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Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27

Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.


Turner Free School
To understand the direction of travel of the two Turner secondary academies, it is best to look at the new Turner Free School first, even though the website is light on fact but with masses of information about governance and governors. However, it does contain plenty of slogans, headed by ‘Success without selection , offering ‘a grammar-style education for everyone’ whatever that means, and another vision that includes: 'empowering pupils with cultural capital’ . It will offer government preferred Ebacc for everyone, an academic curriculum heavily criticised in places for its absolute focus on academic studies at cost to the arts and vocational courses. This has lead to a 38% fall in entries to Arts GCSEs n the past five years.

The school is opening in September on its wafer thin website where it was still boasting of the 70 applications it had received (until some date after 22nd May when this article drew attention to it). However, apparently the total is nearly twice oversubscribed at 231 applicants (according to Dr Saxton in her video, and not quite the double oversubscribed of her Comment below, but still a remarkable figure) with a waiting list (see Comment below). One of the many issues is that these applications are outside the Kent Secondary Application scheme and so are open to and will include many pupils already offered places at Folkestone Academy, as the only other local school. So, if they all turn up at TFS, this is going to leave a massive hole in Folkestone Academy's numbers. We all have difficulties keeping our websites up to date, but the home page for Turner Free School, headed 'Latest', still contain three more uplifting slogans, a link to the CEO's Video, see above, and three slight Twitter posts from September 4th 2017!!  

Turner Schools was one of two applicants to take over the Pent Valley site. The other was Swale Academies Trust who picked up PV in its death throes, but therefore had some experience of the locality and issues. I have my own concerns about Swale, but in this case surely they were the logical choice, or was there political sway?

It is claimed that every pupil at Turner Free School will be able to speak fluent French (or Mandarin), an ambition surpassing most grammar schools‘. Only eight children in the whole of Shepway did a French A level, even though on a clear day you can see France, although Harvey Grammar had more than this alone last year. ‘Kent also has the highest exclusions from school for racist intolerance and abuse’. Not sure of the relevance of this, but Kent actually has no permanent exclusions for racist intolerance and as the largest Local Authority in the country, many others have a larger proportion of fixed period exclusions. The Academy is founded to transform education standards in East Kent through our HEART principles: High expectations; Energy; Academic subject-based curriculum; Reading for all; and Trust’ - now that is what I call an ambition, transforming standards across East Kent. Ultimately, every student from TFS will have the chance to follow any dream, achieve any goal, and to be anything they want to be’

Currently one wonders what those  children who have signed up will discover. The school is already planning to increase to 180 for 2019, in contradiction of its claim that: ‘As a smaller than average secondary school all pupils will be known and educated as individuals’. There is a four page prospectus, equally slogan heavy and fact light, leading with:A Traditional Education for the 21st Century’ . However, there are a few aspirations thrown in: ‘By providing an outstanding education for your son or daughter - with a focus on English, mathematics, science, humanities and a modern foreign language - we will secure their future. These subjects (together forming the EBacc) will mean that your child will be able to follow any pathway, from A Levels and on to studying at Russell Group universities, or on into the world of professional employment….In addition to the EBacc subjects, we will equip our students with a detailed core knowledge in a range of areas, including STEM, music, art and select sports….We will also offer a range of enriching extra-curricular activities and trips in order to broaden the horizons of our students and to bring their learning to life. All students will have access to a range of additional sporting and academic experiences, which will also build their confidence and resilience. This will include residential visits, music and drama performances, debating, mock legal trials and a variety of competitive sporting events…..We will encourage positive relationships through our House System, which will inspire students to strive for both personal and team success’ although this is a principle which appears opposed to the one being dismantled at partner Folkestone Academy (below) as incompatible with the Trust’s vision! we will operate a system of Family Dining, which will be packed-lunch free (pity about those with dietary restrictions). All staff will dine with students to build relationships, ensure social inclusion and develop confidence in trying new foods. This will ensure that all students are part of our community and that they can develop fluency in conversation, impeccable manners and the ability to show appreciation for those around them’. And that is about it. Pity about the non-Russell Group Universities who don’t appear to be up to it; no mention of supporting children with Special Education Needs or disabilities, who seem to cause problems in the Trust primary schools.

Although there is no mention of premises or facilities, surely an important factor for all enquirers, the old Pent Valley buildings are currently being adapted for their new use. A whole school roll of 120 pupils or fewer in the first year is very difficult to staff, as is this level of uptake in higher year groups in the future, but all those at Folkestone Academy are having their contracts changed so they can teach across the Trust, clearly planned as an integral part of provision.

A headteacher designate, Kristina Yates, has been appointed. She is currently Vice Principal at Folkestone School for Girls, but with a background at the non-selective Marsh Academy. She is to be assisted in the running of this initially 120 pupil school, by a 'big-hitting team' of three Assistant Principals, two previously Assistant Principals also form Folkestone School for Girls. Their biographies certainly suggest a great deal of experienced senior management from the beginning of June to run such a small unit, unless the school plans to expand faster than agreed (although any extra pupils would be drawn from the FA pool).  Otherwise, it is almost impossible to imagine job descriptions of three such senior staff, alongside the classroom teachers to be appointed to justify what I assume will be a salary to match that of their previous posts. It makes the claimed overstaffing of FA (see below) fade into insignificance.

It appears that the success of Turner Free School will depend on the further unpopularity of Folkestone academy.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 December 2021 16:44


  • Comment Link Sunday, 01 July 2018 22:32 posted by Survivor ex teacher

    I was a well established middle leader at FA...forced to leave & take a step down from a job I was good at due to the absolutely appalling conditions we had been expected to work under. Weak, inexperienced and quite honestly, clueless leadership has driven this school, students and staff to a state of dispair. Thankfully, my new school has quickly realised my potential and my career will continue to progress but i will NEVER forgive the destruction caused by these people to the lives and futures of some of the most amazing kids.

    They should be thoroughly ashamed. PETER: Another teacher who has identified themselves to me!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 27 June 2018 13:09 posted by kathy

    I may be wrong, but it looks like Turner Schools have managed to misspell the word 'knowledgeable' on their front page website bio of their CEO. Which isn't a great start for an education provider. PETER: Compared to the other mistakes on the website a small blunder, but indicative

  • Comment Link Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:35 posted by In the know

    As a current Folkestone Senior Leader and a friend of a number of teachers and support staff that work at Turner Primary School I am well placed to confirm all that Peter states. In recent weeks I have met many parents who are urgently trying to remove their children from the Turner Primary Schools due to reported inadequate teaching, unsupportive leaders and out of control behaviour. Parents and professionals know the reality of what is going on and parents and children are now voting with their feet.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 13 June 2018 09:29 posted by Nearly there

    I resigned from Folkestone Academy last month and can hardly wait for term to end, as a I survey the chaos, dismay and anger around me. I am not alone. I don't have a teaching job lined up as yet, but I do have peace of mind. The ad for head of maths you highlight underlines the rubbish being pumped out. I have provided my identity for verification purposes.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 12 June 2018 04:46 posted by Soon to be ex FA Teacher

    Peter, Are you aware of the number of teachers who have resigned from Folkestone Academy for this summer without jobs to go to? This is a school in melt down. PETER: Yes, I am well aware it is happening. I am trying to get hold of details. With the school looking to shed 20 teachers this may well happen without redundancy if they go from the right places. The demand for places at the new Free School which will nearly all be from families trying to avoid FA, may ease the inevitable pressures a little.

  • Comment Link Friday, 08 June 2018 23:06 posted by PR

    My son has had four not very good (to put it mildly) temporary teachers this term from whom he has learned little if anything. Five of his favourite teachers are leaving. He has lost all enthusiasm for what was a good school. Surely someone has to take responsibility for giving the Academy to a bunch of amateurs (again putting it mildly).

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 29 May 2018 18:13 posted by Richard Regent

    I think that there is sufficient evidence here to seek a public enquiry into the manner by which Turner have been awarded schools in Folkestone by the DfE. If the comments on this site are correct there is a clear case of improper conduct to investigate on the part of the DfE, the local MP and Turner itself. There is a scandal here which needs exposing. The RSC/DFE need to account for their actions in allowing the monopolisation of education in Folkestone. PETER: I am afraid it will never happen. It would be politically impossible.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 29 May 2018 13:45 posted by Maths Teacher

    I liked your link to the Head of Maths post at FA, whose purpose is: 'To be part of a learning community where we choose with courage, live with joy and succeed with ambition'. Autonomy is also listed, but you can draw your own conclusions from its being left blank! Best of all is the key behaviour of Passion, top of the list: 'To shout about what you do well; seek answers to what you do
    not understand and find routes through the daily to the truly extraordinary'. Madness. I shan't be applying. PETER: there are plenty more of these examples!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 29 May 2018 13:34 posted by Turner Teacher, fearful for the future

    Peter, as far as I can see the only alleged errors you are reported to have made by Jo Saxton are entirely correct. On the other hand, the number of false claims the Trust and its representatives have made, many on my behalf, keeps growing as you have demonstrated. Will your refutations ever be challenged? Somehow I don't think so.

  • Comment Link Monday, 28 May 2018 07:49 posted by Radio Professional

    The above PR Video put out by Dr Saxton cannot be taken seriously. The interviewer from Academy FM claims the station to be independent, yet its website proclaims: 'Our primary supporters are the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust and the Folkestone Academy'. The questions are incredibly mild and obviously pre-agreed with no attempt at follow-up, so the whole thing simply serves as a mouthpiece. Given the number of ridiculous and false claims allowed through without challenge, clearly the interviewer has learned nothing, from what I can only assume is his work experience.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 27 May 2018 05:54 posted by Tracey Shelley

    Peter: Your updated comments show once again that shockingly, Turner Schools appear incapable of telling the truth. Is there really no sanction against this? The number and nature of changes at the top of Folkestone Academy hardly suggest there is clear thinking and experience to come up with sensible reorganisation on this scale.

  • Comment Link Friday, 25 May 2018 17:27 posted by C-90

    In one of the posts in this thread there is reference to Damian Collins. As local MP, he was well aware of the good leadership, management and teaching at Folkestone Academy before Turner Schools were, literally, given the reins to the school last April (2017). A look at the former directors of Turner Schools reveals Sarah Collins (nee Richardson) - wife to Damian Collins and, incidentally, former governor at Pimlico Academy where Jo Saxton was based. Small wonder that the local MP had little to say about the events of last April at the Academy, when Turner took over, given that his wife was involved in the Turner's free school project just over the road.

    Another commentator mentions the RSC for the South East, Dominic Herrington. KCC is well aware of the deterioration in standards at the Folkestone Academy since September 2017 but the RSC must obviously be preoccupied with other, more pressing matters, like burying his head in the sand rather than be held to account for his, and others', previous decisions with regard to the handing-over of the Folkestone Academy to Turner Schools.

  • Comment Link Friday, 25 May 2018 11:32 posted by Richard Regent

    The problem underpinning this is how the decision to allow Turner to take over these schools without any prior expertise and experience of running schools can be justified. Education is too important to let fly by night misguided zealots with an ignorant view of what works in schools to be given the keys to the door. This decision was taken by the RSC who presumably thought it was a great idea! The RSC holds schools to account but who holds his office to account for crazy decisions like this? This is negligence on the part of Dominic Herrington and demonstrates why Local Authorities have the best overview of what does and what does not work in schools!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 May 2018 23:28 posted by Mrs Turner

    Some very long and worthy quotes here. Try: Turner Schools is a con. Teachers know it. Pupils know it. The video shows it. This article proves it.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 May 2018 13:38 posted by Concerned parent and teacher

    I never write on these things, however today I make an exception.
    As an experienced secondary school teacher in Kent & parent I am completely baffled as to how ANYBODY thinks that children who do not get in to Grammar schools will benefit from an education that focuses on languages and the “academic subjects” will enable them to thrive. Languages secondary schools are notoriously difficult to staff and engage children are “less academic”. I have developed curriculums for disengaged teenagers and these children thrive from a diverse curriculum that enables that to find what they are good at and succeed in. This success then gives confidence that helps them to believe in their abilities and motivation to learn across the board. It nurtures the creatives among our young people who will go on to carve successful career paths and work hard in our community. There is no school in Folkestone (apart from the Grammars) that will now teach Design Technology, for example, as subject that children engage with and is relevant to many job industries and vocational paths. The Grammar school see the value in this subject, however it is expensive to run and Turner schools do not include it in vision.

    How have Turner been able to take over all the non-selective schools in Folkestone, giving children and parents no choice in their education and future.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 23 May 2018 23:01 posted by Another ex-Folkestone academy teacher

    From an Ex Academy teacher who has worked under both regimes. 23rd May 2018
    The recent youtube clip of the interview on Academy FM with Dr Saxton will no doubt
    raise much comment and anger, especially from the Folkestone Academy staff and
    parents. As an ex teacher at the school I am very surprised by this response and the
    content as it is clearly an element of the Turner propaganda machines efforts to fight
    off the negative attention that they are rightly getting now. Transparency and truth are now starting to emerge and about time too. I respond I imagine on behalf of many
    professionals who have had the wonderful experience of working with our children in
    what was a fantastic school serving Folkestone under both regimes. PETER:

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 May 2018 22:16 posted by Caroline Strauss

    Parent at Folkestone Academy

    Since Turner Trust have taken over there has been a serious decline in

    Senior management

    It’s ridiculous, the kids have no incentive scheme as that was ripped away from them. The head master has stood up in an assembly and called all the children ‘SHIT’, bullies run riot with absolutely no consequences, all vocational courses have been scrapped, this joker Jo Saxton said the school is a happy place. It’s NOT! Massive numbers of parents are pulling their children from the school because of the constant supply teachers, bullies, no communication from the school about anything. The whole place is miserable. It was fine the way it was until Turner trust got involved. They don’t care about the children at all!

    Anyone even considering applying for any of the schools owned by Turner trust, DONT! It’s not worth your kids happiness or mental health PETER: It is not easy to know what else to say except this is consistent with what I am hearing. however, there is no escape as the alternative will also be run by the same group. Presumably there will be an investigation into the allegation about the head master.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 20:15 posted by Appalled observer

    So why is Family Dining the third highest priority for all schools in the Trust, along with the much heavier knowledge based curriculum and mixed ability teaching? I have taught in a number of secondary schools and can confirm that teachers enthusiasm for sitting down with pupils at lunch time will be very limited or non-existent, as it leaves them with no or very little break in the middle of the day. It won't work. I notice that Folkestone Academy staff do not appear to have been told of this whole Trust proposal. PETER: Presumably this has already been introduced at Martello and Morehall. Whilst it may be much easier to implement at Primary Level, it would be interesting to learn how compulsory sitting down to lunch with the pupils is working for staff at these two schools. Presumably a longer break has been offered as compensation. Surely the Teaching Unions will have a view.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 17:12 posted by Ex Folkestone Academy Teacher

    You say that the Academy was ‘struggling’. Actually, although Progress 8 is challenging for non-selectives, the 2017 figure was -0.22, the 5th most improved across 64 non-selective schools in Kent and comfortably within range to retain a Good Ofsted grade. The principal reason for the demise of Pent Valley was the popularity of the Academy (increasing roll initially to 270 to accommodate choice, and then to 300 when closure was confirmed). Teaching quality was good, as evidenced by the progress of the students. Leadership and staffing provided stability to this community.

    Turner Schools’ consultation document claims that the Folkestone Academy prioritised pastoral care over outcomes and underperformed as a result. This overly simplistic, naive analysis fails to understand context, and the realisation that pastoral care is essential in supporting outcomes in this community. Their impact on arrival is a manual in how not to manage change. Dismissing past achievements. Removal of systems and policies which got the best out of staff and students. Introduction of disastrous behaviour approaches from Pivotal, an organisation run by one of Dr Saxton’s ‘Leadership Matters’ friends. The result of this will be evident in the 2018 examination results. Then Dr Saxton and Professor Lygo might change their perception. PETER: Having strong links with Folkestone still and knowing both Folkestone Academy and Pent Valley through a number of sources, my view remains that FA flourished because of the unpopularity of Pent Valley (a pattern reversed several times over the past 30 years). However the important part of your story is the accurate analysis of the present, including the unhappiness of so many connected with FA now.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 16:55 posted by Phillip R

    Isn't a knowledge based curriculum past its sell by date anyway. Shouldn't we be teaching children the skills to access the internet for knowledge, a tool that Aristotle did not have handy. This approach is now so dated just like the CEO's political and philosophical friends.

    What an opportunity missed to introduce a skills based curriculum preparing our young people for the future they will meet and the present they are coming to terms with.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 16:29 posted by Stephen Nortide

    The real issue here was how Turner was given Pent Valley in the first place. There were two bidders for the new free school. One was an established provider of non selective education in Kent with a good track record and the other was a new untested outfit whose only claim to credibility was that their CEO was mates with Lord Nash. Once again - the triumph of stupidity over common sense. What on earth has Folkestone done to deserve this?

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 12:21 posted by Previous proud senior leader

    Thank you for taking the time to report on Turner Schools. As a previous very proud senior teacher at the Folkestone Academy I have been very dismayed to hear of the demise of this institution over the past year. Unfortunately staff morale has plummeted, behaviour has rapidly deteriorated, and achievement is consequently also much lower than under the previous leadership. Turner Schools are repeatedly blaming this on the previous regime: this is simply not true, as the 2017 P8 figure demonstrates.

    Unfortunately you will not have a balanced view of comments on your blog because the vast majority of staff at Folkestone Academy are too scared to comment, as they fear for their jobs. I would encourage you, or any other professional, to follow Dr Saxton’s advice and visit Folkestone Academy for yourself to speak to the staff and students, particularly if you have previously visited under the former regime. You may well be shocked and saddened to see the environment in which these students are trying to learn.

    What we mustn’t forget is that at the heart of this are people: students who deserve the opportunity to learn, who deserve the pastoral support that the houses afford them, who deserve the option to take vocational courses if they are more appropriate to them; teaching and support staff who chose to work in a challenging environment, who believe that every child can succeed when given the correct encouragement and support, and some who, whilst they may not have a degree, have a wealth of experience in working in a deprived community and are able to offer the support and wisdom that a young graduate may not yet possess; parents who may not have received a positive education themselves deserve the guidance and support which was so readily forthcoming under the old house system.

    Education is not a business. It is sad that it is turning into such, and the consequent effect on the community of Folkestone is apparent.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 09:43 posted by Angry parent (email address supplied)

    I took my child away from Martello Grove because of the unchecked poor behaviour last year. I did complain but was ignored. My child used to come home in tears.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 08:19 posted by Confused parent

    I thought turner schools was a charity how can they legally make any profit!! The charities commission and the DfE must be checking it carefully.

    What information do you have to show they are profiting?

    I was speaking to another parent and they were really happy with morehall primary and I am too PETER: I cannot find anywhere that I have said Turner Schools are making a profit. However, there are examples elsewhere on this website that demonstrate other Academy Trusts who have done so, most poignantly at Lilac Sky who previously ran Morehall. I am pleased you are happy with the school, However, like other 'fans' of Turner Schools you do not appear to have read my article which may be why you are confused. I make no explicit criticisms of Morehall, but would ask you why just 11 families have chosen to send their children to the school this year, after a full year of Turner management when, up until now it has attracted a full or nearly full year group of 30 annually. Perhaps you could enquire of those living close to the school who have turned their backs on Morehall this year and find out the reason.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 May 2018 06:40 posted by Happily current teacher

    As a member of staff at Morehall Primary and previously at Martello I am happy to be a part of the Turner Trust. I was initially employed by Lilacsky and have gone through the transition to Turner Trust. As with any school that undergoes a change in senior leadership we have been on a journey and I am confident that senior leadership know our destination and have been taking us there. One thing I feel confident about is that senior leadership have the best interests of the children at heart and work hard to ensure this is happening. PETER: So why do families not want to send their children there after over a year after Turner Schools took over? However, its good to see staff following my website over the weekend or this early in the morning!

  • Comment Link Sunday, 20 May 2018 17:05 posted by Richard W

    I have been referred to your Turner article as a parent who chose to avoid Morehall School for my son although it is my nearest. I am afraid you have a great PR job to do, to sell the product to parents. Changes may indeed have been made, but they are not yet evident. We are well pleased with the alternative. The website is a joke.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 20 May 2018 11:26 posted by Michele Sowden-Mehta

    Official reports, which will be published shortly, show how far both of the schools have come and that the information provided to you regarding the behaviour of the children and the quality of the leadership is incorrect.

    School Principal.PETER: I know that both schools were very problematic under Lilac Sky, and i am delighted you will have official reports to show the changes you have made, However, i still have faith in parents and you have a long way to go to convince them as proven by take up at both schools. My observation looking at the website presentations online is that this is not the way to go about it and I suggest you look at some good sites to see what parents should expect and will be encouraged by. Can you please point me to the reference you report me as having made about behaviour. I am well aware that this has been an issue, but chose not to introduce it.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 20 May 2018 09:18 posted by Jo Saxton

    Good Morning Peter,

    There are too many factual inaccuracies to post here. Ranging from pupil numbers - eg the Free School was oversubscribed x2, 120 have accepted places and there is a waiting list, Martello has trebled in roll - to my role as NSN (look at the date I stood down), to the sequencing of the leadership support we’ve provided to Martello, which includes SEN specialist David Bartram OBE, and KS1 ASD expertise from Outstanding Swiss Cottage.

    Those that judge schools know the best way to do so is by visiting.
    As an experienced Head I am sure you’d prefer to come and judge the facts for yourself rather than relying on the opinions of third parties.

    We’ve had emails from you before to but none in 2018. I’ll share my personal email, just in case. PETER: I took my information about numbers from the Turner Schools website 'latest news'. Hardly a third party source, so certainly not a factual inaccuracy as you claim! KCC figures for primary school allocations, which I presume are reliable, show that just 11 pupils who applied for the 60 Morehall Reception class were offered places, another 9 being Local Authority Allocations who had not applied for the school. This is a sharp fall from at least seven previous years when the school has been full or nearly full with an intake of 30, and is the second lowest figure in Kent. Parents are clearly voting with their feet. Whilst the Martello fall is not quite as great, it still has the second largest vacancy rate in Folkestone. Elsewhere the large majority of Folkestone schools are completely full and oversubscribed. Of course Martello has tripled in roll, as the age range increases year on year for this new school. The most recent census shows that all but one year groups Year R to 5 (Years Six has not worked through) have 24-30 children in each year, many of them Local Authority applications or late arrivals in the town or country who have nowhere else to go. This is yet another claim that is provable false. Incidentally I used the email address given on the comment form!

  • Comment Link Sunday, 20 May 2018 06:24 posted by Happily ex teacher

    The only factual error about Martello Primary, is that you have failed to give the full appalling story of how leaders took a school in need of improvement and allowed standards of behaviour to fall. The school was out of control under poor leadership when I left and I understand is no better. You are quite correct about SEN. It was wholly inadequate to cover needs and the policy and promises of the SEN policy are, as you describe it, fantasy!.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 19 May 2018 15:01 posted by Jo Saxton

    Dear Peter,

    There are a number of factual inaccuracies in your post about Turner Schools.

    I would be happy to provide you with accurate information including about the standards we inherited, as I am sure you would want your readers to have the true picture.


    Jo Saxton PETER. I have tried to send you the following email, but the address supplied is reported as invalid "I am obviously concerned about inaccuracy and I believe my article is based on the facts available to me, or reported to me by reliable sources.

    However, I am more than happy to correct any errors, if you could let me know these". Please email me.

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