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Friday, 06 March 2020 06:43

More Change in Medway: Delce Academy Re-Brokered and Barnsole Trust to be merged

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The children of Delce Academy in Rochester have now hopefully reached a safe haven where they can learn towards a brighter future, after a dreadful time in this school run by the inept Castle Trust. The academy has now been re-brokered with the Inspire Partnership. The latter is a thriving primary Academy Trust which has successfully turned round the Elaine Primary School, also in Rochester, itself having had a torrid life under Medway Council and the now defunct Williamson Trust.

Delce Academy

The Castle Trust CEO, Karen White, who as head of Delce Junior School had previously spoken out passionately against the merging of Junior and Infant Schools led the school to a foolish decision to go into competition with its own linked Infant School. It did this by setting up its own Infant section, which unsurprisingly has failed to attract pupils given the poor reputation of the Junior section. In a previous article on Delce as it plunged into Special Measures down from Good,  I wrote 'My previous article portrays an arrogant Academy Trust and Junior School that have decided to extend into the Infant sector without the necessary skills'. Government has now decided Castle Trust's leadership was so awful it has re-brokered Delce, although the new Trust now has a challenge to sort out the school's contribution to provision in Rochester. 

Meanwhile the Barnsole Primary Trust in Medway appears to have ditched its CEO who, as Headteacher had led Barnsole Primary to its Ofsted Outstanding Status and regular powerful Key Stage Two results. However, both its mainstream schools have now plunged in terms of performance over the past two years. According to a statement, governors are looking for a way forward, probably with the eight primary school Maritime Academy Trust based in Greenwich.  

Although the two mainstream schools in the Barnsole Trust: Barnsole and  Bligh primaries, have performed well in the past, their 2019 Key Stage Two results were both disastrous. One can only speculate if this is what caused the CEO of Barnsole Primary Trust, 'to take time away from his role as CEO of the Trust',  leaving the Board to 'appoint Mr. Nick Osborne, CEO of Greenwich Maritime Trust, as interim CEO of Barnsole Primary Trust effective immediately'.  

Castle Trust and Delce Academy
Once there were two linked Delce Infant and Junior Schools and, back in 2009, Medway Council made the decision to keep them separate, rather than merge, which was Medway Council's general policy at the time. The decision to keep the schools separate was partly due to an impassioned speech against the proposal by Karen White, headteacher of the Junior School. Castle Trust was set up to run Delce, then a fairly successful Junior School, as an academy in 2013. I have written a number of articles plotting the subsequent history of this appalling Trust, including the stupid decision to set up an Infant section in direct competition with its own linked Infant School, Crest Primary, which has just been found Good again by Ofsted.  These articles include one about the Ofsted Special Measures outcome, which gives considerable background including the statement:  'My previous article portrays an arrogant Academy Trust and Junior School that have decided to extend into the Infant sector without the necessary skills'. I could have included the word inept then, and concluded: 'This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body', which has now happened. On the way the spineless Medway Council tried to offer the Trust a £400,000 loan to fund buildings for the two thirds empty non-viable infant section but were wisely blocked by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, after they were tipped off as to what was happening. The Trust also took over a junior school in West Sussex, Greenway Academy, where Ms White  installed herself as headteacher. By 2018, Ms White was on a salary of £105,000, an exorbitant sum for looking after two primary schools, one of which was failing badly. She was joined in 2019 by two other staff on £60-70,000, although if one was the well paid Head of School at Delce, it is difficult to work out who else had responsibilities to justify this high salary. 
Less than a year ago, the Trust placed the following fantasy advertisement:
Based in Medway, Castle Trust seeks a non-executive director as it expands and develops to achieve its vision of a vibrant learning community, where schools actively pursue excellent outcomes for all pupils.Castle Trust’s key challenges over the next 12-24 months are as follows:
  1. Create capacity for academy improvement and increasing collaboration between academies in order to share best practice in teaching and learning.
  2. In the next development window, Castle Trust intends to develop a hub of 4-6 primary schools in Medway (over next 5 years).
  3. The trust also intends to open another hub of 4-6 schools in West Sussex (over next 5 years).

 Well, not quite! Delce Academy is well out of it all, but Karen White is comfortably installed at Greenway Academy. Pity about all the children whose education and life chances have suffered because of the appalling management and leadership. Every single Director of Castle Trust should feel guilty and ashamed of what they have doe to local children.  

 Barnsole Primary Trust
It looks as if the action taken at the Trust has come about because a Board of Directors is rightly concerned about a dramatic fall in standards at two of its three schools. The third school in the Trust is Danecourt Special School, which is not measured by the same criteria. A letter to parents states: “The CEO of Barnsole Primary Trust is taking time away from his role as CEO of the Trust . The board has appointed Mr. Nick Osborne, CEO of Greenwich Maritime Trust, as interim CEO of Barnsole Primary Trust effective immediately. Following a Board meeting on Friday March 6th, Barnsole Primary Trust is exploring a merger with Greenwich Maritime Trust.“

In 2017, Barnsole Primary School achieved the highest average KS2 Progress Grade in the whole of Medway and Kent by a considerable margin, across Reading, Writing and Maths. Such a fall in grace to be fourth lowest in Medway, in just two years is truly remarkable, with Bligh Primary next lowest, although not having fallen quite so far. Like other similar situations I have followed it is on course for Special Measures unless suitable and decisive action is taken. Parents must hope this is the case in the case of Barnsole and Bligh. I do not know too much about the Maritime Academy Trust, except that it has taken over the two Featherby Primary Schools in Gillingham. Featherby Junior School was placed in Special Measures in 2017, under the auspices of Medway Council, but is now much improved under new management. One can only hope that schools with as much potential as Barnsole and Bligh are also able to thrive under new management, if the merger goes ahead. 

One bonus is that if the schools do become part of the Maritime Academy Trust they should be released from the otherwise inevitable Ofsted Inspection which is beckoning because of the shocking KS2 results. Schools that are re-brokered are given a three year breathing space from Ofsted to turn around.  

Read 481 times Last modified on Friday, 17 April 2020 20:24

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