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Saturday, 05 October 2019 19:17

Less 'Sea Change' more troubled waters at Folkestone Academy and Turner Schools

 New Article on Governance here
Further Update: Folkestone Academy couldn't wait to put Seamus Murphy in charge of Folkestone Academy until January, as announced, below. The Trust website states he is already Executive Principal (beginning of November).
Updates: A piece of good news for Turner Schools at last with Ofsted finding Morehall Primary School Good. This is countered by the two Turner primary schools having the highest percentage vacancies in Kent (67% for Martello, 73% for Morehall). However, in spite of a temporary article in September reporting excellent progress in GCSE performance at Folkestone Academy, this has not materialised, but the school has gone backwards since Turner Schools took over.  
Wesley Carroll, the fourth Principal of Folkestone Academy since it was taken over by Turner Schools in May 2017 is to stand down in January, reportedly for family reasons, having been appointed a year ago after extensive advertising to find an Executive Principal for the school failed to find a suitable candidate. He was previously Vice Principal for just over a year, a very limited senior experience for the post and will revert to this title where he will focus on the Year 11 GCSE group (see below), presumably because there is no one else capable of this middle management task. The 2019 staff list on the school website, possibly in preparation for this shows him as Co-Principal, but there is no mention of who he is ‘co’ with!
He will be succeeded by Seamus Murphy, appointed six months ago as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Turner Schools, with his salary paid for by the Department for Education for what appear to be invalid reasons. His initial appointment was announced as being designed to allow the CEO, Dr Jo Saxton, to concentrate on curriculum matters surely a position well away from the strategic role her title demands, although reports suggest she still keeps a tight control of events. What happens next to fill his role, or was it always unnecessary and just for short term expediency in the first place?
Meanwhile, Professor Lygo, billed as one of the founders of the Turner Trust and Chairman of Directors left the Trust suddenly in the summer, along with two other Directors, without any public acknowledgement or mention of their contribution to the Trust, after an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors, see below. 
 As my previous article notes, with copious evidence: ‘Leadership at Turner Schools below the level of CEO has always appeared to present a major problem for this small Academy Trust’. Other senior leaders also change with alarming regularity. You will find a copy of Mr Carroll's letter and a response from Mr Murphy here
Turner Schools is fond of the term 'Sea Change' to describe its 'mission' in Folkestone. The events described in this article suggest that 'Troubled Waters' may be a better description!
Mr Murphy’s appointment will take the count to five Principals in less than two years under Turner Schools control, suggesting serious failure by those appointing or else a complete lack of strategic thinking. You will find background on the previous four leaders here.  Most recently, in September 2018 whilst there was just one Deputy Principal, the number has swollen to three Deputies this September, all with major responsibilities across the school. Mr Carroll, with his responsibility for Year 11, will expand this further to four, along with three Assistant Principals, another having left the school.
Given that Mr Murphy's salary was funded by the Department for Education for a year to carry out a specific role, presumably the school will not be able to claim back the last portion.  
During Mr Carroll’s year in charge, he has brought the number of fixed term exclusions at the school down from the astronomical 1211 of 2017-18 to 534 in 2018-19, but which is still likely to see the school with the second highest exclusion rate in the county. He saw the newly appointed Consultant Executive Principal packing his bags after just a month, and 27 other teaching staff leaving the secondary section during the year, down from 54 in 2018, but still giving no indication of stability at the school. The school website boasted its strong interpretation of provisional 2019 GCSE results soon after these were sent to schools, their usual practice, but any mention of GCSE outcomes has now vanished, suggesting more disappointment to come. Instead you will find the following on the website; spot the dates:
 Snip From Website 4 10 19 Tweets 2017
For some reason, the Trust sent out a lengthy press release reporting the change to local media and published as news in both the local newspapers and online here and here.  It reports Mr Murphy writing about Mr Carroll Wesley has been central to the good work I have seen at Folkestone Academy. He will remain an integral part of the senior leadership team at the school and I look forward to working with him on a daily basis’. Damning with faint praise indeed. Could he have been held responsible for yet another poor set of GCSE results, well down on 2017, contrary to all the Trust's publicity and boasts about improvement? The article also includes yet another extensive biography of Mr Murphy, surely unnecessary for an internal appointment, unless the assurance to readers that he is an experienced headteacher carries a message! The sensitivity of this change is such that the school is arranging 'parent information sessions to answer any questions you may have'. In addition,  ‘The two educators have also released a video explaining the changes to parents and pupils, and posted it to social media’! Whilst an explanatory video is a unique approach to an internal change of headteacher, suggesting  again that such a change needs justification, all this publicity certainly begs the question yet again of what is going at Turner Schools. 
Year 11 
Mr Carroll's new focus on Year 11, may itself lead to a rearrangement of other responsibilities, for only last month Jenny Patchai, who was Head of KS4 in 2018, was promoted to Assistant Principal with responsibility for KS4 Progress. There was also a Head of Year 11 last year, but she appears to have been relegated to simply become a Teacher of English perhaps preparing for Mr Carroll's arrival. Also conveniently, the 2018 Head of Year 11 Progress left over the summer. Publication of the GCSE results may provide some of the rationale for these changes. 
Professor Lygo, Chair of Turner Schools
I learned from a comment  below that Professor Lygo resigned as Chairman of Turner Schools after three years on 9th July this year.  Oddly, in contrast to the extensive publicity given to the 'demotion' of Mr Carroll above, his resignation is simply reported by listing him on the page on Former Directors  of  the Governing Body. Considering the major contribution Professor Lygo has made to the Trust, it is most odd not to acknowledge this anywhere on the Trust website, except on The Founders page or via one of the numerous press releases the Trust sends out. He was of course one of the two founders of the Trust along with Dr Jo Saxton, and the total lack of appreciation of his work in founding and leading the Trust suggests further issues at the top of the top of the Trust. Also  departed without acknowledgement on the same date is Dame Susan John, another trophy Trust Director, Outstanding Headteacher, Member of Royal Society, the Sutton Trust and other highly regarded educational bodies, together with Jennie King who left the following week. She was a former headteacher at Willesborough Junior School who left and briefly took up a role as Executive Headteacher at Martello Grove and Morehall Primaries, succeeding Dr Saxton, before becoming Chair of their Local Governing Bodies a year ago along with her Directorship, all of which she has also now left. In her place at the primary schools has come Linda Pickles, Principal Adviser for primary school improvement for Kent County Council, who has also become Governing Body Chair of the Challenge and Community Committee for the two schools.   
The resignations of Professor Lygo and Dame Susan John followed soon after an Emergency Directors Board Meeting arranged at very short notice on two days, 7th & 8th May this Year. The importance and urgency of this meeting are highlighted by the decision to hold it on Conference Call, although the very sketchy Minutes do not enable one to draw any conclusions about proceedings with confidence.  What we do know is that at the following routine meeting of the Directors Board on July 9th, neither was present and their resignations were formally accepted. 
The Trust News (latest) page of the website, where some of this could have been mentioned, merely contains two identical profiles of Dr Saxton, from the TES of 8th October 2018, two copies of an article entitled: 'How Turner Schools is helping Kent meet the growing secondary school population', published in June, which is an argument I demolish in another article here.  Then there is a video by Dr Saxton called: Our CEO discussing plans for Folkestone Academy and successes across the Trust from May last year, which I have also analysed previously. Not a single word about Dr Lygo or his work. It is as if he has been airbrushed out, like many before him.  
The Trust now has an Interim Chair, James Booth-Clibborn, a book publisher, with Directors Meetings taking place at Phaidon press, London, where he is a Director. Having lost three of its eight Directors in a week, two new ones have been appointed. Michael Buchanan is the Executive Director of HMC, the organisation representing headteachers of the top private schools, and previously Headteacher of the private The Ashford School, in Ashford. Professor Helen James is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Designate of Canterbury Christ Church University.
With all this talent being imported at Director and Local Governing Body levels Turner Schools certainly ought to begin improving! I can't imagine any other small struggling Academy Trust being able to attract such a pool of experience, providing of course that Turner Schools can retain it.  
Last modified on Friday, 12 June 2020 06:49


  • Comment Link Saturday, 12 October 2019 23:03 posted by Ex Turner Schools Primary Teacher

    If Jennie King was so good that she was recruited to become a Director of Turner Schools, how come she was first of all shuffled out of being Executive Head of Martello and Morehall to be replaced by Mrs Sowden-Mehta who insists on steering both schools into mediocrity, presumably following her all too brief career at Copperfield Academy as Peter has identified.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 12 October 2019 15:33 posted by Primary Academy Headteacher

    Linda Pickles, Principal Primary Adviser Kent School Improvement to advise on Martello and Morehall? Has Dr Saxton not noticed the lack of improvement of KCC controlled schools, and how they tend to get better out of KCC control, as frequently demonstrated on the pages of this website. As a primary academy headteacher now thankfully out of KCC control, I do wonder what she has to offer.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 09 October 2019 14:34 posted by In the Know

    Also you might be interested to know that Jennie King who resigned was one of the many Executive Headteacher’s who were responsible for the Trusts two Primary Schools for a short period of time. She was previously headteacher at Willesborough Junior School for a number of years until resigning due to pressure from Kent. PETER: Thanks for this from an inside source. I have incorporated it in an update, above.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 06 October 2019 19:17 posted by Roger Bartlett

    Peter yet again the spin doctors at Turner schools have tried to put a positive view on yet another sorry tale, they have however neglected to make any big announcement on the resignation of Carl Lygo as chair, one can only wonder what the reasons for his departure are, could he have seen the writing on the wall? there have also been other high profile departures this year, again these have happened seemingly without the need to make a video about it: PETER: Very interesting, thank you. I shall incorporate this into the article. above. t

  • Comment Link Sunday, 06 October 2019 17:06 posted by Saddened ex teacher

    Every time I see one of your articles, Peter, on Turner Schools, I feel a faint glimmer of hope that Jo Saxton, Carl Lygo, or maybe anyone at the RSC might come out and show the slightest recognition of what a terrible mess they have made of the ‘good’ Folkestone Academy. And let’s remember the school wasn’t just good in OFSTED terms, it was popular, over-subscribed, led by an experienced and well thought of leadership team, and a school where staff felt appreciated, valued, and wanted to work hard for the students in the Folkestone Academy community. However this seems impossible.

    Turner Schools churn out yet more rhetoric, trying to put more spin on what was obviously a poor decision to appoint an incredibly inexperienced leader to run one of the most difficult schools in the county. People don’t blame Mr Carroll. He was out of his depth from the start, another pawn in the Turner Schools machine. Nobody thought that this appointment would last. Was this intentional? Only the trustees will know.

    Once again I feel utter despair at the situation we see still unfolding, and I hope, along with so many others, that one day soon Turner Schools will be held to account and someone will admit that they made a huge mistake giving this school to someone with such inexperience. Education is not an experiment and I feel for those students, teachers, families and support staff that have been let down by such a poor decision.

    It’s time that someone admitted they were wrong. PETER: This comment needs to be widely circulated.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 06 October 2019 07:28 posted by Vanessa

    Peter, why not call it a 'sea change', a term often used by Turner Schools! Others have suggested 'troubled waters' should be the Turner strapline. PETER: Thanks for the suggestion - title changed to fit!

  • Comment Link Saturday, 05 October 2019 20:01 posted by One of the 27

    Would it be going too far to suggest that Wesley's appointment was always seen as a stop gap until someone with more experience could be found, and that Seamus' appointment in April was always seen as leading to this changeover. PETER: I couldn't possibly comment.

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