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Peter's Blog

You will find the main news and comment articles on the front page of the website here. This page contains secondary or local news items and thoughts.

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. 


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Last modified on Sunday, 14 July 2019 06:50
Friday, 05 July 2019 07:12

Turner Schools: More Self Promotion

Written by Peter Read

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. 


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Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2019 13:06

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.


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Last modified on Sunday, 23 June 2019 19:54

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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Last modified on Monday, 15 July 2019 07:41

Today’s Sunday Times has a feature article on the departure of one of the most confrontational ( the ST describes her as 'visionary') heads in Kent from Ebbsfleet Academy, a school with one of the highest proportions of children leaving for Home Education in the county (top in 2016-7 with 4.1% of families removing their children from the school mid-course) and, for the whole of her time at the school, one of the highest vacancy rates of any secondary school in Kent, partially covered up by some of the highest number of Local Authority Allocations (children placed who did not apply to the school – 83 this summer!). No other Dartford school has any vacancies, or spaces for LAAs. 

Ebbsfleet Academy

She makes a damning indictment of the behaviour of parents from the ‘white working class’ who are unable to cope with the fierce discipline characteristic of the three schools who form what I call the ‘Tough Love Academies of Kent. She makes no reference to any other parents, presumably happy to tar all families with the same brush. The Tough Love academies all exhibit similar negative outcomes from their philosophy, and then appear to think that more of the same will solve the problem they have created. Home Education, which is not the solution, has been suggested by Ebbsfleet to some families in what is called ‘off-rolling’, the implication being that it is encouraged to improve examination results by removing lower performing pupils.   

In spite of its claims to high  academic performance, the school came 45th out of 68 non-selective schools in Kent,  in the government's preferred measure of performance, Progress 8. 


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Last modified on Wednesday, 05 June 2019 19:49

Towards the end of last term, I spent a morning by invitation at King’s Farm Primary School, situated in a socially deprived part of Gravesend, where I witnessed the results of a transformation in the fortunes of the school and its pupils. The school had previously been taken to the depths following a disastrous period of management by an Academy Trust,. However, under the leadership of an inspiring and totally committed headteacher, as part of the Cedar Federation along with the neighbouring Ifield School, it worked its way back to Ofsted ‘Good’ in 2018, in just four years.

Kings Farm 3

I previously became a governor of the school when it was adopted by Ifield and so have been privileged to watch this transformation in terms of ethos, outcomes, discipline, parental support and happiness. 


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Last modified on Wednesday, 01 May 2019 22:54
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 07:37

Turner Schools: Fresh Blessings from on High

Written by Peter Read

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 Education 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.

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Last modified on Friday, 05 July 2019 20:54
Saturday, 23 March 2019 11:10

Lilac Sky: Final Chapter

Written by Peter Read

Update: Shortly after I wrote this article about the www.trevorbeeson.com website, the site was withdrawn from the internet, together with any links. I retained a download of the key page which was a justification for Mr Beeson's actions, and which prompted this article, which you will find here.

Trevor Beeson, Founder and CEO of the late Lilac Sky enterprises, has published a defence of his actions  called 'Lilac Sky: Final Chapter' on his new website (which does not appear to have a direct feed to the article!). Amongst other matters, the site advertises Mr Beeson's latest company offering his professional services which is not registered with Companies House, so there will be no scrutiny of the accounts (see below).  This unique document is the most original I have seen in my professional career. My article is written primarily to look at some of the issues raised in that defence and elsewhere on the site.

LSSAT Logo

Mr Beeson's four previous companies (one in the name of his partner), have been through a total of five additional name changes between them, two of which had the same name at different times, and have all now been dissolved: one liquidated by a petition from HMRC;  one via voluntary liquidation owing £917,000; one struck off for non-filing of accounts - a situation that appears to have been prevalent in all four companies. Consideration of the three where there there were historic accounts show large outstanding loans to Mr Averre Beeson (which may have been repaid outside the formal records),  and in one case sizeable dividends. In addition there is considerable and confusing 'cross-fertilisation'. Mr Averre-Beeson also founded Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) in 2012 which paid 'extortionate'  costs to Lilac Sky companies (as confirmed by the Trust's own Annual Report, see below) before crashing with a net deficit of £1,329,631. 

The Trust's shocking performance has been chronicled extensively in these pages, and is the subject of an ongoing three year investigation by the  Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), partly triggered by the loss of a payment of £537,000 by government which was simply swallowed up before the Trust was closed.   


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Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2019 19:53
Thursday, 21 March 2019 18:44

Radio Kent: Secondary Transfer

Written by Peter Read

I spend an hour on Wednesday evening, at the Radio Kent studio in Tunbridge Wells talking on the Graham Jones show, in company with Sally Lees, Principal of the Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre. Not surprisingly, our main topic was secondary school transfer and what to do if children had not been awarded one of their preferences. Naturally we widened the discussion including what makes a good school, whether parental choice was a good thing, why there were 837 Kent children with none of their choices, and how to increase provision to cope with rising rolls. The discussion was given a spice as we two guests tended to have a different perspective on a number of issues!

Radio Kent March 2019


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Last modified on Thursday, 21 March 2019 23:12

Kent County Council has been awarded one of 39 new Special Schools to be opened across the country, following a bid to government. This will be built on the Isle of Sheppey, on land adjacent to the new Halfway Houses Primary School site,  and is planned to focus on children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs aged 11-16. Under current regulations KCC will now need to set up a tendering process to select a Sponsor from an existing academy chain to run the new school. As explained below, this can be a drawn out and uncertain process, with the opening date not yet fixed.

This follows approval in January for the Aspire School, Sittingbourne a new Free School for children with autism or speech and language difficulties to be run by Grove Park Academies Trust, currently comprising Grove Park Primary School. It will be built on council land not far from Grove Park, both schools in Bobbing. The Aspire School came into existence because of the vision of parents as long ago as 2013. The original vision was for high functioning autistic children aged 4 -16, although final details have not yet been settled, and it is now looking likely to be for primary aged children, opening at the earliest in September 2020.


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Last modified on Friday, 05 April 2019 04:09
 
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?

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Last modified on Monday, 08 July 2019 05:44
Thursday, 28 February 2019 06:43

Home Education: Skipping School

Written by Peter Read

Last week, I was part of an invited audience  to a private showing and debate on the Channel Four programme, Skipping School, about Home Education issues. This featured Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England (CCE), who has now published a Report containing five important recommendations. The discussion highlighted some key concerns, although being dominated by the plight of children with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who made up an estimated 22% of children on EHE (Elective Home Education). Unforgiveably, there are no central statistics on any EHE matter, but it is clear that a high proportion of such children have not chosen this route but have been forced down it by schools being unable or unwilling to make provision for their needs. 

Considerable concerns were expressed about the practice of off-rolling and exclusion, along with evidence of the practices in too many schools. 

There is not even a required register of children on EHE, let alone any monitoring of what if any education they are provided with, although its introduction has been and would be strongly resisted by the vocal and in some cases aggressive lobby of families who may have chosen EHE for philosophical reasons.

One particular revelation (to me at least) was the statement that the Regional Schools Commissioner may only intervene with academies that are causing concern if they are inadequate, primarily because of funding issues (although there have been a couple of counter examples recently). Otherwise, they need to be dealt with directly by the Department for Education. 


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Last modified on Sunday, 10 March 2019 05:50
Wednesday, 06 February 2019 23:34

Skipping School: Invisible Children

Written by Peter Read

See Follow up Article here.

The Children’s Commissioner for England (CCE), Anne Longfield, has published a Report entitledSkipping School: Invisible Children’. Apart from its dreadful and misleading title, it provides an excellent summary of the issues surrounding Elective Home Education (EHE). The Report also looks forward to ways of reducing the numbers of those Home Educated, apart from families who freely choose to and are capable of providing a good alternative.

Sadly, a 'Dispatches' programme on Channel Four lost the plot and focused on describing in graphic terms families who were not coping with Home Education in their first weeks out of school. I made a contribution to the programme with which I was pleased and which drew on my most recent article about EHE, but I was not expecting the direction the programme took and so my piece stood isolated.


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Last modified on Tuesday, 12 March 2019 07:26
Monday, 21 January 2019 05:51

Brexit Guidance for Kent Schools

Written by Peter Read

Update: It has been pleasing to receive thanks from several Medway schools for this information. I think they are trying to tell me something!

You will find here KCC's Advice to Schools on possible initial effects for them in the event of a No Deal Brexit arriving on March 29th.

As one new to this aspect of the Brexit debate, I found the three diagrams at the foot of the table especially illuminating. These deal with the proposals to funnel, park, and stack lorries through Kent in the event of a No Deal Brexit. 


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Last modified on Monday, 21 January 2019 22:52

INDEX, A Lifestyle Magazine which publishes two editions in East and West Kent, has drawn up its own Alternative New Year’s Honours List  for ‘Outstanding Men and Women of Kent - unsung heroes who go mostly unrecognised, who excel in their diverse fields and give unconditionally’.

Index Magazine

 

I feel honoured to be included in both editions along with: Tammy Beaumont, the Kent and England cricket star; and John Warnett, the Radio Kent presenter. The East Kent list also includes: Victoria Pomerey, Director, Turner Contemporary; Razia Shariff, CEO of Kent Refugee Action Network; Peter Taylor Gooby, Trustee of Canterbury Food Bank; Rosie Turner, Director, Canterbury Festival; Rt Revd Trevor Wilmott, Bishop of Dover; and posthumously, Peter Firmin, Artist and Puppet Maker. For West Kent there are: Rt Rev Simon Burton-Jones, newly appointed Bishop of Tunbridge, previously Archdeacon of Rochester Diocese; Deborah Gjeloshaj, Founder of Kitchen Opera, bringing youth opera to West Kent; Alex Green, Executive Director at the Tunbridge Wells Trinity Theatre, together with Arts community work; Richard Hughes, a drummer with pop group Keane and now human rights activist with Amnesty; and Olga Johnson, Co-Founder of Nourish Community Food Bank.


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Last modified on Friday, 04 January 2019 12:13
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