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Peter Read

Updates: The entries on the third page, Other Trusts, are still being updated and extended, following enquiries, as this article is attracting considerable interest  (from headteachers?). I am now surveying all single academy Trust non-selective and primary academies,  with further details below.  

The website Education Uncovered has identified the full list of 183 English Academy Trust leaders receiving (earning?) more than £150,000 in salary for the school year 2018-19. This includes eight leaders who were working in Trusts running mainly Kent schools, including the scandalous increase of 33% for one leader up from £150,000 to £200,000 in twelve months and who then took early retirement at the end of the year. The Trusts are Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust, The John Wallis Church of England Academy; Kent Catholic Schools' Partnership; Leigh Academies Trust; Swale Academy Trust (2); Valley Invicta Trust (2).

I also look below at staff in five other Trusts which have academies in Kent or Medway, and several other Trusts of interest, including cases where well-paid leaders have now retired. 

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has been sending letters to academy trusts who have an executive salary above £150,000 or multiple salaries between £100,000 and £150,000 since 2017, asking them for justification of these payments. The website Schools Week has found few signs of any practical response to this attempt to hold pay back, certainly not amongst the Kent Trusts listed below.

Browsers can decide, from the descriptions below, whether the school leaders concerned provide value for money for their schools. 

Kent County Council has now released further details to primary schools about the Kent Test taken in local schools on Thursday 15th October. As I feared and explained in a previous article, there are no contingency plans set out in case the pandemic increases in severity over the next three weeks before the test, and the Cabinet Member’s Report to the KCC Children’s Young People and Education Committee on 22nd September completely evaded related issues apart from pinning their hopes on the Test delay. In the Minutes of the previous July meeting he had reassured Committee Members that Kent County Council would do all that was practical and possible to address all forms of disadvantage’.  However, in the same meeting, he referred to the delayed Kent Test assessment until 15th October (and) considered (this) to be the most effective change which could be made’, which was certainly not the case and not even sufficient to meet government advice, as I have discussed previously. There is a vague reference to the Headteacher Assessment process in this context, but this would need a total redefinition of the process to have any effect, as I have previously suggested and appears not to be under consideration by KCC. 

Instructions to schools issued this week include what to do if children fall ill during the Test, how to tackle self-isolation including the possibility of testing over half-term and issues relating the scrapping of external monitoring of test procedures in schools as explained below, along with other relevant issues

Monday, 21 September 2020 20:46

Coronavirus Ramblings

Update (1) 22nd September: Aylesford School is the first to send all pupils home (for three days whilst the school is being deep cleaned)
                   (2) More on Kent Test below  (and see comment)
I have previously refrained from commenting on general education issues relating to Coronavirus on this site, as you will find plenty elsewhere, and I have preferred to stick to matters relating to Kent and Medway. None of this stops me from sounding off here and elsewhere about my two major themes. The first is what a brilliant job the overwhelming majority of schools are doing in managing the consequences of the pandemic, especially headteachers and other leaders who appear to have worked tirelessly over the summer and subsequently to deliver the best they can. The second is the obverse of this, the self-evident incompetence of the Secretary of State for Education and his team as they shower schools with reams of often ill-thought-out instructions dressed up as advice, too often at the last minute, These often come along with attempts to blame their failings on others. 

I am fortunate that I have been given plenty of media time to express my feelings and frustrations, an opportunity not available to many of my followers on this site except by social media, where I do not participate. 

I have collected some of my thoughts below, still relating where possible to Kent and Medway, covering such items as the pressures on schools, Covid testing especially for teachers, bubbles, school transport, inevitably the Kent and Medway Tests, and the future of GCSE and A-Level. No doubt by the time I publish this, the content will be overtaken by events that jostle each other leaving no time for schools to take a breather, but I will be updating.

Monday, 21 September 2020 06:37

Follow-Up to Park Crescent Academy, Margate

Update: An interesting Footnote for some of my followers.

The news Website Kent Live has reproduced much of my recent article on the problems with the new planned Park Crescent Academy in Thanet, along with a statement by Kent County Council supporting the project.

Park Crescent Academy

I look below at this statement which manages to completely ignore most of the concerns I have raised.

Sunday, 13 September 2020 19:36

Turner Schools: Update

For the last three and a half years, Turner Schools has been one of my most prolific themes for articles on this website, aided and abetted by its CEO and founder Dr Jo Saxton, whose passion for promoting the Trust (named after her grandmother) and making fantastical claims for its performance and future prospects was simply breathtaking. She departed the Trust in March, after just three years, to become a Political Adviser to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, whose subsequent gaffe ridden career is well documented, but presumably is coincidental.

TurnerSchools
Her successor, Seamus Murphy, has wisely not sought headlines in the same way but has still made his mark. Subsequently, school leaders in two of the four Turner schools have bitten the dust, both controversially. Teacher turnover has continued unabated at a high level, well over twice the national average for the past three years. There has also been a high turnover of Trustees and Members of Turner Schools, the two distinct bodies responsible for governance. Mr Murphy still has to manage the legacy of a massive financial deficit left by Dr Saxton.

The EKC Group, which runs Folkestone College, has sensed an expansion opportunity and has opened the Folkestone Junior College this month. This offers a full-time alternative to the Turner Schools monopoly of non-selective education in Folkestone, in Years 10 and 11, surely a major challenge to the Trust.

Saturday, 05 September 2020 18:23

The New No Win Park Crescent Academy, Thanet

See Update Article with Statement by KCC. 

Kent County Council has now applied for Planning Permission for the controversial new secondary school in Thanet, exposing further problems with the project.

The background to the new school briefly is that, first of all, KCC overestimated the number of secondary aged children coming through the system in Thanet to justify commissioning a new school. The Council then backtracked, with the 2020-2024 Kent Schools Commissioning Plan explaining (p137) how they could comfortably manage the small long term pupil number deficit by expanding two of the District’s six non-selective schools.

Park Crescent Academy

The real problem is that two of the Thanet schools are so unpopular with some families to the extent that 189 children were allocated to them in March who never applied to either. Others were offered places in Sandwich and Deal schools, some miles away. The full background to the controversy is explained here. When the new school opens, with a planned intake of 180 children, at least one of these schools is likely to become unviable. As a result, KCC’s introduction to the Planning Permission Consultation is quite simply dishonest, as explained below.

One of the problems with the new school, now to be called Park Crescent Academy after one of the adjacent roads, is that the site on which it is to be built is very cramped as can be seen from the projection above, and explained below. The new academy will replace the residential Royal School for the Deaf which was closed down in 2015, see below. One of the consequences of the limited space, set out below, is that the school will have no sixth form.

Update 16th November: Article Re Mrs Aquina's dismissal. 

The Chair of the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership wrote to parents of St Thomas Catholic Primary School on 17th June to inform them that the headteacher, Mrs Aquilina, was being given ‘special leave until the end of the academic year’. This followed a safeguarding incident which created considerable concern and debate, the absence being widely and reasonably assumed to be a formal suspension from her responsibilities because of the safeguarding issue.

On July 25th, at the end of the summer term, he wrote again ‘We have now reached the end of the academic year and can confirm that Mrs Aquilina will be returning to her role of Headteacher at St Thomas’ Primary on 1 September 2020…. A meeting with parents and carers of St Thomas’ will be held at the start of the new academic year’

Yesterday, 1st September, Mr Powis, the Chair of KCSP, wrote again to parents, to inform them that Mrs Aquilina will now be ‘on special leave for the foreseeable future’. The letter unsurprisingly contains no further explanation of the change of direction and no mention of the meeting for parents promised in the previous letter. This may be because of legal issues. 

 Update: It has been suggested that the fall in take-up for the Kent Travel Pass is partly due to some families deciding not to send their children back to school at this time. It will soon become clear if this is a factor.  

Following on from the TUI holiday flight incident and the failure of passengers to follow rules, it is relevant to note the following

 Government statement: 'We do not expect drivers to police pupil behaviour. Their role is to focus on driving the vehicle safely' whilst KCC considers that 'Children travelling on these services will be required to wear face coverings for those over 11 and without an exemption'.

But from Stagecoach, one of the largest school contractors in Kent:  ‘Our drivers will not refuse travel or apply any enforcement measures, but we appeal to students and parents to ensure that this is taken seriously and that a face-covering is worn at all times when on the bus’.

It is not surprising that, partly as a result of this and partly through matters relating to social distancing, parental caution has seen the number of applications for the Kent travel passes fall by over half for September. Those for age 11-16 are down from around 24,000 normally to just 12,557 for September, with 16+ passes down from around 7,000 to 2,280. Most of the missing families will now be driving their children to school by car, swelling the road traffic considerably across the county at the two peak school times.

There is likely as a consequence to be travel chaos at peak periods particularly in areas where there are several secondary schools close together. Three towns spring to mind: Canterbury, Sittingbourne and Tunbridge Wells, but I am sure there are others. One can also add in schools served by narrow roads as explained in a previous article entitled The Coronavirus Effect on the 'School Run' in Kent, Part 2 which I wrote two weeks ago, and looks at the developing problems of getting children to school.  

I also look below at transport matters contained in new advice published by the government on Friday around 5.30 p.m. This sets fresh expectations for schools from the start of the new term, for many just five days in advance, including a weekend and a bank holiday. It contains 18 pages of advice, some wise and helpful, some very belated, some trivial and some patronising.  Finally, a look at Brockhill Park and Ebbsfleet Green Primary Schools. 

Thursday, 27 August 2020 05:47

Academy and Free School News August 2020

There are just five schools that have converted to become academies in 2020, including the four which came together to be the EKC (East Kent Trust) in March.  These are: Briary Primary, Herne Bay; Bysingwood Primary, Faversham; Holywell Primary, Upchurch; and Queenborough School, Isle of Sheppey. I have written extensively about the new Trust here.  The month before, the failed Sunny Bank Primary in Sittingbourne became a sponsored academy with The Island Learning Trust on the Isle of Sheppey. Background here

I also look below at the new applications to become academies of: Marden Primary, near Tonbridge; Eastchurch Primary, Isle of Sheppey; Holy Trinity VA Primary, Gravesend; Worth Primary, Deal; and Fairview Primary and Oaklands School in Gillingham, two schools converting to become part of the Westbrook Trust. The re-brokering of the failed Delce Academy to the Inspire Partnership Academy Trust has also taken place. Update: 4/9/20. The conversions of Marden, Eastchurch and Oaklands have now taken place. 

There are six new free schools opening in Kent in September including one new secondary school, Maidstone School of Science and Technology.  There are three new primary schools: Bearsted Primary Academy in Maidstone; Ebbsfleet Green Primary in Dartford; Springhead Park Primary in Gravesham; and two Special Schools, Aspire School in Sittingbourne and Snowfields Academy in Maidstone. 

I look at other decisions of the South East and South London Headteacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner, relating to the Barnsole Trust, Folkestone Academy and Holmesdale School, along with an item relating to the North West Kent Alternative Provision Service.

Saturday, 22 August 2020 06:00

Griffin Schools Trust: A Danger for Pupils?

I have followed the misfortunes of the Griffin Schools Trust for many years since it took over four primary schools as academies in Medway, then having Wayfield Primary taken away from it in 2016, following a catastrophic Ofsted Report that highlighted 'Pupils’ safety and well-being are at risk; Staff manage pupils’ behaviour poorly; Normal discipline has broken down; On occasion, staff lose control of pupils, who are then at risk of being harmed'  a theme echoed in the most recent Ofsted report on a Griffin school: 'Many pupils do not feel safe attending this school. They feel intimidated by others’ conduct. Pupils are right to be concerned. Leaders have not been effective in managing pupils’ behaviour. It is increasingly rowdy and sometimes dangerous', this time about Stantonbury International, a school which had been the largest in the country when they took it over, although unsurprising it now has numbers falling sharply. Two recent articles in Education Uncovered focus on the Trust, its failures and its control by a small coterie of four individuals, three of whom have run it since its foundation in 2013. 

One is left in bewilderment as to why the Education Funding Agency awarded Stantonbury to the Griffin  Schools Trust in the first place, with their limited experience of running just one other secondary school, which it has now brought down to Ofsted 'Requires Improvement' and why it has not now closed the Trust down. This is what eventually happened with two other notorious Academy Trusts which also operated in Kent

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