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Thursday, 17 December 2020 23:48

Failed Stantonbury School to be removed from Griffin Schools Trust by RSC

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Update 22/01/21: In the pyramid of power above the Griffin Schools Trust, are complex commercial companies including Capital Talent, Ltd, described as 'a consultancy service with a difference'. One of its Directors, Liz Lewis holding between 25% and 50% of the company shares, and one of the founders of Griffin, has resigned as a 'person of influence' of the Trust. Capital Talent, influential and powerful in the affairs of Griffin, has just two Directors, Ms Lewis and her partner, Ange Tyler.   

Update 22/12/20: An excellent article by a local website The View from Bradwell Common builds on this and offers much more detail.

Update 23/12/20: The investigative website, Education Uncovered, run by Warwick Mansell has published three articles about Stantonbury in the least two months, two in the last two days: (1), (2)(3), (4). Amongst other matters, they look at the large sums of money passing between the Trust and its associated companies, and transactions lying outside the rules for running academies.   

Although Stantonbury International School is in Buckinghamshire, not Kent or Medway, I have followed its misfortunes for some years, as it is run by the Griffin Schools Trust which had its origins in Medway. My most recent article, posted less than a month ago, explored its continued failures since being placed in Special Measures by Ofsted earlier this year, and expressing the view that the school should be taken away from Griffin Trust because of their long term incompetence, arrogance and downright lies to parents.

Stantonbury

Earlier today, the CEO and Chairman of Trustees of Griffin Schools Trust wrote a letter to parents at the school informing them ‘that the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State wrote to us yesterday to communicate her decision to re-broker Stantonbury International School to a new sponsor’. In typical style, there is no hint of an apology for damaging the education of a generation of pupils, indeed they begin with the claim that ‘We have sent documentary evidence of the improvements we have worked so hard together to put in place since 2016’ , in spite of the multitude of contrary views, including those expressed by Ofsted, the Regional Schools Commissioner in warning letters and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State herself (see below). It continues with: ‘The RSC will determine the timing and choice of sponsor, but has given us to understand that she expects the process to be complete by July 2021’, which appears an inordinate time to leave over 1500 children in the care of an organisation that appears incapable of keeping them safe, let alone providing a proper education.

However, the real shocker comes in a breathtaking statement by the Trust to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in its attempt to head off closure. I would have previously thought the following unbelievable and it makes my previous examples of arrogance fade into insignificance: 'Leaders are not able easily to provide data and records of impact. This evidence finding takes up too much of their valuable time'. In other words, they cannot even be bothered to make an effort to save their positions. On the evidence of that statement alone, the Trustees have shown their utter uselessness and incompetence and that they should not be in charge of the education of children. They need urgently to have their valuable time for other matters freed up, provided these are not to do with the welfare of children and, faced with the evidence, the Griffin Trust should be closed down completely. 

 The letter from Baroness Berridge, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, is utterly damning about the performance of the Griffin Trust.
'The school has been with the trust now for over four years and as stated in its most recent report, Ofsted found that “the trust has overseen the decline of the school since the last inspection”. The progress made by pupils is well below national average and has remained so for the last 3 years for which data has been published. Again, Ofsted noted that “pupils do not achieve well” and that many children do not feel safe in the school. Ofsted judged that the arrangements for safeguarding at the school are not effective and found that there was a high level of poor behaviour, disruption in lessons and that leaders have not been effective in managing pupils’ behaviour'. It continues 'the representations offered by the trust lack evidence that that the trust has the capacity to make the rapid and sustained improvements required at the academy. Given the trust’s track record at Stantonbury International Academy, coupled with the fact that another of the trust’s secondaries, Nicholas Chamberlaine School (which joined the trust in 2013), has declined from an Ofsted good rating in 2015 to Requires Improvement in 2019, there are concerns about the secondary capacity within the trust. There is a very real risk that performance will not improve, and children will not receive the education they deserve. The monitoring report commissioned by the trust does not provide strong evidence of impact'.
 
As if that is not enough, there now comes one of the most breathtaking and arrogant statements I can conceive from a school threatened with closure and bears repeating. The letter states: 'While the report references a number of actions taken in respect of safeguarding and leadership it states “Leaders are not able easily to provide data and records of impact. This evidence finding takes up too much of their valuable time.”' 
 
 The letter continues relentlessly: 'The representations offered by the Trust raise serious concerns about the trust board’s ability to hold the trust leadership to account for school improvement...The evidence from Ofsted and from pupil outcomes from the last three years indicate that the unacceptable standards at Stantonbury did not come about, as the trust describes, as the result of a “lapse in rigour” but is, in fact, more fundamental'.
 
In summary, the DfE letter places the blame for this abject failure squarely on the Trust Board, whose Trustees and Members are: Trevor Edinborough (Chair of the Board of Trustees); Julie Adams;  Marissa Davies (Assistant Director of Education for the Girls Day School Trust); Sarah Galvani; Elizabeth Lewis (founder Director, civil partner also a founder Director); Michael McCreedy; Mary Stiasny (Pro-Vice-Chancellor University of London - what on earth is she doing being mixed up with this?); and Ann Powell (CEO).   

 An article in the MK Citizen newspaper published yesterday also describes some of the issues. 

The conclusion of the DfE letter that the school would improve more quickly with a stronger trust with a track record of secondary school improvement’ should surely act as a death knell for the Trust itself and its management of all the schools it runs, including the three primary schools in Medway.

 

Read 702 times Last modified on Monday, 25 January 2021 13:24

4 comments

  • Comment Link Sunday, 31 January 2021 12:55 posted by Posted on by Peter

    A parental comment Posted on 'The View from Bradwell Common': I agree with everything in your article with a correction and some further observations – parents have been in contact with the MP and his staff since before March 2020 – and can confirm that he had been working on these issues.
    Some parents were also told by sources within the school that for at least one intake after the trust took over that the council placed every child in Milton Keynes whose parents had not applied for a secondary school place at Stantonbury Campus which caused more than a few problems. Parents asked the Council about this at the time – and were ignored. Therefore the Council has not acted in the best interests of the school at times either.
    From this we can see that neither political party has covered itself with glory in this situation and frankly parents are not interested in the political mudslinging contest. Parents want their children to be able to access good education in a safe environment with out the blame game. Just fix the problem!
    Academies are here to stay but they need holding to account properly, they need proper oversight – not just their finances checking by accountants. Public funding must be proven to have been spent to benefit the children’s educationin material ways, not on companies formed by their academy overlords. Legislation needs changing to allow a more rapid removal of failing trusts with punitive measures introduced as an incentive to ensure their whole focus is on the children instead of their coffers. The money needs to go to the school – and only the school. Wages within the trust should be linked to results. Parents MUST have a voice – and should have to play an important role within the management of their child’s school.
    The school under Michelle Newman appeared to be moving in the right direction, however it was apparent in Spring 2019 that she was stepping back from her role as Head and that more and more budget restrictions were being placed on the school and staff. Parents speculated if this was because Mrs Newman realised that it just would not be possible to run the school viably following the instructions given by the GST. The trust then took a greater role in running the school – which was catastrophic.
    As the trust appeared to have been steadily decreasing the numbers of experienced staff at the school over time, it is with little surprise that we watched behaviour worsen and managed poorly with little or no support given to teaching staff. Support staff were redesignated as Admin staff. Staff reported to parents that some staff were being bullied and intimidated by the Trust and School leadership. Staff were being penalised for speaking out and then little information was subsequently given to staff so that they could not tell parents anything. A common statement that teachers made whenever asked simple questions regarding the behaviour policy, curriculum management, safeguarding issues or staffing is that they didn’t know anything.
    Parents have had to work to an archaic complaints procedure that was rarely responded to or followed – forcing parents to approach the DFE and Ofsted whose own complaints procedures are censorious and appear designed to discourage complaints.
    (Interestingly the GST complaints procedure was updated in Spring 2020 introducing the vexatious and serial complaints procedure that the school and trust now use to refuse to answer parental concerns and use in a punitive way to further restrict parents from actively raising concerns).
    Had a child not been stabbed by another child with scissors in Jan 2020 then many parents doubt that any action would have been taken by Ofsted.
    Staff at the school in December 2019 were telling parents that they needed to complain to the DfE, that conditions within the school were shocking. The GST denied everything and still are doing. They have not acknowledged their utter failure of the children and staff of the school and in the wake of their withdrawal notice have left a skeleton staff of teachers in charge of the school valiantly trying to hold everything together for the children during the Pandemic.
    Trust staff no longer appear to be at the school.which ironically has meant that more communication has come out to parents in the last three weeks than they managed in a whole term previously. Remote Education is currently adequate but a poor relation if compared with that provided by other schools. Uptake of remote provision by children is low which is going to prove to be a real problem when children eventually return to school – and parents fear that the staff that are left are going to really struggle to manage the problems that the trust has left behind. As the children had already missed out on a years education before the Pandemic then had to face the schools inability to provide adequate provision during the first lockdown followed by a failure to manage the return to school in September safely and with now just adequate provision for this lockdown, this means that the children of Stantonbury are slipping further and further behind.
    The GST should hang their heads in shame.

  • Comment Link Monday, 25 January 2021 13:21 posted by Disgusted Stantonbury Parent

    to my astonishment, Griffin Education Trust has a Founders Day, presumably to celebrate the work of Liz Lewis and her partner Ange Tyler in setting up a personal pot of gold. See: https://www.griffinschoolstrust.org/founders-day-2020/. PETER: One wonders how the trust will celebrate its Founders in the coming March anniversary.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 05 January 2021 23:07 posted by Angela Wright

    Why is this the only news outlet to cover the disgrace of Statonbury in any detail? And on a website that by its own admission only covers Kent and Medway issues(admittedly where Griffin has three primary schools). However, an excellent analysis of their failures and the arrogance of the leaders. Why haven't you given this story to the MK Citizen who only covered it superficially? PETER: I have sent this and my previous article to the Citizen and haven't even had an acknowledgement, let alone any interest. In my experience, such a boycott of news by a local journal often suggests a conflict of interest. Make no mistake, this is a massive story, the re-brokering of one of the largest schools in the country

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 December 2020 17:05 posted by The View From Bradwell Common

    Thanks for your work in uncovering the multiple failures that led to the DfE allowing Stantonbury Campus being taken over by the Griffin Trust despite their poor track record.

    We have written an article on our website on this drawing heavily on your research - having issues with posting a link due to your very efficient spam filter but it’s a Wordpress site called The View From Bradwell Common if you are interested. PETER: And well worth visiting at https://theviewfrombradwellcommon.wordpress.com/2020/12/20/stantonbury-campus-what-went-wrong/ for more detail than I have been able to provide.

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