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Tuesday, 07 November 2017 19:53

Canterbury Academy: Exceptional OFSTED Inspection Report

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The recent ‘Good’ OFSTED Report on The Canterbury Academy is one of the most astonishing I have ever read, with most findings meeting an ‘Outstanding’ criterion, and some going beyond this. There are criticisms, but the Report drips with compliments.

Canterbury Academy 

Amongst the headlines:
The executive and senior leaders and the board of directors could not be more determined to give all pupils and students the best possible education and confidence in their futures.
The curriculum, facilities and resources are outstanding, and the choice of subjects is exceptionally varied and rich.
The school offers a grammar stream for the most able pupils in Years 7 to 11, and also provides highly effective education for pupils who struggle in mainstream education or academic work.
Staff enjoy working at the school and their morale is high. The mutual respect between them, and pupils and students, contributes to the cheerful and productive atmosphere.
In the large and successful sixth form, excellence flourishes in the performing arts, sports and practical learning.
Almost all the parents who added written comments to their questionnaires praised the school in glowing terms.
It is the excellent, thoughtful care, support and kindness which many senior leaders and support staff provide which underpins pupils being happy and feeling safe.
The proportions of Year 11 pupils and sixth form students proceeding into education, employment, training or work are well above those seen nationally.....

Two years ago, a previous OFSTED Inspection found the school was ‘Requiring Improvement’ an assessment I considered bizarre at the time, given the strong postive findings it found at the school. The following year I wrote about an Interim OFSTED that I have now been sent a copy of the first Monitoring Inspection which is carried out on all RI schools, and it appears to describe a completely different school, on the verge of 'Outstanding' as this Inspection team clearly had difficulty in coping with the previous result’

Canterbury Academy and its Executive Principal, Phil Karnavas, are well known to be uncompromising in their aims, and as a result often tread on official toes.

The school is described as: 'a unique, large, vibrant and increasingly popular school, with a quite exceptional curriculum delivered in outstanding facilities. They never sway from doing what they believe is right for a pupil, regardless of any reduction to their headline measures.'

A phrase I never thought to read in an official Report quotes the Chairman of the Board of Directors as describing "the ‘moral imperative’ of giving all pupils, whatever their backgrounds, the best possible education so they will leave ‘able to live a safe, healthy and fulfilling life".

Year on year, the school is oversubscribed but is determined, if at all possible, to admit all pupils who wish to join it, which is certainly not popular with other local schools, and the KCC. So, for 2016 admission, the last year for which I have figures at present, it offered all its 210 places, leaving 33 first choices disappointed. By September, having lost a large number of pupils to grammar school appeals (the norm in Canterbury) it still started the year with 228 pupils, having offered places to all pupils who persisted in their applications, without needing to go to appeal.

Amongst many other achievements, this philosophy has led the school to its unique Sixth Form, about which also I wrote last year: ‘Canterbury Academy achieved two unique accolades from students, with 45 choosing to join the Academy Sixth Form from grammar schools, only the two grammar schools admitting more students from NS schools. This intake to Canterbury Academy has contributed to the most astonishing increase of any school in 2015, having the third highest increase of any school at 91, taking its Year 12 roll to 306, and sixth form total to 539, just edging Dartford Grammar as the largest Sixth Form in the whole of Kent, and the only Kent non-selective school to increase its numbers into the Sixth’. According to OFSTED: ‘Close to two thirds of the school’s Year 11 pupils stay on into the sixth form and make up about half the total number in the sixth form. The other sixth formers come from over 50 different schools’, an astonishing statistic.

Another uncompromising policy is baldly summarised: ‘The school does not permanently exclude pupils and very rarely has to apply fixed term exclusions because it uses its own staff and facilities…A pupil observed that one short detention for interrupting the flow of a lesson is usually the only one that a pupil experiences’. As regular browsers will be aware, I am highly critical of many other schools that use exclusion as a tactic to improve GCSE performance by removing pupils unlikely to deliver good results. Another quote: ‘They never sway from doing what they believe is right for a pupil, regardless of any reduction to their headline measures. No room for compromise there.

OFSTED describes the school’s facilities and provision in glowing terms: 'The board of directors and the executive principal of the Canterbury Multi-Academy Trust oversee the Canterbury High School and the Canterbury Primary School on the same site. The latter is inspected separately. The board also oversees the area-wide alternative curriculum provision and youth commission. 

The Canterbury High School uses three off-site facilities: – Phoenix House (Herne Bay), where a very small number of pupils at risk of permanent exclusion study life skills programmes and are supported to return to mainstream school. – Riverside Youth Centre, for pupils in Years 9 to 11 whose learning needs, in addition to English and mathematics, are best suited by taking practical, workrelated subjects. – The Chaucer site, which temporarily houses some of the studio space for sixth form students in the performing arts college, and physical education lessons for Phoenix House pupils.

The school’s off-site alternative provision is under the auspices of the Canterbury Multi Academy Trust. However, the majority of pupils attending Phoenix House are enrolled at other schools. They access this alternative curriculum provision as the Canterbury Multi-Academy Trust provides it for all schools in the area on behalf of the local authority. The school also shares some of its on-site facilities with pupils in a local special school.

Several on-site, separate buildings have industry-standard facilities and equipment, used, for example, by performing arts, sports, construction, and hair and beauty courses. The Enterprise and Employability College houses several of these facilities, as does a new, as yet unnamed, building. There are extensive outdoor facilities for sports, including a multi-million pound, purpose-built sports centre with an integrated fitness suite and a tennis centre.

The academy is open for pupils and students from 8am to 6pm and many of its facilities, including the Riverside Youth Centre, are shared with the community, largely, but not exclusively, outside of school hours.

The school’s partnership with the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys contributes to ‘A grammar school band for boys and girls’. The partnership, in its sixth year, is well embedded with groups of high-attaining pupils from both schools learning together in some subjects. The senior vice-principal of Langton continues to work full-time at Canterbury Academy.

I am frequently asked what defines a good school, to which I invariably reply: the leadership. Here we have a slightly different scenario, where the exceptional leadership of Phil Karnavas has only been able to flourish through the freedoms he and his team have been able to exploit through the academy framework. Sadly, too many others fail to use those freedoms for the benefit of their pupils, and for whom the term 'moral imperative' is a foreign language. Mr Karnavas retires at Christmas with a career and creation to look back on with pride, from the days when he taught at the Frank Hooker Secondary Modern School, Canterbury Academy's predecessor school. Typically, a thorough succession plan is in place, again to quote OFSTED: 'The executive principal, who retires from his full-time position in December 2017, has gradually been handing over his role during the last two years to ensure a smooth Inspection report: The Canterbury Academy, 11–12 October 2017 Page 11 of 14 transfer of leadership. At the same time, other leaders have been moving up into their new roles'.  He will be succeeded by Jon Watson, current head of Canterbury High School. 



Read 4286 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 20:36

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