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Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:00

Twydall Primary School; Governors to debate forced academisation on Thursday without parental consultation

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Decision Update Published here

I have been contacted by a number of parents since my previous article on the likelihood of Twydall Primary school becoming a fast track sponsored academy, run by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, headed up by The Rochester Grammar School and the All Faiths Community Primary School in Strood. At a Governing Body meeting on Thursday 24th July, with just seven days notice, a binding resolution forcing the school to become a sponsored academy will be debated, three additional Local Authority Governors having been added to try and ensure the motion is carried.  Parents are not being consulted although, at a meeting to discuss the OFSTED Report there was a strong majority against the idea.

Twdall

Clearly, Medway Council is trying to force the takeover in a hurry, irrespective of the key 2013-14 data, which unofficially shows over 80% of the school’s pupils achieving the government floor standard of Level 4 in both English and maths, in the top quarter of all Medway primary schools. In addition, 51% of pupils passed the Medway Test against the 25% average across the Borough. This in a school that has a much higher than average number of children with special needs and with statements of SEN, and is designated as a centre for children with physical disabilities and complex medical needs. The school remains very popular and was oversubscribed with first choices for its 75 spaces.........

I have had reports of splits within the governing body, with Medway Council packing the governing body with appointed members to get their way and Medway Council bouncing the governors into considering a resolution on Thursday 24th July that would be binding on the school to become a Sponsored Academy, without consulting parents in advance. However parental opinion on this issue is well-known for, at a meeting of parents to discuss the OFSTED Report, there was very strong opposition voiced about the proposal. There were similar issues involved in the take-over of Gordon Junior and Infant schools by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (the pressure appearing to come from Medway Council rather than the Trust).

I don't sense that governors are necessarily opposed to becoming an academy. The problem is that they are being forced by a Local Authority that appears to have let the school down badly, by not noticing or acting on its problems before OFSTED failed the school: “The local authority has provided only light touch support to the school and has not provided enough challenge, so achievement by the end of Key Stage 2 has not improved” and has now failed it again by failing to offer quality support afterwards. The subsequent Monitoring Inspection Report notes: “Consultants make regular visits to the school. However, their reports are not sufficiently focused on the areas identified for improvement in the inspection report, and they do not give a clear enough view about whether progress is being made.” Provisional Key Stage 2 results show the school is improving, Key Stage 1 has always been good as acknowledged by OFSTED, why on earth is Medway Council so desperate to get rid of this potentially good school so quickly, which only two years ago was classified as "Good". 

It is alleged that a senior employee of the Council, when challenged by a governor about the enforced academisation last Tuesday, responded: “"If parents don't like the school being an Academy they can move their children to another school."  This suggests that parents are being treated with contempt, and indeed with the only primary schools in Gillingham with vacancies all having a recent history including a failed OFSTED, hardly confidence building. I do have the details of the senior employee and the person to whom she is alleged to have made the remark.

OFSTED also observes: “The local authority has arranged for the headteacher from a local outstanding primary school, which also specialises in supporting disabled pupils and those with special educational needs, to support the headteacher for two days per week. This partnership is due to start soon”. I can neither identify a local primary school with these characteristics, nor is Twydall Primary aware of such an appointment being considered. Given that this was reported as being in place over a month ago, if the Local Authority was serious about improving the lot of the pupils at the school before discarding it away from its control, the arrangement should surely have been implemented by now. Can we be told which school this is, as OFSTED clearly found it a plus for Medway Council, showing it was doing something about the mess it has created; surely it is not something to be kept secret?

I have recently posted another article on the dire fate of some primary schools that were forced into academisation in Thanet. Twydall parents may wish to take note of it. 

Not for the first time in Medway, there is something badly wrong here, and the pressure to sort this before the summer holidays smacks of desperation. Why not put in some proper resources (if the Authority has access to these), give the school time, consult the parents and see if it can be turned around?

Incidentally, I have also got to the bottom of the reported mistake in the OFSTED Report. The original published Report had to be withdrawn after it was pointed out this referred to a serious incident which never occurred and was thought to have referred to an OFSTED of another school! As a result the reference was removed and the classification of Behaviour and Safety of Pupils was raised from 4 (inadequate ) to 3 (Requires Improvement).

Note: The Thinking Schools concept is an American philosophy, with the Medway schools being accredited by Thinking Schools International

Read 11282 times Last modified on Saturday, 26 July 2014 19:47

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