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Monday, 21 September 2020 06:37

Follow-Up to Park Crescent Academy, Margate

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Update: An interesting Footnote for some of my followers.

The news Website Kent Live has reproduced much of my recent article on the problems with the new planned Park Crescent Academy in Thanet, along with a statement by Kent County Council supporting the project.

Park Crescent Academy

I look below at this statement which manages to completely ignore most of the concerns I have raised.

A spokesman for Kent County Council is quoted as saying:

Kent County Council has a duty to ensure high quality education provision is available for every child and young person in Kent. The Howard Academy Trust is successful and well respected and Park Crescent Academy will give families in Thanet more choice and the opportunity for their children to be part of a high quality, inclusive school community. The new academy will address future demand for secondary school places, which will come about as a result of additional housing that is anticipated in the district in the future. KCC doesn’t receive capital funding from the Government for post-16 education; this is funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The ESFA will look at the total post-16 provision in an area, provided by schools and colleges, and make an assessment of need based on this. Consequently, there are no plans for a sixth form at Park Crescent Academy. Many local residents have already expressed their views on the academy proposal through the pre-planning public consultation and these will be carefully considered before a planning application is submitted. Members of the public will then have the opportunity to submit their responses to that application before a final decision is made"

I have no problem with the Howard Academy Trust being described as successful. It currently runs the well established Howard School in Medway, four primary schools and took over the failed Medway UTC in January 2019. Deanwood, Miers Court and Thames View Primaries were all Ofsted rated Good when Howard took them over, whilst Howard took Temple Mill from Special Measures to Good in one go. As my articles on the UTC show, this is much more of a challenge. The Trust had planned the change the UTC into an 11-18 school for this September, but this proposal appears to have vanished from the website, and the school continues as a 14-18 establishment. However, it is still seriously struggling to attract students, with a planned admission number of 160, only a third full in the main school, and just 28 in Year 12 (Jan 20).

With regard to future demand for secondary school places, the statement makes no mention of KCC’s own Schools Commissioning Plan for 2020-2024 that makes no mention of the new school and makes clear that moderate expansions at King Ethelbert School and Ursuline College, both on the north coast of Thanet, are appropriate and sufficient to manage any anticipated additional housing.

The ESFA may well have decided there is no need for additional Sixth Form provision in the area, as any provided for the new school would take it away from Hartsdown and Royal Harbour academies, which had an average of just 23 and 31 students respectively in each of the two Sixth Form years. Neither of these is sustainable, either in financial or in curriculum terms and must be a severe constraint on the resources of the two schools. Hartsdown is already strongly subsidised by the Coastal Academies Trust. However, the ESFA has seen fit to approve the new school which is likely to make at least one of these schools unsustainable at all. In any case, the site is of insufficient size to cater for a Sixth Form, even if the 180 pupil cohort was large enough to provide one in time!

The Kent Live article also records that: "Kent County Council claims this new school is necessary to ease demand on schools in Deal and Sandwich, as a number of pupils from Thanet are travelling out of their district to attend schools there". I am sorry but as my previous article states explicitly: 'according to the Commissioning Plan there is already room for all Thanet children to attend school locally and children in Deal and Sandwich will always be able to access their local schools, by virtue of living nearest!’. To repeat the falsehood is not just disingenuous, it is clearly deliberate.

The whole problem has arisen because of KCC’s failure to deliver what they call their duty in the article, to ensure high quality education provision is available for every child and young person in Kent’. The fact remains that as is well known, they do not have the powers to do so, so to pretend they do as in this case, is naive  to say the least.

There is not a single word from KCC about the main point of my article which looks at the Planning Consultation submitted by the Council, possibly because this was also omitted from the Kent Live item. This is quite simply the consequences of choosing a very cramped nature of the site, as explained in detail here. To put it bluntly, the available space is completely insufficient and inappropriate to build a new school for 900 students. Aesthetically the proposed site is awful with a high wall running all along one side.
Park Crescent Wall
The outside recreation and sporting area is utterly insufficient for the population.
Picture 3
This can be seen in the photograph above, with just one full-size and one half-size pitch and three outside hard courts, the building at the bottom of the picture and the solar wall not forming part of the site. Otherwise, there are just two small hard surfaces for students to congregate, one in the picture below, also featuring the inconvenient 'plateau' which divides the site. The plateau is again peopled by sixth form students who won't be part of the school, but the hard surface is empty as youngsters playing would give the game away that there is almost no other recreation area. 
Park Crescnet Plateau 
There is further analysis in my original article.
What I regard as an interesting footnote to the history of the school that is to become Park Crescent Academy, came up in my research for a recent article on the disgraced Schools Company. The article concludes with: A fascinating note from the Minutes of SchoolsCompany Board Meeting of March 2018 relating to the controversial new school in Thanet, records that: “This would normally have gone through the free school program but wave 13 of this has been delayed. Kent LA would like to work with Schools Company Trust and the RSC directly on this to fast track the process.”  What an appalling record KCC has with its closeness to both these two disgraced academy Trusts and related companies over the years. 
Read 782 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 October 2020 06:14

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