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Wednesday, 21 November 2018 10:18

Folkestone Academy - Further Troubles

Written by

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.

The sharp drop of over a quarter in the Sixth Form intake in September 2017 will be partially down to the removal of practical vocational courses including the thriving Hair and Beauty Department whose successes can be tracked by Internet searches or from the school website the year before it was closed down. Or the Catering Department, just a year after the grand opening of its Training Kitchen. In both areas, students learned to  provide for the public in a very practical way, surely the mark of a truly vocational course, but sadly not fitting Turner Schools’ model  of academic excellence for all. 

Admission Policy
The legally binding school admission policy for Sixth Form entry in 2018 & 2019 entry is badly written, wrong in places, and is leading to unlawful admission rules being imposed on potential students. It states:
ADMISSION ARRANGEMENTS FOR POST 16 PLACES
Folkestone Academy operates a Sixth Form for a total of 400 students across Years 12 and 13 with 200 places available overall in Year 12. This is the number of places which will be offered on an annual basis to eligible external applicants. 200 spaces are open to Folkestone Academy Year 11 students for a place in Year 12 and who meet the criterion set out below. If fewer than 200 of the Academy’s own Year 11 students successfully transfer into Year 12, additional external students will be admitted until Year 12 meets its capacity of 200. There are academic minimum academic entry requirements for each course available based upon GCSE grades or other measures of prior attainment which will be published on the Academy website or in the 6th Form Prospectus. Students are expected to obtain B grades in subjects they wish to study at A Level. Requirements for admission are the same for both internal and external pupils.
 
Offers will be made on the basis of predicted performance at GCSE, with the requirement that the above grades are achieved in the final examinations prior to entry to the Sixth Form and the pupil’s three chosen subjects being accommodated on the timetable, in feasible group sizes.

Sentence two tells us that not only are there 200 places available for external students, immediately contradicted by sentence three. There is NO general requirement for performance laid down, although deep in the Sixth Form Prospectus there is a requirement for Level 4 in English and maths. This is immediately contradicted by a proviso that students who do not achieve these grades can be considered after an interview with the Sixth Form Team although it is unlawful according to the Admissions Code of Practice cannot form part of a process on whthere to offer a place.

 
I am told that admission requirements for the Sixth Form have been raised, but it is difficult to establish this as the new school website  also quotes the now scrapped GCSE Grades of 5 Cs including English (but not maths!)for the base requirement. The current Level 6 GCSE condition for all academic subjects being followed through is higher than many other schools (quoted as old Grade B in the legally required document). Combined with the fall in GCSE performance these will surely exacerbate the staying on rate issue for 2018.  
__________________________
Back to Finance
To return to last summer’s controversial ‘Staff Consultation’ on re-structuring. This states:The financial implication of the falling numbers at Post 16 and return to normal numbers Pre 16 mean that in 2018/19 the Academy will see a reduction in funding of £770k, and it is also liable for a Post 16 claw-back of approximately £260,000 funds for the current year. All options have been explored to off-set the claw-back scenario and reduced place demand, which Turner Schools has inherited’.

Just two flaws in this financial analysis. The falling numbers in Post 16 are a direct result of the school cutting out various practical vocational options in its drive to secure more Russell Group University places – although I am not sure how this helps or what is wrong with many other universities, and will be exacerbated by the poor GCSE results.  The ‘return to normal numbers’ in Year 7 is mainly due to the entirely predictable opening of the Turner Free School in September 2018, which the Trust must have known about when it took over the school and so can’t blame it on problems with the calculation, or some vague 'inheritance' with its inference of blame on the previous administration.    

Folkestone Academy
Intake and 6th Form Staying on
Year Intake Year 11 Year 12
Staying
on Rate
2012   236 244    
2013 236 235 127 52%
2014 250 235 150 64%
2015 263 236 142 60%
2016 287 224 185 79%
2017 263 278 131
58%
2018 200(?)  280 (?)    
 Notes: (1) The data above is all taken from the relevant school census
            (2) The provisional Year 7 figure for 2018 is from staff reports. For Year 11 it is that of Year 10 the previous year. 

The facts of the matter could of course have been clarified if Turner Schools had not refused my FOI request for the current figures in each year group of each of its four schools, on the presumably spurious grounds that it was planning to publish all this information some time. The fact that I am not aware of any other school in the country which does this voluntarily does rather cast doubt on the Trust's claimed intention and the matter is now in the hands of the Information Commissioner's Office. 

 SchoolsWeek records that the trust is in discussion with the DfE because it believes the correct clawback figure is “significantly less than the figure cited”. However, the academy’s own staff consultation confirms a funding deficit of £770,000, considerably more than the SchoolsWeek figure.  

The good news for Turner Schools is that it has excellent links with government and so may benefit from the SchoolsWeek  revelation that some ‘schools owing clawback have had the debt written off. The highest write-off was £1 million owed by the Greenwich UTC’

Executive Headteacher 
I presume that Saxton Bampfylde (presumably the name connection is a coincidence), a headhunting organisation, is at the expensive end of the recruitment market and certainly the school clients it displays on its website and on a Senior Researcher’s list are all private schools apart from Folkestone Academy.

The Appointment Brief sent to candidates is yet another astonishing document following last summer’s bizarre adverts for Heads of mathematics and English. It quite reasonably explains that the Executive Principal will line manage the primary and secondary phase leaders, the Heads of School, among other colleagues. It then lists 19 key accountabilities and a personal specification looking for 27 qualities which candidates should possess or be able to demonstrate, although many appear to be just general platitudes.  It says almost nothing about the Academy itself apart from its new mission of ‘sea change’ focusing on implied or explicit criticisms of its past. However, it does require the Executive Principal to maintain an effective Partnership with the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, whose work as previous sponsor the Trust regularly denigrates, although having performed considerably better at GCSE than under the new managements. I was interested to see the requirement to deliver a well-disciplined learning environment now described as Tough Love, a term I have used to describe other brutal environments in struggling Kent schools to little effect, except large numbers of pupils attempting to flee them.  Still none of the three are able to come near to the massive exclusion level at Folkestone Academy secondary section over the past year.  

Whatever the cause, Saxton Bampfylde has failed to find a suitable candidate to be appointed as Executive Principal of the all age academy, although one current Kent headteacher was interviewed. Instead the Trust has gone for an internal appointment, Wesley Carroll, as Principal working to Dr Saxton as CEO, responsible for the secondary section. This is a rapid rise for Mr Carroll, having been appointed as Vice Principal just 14 months ago and promoted to Head of School in April this year so, although short of senior experience he has certainly seen a kaleidoscope of happenings over the last 18 months of controversy at the school, including a turnover of three previous heads along with other senior staff.

He succeeds Mr Boxall, who Dr Saxton described in writing to parents as 'Principal of a number of schools including an Outstanding Academy in Kent'She subsequently wrote to me denying knowledge of his history, which instead included a short stint at a failing academy in Medway, and appears to have limited interest in experience as a quality. For, whilst Head of Education at the Future Schools Academy Trust in 2013, she appointed a young headteacher to Pimlico Free School, the appointee still in training to be a teacher. Not surprisingly the appointment lasted just two weeks.

 

 

Read 453 times Last modified on Friday, 23 November 2018 21:04

1 comment

  • Comment Link Saturday, 24 November 2018 08:08 posted by Thomas the Tank Engine

    Turner Schools is lack of accountability run mad. Its just as if Jo Saxton has been given a model train set and endless pocket money to play with it. Never mind the passengers and staff on the railway who don't count, she has her new track every day to set out and justify the consequences good or bad. Sea Change is just the latest of too many whims to explore on the layout, offered without definition or explanation.

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