Parents have voted in a Consultation process about Barton Court’s proposed move to Herne Bay. Of the 187 votes recorded, 122 were against the proposal with 52 in favour (however, just 87 of these votes were from parents, suggesting there are limited concerns, possibly as many girls will have left the school by the time of the proposed move in 2017). The school has published a very fair analysis of the consultation results. This follows a vote by Weald of Kent Grammar parents about the proposed change of status to a mixed school and expansion onto the Sevenoaks site. This latter response was reported to be strongly against the proposal, confirming the unsurprising result in both cases that parents of children at a successful school will tend to vote to retain the status quo. The Barton Court response on its website is that: “On the basis of the consultation educational considerations and the view of stake holders, the governing body will decide whether or not to pursue the proposed move”. A parents group opposed to the move, The Barton Court Parents Forum, has set up a website that contains a very different comprehensive and powerful analysis of the plans, which appears to demonstrate that far from offering better facilities, there will actually be loss of space and worse sports facilities than currently enjoyed by the school. From this and an article in the Canterbury Times of May 1st, it is clear that there is a significant minority of parents passionately opposed to the move for quite understandable reasons. The school has issued a press release setting out its very different perspective on the issues. This includes the statement: "It is well known that the school has outgrown the site and buildings. The school hall is too small, as are the canteen facilities. There are very limited bathroom facilities and we are two science labs short of what we need. There is very limited space for music and drama lessons. Outside, we have insufficient car parking, no drop off point for children arriving by bus or car, and no bus lanes on the road outside the school. Our sports facilities are limited. We have limited use of one half of a sports hall in term-time only, between 8.40am and 5.30pm, except for Wednesdays when we have to be out by 12.30pm. We have four worn-out tennis courts and some outdoor sports fields - none of which are artificial or with flood lighting and we have drainage issues on the large field. With many listed building and trees, strict covenants and with part of the site considered a World Heritage Site, you can see why developing Longport presents special difficulties and why the option of a move to a green field site at much reduced cost to the public purse has its attractions." I can't see that both versions are valid, however, the problem of explaining the reasons for change always comes at the price of publicising current problems!
In the meantime, as a boost to its endeavours, the school has received recognition of its qualities by the award of an Outstanding assessment by OFSTED, in spite of the campaign which is recognised in the Report.
Castle Community School has confirmed it has been placed into Special Measures by OFSTED after its inspection in March, although publication of the report has been delayed following challenges by the school. The Chairman of Governors has now, rightly, resigned although there are too many others who bear responsibility for the debacle of a school falling from Outstanding to Special Measures in less than three years (is this a record?).
Attention has now shifted to the private companies that have supported the school during its dramatic fall in standards. The central player is SchoolsCompany Ltd, an Educational Consultancy selected by the DfE to be on the pool of companies considered for academy sponsorship, although has not yet been chosen. It has only been running for three years, although the school states “we have appointed the education management organisation, SchoolsCompany Ltd, to lead the college with immediate effect. SchoolsCompany is a specialist and proven educational school management and training company. They have worked with schools to improve and transform education and children's lives for many years. They have a strong track record in education particularly in supporting schools in challenging circumstances”. SchoolsCompany was brought in by the Governing Body to support Castle, guiding it down to the Special Measures assessment. So, “many years” equates to three, its “strong track record” being somewhat punctured by its record with Castle. It has just one director, whose record in education is difficult to identify.
The other is LilacSky, a highly favoured KCC company (see Furness below) which also helped Castle into its present state.
See previous article here. To continue..... Amazingly, the headteacher returned on Monday, after a vote by the governing body to reinstate her, which must be seen as a humiliation for KCC, after her enforced “leave of absence” during and after a disastrous OFSTED for her and the school. There might well have been criticism of KCC also, but as she had been removed, she was in no position to defend herself. KCC is unsurprisingly seeking to replace the Governing Body by an Interim Executive Board appointed by the county, which would further isolate the headteacher. What a mess!
The bind on headteachers is that they are under enormous pressure to improve standards; if they don’t put their teachers under similar pressure, they are at fault; if they do it can come over as bullying; and they will fall on those grounds as well. Both models exist currently in Kent, some academy groups tending towards the latter.
In the interim, the school was run by Mr Simon O'Keefe who is also Executive Headteacher of several other schools in East Kent. However, the school website makes no mention of the situation, of either Miss Warnock or Mr O'Keefe as Headteacher, or of Miss Warnock as a Governor, so was she been relieved of this role, as she has been airbrushed out of the site? Latest news is of the Pantomime Trip in December! Parents surely need to know she has returned and what her future and that of the school is likely to be.
KCC has already pumped £574,650 into Furness to support the school’s 34 children over just 18 months, from the Schools’ Budget, along with other sums from other budgets. It is now consulting on a proposal, to close the school in its current form and replace it with a high functioning Autistic Spectrum Special School.
“Our proposal is to redesignate Furness School from a 60 place provision for pupils with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Needs (BESN) to a 60 place provision for high functioning children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Currently, the school has 35 pupils on roll, 28 of whom have a primary need of ASD. The remaining seven pupils have a primary need of BESN. It is evident from these figures that the school would be more appropriately designated to serve the needs of pupils with ASD. This proposal to redesignate the school to accommodate pupils with ASD will ensure its designation better reflects its current pupil profile, and will increase capacity to meet the pressure for ASD places. The expansion of Goldwyn School will effectively replace the unfilled places lost at Furness, but by locating these in an area of pressure, we expect these to be filled by April 2015. We would like to reassure all parents about their children’s continuing education provision. Subject to discussions with parents we propose that the 28 children with ASD will remain at Furness and the current Year 10 BESN pupils will remain as Furness pupils until they complete their statutory education at the end of Year 11. For Key Stage 3 BESN pupils individual discussions will take place with the parents regarding the appropriate onward pathway for their child”.
The proposal for Furness is due to be implemented in September 2014, so presumably high functioning ASD children are currently being identified.
I think this is an excellent proposal, matching provision in the East of Kent, in an aspect of Special Education where there is increasing need. What a pity, the enormous funds poured into Lilac Sky to improve standards will now all be written off, although there has been a short term benefit for the children currently at the school. The consultation ends on 20th May.