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Displaying items by tag: Holmesdale

Perverse & absurd, but KCC keep paying their offshore PFI contractors
The above headline appears at the top of a recent article by the campaigning website Shepwayvox, which had its genesis in several articles I wrote in 2013, setting out the basis for the scandal. I have returned to the issue several times, notably here, which shows that the escalating debts on the various contracts are predominantly owed to offshore companies, who only have to sit back and rake in the profits from the KCC education budget. Remarkably, company accounts show that not one of the six profiting companies has any employees!
 
My original article identified a capital cost of £100 million for six schools rebuilt with money borrowed through PFI and looked at the enormous interest rates payable over the next 30 years. According to Shepway Vox, even the Department for Education's latest estimates predict that the ten KCC schools at the centre of this scandal will cost about 70% more than if they had used non-PFI borrowing
 
I became involved when the first of the Kent PFI schools controversially became an academy in 2013. This was Swan Valley School, which became Ebbsfleet Academy, producing the anomaly that KCC is still paying for the cost of the loan to provide premises for an academy that is independent of the authority. Other academies bear no such financial cost for the Authority.
Published in Peter's Blog
Friday, 02 July 2021 20:11

Academy and Free School News July 2021

The biggest news since my previous round-up of academy news in February is that the conversion of The North School and the sponsorship of The Holmesdale School, both to join Swale Academies Trust, is now set to happen for September as all obstacles to academisation have been removed. It also signposts the freedom for all of the other eight PFI schools to convert if they wish. These include Royal Harbour Academy in Thanet, a maintained school despite its title, for whom government approval to proceed has now been given under the sponsorship of Coastal Academies Trust.

In March, Worth Primary School joined the Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust. In April, Chartham Primary and St Stephen’s Infants in Canterbury came together to create the Inspira Academy Trust, Sandwich Infants joined Aquila, the Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust, and Fleetdown Primary in Dartford joined the Galaxy Trust, all five as converter academies. These take the proportion of Kent primary schools having academised to 43%, with the government proposing to put more pressure on schools to convert (see below). Mundella Primary School in Folkestone has had its application to join the Verita Trust in Deal approved and it is proposed that Will Adams Centre, an Alternative Provision School in Medway will join the Alternative Learning Trust.  Approval for the controversial new Free Secondary School in Thanet is further delayed.

Other items look at: Halling and Fairview Primaries in Medway; the proposed merger of All Hallows and Stoke primaries on the Hoo Peninsula; Kent Catholic Schools  Partnership; other recommendations by the SE and South London Headteacher Board; Copperfield Academy's Good Ofsted; and expanding academies. 

The article concludes with a look at new government policies working towards seeing all schools becoming academies, with several local mentions.

Published in News and Comments

Updated below, 8th Feb, drawing on a KCC Education Committee Report

I have covered disputes over the proposed conversion of Kent schools built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to become academies for many years. These first surfaced around 2011, my initial article being here, with the schools involved including Holmesdale Technology College and The North School.  

Ten years later, these two schools are still at the heart of the issue and I have chronicled their misfortunes under Kent County Council (KCC) control over the years, although up to another eight PFI schools may well be looking on with their own plans to convert. Both of the two schools are now managed for Kent County Council by Swale Academy Trust, whose plan, alongside improving them, has always been to secure academy status for both. I have received correspondence from FOI requests over the past two years which confirms the difficulties encountered in attempting to achieve this, but now shows that all obstacles appear to have been removed. A letter from KCC to Swale, of 11th September 2020, concludes I see no reason why these conversions should not proceed with little contention between ourselves‘. This is quite explicit although, despite the view that ‘We are both working to the same objective, the swift, smooth transition of the schools into the Trust’, it appears that KCC has been stalling on implementing the conversions for a further five months, having possibly only taken the single step of appointing solicitors to oversee the conversions. As a result, the agreed conversion date of 1st September 2021 appears very much at risk, in which case Swale Academies Trust could decide to pull out completely and hand the schools back to KCC, whose record is one of having led them both into Special Measures.   

This article explores the issues, including KCC's role, more closely and widens them out to consider the situation relating to the other PFI schools still under KCC control, notably Royal Harbour Academy. 

Published in News and Comments
Tagged under

 Swale Academies Trust (SAT) has secured a second Ofsted Outstanding school, after Meopham was found Outstanding in January (published earlier this week). This makes KCC’s decision to block SAT from taking over the failed Holmesdale School for most of 2018 look even more shocking as the school blundered from bad to worse under its control during the year. 

Meopham School had suffered from poor leadership for as long as I can remember, culminating in 2012 when it was placed in Special Measures. An ‘Anywhere but Meopham’ cry was regularly made to me by parents seeking advice on how to avoid the school. SAT took it over the following year. It has rapidly improved ever since, with a ‘Good’ Ofsted Report just two years later, followed by a Short Inspection last year. Meopham has been delivering excellent GCSE results for its pupils for the past three years, being the second and third best performing non-selective school in the county at Progress 8 and in the top seven for Attainment 8 in each year. Rightly it has now seen last year’s Short Inspection converted to Outstanding. Not surprisingly, it has become heavily oversubscribed with 224 first choices for its 140 places for September. A new Chair of Governors was appointed last September, Diana Choulerton, an Education Consultant who until recently was one of Her Majesty's Inspectors. Swale Academies Trust doesn't take chances!

By contrast, after Holmesdale School was placed in Special Measures a year ago, the school and its pupils were disgracefully hung out to dry by Kent County Council. KCC refused to hand the management of the school over to SAT even though it had been selected as the Sponsoring School when Holmesdale was served with an Academy Order and left it devoid of proper support until grudgingly yielding it to SAT at the end of November.

As well as further details below, I also look at the performance of Swale Academies Trust in an attempt to see why KCC was so strongly opposed to them being involved with Holmesdale School. 

Published in News and Comments
Friday, 28 December 2018 19:06

Holmesdale School: Pupils Failed Yet Again

Follow up article on new serious issues here

Holmesdale school families have been failed by Kent County Council and the school’s governors and leaders ever since the Ofsted Report of March 2014 found the school to be Good. Since then the school went into a spiral of decline up to and after it was placed in Special Measures by Ofsted in February 2018, which I explored in detail in a previous article here.  My analysis included critical areas of decline over the interim that should have alerted KCC to the problem, but they failed to act and pupils' futures were sacrificed. Following the Ofsted Inspection the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) placed an Academy Order on the school naming Swale Academies Trust (SAT) as the preferred sponsor.

Holmesdale

Subsequently, the school had an Ofsted Monitoring Inspection in July which found that ‘leaders and managers are not taking effective action towards the removal of special measures’. Unsurprisingly, the Provisional 2018 GCSE results showed that Progress 8, the key government measure of performance, was -0.86, officially ‘well below average’  and the second worst in the county. Amongst then many issues identified, The Ofsted Report refers to major concerns with persistent absence, hardly surprising perhaps with the poor quality of education being offered. These are amongst the factors I identified leading up to the Special Measures finding.  Most shockingly, Holmesdale had lost 34% of its Year 7 roll by the time they reached Year 11, by some way the highest figure in the county. The headteacher has chosen to leave at short notice, for Christmas, and there are reports of severe staff shortages for January.

Also, since February 2018 there has been unacceptable wrangling between KCC and various other bodies over who should supply school improvement support, which was only resolved at the end of November, so that the school was left rudderless in between and went downhill further. There is considerable risk to the school with still falling numbers and Swale Academies Trust will have to work hard to make the school once again financially viable by attracting pupils. . 

Published in News and Comments