturday, 05 September 2020 18:23 1 comment Read more...
  • Further Trauma at St Thomas' Catholic Primary School

    Update, 9th September: In a sign of the level of crisis at St Thomas Catholic Primary, Dr Simon Hughes, Director of Education and Schools Commissioner at the Catholic Diocese of Southwark, has been appointed a governor at the school with immediate effect. See further details below

    The Chair of the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership wrote to parents of St Thomas Catholic Primary School on 17th June to inform them that the headteacher, Mrs Aquilina, was being given ‘special leave until the end of the academic year’. This followed a safeguarding incident which created considerable concern and debate, the absence being widely and reasonably assumed to be a formal suspension from her responsibilities because of the safeguarding issue.

    On July 25th, at the end of the summer term, he wrote again ‘We have now reached the end of the academic year and can confirm that Mrs Aquilina will be returning to her role of Headteacher at St Thomas’ Primary on 1 September 2020…. A meeting with parents and carers of St Thomas’ will be held at the start of the new academic year’

    Yesterday, 1st September, Mr Powis, the Chair of KCSP, wrote again to parents, to inform them that Mrs Aquilina will now be ‘on special leave for the foreseeable future’. The letter unsurprisingly contains no further explanation of the change of direction and no mention of the meeting for parents promised in the previous letter. This may be because of legal issues. 

    Written on Tuesday, 01 September 2020 19:59 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Coronavirus and School Transport in Kent and Medway: Part Three

     Update: It has been suggested that the fall in take-up for the Kent Travel Pass is partly due to some families deciding not to send their children back to school at this time. It will soon become clear if this is a factor.  

    Following on from the TUI holiday flight incident and the failure of passengers to follow rules, it is relevant to note the following

     Government statement: 'We do not expect drivers to police pupil behaviour. Their role is to focus on driving the vehicle safely' whilst KCC considers that 'Children travelling on these services will be required to wear face coverings for those over 11 and without an exemption'.

    But from Stagecoach, one of the largest school contractors in Kent:  ‘Our drivers will not refuse travel or apply any enforcement measures, but we appeal to students and parents to ensure that this is taken seriously and that a face-covering is worn at all times when on the bus’.

    It is not surprising that, partly as a result of this and partly through matters relating to social distancing, parental caution has seen the number of applications for the Kent travel passes fall by over half for September. Those for age 11-16 are down from around 24,000 normally to just 12,557 for September, with 16+ passes down from around 7,000 to 2,280. Most of the missing families will now be driving their children to school by car, swelling the road traffic considerably across the county at the two peak school times.

    There is likely as a consequence to be travel chaos at peak periods particularly in areas where there are several secondary schools close together. Three towns spring to mind: Canterbury, Sittingbourne and Tunbridge Wells, but I am sure there are others. One can also add in schools served by narrow roads as explained in a previous article entitled The Coronavirus Effect on the 'School Run' in Kent, Part 2 which I wrote two weeks ago, and looks at the developing problems of getting children to school.  

    I also look below at transport matters contained in new advice published by the government on Friday around 5.30 p.m. This sets fresh expectations for schools from the start of the new term, for many just five days in advance, including a weekend and a bank holiday. It contains 18 pages of advice, some wise and helpful, some very belated, some trivial and some patronising.  Finally, a look at Brockhill Park and Ebbsfleet Green Primary Schools. 

    Written on Monday, 31 August 2020 19:26 2 comments Read more...
  • Academy and Free School News August 2020

    There are just five schools that have converted to become academies in 2020, including the four which came together to be the EKC (East Kent Trust) in March.  These are: Briary Primary, Herne Bay; Bysingwood Primary, Faversham; Holywell Primary, Upchurch; and Queenborough School, Isle of Sheppey. I have written extensively about the new Trust here.  The month before, the failed Sunny Bank Primary in Sittingbourne became a sponsored academy with The Island Learning Trust on the Isle of Sheppey. Background here

    I also look below at the new applications to become academies of: Marden Primary, near Tonbridge; Eastchurch Primary, Isle of Sheppey; Holy Trinity VA Primary, Gravesend; Worth Primary, Deal; and Fairview Primary and Oaklands School in Gillingham, two schools converting to become part of the Westbrook Trust. The re-brokering of the failed Delce Academy to the Inspire Partnership Academy Trust has also taken place. Update: 4/9/20. The conversions of Marden, Eastchurch and Oaklands have now taken place. 

    There are six new free schools opening in Kent in September including one new secondary school, Maidstone School of Science and Technology.  There are three new primary schools: Bearsted Primary Academy in Maidstone; Ebbsfleet Green Primary in Dartford; Springhead Park Primary in Gravesham; and two Special Schools, Aspire School in Sittingbourne and Snowfields Academy in Maidstone. 

    I look at other decisions of the South East and South London Headteacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner, relating to the Barnsole Trust, Folkestone Academy and Holmesdale School, along with an item relating to the North West Kent Alternative Provision Service.

    Written on Thursday, 27 August 2020 05:47 Be the first to comment! Read more...
  • Griffin Schools Trust: A Danger for Pupils?

    I have followed the misfortunes of the Griffin Schools Trust for many years since it took over four primary schools as academies in Medway, then having Wayfield Primary taken away from it in 2016, following a catastrophic Ofsted Report that highlighted 'Pupils’ safety and well-being are at risk; Staff manage pupils’ behaviour poorly; Normal discipline has broken down; On occasion, staff lose control of pupils, who are then at risk of being harmed'  a theme echoed in the most recent Ofsted report on a Griffin school: 'Many pupils do not feel safe attending this school. They feel intimidated by others’ conduct. Pupils are right to be concerned. Leaders have not been effective in managing pupils’ behaviour. It is increasingly rowdy and sometimes dangerous', this time about Stantonbury International, a school which had been the largest in the country when they took it over, although unsurprising it now has numbers falling sharply. Two recent articles in Education Uncovered focus on the Trust, its failures and its control by a small coterie of four individuals, three of whom have run it since its foundation in 2013. 

    One is left in bewilderment as to why the Education Funding Agency awarded Stantonbury to the Griffin  Schools Trust in the first place, with their limited experience of running just one other secondary school, which it has now brought down to Ofsted 'Requires Improvement' and why it has not now closed the Trust down. This is what eventually happened with two other notorious Academy Trusts which also operated in Kent

    Written on Saturday, 22 August 2020 06:00 Be the first to comment! Read more...