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Peter Read

I do not normally extend my coverage of news and information about Kent and Medway schools to look at the world of Kent Further Education. But for those not aware of the ongoing scandals most recently swirling about  the Hadlow Group of Colleges, you should know that these dwarf anything seen in school education.

The FE Commissioner has heavily criticised the Group, currently comprising West Kent College, Ashford College and Hadlow College together with six subsidiary businesses (including Hadlow Rural Community School) for a ‘corporate failure of leadership, financial management and governance’ .  The link article is an excellent outline of the Group's structure and the cause of the problems. He has recommended that it be broken up and split between North Kent College and East Kent Colleges Group (which itself recently took over struggling Canterbury College), a small part concerned with animal management going to Capel Manor College in Enfield. A follow up letter from the relevant Minster in the DfE refers to the College as being in a perilous position. 

Following my two previous articles about the failings of those running Copperfield Academy and its predecessor school to provide an adequate education for the children of the school over too many years, I explored further the alarming position described in the most recent Ofsted Monitoring Report. This revealed that half the class teachers in the school were not qualified to teach, out of a total of 18 classes listed on the website and that: ‘the quality of teaching remains highly variable. This is further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent’. The recent pattern of appointments is (presumably matched by an equivalent rate of resignations): 

Copperfield Academy, Gravesham
New Staff Appointed for 18 classes in September
Teachers
Appointed
Source Notes
2016 13 Ofsted 2016
5 NQT*, 6 teachers new
to English system
2017 11 Ofsted 2017
2018 5 School data
Ofsted 2019 describes staffing
changes as 'turbulent'
2019 10  Ofsted June 2019 planned, so likely to be more

 Note: * = Newly  Qualified Teacher

The whole amounts to a shocking rate of attrition of teachers, with the added tragedy that many of those leaving each year are no doubt being disillusioned by the experience and so have become a loss to a profession already suffering from the severe shortage of new entrants who stay the course.     

Accordingly, I submitted a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) to the REach 2 Academy Trust which runs Copperfield to find out the detail and received back a report of a different pattern of events as explained below, which put the school in a much better light. So, I followed it up and was told there was no discrepancy with the Ofsted comments in my first paragraph, which is untrue. One key admission  was that Higher Level Teaching Assistants or Learning Support Assistants who have been 'covering classes' during the year will return to their substantive roles in September (presuming of course that all the ten new appointments turn up). Sadly, I regularly get reports of other schools engaging in such practices with the result that children are not being provided with an adequate education. 

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. 

Just two weeks ago, when I published an article on Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Primary Schools for September 2019, I was so concerned about the self-evident mismanagement at Delce Academy, that I devoted a special section to the school, the only one I picked out in this way.

It was therefore no great surprise to me that yesterday Ofsted published a Report on an Inspection which placed Delce Academy in Special Measures concluding that: ‘Since the last inspection, leaders and those responsible for governance have been ineffective in ensuring that pupils have received an acceptable quality of education’

Delce Academy

Just two years ago, a previous inspection concluded that the school Required Improvement, down from Good, but in this latest verdict there is no indication that the school or its leaders, including the Local Advisory Body for the school and the Directors of the Castle Trust, have drawn lessons from this or have any clue how to improve matters.‘Parents and carers told inspectors that they had lost faith in the leadership of the school. Parents are deeply concerned by high staff turnover, standards of behaviour at the school and the lack of communication from the trust and school leaders’.

This indictment surely goes some way to explain why numbers applying for places at the school have fallen away so sharply in both the Junior and controversial new Infant sections but, as always it is the children that pay the price, in stark contrast to the school motto: 'Learning Towards a Brighter Future'.  Those responsible for this totally preventable disaster will as usual walk away unscathed. 

The headteacher of the Foundation Archbishop’s School, Canterbury, has stood down from his post with effect from June 14th, after several years of decline in a school that was until recently one of the most oversubscribed in the county. The number of first choices for the school has nearly halved over the past two years, falling from 125 to 64  applicants for its 140 places. The 38 spaces left unfilled were taken up by Local Authority Allocations (LAA) to the school in 2019, being children who did not apply for it but were awarded no school of their choice. This is over half of the total LAAs in Canterbury District, where not a single place was left vacant before successful grammar school appeals, which will have freed some up in non-selective schools. 

Archbishops

GCSE performance placed the school in the bottom half of Kent non-selective schools for the key measure Progress 8 for the past three years, and well below the much stronger outcomes in 2015 and previously. . This was for a cohort that was strongly selective for most children in Year Seven, in terms of Church Membership, with the remaining 10% of pupils highest performers from a test of ability.

Update: See follow-up article here

Ofsted has released a remarkable Monitoring Inspection Report describing a strong performance at the failed Copperfield Academy (published only by the school at the time of writing but not yet generally released). However, it raises more questions than it answers, suggesting how a Trust might manipulate the system.

First, bring in a 'Super Head' and two Acting Deputies as the senior leadership team, to carry out a short term fix, who will then then no doubt depart to another troubleshooting exercise, as the REAch2 Trust tried  previously in 2016 at the same school. Secondly, make sure there are persons in front of each class to teach.

My previous article, which looked at the shocking failings of the Copperfield Academy and REAch2 in some detail, identified the massive turnover of teachers and headteachers as the central issue during the Trust's six years in charge, spelled out in full below. This is an issue which still continues, as incidentally revealed by the Report in a throwaway comment.    

The Report reveals that half the current teaching staff are not qualified to teach and that the Monitoring Inspection found: ’the quality of teaching remains highly variable. This is further exacerbated by the high level of staff changes or staff who are absent’. So, there are still staff changes going on mid-year as the inspection was taking place. In some schools absentee teachers are not unusual feature when Ofsted is coming in, with Trusts being known to ship in experienced staff from other Trust establishments for the period to cover the gaps.

Index

The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen slightly to 97.8%, the highest proportion for at least six years. There is just one minor reduction in one school's Planned Admission number with a total of 3955 places available. As a result, there are 535 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 13% of the total available.

Fewest vacancies are on the Hoo Peninsula at 8% total, down from 11% in 2018. Just three of the nine schools have vacancies. Most vacancies are in Rochester with just one school, The Pilgrim School, significantly oversubscribed. 

Most popular school is once again Barnsole Primary which turned away 63 first choices, followed by Horsted Infants with 39 and Swingate 35. Barnsole and Swingate are the only two of the ten most oversubscribed schools to feature in both years. There are ten schools with 15 or more first choices turned down, spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. 

Barnsole     Horsted School   Swingate

Eight schools have over a third of their places empty, down from 12 in 2017, headed this year by Elaine Primary with 70% of its places unfilled, brought down under the Williamson Trust, not exactly faring much better under its new sponsors The Inspire Partnership who have delivered at 35%, the lowest proportion of pupils reaching the Expected Standard and the second lowest Writing Progress score in Medway at KS2. Next comes Delce Academy with 67% empty places (featured in detail below) and then  third year running by Allhallows Primary Academy 53% ( but improving on all measures). See below for more details on both these last two schools.  Altogether 37 schools, over half of the total of 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 75 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council,  spread out across 22 schools, with 41 in Chatham and Gillingham schools.  

I look more closely at each Medway area separately,below, links as follows: Chatham; Gillingham; Hoo Peninsula; Rainham; Rochester; Strood, together with the situation for Junior Schools, here

If there are sections that need amplification, please let me know…….

Index

Update: Copperfield Academy has been issued with a remarkable and very positive Ofsted Monitoring Inspection Report, described here

Both schools have been issued with tough letters from the Regional Schools Commissioner, threatening to remove them from their current sponsors, REAch2 in the case of Copperfield Academy in Northfleet, Gravesham, and Rainham Mark Education Trust in the case of Twydall Primary in Gillingham, Medway.

Copperfield Academy  for Website

 The letter for Copperfield is rightly the more brutal for I have recorded the misfortunes of the children of this school many times on this site, first in 2011, although a more recent article traces them back to around 2003 and there is currently no let up. This letter notes that: ‘the persons responsible for leading, managing, or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school’ and sets five specific conditions for improvement, including: that pupil performance improves by the end of 2018/19 (the recently taken SATs); that the next Ofsted Inspection removes the Inadequate label; and that no other REAch2 school from the 13 in the local region fails its Ofsted.

The Twydall letter was written in November 2018, before the 2018 Key Stage 2 results were published (see below), which show the school making rapid improvement from a troubled history that was topped off by a Serious Weaknesses Ofsted Inspection Report in June 2018. A Monitoring Inspection Report in April 2019 is wholly positive.  

You will find more details about Copperfield and Twydall below

Wednesday, 05 June 2019 22:57

Academy and Free School News: June 2019

Index

UPDATE: Government has approved Chilmington Green Secondary Academy in Ashford, a new school sponsored by United Learning which also runs the private Ashford School and Wye Free School. 

This article looks at Academy and Free School news in Kent and Medway since September.

The biggest story is surely the mass conversion of seven Deal primary schools to become converter academies in the Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust (DEALT), taking the proportion of Kent primary academies, and those still in the pipeline to over 40%. The other two Deal primary schools are already academised. Just two other primary schools have converted, Greenlands in Dartford and Halling in Medway. The new Chilmington Green Primary School in Ashford is fully opening in September, as are Stone Lodge School and River Mill Primary School in Dartford, whilst St George’s CofE Comprehensive in Gravesham is opening a primary section. The new Alkerden School is opening in Ebbsfleet in September 2021 (page 37 of link) with eight forms of secondary pupils intake,and, at the time of writing is consulting on a two FE primary extension. 

I have updated my comprehensive list of academies in Kent and Medway here and of Multi-Academy Trusts here.

I also look at various other news items relating to academies and Free Schools below, including; other new academies; new schools; expanding grammar schools; academy performance; individual academy trusts and schools; and 'Minded to Terminate' letters . This is an exceptionally long article, one of a series produced several times a year since the website began. However, I have been very busy on other matters so there has been a long period to cover since the previous item back in September.

Index

Update on Barming Primary below.

There has been a small increase in the number of pupils being allocated places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year running. Places for the additional 97 children were met by 93 more permanent and temporary places created in the last year, including 30 completely new places for both the new Chilmington Green Primary in Ashford and the new extension of St George’s CofE in Gravesend to become all-through.  River Mill Primary in Dartford is opening in September but is not currently part of the Kent Co-ordinated Admission Procedure, accepting applications directly. These two factors have produced very similar data in the proportion of Kent families being offered schools of their choice over these two years, as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17,634, up by 360 on 2018’s 17274 but still lower than the peak of 18,066 of 2016.

Brent Outstanding   2019 

The tightest part of the county is West Dartford with just 12 spaces in two of its 18 schools, an overall 1% vacancy rate (the second most oversubscribed Dartford school having just failed its Ofsted Inspection!), followed by urban Maidstone with 3%. The four most oversubscribed primary schools also occupied four of the top five places last year: Brent, Dartford (turning away 86 first choices); Great Chart, Ashford (54); Loose, Maidstone (48); and East Borough, Maidstone (46). Five of the ten most popular schools are in Maidstone.

                  Great Chart                   Loose                                       

Nine schools have over 60% of their places empty, led by Morehall Primary in Folkestone with 75% vacancies and including Martello Primary, also in Folkestone, with 63%, both run by Turner Schools.

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District and also allocations for Junior Schools. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

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