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Saturday, 03 November 2018 11:21

Fixed Term Exclusions at Turner Schools 2017-18: Folkestone Academy and Martello Primary -An appalling double record

Updates: There is more information relating to Martello Primary, below. I have now published an article setting out  exclusion data across Kent for 2017-18, which serves as the basis for this item. 

Folkestone Academy had more than one in every seven of all fixed term exclusions across Kent’s 101 secondary schools in 2017-18. That is just under one exclusion for every pupil in the school. This shocking and startling figure,  is just the latest in a number of revelations about happenings in the school revealed on this website. It closely follows the news that the school has dropped in GCSE performance this summer to become the fifth lowest performer in both Progress and Attainment. In 2016-17 it was  in the top half of non-selective schools in the county.

Folkestone Academy 2

Meanwhile, the new Martello Primary, taken on by Turner Schools in January 2017, has the second highest Fixed Term exclusion rate out of all of Kent's 463 primary schools with one exclusion for every four pupils. . 

These fly in the face of statements by the school’s Chief Executive in the TES that: Saxton agrees with Lemov that a structured approach to behaviour is a way of reducing exclusions. She says that prior to joining Turner Schools, Folkestone Academy was the highest excluding school in Kent, but it is now reintegrating pupils into mainstream education.’  Whilst the claim itself was false then, it is certainly true now, the 1211 fixed term exclusions being more than double any other school in Kent (with the exception of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey with 786).

“Teacher capacity and skill is the best antidote there is to exclusion of students,” he (Professor Lemov) says. “The people who don’t work in high need communities often misunderstand that and think that order leads to suspensions and exclusions, but it’s the opposite. “Behaviours that lead to exclusions happen when students perceive there to be no limits and no expectations and no rules.”  So there you have it!

It was 'education guru' Mr Lemov who, in a recent training session for the Turner Trust staff compared Folkestone with an ‘American Rust Belt City’, presumably in an attempt to explain the poor performances away.

Please note: The data quoted in this article comes from my full analysis of permanent and fixed-term exclusions across Kent, which I shall publish soon. 

One of the main problems in dealing with Turner Schools, the new Multi-Academy Trust set up by Dr Saxton to run four schools in Folkestone, is the relentless PR machine, using uncritical national and local media. As disaster follows disaster at Folkestone Academy, the blame is now laid squarely on the staff of the school, who previously achieved good GCSE results and a Good Ofsted.

Folkestone Academy and Exclusion Data
The false claim that Folkestone was the highest excluding school in Kent prior to joining Turner Schools refers to its appearance in one year’s outcomes with seven permanent  exclusions and the only year it has ever had more than four, a figure exceeded in other years by many other schools. 

In 2016-17, with Turner Schools only being involved with Folkestone Academy in the summer term, there was one permanent exclusion across all schools in the District. There were just 682 fixed term exclusions from all the five secondary and ten primary academies, a far cry from the 1,211 in Folkestone Academy alone this year (I don’t have more detailed information available at present).

In 2017-18, there were five permanent exclusions in Shepway, all from Primary Schools. As well as the Folkestone Academy fixed term exclusion figure, which dwarfs that of all other schools in the county, the highest primary school fixed term exclusion figure for Shepway was at Martello Primary. This is another Turner School, second smallest Shepway primary, with 32 exclusions, showing that the platitudes quoted above are not confined to Folkestone Academy alone.

Back in February, Chief executive of Turner Schools Jo Saxton said: “We now want almost every conversation to be about learning, and what we could hear from staff was that too many conversations used to be about punishment. Perhaps there should have been  more conversation about punishment to tackle the dreadful climate creating this appalling exclusion rate, also seen at Turner Schools' Martello Primary.

More on GCSE performance
I have recently published an article looking at the disaster of the 2018 GCSEs for Folkestone Academy. Recent coverage in the Folkestone Herald and online about the GCSE calamity quotes the Chief Executive: 'For too long, the academy has been failing to prepare students for modern academic qualifications. 'We will not rest until this school delivers the powerful education that these young people deserve. With our talented team now in place, we can finally draw a line under the past, and Folkestone Academy can start to accelerate towards a much brighter and more positive future.'   Somewhat of a contradiction to the previous statement: “The Folkestone Academy is absolutely a success story. There has been ten years of success, more than 500 young people have gone to university' No mention of the sharp decline from the 2017 results. Again, bemoaning performance in 2017: 'Only 14 per cent of pupils at the Folkestone Academy received a strong pass in English and Maths last year' . For 2018, the figure has fallen even further to 13%. Apparently, none of this is anything to do with the controversial management by Turner Schools over the past year and a half. Turner Schools took over the management of the academy in April 2017 although this is no longer mentioned, media reference being to the formal re-brokering in December 2017. Much of the time it was run by Principal Colin Boxall brought in shortly after the arrival of Turner Schools. He was described by Dr Saxton in a signed letter to parents as having been Principal of a number of schools, including an Outstanding Academy in Kent, although she since denies any knowledge of this, as it is false. The school has now worked through four headteachers since the arrival of Turner Schools, and since September has an additional consultant Headteacher, SEND consultant, with the hiring of a new Chairman of Governors. The use of expensive Consultants is of course a recurring Turner Schools theme. 
 
Folkestone Academy Primary Section
One oddity in the whole Turner Schools set up is the primary section of the all through Folkestone Academy. I have followed the fortunes of this school for the past forty years since my own children were educated at its predecessor school, Park Farm Primary. The school benefited from  brilliant leadership throughout until it was absorbed into the Folkestone Academy at the time the latter was set up in its new £34 million premises. The 2015 Good Ofsted Inspection Report describes a school very different from the 'five years of poor teaching' described by Dr Saxton, and in particular describes a primary section in such glowing terms that it would surely have been Outstanding as as stand alone institution, confirming the powerful leadership continues.  Wisely, Turner Schools appears to have left the primary section alone instead of subjecting it to the new models being imposed on the other schools. Turner Schools produced a new website in September, supposed to present a uniform picture, but clearly shows a primary school  with its distinctive own vision and ethos.  
 
Martello Primary
Meanwhile Martello Primary (its full name) has had a troubled time considering its small size ever since opening in September 2015. It was run badly by the disgraced and now defunct Lilac Sky Academy Trust until January 2017, when it was taken over by Turner Schools. However, for the last six months under Lilac Sky there were no exclusions. 
 
The extraordinarily high fixed term exclusion rate for 2017-18, with one exclusion for every four pupils in the school, is the second highest in Kent. Quite an achievement for a  very small school with 146 pupils in May, including  just five pupils in Year 6 (data calculated on the January statutory roll). 
 
You will find a critique of Turner School's management of Martello Primary here, written back in May towards the end of the year in question. Three relevant quotes: 'However, there is also plenty of expensive external consultancy to steer the school'; 'What is clear is that the school is not popular with parents;  'Ofsted confirms the  large turnover of staff'.  Ofsted in a second Inspection in May found the school Requires Improvement but was broadly positive so for example 'The chief executive’s passion to ensure the highest standards at Martello Primary is palpable', suggesting they have also bought into the vision. Oddly, Ofsted neither identified the exceptionally high Fixed Term Exclusion Level, nor the high turnover of staff, previously identified in the December 2017 Special Inspection.  Perhaps a single Inspector was insufficient. The theme of plenty of expensive external consultancy spelled out to me with great feeling by several staff, perhaps has an echo in the hiring of new consultants in the section on GCSE above. The school Principal joined Martello from the troubled Copperfield Academy in Gravesend where she was Head of School shortly after an Ofsted inspection which itself identified that: 'Leaders have not been able to retain teachers. At the beginning of each year, a large number of teachers join the school but do not stay. This term, almost three quarters of the teaching staff are new, with most at the beginning of their teaching career'. Sounds familiar?
Last modified on Tuesday, 13 November 2018 07:37

3 comments

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 14 November 2018 23:50 posted by Shirley Johnson

    It doesn't sound as if Martello has changed much since the early days, with the first Executive Principal under Turner schools leaving within six months, followed by new Head of School shortly afterwards. At the beginning Dr Saxton made it clear that children should not be excluded as it didn't fit in with the culture she later describes above, earlier this year. As a result behaviour standards declined appallingly. There appears a large degree of Schizophrenia! To exclude in droves or not to exclude that is the question?

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 November 2018 11:18 posted by Escapee

    Double think! This is not thinking at all, but following without challenge the so called thoughts of an American guru, who clearly despises Folkestone (on a par with an American rust belt city - the hardcore base of Trumpism!). So exclusions are out, but in practice are needed in droves to support the real Turner Schools tough love (to quote Peter) philosophy of attempting to drive away those who don't fit. The catch is that there is no local alternative for non-selective children, with Brockhill heavily oversubscribed and the Turner Free School presumably offering more of the same. It is hardly surprising that some parents are pulling their children out and sending them to a Dover school. No Ofsted for three years because of re-brokering - so no accountability!

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 November 2018 10:50 posted by Janet Downs

    It appears the utterances of Turner's CEO are a classic example of Doublethink - holding two contradictory thoughts while believing both are true. On the one hand, she says Folkestone Academy has suffered from five years of poor teaching. On the other, it's been a success for ten years judged by the number of pupils going to uni.
    As if this weren't bad enough, she seems oblivious to the fact that Turner Schools was not involved in Folkestone Academy for most of its ten acclaimed years. Except when she's alleging FA was a failure before Turner appeared, of course.
    Doublethink times Two.

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