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Displaying items by tag: Turner Schools

Wednesday, 10 June 2020 17:58

More drama at Turner Schools

Update in blue below., about Jo Swash, Vice Principal vanished 'in the night'.  
Since its arrival in Folkestone at the Easter of 2017 under the leadership of CEO Dr Jo Saxton, Turner Schools has indulged in an ad hoc adventure: appointing and removing staff at short notice amidst a flood of changing job titles, along with other multiple changes of direction; low academic standards and unpopular schools; and a massive variation in exclusion rates, at its peak the highest number of any school in Kent. Headteachers have come and gone in attempts to fix the problems, six at Folkestone Academy and another half dozen at Martello Primary, along with a multitude of other senior leaders as changes in the structure become bewildering in their frequency.

Dr Saxton has now moved on to advise Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education in March this year (see below) and Seamus Murphy, her successor as CEO, is wasting no time in making his mark on Turner Schools. Having arrived in April 2019, he is now on his fourth role in the Trust.

One of his early actions on taking on full responsibility has continued the Turner Schools tradition of creating a high turnover of senior staff, with the Executive Principal of the two Trust primary schools departing at very short notice on Friday last, after just one week of Term Six. Monday’s letter informing parents of the decision can be found by a link on Facebook but is well hidden. It is also very short on detail about Mrs Sowden-Mehta who has been at the school for three years, having been promoted twice. In spite of this success, she has very suddenly ‘decided to leave Turner Schools to pursue new opportunities’, a time-honoured phrase used to cover leaders who have been forced out of their schools. The previous Principal of Folkestone Academy has also recently vanished after first being demoted. 

Update July: Jo Swash, Vice Principal has left Folkestone Academy suddenly, my correspondent says'mysteriously'. When I checked this recently here, he was present in the photographs but has now gone, but is still present on the list of all staff, below

Published in News and Comments

Update 11 April: If you wish to apply for the vacant post of Head of School at Folkestone Academy, you will find details here. The 84 point Job Description defining the post-holder's responsibilities shows that Turner Schools has not lost its touch for covering all the bases.    

Update: To add to Dr Saxton's Achievements, below, the number of families putting Folkestone Academy as their first choice school for 2020 has fallen yet again, from 153 in 2019 to 127 in 2020. 23 children, probably all from Folkestone, were allocated to the school, refusing to put it on their application form.

Dr Jo Saxton is leaving her post as co- founder and Chief Executive of Turner Schools, the small Academy Trust in Folkestone, but being paid one of the largest salaries in the country for a Trust of this size. Her departure comes after just three tumultuous and underachieving years and a big vision, along with a huge number of unfulfilled promises including for the two Folkestone secondary schools the fantasy claim: both schools will outperform all schools in the south of England – excluding grammars - and provide “success without selection’.

She had already effectively thrown in the towel a year ago, when she appointed a new Deputy Chief Executive, now her successor, so that 'she could focus on curriculum matters, being the original reason she took on the Turner Schools post’, although I can find no other mention of this focus anywhere else.

TurnerSchools

The news of Dr Saxton's departure was contained in Kent Live published earlier today, 11th March. I have never before received so many emails in half a day informing me of a news item in such a small time. None of them regret her departure.

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The Turner Schools Annual Report to Companies House, posted on the final due date, 31st January 2020 suggesting some difficulties in completion, continues the saga of well rewarded underperformance. CEO Dr Jo Saxton whose recent main focus has been on Curriculum across the four Turner Schools, was paid a salary of £149,783, conveniently just below the £150,000 level at which government looks askance. The salary is in return for running a small, struggling Academy Trust and is highest of the Kent Trusts I have found so far, excepting four which are large and successful. The Report works hard, as is usual for Turner Schools, on blaming its problems at Folkestone Academy on legacy issues despite the evidence that standards have only declined since it took over. Amongst other own goals: it also manages to excuse the failure of the two Turner primary schools to attract pupils, including Morehall with the highest vacancy rate in Kent; has run up a loan repayable to government of £1.3 million; and has two of its four schools running at a sizeable deficit.

Turner Schools Logo

In other news, Government has at last released a Free School Impact Assessment for Turner Free School carried out in 2018, looking at the likely effects its opening would have on neighbouring schools. The good news (??) according to the DfE was that there would be a Minimal Effect on Folkestone Academy in terms of recruitment, but a Moderate Effect on Astor College in Dover. For the Sixth Form there would be Moderate Effects felt by Canterbury College, East Kent College (which have now merged) and Hilderstone College. How much more wrong could government be! See below.

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The following article may not be of direct interest to families but it identifies the chaos and machinations at the top of Turner Schools and as such I consider it is an important testimony. The consequences for schools operating under this chaotic level of leadership cannot be good.   

The mystery of the resignation of the Chairman of Directors and Founder of Turner Schools, Professor Carl Lygo, along with Dame Susan John and four other Directors continues to deepen in what appears to have been a meltdown amongst the Board of Directors back in  May. Amongst other developments below, the Trust has quietly announced the appointment of Mike Buchanan as the new Board Chairman in the middle of an article about building works, although completely forgetting to mention why another Chairman is needed, or to give any mention or credit anywhere to Professor Lygo, Dame Susan John, or Jenny King amongst others for their important contributions to the Trust.

TurnerSchools

Since I wrote my previous article, Folkestone Academy has had another set of poor GCSE results. Although it has improved on its record of awarding more than one in seven fixed term exclusions for the whole of Kent in 2017-18, the 2018-19 performance of being the third highest percentage in Kent is nothing to be proud of, nor are the high exclusion rates at Martello Primary and the Turner Free School. 2017-2018 had seen a mass exodus of staff, another large swathe going in July this year. Folkestone Academy has got through five headteachers since Turner Schools took over. Sixth form numbers have slumped, as has intake. The Trust has made multiple false claims about its ‘successes’ over the past two years to cover this record up. There is more to come before Christmas.

Published in Peter's Blog
 New Article on Governance here
 
Further Update: Folkestone Academy couldn't wait to put Seamus Murphy in charge of Folkestone Academy until January, as announced, below. The Trust website states he is already Executive Principal (beginning of November).
Updates: A piece of good news for Turner Schools at last with Ofsted finding Morehall Primary School Good. This is countered by the two Turner primary schools having the highest percentage vacancies in Kent (67% for Martello, 73% for Morehall). However, in spite of a temporary article in September reporting excellent progress in GCSE performance at Folkestone Academy, this has not materialised, but the school has gone backwards since Turner Schools took over.  
Wesley Carroll, the fourth Principal of Folkestone Academy since it was taken over by Turner Schools in May 2017 is to stand down in January, reportedly for family reasons, having been appointed a year ago after extensive advertising to find an Executive Principal for the school failed to find a suitable candidate. He was previously Vice Principal for just over a year, a very limited senior experience for the post and will revert to this title where he will focus on the Year 11 GCSE group (see below), presumably because there is no one else capable of this middle management task. The 2019 staff list on the school website, possibly in preparation for this shows him as Co-Principal, but there is no mention of who he is ‘co’ with!
TurnerSchools
He will be succeeded by Seamus Murphy, appointed six months ago as Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Turner Schools, with his salary paid for by the Department for Education for what appear to be invalid reasons. His initial appointment was announced as being designed to allow the CEO, Dr Jo Saxton, to concentrate on curriculum matters surely a position well away from the strategic role her title demands, although reports suggest she still keeps a tight control of events. What happens next to fill his role, or was it always unnecessary and just for short term expediency in the first place?
 
Meanwhile, Professor Lygo, billed as one of the founders of the Turner Trust and Chairman of Directors left the Trust suddenly in the summer, along with two other Directors, without any public acknowledgement or mention of their contribution to the Trust, after an emergency meeting of the Board of Directors, see below. 
Published in News and Comments
Monday, 19 August 2019 06:23

Academy and Free School News, August 2019

This article looks at news items since my previous Academy article in June, together with various happenings earlier in the year that I have not covered before. 

It includes academy conversions at Cage Green, Rolvenden, Brent, Dartford Bridge, All Souls CofE and Wainscott (Medway) Primary Schools. It also considers events at Leigh Academies Trust (with another article on the events at Paddock Wood and Horsmonden primaries to come). It looks at changes at: Barming, Hersden and Lansdowne Primary Schools, together with Phoenix Junior Academy in Medway (shades of the Delce Academy scandal); Bennett Memorial Diocesan School (and its CEO); Cranbrook School; Norton Knatchbull School; Rainham Mark Grammar and St Joseph Williamson’s Schools, both in Medway; finishing up with a brief look at Maidstone & Oakwood Park Grammars and Ebbsfleet Academy. 

Published in News and Comments

Updated 21st August following developments at Turner Schools. You will find a new item on Turner Schools here

You will find an important update to the Delce story here, with additional material here.

The National Schools Commissioner, on visits to Folkestone Academy and the Turner Free School is reported to have praised the progress of the two schools without apparently noticing the many failures documented on this site. These amount to nearly 10% of all the academies he has visited since he was appointed last September out of a total of  8,678. In a fresh controversy, the Turner Free School lost a Vice Principal, in employment for just eight weeks from the opening of the school last September, who left the school and teaching, and subsequently made a serious allegation about the school about the reason he left. According to the school he has withdrawn the allegation after this article was originally published, bringing it to light. 

I wrote about the Ofsted Inspection that placed Delce Academy in Special Measures, in June, describing what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism on the part of the school and the Castle Trust which ran it. I concluded: ‘This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body’. Last week the Trust wrote to parents to tell them the school was being transferred to the Inspire Academy Trust.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was once again found to Require Improvement in its recent Ofsted inspection, but what specifically caught my eye was the  phrase: ‘however, recent changes to the support available for vulnerable pupils have led to a reduction in fixed-term exclusions’. Hardly consistent with my recent FOI request that found a further increase from the previous year when Oasis had the second highest number and proportion in Kent! The inspection took place shortly after a fundamental structural change for September was announced which will see all Year 7 to 11 pupils taught on a single site, the current two bases being nearly two miles apart. This positive decision is only made possible by a remarkable decline of 550 pupils on roll since Oasis took over in 2013, a loss of over a quarter of the total since then. 

Published in News and Comments
Friday, 05 July 2019 07:12

Turner Schools: More Self Promotion

The National Schools Commissioner (NSC), Dominic Herrington, recently paid a visit to Folkestone Academy, proudly announced on the Turner Schools Trust website, in yet another article expounding the school's brilliance, and explored below. Mr Herrington is also currently Regional Schools Commissioner for the South East so, although this is not mentioned, he may have come in that capacity. One can only speculate on the reasons for this unusual visit to a school which is part of a Trust recently described by several ex members of staff as being run like a personality cult ( You will find a profile of CEO Dr Jo Saxton with photographs from the TES back in October, centrally featured on the Trust's 'Latest' news items, displacing the NSC's visit). 

TurnerSchools

Was it that the National Commissioner wished to see at first hand the issues that Turner Schools have created at Folkestone Academy and the two primary schools of the Trust, as detailed in various articles on this website and summarised below; or was it to look at the way the largesse that has been lavishly showered on this small struggling Academy Trust has been used and why it was needed in the first place; or was it the false claims of a severe shortage of places across Folkestone and Hythe in five years’ time in this article grandly entitled 'How Turner Schools is helping Kent meet the growing secondary school population'.

Overall, the Turner Schools website appears specifically designed to impress important people rather than target the population of Folkestone with children considering secondary school places. 

Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 07:37

Turner Schools: Fresh Blessings from on High

Update: In spite of claims that the two Trust Primary schools are proving popular with parents, recent data shows that Morehall Primary has 75% of its Reception places empty on allocation for September, the highest proportion in the county (along with two other schools), with Martello Primary not far behind at 63%. 

Turner Schools, a small academy Trust with a CEO being paid the disproportionate £140,000 – £150,000 a year, has appointed a Deputy Chief Executive Officer, on a salary likely to be above £120,000, to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum matters. His salary will be met from a Grant  of £143,100 from the government’s Multi Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund, at no cost to the school, as explained in a letter to staff. Such grants are only available for MATs which have a “proven record of working with underperforming schools to improve performance” . This should surely have ruled Turner Schools out, given the damage they have wreaked on Folkestone Academy, as demonstrated in various articles on this site, most recently here

TurnerSchools

 

The letter provides three reasons for the appointment, explored below:

  • To join our mission to deliver a powerful education that overcomes educational underperformance.
  • To provide executive principal function when and where needed in our trust schools
  • To create additional capacity to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum.
Published in Peter's Blog
 
You will find a fresh news item about Turner Schools here (27/4)
 
Update:  In a critical two page article about Folkestone Academy in the Folkestone Herald and online, Turner Schools once again attempts to deflect the criticisms by answering irrelevant 'concerns'. See my analysis at the foot of this article, below
 
Turner Schools has published a bizarre advertisement in the Folkestone and Hythe Your District Today magazine published by the Local Council, purportedly to answer the question ‘What is Turner Schools’?
TurnerSchools
It begins: ‘Turner Schools blazed onto the Folkestone scene just a few years ago’, and is in the form of a pseudo interview with the CEO Jo Saxton. The second of the initial two brief paragraphs justifying the takeover of Folkestone Academy by Turner Schools also describes the high quality of food now provided for students.
The next section asks about an artificial controversy I have not seen aired before amongst all the major criticisms of Turner Schools published here and elsewhere,  about whether Turner Schools is only interested in purely academic routes.
Then follows a justification of the CEO’s very high salary for running a small low achieving Academy Trust, the article finishing with ‘We know that some people find change hard, so don’t believe all the negatives you’ve heard or read about Folkestone Academy’ . There is no mention at all of the other three schools in the Trust, and the initial question is ignored for start to finish. 
I am left bewildered why the Turner Schools remorseless publicity machine, examined in detail across previous articles on this website, most recently here, can have produced such an inept article in the official Council publication, an article which raises more questions than it answers and does nothing to promote its image.
 
Also below is the answer to a question I posed in a recent article: Turner Schools: What were they trying to hide?
Published in Peter's Blog
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