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Tuesday, 19 June 2018 13:07

Cedar Federation, Gravesend: Ifield Special and King's Farm Primary Schools Celebrate Excellent Ofsted Outcomes


Kings  Farm 2018

Ifield School celebrates its third successive Outstanding Ofsted assessment and King's Farm, brought to its knees four years ago by a headteacher now banned from the profession, is now Good in every respect, in a very powerful Report.

The Federation saw a change of Executive Headteacher in September when Pam Jones, OBE, retired after a stellar career, and was succeeded by Abbie Birch, moving from the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector, having previously been a headteacher in Kent.

If anything, the achievement at King's Farm is the more powerful, having risen like a Phoenix from the train wreck of 2014. Taken over by the Cedar Federation that year, now: ‘All leaders, including governors, are uncompromising in their high aspirations for every pupil. They are relentlessly driving improvement and accept nothing but the best. The executive headteacher and the head of school model the high standards expected. An exceedingly positive and respectful ethos permeates the school’.

The strength of the transformation can be measured by: ‘In 2017 the school’s results at the expected standard for combined reading, writing and mathematics were the most improved in Kent, with an impressive rise of 34% from results in 2016’.

I must declare a personal interest, having recently retired from being a governor of the Cedar Federation (and before that Chairman of Governors at Ifield), and still carrying out voluntary work at Kings Farm. I take considerable pride from my continued association with both schools. 

Kings Farm
It has been a privilege seeing at first hand the transformation of Kings Farm, set in a socially deprived area of Gravesend, into a happy, purposeful and achieving school, under the excellent leadership of Head of School Chris Jackson and a team of staff united behind the: ‘clear vision (which) means that staff work as a strong and buoyant team’ as high aspirations permeate the school and as a result pupils are growing in confidence’.

Exceptionally for a school in such an area ‘This year a significantly higher proportion of pupils passed the Kent Test (11 plus) than in previous years’ , with a nearly a quarter of the cohort qualifying for grammar school, ahead of most other Gravesend schools.

King's Farm has been assisted in its success by becoming the lead school of three in a £200,000 project set up by the Goldsmiths' Company to improve standards in maths, with excellent early results.

One of the most striking features of King's Farm, regularly commented upon by visitors and now by Ofsted is the excellent behaviour, courtesy and attitude of pupils at all times, which I have regularly seen at first hand.

‘The school is a calm orderly environment. Pupils conduct themselves well in lessons and respond positively to teachers’ high expectations for behaviour and learning. Pupils demonstrate high levels of effort and take great pride in their work. Work in their books reflects the high standards teachers set for them’.

Leaders ensure that pupils have a suitable range of rich experiences. These include, for example, engaging in sports and debating competitions, as well as participating in Shakespeare productions, dance activities and residential trips. An impressive number of pupils take part in extra-curricular clubs before or after school. These activities combine to make a significant contribution to pupils’ personal and academic achievement.

Again, I have regularly witnessed these at first hand. Remarkably for a profession under pressure, I regularly witness large numbers of pupils going home after an hour of such activity on a Friday afternoon, teachers having given freely of their time after a long week. Others come in on Saturday morning to support older children who choose to come to school to improve their standards further.

In reality, the only thing stopping the school becoming Outstanding is the handicap set by previous gross mismanagement. This delayed the excellent progress now being achieved, but hard working school staff and pupils have all but put this behind them. It also underlines the falsehood behind the political assumption that grammar schools necessarily have transferable skills to benefit struggling primaries (see also items on the Williamson Trust). By contrast King’s Farm now owes much to its Federated school, Ifield Special School - the two working closely together and sharing skills, as well of course to its own endeavours.


Ifield School

In one sense there is little new to say about Ifield School, which has an Ofsted Record second to none, through three consecutive Outstanding assessments. However, this has continued through a time of great change at the top: 'The outstanding leadership has been maintained through the changes that have taken place since the last inspection. A new head of school has been appointed. The head of sixth form and executive headteacher have also joined the school. In addition to this, the school has joined with a neighbouring primary school to form The Cedar Federation. This has resulted in a new, shared governing body and an even stronger commitment to inclusion’. There is no doubt that the most important factor in a school’s success lies in its leadership and there are too many examples in this website of schools where change has gone hand in hand with decline. In the case of the Cedar Federation, change has enabled the two schools to go from strength to strength.
‘Leaders, governors and staff share a constant commitment to make sure that every pupil does as well as they can. There is no hint of complacency. The ambition for each pupil drives the constant focus on improvement. Consequently, pupils continue to achieve excellent outcomes at the school’.

One key element is illustrated by: ‘The school ensures that it has the expert teachers it needs and initial teacher training supported by the teaching alliance it leads and by an alliance of local special schools. Newly qualified teachers are extremely well supported to develop the skills and expertise they need. They feel encouraged and valued by the school. The school works extensively with other schools, supporting the development of better provision for all pupils into adulthood’. Both schools benefit from this, placing a high priority on the welfare and development of their teachers, which ensures that steady supply of excellent staff, who are well supported and developed and contribute to high morale.

Last modified on Friday, 22 June 2018 23:32


  • Comment Link Wednesday, 20 June 2018 21:53 posted by An ex staff member

    As someone who has worked at Kings Farm and witnessed the devastation caused by the 'train wreck of 2014' I am filled with pride at what has been achieved since. It has been like rebuilding the school from the ashes, and could not have been done without the sheer hard work and determination of so many people over the years - some who bravely stayed throughout the turmoils, others who have arrived since, and some who sadly realised that the only thing they could do to help the school was to resign and work to try and bring to justice those who caused the horrors. To all of those people who have done their bit to rescue Kings Farm, and to finally have it recognised as a 'good' school, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 20 June 2018 13:58 posted by IF parent

    Hear, hear. Congratulations.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 20 June 2018 13:55 posted by Karen

    Our daughter was at kings farm in the troubles. We could not find her another school. We are now thrilled with all that has happened since. Our daughter is very happy at the school. Thank you Mr Jackson for your determination to get it right and thank you Mr Read for keeping the faith.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 19 June 2018 23:29 posted by M.T.

    Congratulations to both schools, especially King's Farm. Apart from JP is no one to be held accountable for the careers blighted in the past, or children's futures harmed? I am one of those casualties and have never been able to work again in a school. I complained to the Gravesend Grammar School which managed KF, only to find my complaint led to me being victimised and driven out. They have much to answer for. PETER: I completely agree, but personal accountability is in short supply in many educational areas. To many careers are being wrecked in too many schools and we are desperately short of teachers as a result. One of the best things about the KF Ofsted is it makes clear the excellent leadership, standard of support offered to all staff and the consequent high level of morale, which spills over into the pupil body.

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