Drapers Mills Primary Academy
My previous article regarding the OFSTED failure of Drapers Mills in June noted:
Last week, Drapers Mills Primary School, Margate, a school with a very chequered history under KCC control, but with its previous OFSTED in March 2011 being “Satisfactory” was placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, after eighteen months of TKAT control. As with both the other two academies: “The Academy Trust acknowledges that it was slow to appreciate the full extent of the challenges and issues affecting Drapers Mills Primary in 2012. Action to address these shortcomings was, therefore, delayed, and only recently have more rigorous systems and procedures designed to eradicate underperformance been established”. However, the list of failings of the academy is so extensive that it begs the question of whether TKAT had any awareness of what was going on. They certainly weren’t taking the tough action KCC had assumed would happen when it handed the school over. Of course, now it is nothing to do with KCC, so they can wash their hands of the school and the children. As is common with such academies, there is a pattern of rapid turnover of senior staff, for staff are appointed to the chain and not the individual school and so can easily be moved around, with no requirement to advertise posts as in: “Action to strengthen the leadership team has only recently been implemented. While the acting headteacher is now well supported by her successor, who takes up position officially in September 2014, the roles of the assistant headteachers and subject leaders are not developed. Consequently, these leaders are not yet held to account effectively for bringing about improvements in their areas of responsibility”.
Clearly, my observation begging the question of whether TKAT had any awareness of what was going on was accurate, and the children of the school have been left to endure a second rate education for even longer after the problem was diagnosed.
There is no doubt that Drapers Mills is a difficult challenge for any school leaders. The 2011 OFSTED Report, which found the school offering a Satisfactory education, before the decline under TKAT began, observes:
The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is well above average and increasing. The proportion of pupils of minority ethnic heritage has recently risen to above the national average and a very high proportion speak English as an additional language. Far more pupils than is usual join the school at points later than the normal school starting age. A well above average proportion have special educational needs and/or disabilities, the most frequently identified needs being behavioural, social and emotional difficulties.
Drapers Mills Primary School provides a satisfactory quality of education. Improving pupils' progress is its first priority, which it is meeting successfully. To support this, the school reaches out to a very diverse community and develops enterprising partnerships that enhance learning well and make an outstanding contribution to community cohesion. Senior leaders show great willingness to tackle weaknesses, be innovative, for instance combining children with similar preferred learning styles into the same class, and are taking rigorous action to improve teaching. This is raising pupils' attainment and progress rapidly and securely. Because attainment and progress are now much better than in the past, and because there has been steady improvement generally since the previous inspection, the school has good capacity to maintain improvement in the future. On starting school a large majority of children have well below age-related expectations and many have difficulties in learning. By the end of Year 6 attainment is a little below average in both English and mathematics. It has improved significantly in the last two years. Currently, Year 6 pupils are making good progress due to much improved learning and teaching in that year.
Well at least in 2011, these children who are the government’s highest priority for providing a good education were getting a half way decent education. However, as results were, not surprisingly, under the national average KCC saw fit to surrender the school to TKAT following Government’s solution of removing schools catering for such children from inadequate Local Authority control. They are then placed in the hands of academy chains who are supposed somehow to have the resources and ability to improve standards. Yet again, TKAT has failed in that task.
The Report makes clear that, since September, TKAT has poured resources into the school in an effort to make up at last for its previous failures; but progress is still insufficient. That is just two years after TKAT took over responsibility for the school. Two wasted years and how many children’s life chances damaged by the failure.
The question remains, what is to happen to schools serving areas of deprivation, that are failing under Local Authority control? Previous articles show that Kent has a record of failing primary schools thee times the national average last year. However, the strategy of converting them to academies run by organisations such as TKAT and AET, is also clearly failing! Clearly such children face a rocky future under either route.
I have previously commented on KCC’s appalling failure with Lydd. The OFSTED Report includes criticism made of the Senior Local Authority Officer (now departed), Consultants provided by the LA, and other LA officers. For Beaver Green, on its third Monitoring Inspection in October, after being placed in Special Measures in December, OFSTED records:
During Day One of the Inspection, the Headteacher went on sick leave …Having considered all the evidence I am of the opinion that at this time: The school is not making enough progress towards the removal of special measures..Documents reveal gaps in the execution of the local authority’s planned monitoring and evaluation programme. It had not made an effective enough contribution to the school’s improvement. However, a new, more effective school improvement adviser began working with the school in September and she has undertaken useful work with senior leaders this term. The school remains a member of the ACE local schools hub. However, there are concerns about the appropriateness of this association.
With the Departure of the previous Senior Primary School Improvement Adviser, support mechanisms may improve, but this Report is again hardly a recommendation for school governors to choose to remain with Kent! But what are the alternatives?