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Saturday, 19 January 2019 17:51

Turner Schools: What were they trying to hide?

 For another point of view try  Shepway Vox. The two articles have much in common but there are important differences. 

Update: As a result of my complaint to the Information Commissioner, Turner Schools has been forced to put a process of Internal Review of Complaints in place. See below.

I now know why Turner Schools tried to block my FOI asking for School Census details for their four schools, following my successful complaint to the Information Commissioner. The relevant data is as follows: 

 Turner Schools intakes: decline from 2017 to 2018
 
PAN
Year 7 
Sept 2018
%
Vacancies 
Year 7
Sept 2017
Decline
2017/18
Folkestone Academy 270 198 27% 267 26%
Turner Free School
120
120
100%
N/A
n/A
Martello Primary 30 22 27% 28 21%
Morehall Primary School 60 14 77% 29 52%

 Note: PAN is Published Admission Number

 The information now extracted which you will find in full here, identifies a number of worrying features for the Trust.  
All three established schools have seen a sharp fall in intake, with Morehall Primary having the largest proportion of empty spaces in the county in Year R. Overall, there are just 68 vacancies across Folkestone’s 14 primary schools, with Martello and Morehall accounting for 79% of them.
 
At secondary level, the opening of Turner Free School has caused a sharp fall in intake at Folkestone Academy, in spite of illogical assurances by the Trust it would not be affected. The recent decision by the Trust to increase the intake of Turner Free School by another 60 places to 180 for 2019 admission will have an even deeper effect on numbers. Meanwhile, Year 12 numbers have fallen by an astonishing 45% in two years.  Overall, the school roll fell by an astonishing 268 students or 12% of its total in the past year, which will have a massive impact on school finances.
Introduction
The Trust offered, as an explanation for refusing my FOI request on its census data, that it would publish it on the Trust website. Sadly in what appears to be an inherent dishonesty, they claim to have met this by a one liner on the website. This is buried away on the finance page and provides information I had not asked for, relating to a period I had not asked for!  Fortunately, you can read it here now. If Turner Schools had really intended to publish the table, there is no reason now to delay it further. 
 
My previous articles beginning here,  demonstrate amongst other factors: the dreadful examination performance; the astonishingly high exclusion rates; the high staff turnover along with the inability to recruit an Executive Principal; the unlawful admission rules; the excessive debt due to poor numbers forecasting, and other financial difficulties, mainly at Folkestone Academy but several also affecting Martello and Morehall; together with the denigration of Folkestone as comparable with ‘The Rust Belt Cities of  North East USA. For some of these issues, Turner Schools has attempted seriously flawed rebuttals, also covered in my articles.
 
The CEO, Dr Jo Saxton has been rewarded for these ‘achievements’ with a salary in 2017/18 of over £140,000 which, whilst not the largest is certainly a very high figure for a small and underperforming  Trust. This is recorded in the Annual Accounts of  the Trust up to 31st August 218, at which point Trustees identified the Principal Risks and Uncertainties facing it as:

1) Standards at Key Stage 4 at Folkestone Academy, and its legacy issues: no mention that the legacy was producing higher standards than that achieved after 15 months of Trust management, having now declined to the fifth lowest in Kent, Well Below Average standard.
2) Increasing pupil numbers across the Trust: no mention of the alarming declines at Folkestone Academy and Morehall, as a direct result of Trust Policy. The planned increases at Turner Free School  surely cannot be a risk, unless the Trust is looking at the the consequences - further decline at Folkestone Academy
3) Funding changes: never mind funding changes. Under current arrangements, the Trust which was given a £708,707 loan by the DfE to meet the projected costs of increased numbers at Folkestone Academy but has seen a large decrease primarily down to policy decisions by the Trust, has just seen the problem getting even larger as revealed by the recent census results. Morehall Primary is also leaching children and therefore finances. 
4) Brexit, given our proximity to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel terminal: an uncertainty indeed.
It appears that the Trustees are being irresponsible, or perhaps ill-informed about the real problems facing its four schools.
 
Turner Free School
The school which opened with 120 Year Seven ’Scholars’ in September is already planning to admit 180 scholars for September 2019, but in spite of frequent references to disadvantaged scholars on its website has chosen to give them no priority. The increase in numbers will have a further damaging effect on Folkestone Academy (below). In spite of claims that the school was heavily oversubscribed for 2018 entry, it is reported there were just two admission appeals, both upheld, and already at least two children have dropped out since October, so it may be that already some of the shine may have come off the school. The school may does not want Pupil Premium pupils with learning difficulties as some could make the promise to have all scholars fluent in French very challenging to deliver. 
     
Folkestone Academy (FA)
The opening of Turner Free School, along with the problems at FA have seen a fall of 26% in the Year Seven intake at the school. The number of first choices for 2019 has fallen by 90 pupils over the past two years. The number of pupils entering the Sixth Form has dropped dramatically by an astonishing 84 students to 101 over two years, a fall of 45%. A net 27 pupils left the cohort in Years 10 &11 over the Year 2017-18, probable evidence of off-rolling, for there are rising concerns that since September some teachers are continuing to encourage ‘undesirable’ pupils to leave. Overall, pupil numbers at the school fell sharply from 2,161 to 1,893 over the year, a situation that should surely have caused Trustees and the Chief Executive to ask serious questions.
 
Morehall Primary School
This school has sufficient space to accommodate an intake of 60 children, but has only admitted 14, making it at 77% the Kent school with the highest proportion of Year R vacancies. All other year groups had between 25 and 30 pupils, confirming the sharp fall off under Turner Schools.   Just four others of the 14 Folkestone primaries had vacancies, a total of 14 empty spaces between them showing the overall pressure of places in the town. In a letter to me dated 20th July 2018, Dr Saxton wrote: ‘I can confirm that we have 29 pupils confirmed at Morehall for September’. In a letter the previous week, she wrote: ‘You state that we are failing to attract pupils, but we are daily receiving parents seeking places in each of our schools, meaning that there are some years in Morehall with a waiting list’. The census information shows that neither statement was true.
 
Key Stage 2 Performance last summer was poor with Progress in Reading – Well below Average (bottom 10% in country); Progress in Maths- Below Average; and apart from Average Progress in writing, all other measures are well below county and national standards.
 
Martello Primary.
This is a new school opened in September 2015 under the control of the disgraced and defunct Lilac Sky Trust, being taken over by Turner Schools two years ago. It has had more than its share of problems, including a large turnover of pupils and staff. In a growth area of the town, it is the only school with vacancies, with a sharp fall off this September, down to 22 from 28 in 2017. The extraordinarily high fixed term exclusion rate for 2017-18, with one exclusion for every four pupils in the school, is the second highest primary school in Kent. Quite an achievement for a  very small school with 146 pupils in May, setting its tone and will inevitably have contributed to the lack of its popularity for from the previous article:“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! 
 
Information Commissioner Complaint
Back in September I submitted the following FOI Request to Turner Schools.
 
FOI Request 12 September 2018
I am requesting the following information under FOI for the four Turner Schools in Folkestone: Folkestone Academy: Turner Free School; Morehall Primary; Martello Primary.
The number of pupils currently registered in each Year Group in each school.

Turner Schools rejected it on the grounds that they were going to publish this information at some future date. They are the only Public Authority I know that refuses to conduct an Internal Review which is ‘all but’ required by regulations. Accordingly, I took the next step and complained to the ICO. Today (22 January)  I received a full response following the ICO intervention, including a line ‘We have also now published census information on our website’. In no way is this relevant to the claim that the information I requested would be published.

You will find at the bottom of the Finance Page of the website the following:

TS Funded Pupil Numbers

 For Reference: the corresponding 2017-18 numbers form the October 2017 Census

Folkestone
Academy
Martello
Primary
Morehall
Primary
Turner
Free School
2161 160 183 119
Change September 2017 - January 2019
 - 268 +10 -19 N/A

Note: Martello Primary's numbers have increased as it now has an additional full year group. 

 

Of course this is neither census information nor has it any direct bearing on my request. Further it is for January 2019, and  I requested information for October 2018. I can find no other reference to the material I was asking.  

Internal Review
From the previous Section: 'They are the only Public Authority I know that refuses to conduct an Internal Review which is ‘all but’ required by regulations'. I have now (June 2019) received a response to another FOI to Turner Schools. It states: 'If a requestor is not satisfied with the outcome of their request, they have a right of complaint via internal review', completely contradicting their previous claim. 
 
The Messages
The heartbeat of Turner Schools is the torrent of slogans, mottos and motivating messages with varying themes it pushes out at every opportunity. I have quoted many of these in previous articles, and this section is just a round up. I have an opinion that it would be better to have a more focused approach to the main principles underpinning the school's ethos. 
 
Feel free to let me have your favourites
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 
Every one in the Turner Team has one goal – to deliver a knowledge-led education to our pupils in safe and inspiring environments.
Accordingly, we have encapsulated the Trust’s ethos in the acronym HEART. Its principles are:
High expectations;
Enthusiasm;
Academic subject-based curriculum;
Reading for all; and
Teamwork.
 
Our mission is to set a new standard in non-selective education, empowering our pupils to succeed. We aim to be a force for good in the community we serve, supporting social mobility and regeneration through education. We call this mission ‘sea-change’.
 
The logo reflects our ambition to improve outcomes for pupils at schools on the Kent coast and was inspired by JMW Turner’s coastal sunsets. It also encapsulates our ambition of working together to become a movement for growth and fulfillment and curriculum change.
 
Turner Schools is a Kent-based academy trust led by local people, to deliver a Turner Schools is a Kent-based academy trust led by local people, to deliver a brilliant education for all in the community.
 
Our mission is to set a new standard in non-selective education, empowering our pupils to succeed.
 
As a family of schools, we work collaboratively to give our children the very best start in life. We deliver this through:
A knowledge-based curriculum, structured by traditional subjects, properly sequenced to ensure systematic, thorough teaching for all
Mixed ability teaching
Family dining (as I said at the time, I am not sure how his high priority will work at the Secondary Section of Folkestone Academy with its 1500 pupils).
 
There will also be a focus on languages – with every student at the Turner Free School being able to speak fluent French. (including presumably those with learning difficulties
 
According to Turner Schools chief executive Dr Jo Saxton, both schools will outperform all schools in the south of England – excluding grammars - and provide “success without selection”.
 
To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world
 

We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all, which we interpret as being the whole person.

 
It is our aim to nurture the children who attend our school so that they reach their potential and realise the important role they must play as citizens in their community and as citizens of modern Britain.
 
Turner Schools exists to help all children learn to thrive in the modern world. In the service of this purpose, three principles underpin all our activities:
Cultural literacy
Our job is to equip our pupils with the knowledge that makes them skilled. We structure and sequence the knowledge we teach through subjects.
Commitment
We believe that hard work is essential for success in education and in life. We model it in our expectations and in our conduct.
Community
Through team-work and toleration, we can achieve more together than we can alone. We aim to be a force for good where we work and live.
We promote a passion for life-long learning through an engaging curriculum that develops a thirst for knowledge.
 
Martello Values
Respect: We respect others and ourselves, and the building of harmonious relationships within the school and the wider community.
Integrity: We behave with honesty and integrity in everything that we do.
Resilience: We become resilient learners; bouncing back and continuing to try even when things are tricky.
 Aspiration: We believe that through hard work and determination we can achieve the goals that we set ourselves to become the best we can.
Responsibility: We understand the responsibility we have, now and in the future, to look after the world around us.
      Courage: We have the courage to take risks and give things a good try breaking through barriers and being brave.
 
Turner Free School: Success without selection’ , offering ‘a grammar-style education for everyone’ , 'empowering pupils with cultural capital’ .
‘Ultimately, every student from TFS will have the chance to follow any dream, achieve any goal, and to be anything they want to be’
A Traditional Education for the 21st Century’ .
 
Teamwork. Fairness. Success.
 
“Excellence is a Habit” Aristotle
 
Our aim is to empower our scholars with a passion for learning, which will enable them to succeed, both academically and pastorally.
 
‘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’.
 

The Trust's aim is to lay the foundation for students to fulfil their potential and be citizens that the community can be proud of. The main objectives are as follows:

  • To provide schools which are places where children thrive and knowledge matters;
  • To operate according to the HEART values, having high expectations, enthusiasm in our approach, an academic subject-based curriculum, enabling reading for all, powered by team work;
  • To have high expectations which will be reflected in the targets set for staff and students alike so that children reach their potential working towards and, where and when appropriate, exceeding national expectations;
  • Harness the energies of students, staff, parents and the community to establish a genuine partnership for the benefit of all;
  • Provide opportunities for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural as well as physical development of students;
  • Ensure the effectiveness of all staff is maintained through continuous professional development as well as statutory performance management;
  • To recruit and develop new staff who are similarly committed to eradicating educational under-performance;
  • To overcome the effects of coastal isolation through sharing practice with high performing schools elsewhere and applying the lessons of high performing jurisdictions;
  • To contribute to regeneration through education.
 
Governors: We are committed to the 7 Principles of Public Life
Selflessness
Objectivity
Accountability
Openness
Honesty
Leadership

Excerpt from Head of Department Advert (try and guess which department - unusually there is no reference to the subject in the advert))

Behaviour Requirements

Passion 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.

Integrity To do what you say you are going to do, building trust around you.

Creativity To create believable, tangible and attainable pictures of success that inspire the heads and hearts of others.

Practicality To be proactive in planning actions and reviewing outcomes.

Courage To exhibit positivity and determination in your sprint and marathon goals.

Ambition To react and respond to high pressure, high demand situations while maintaining focus and professionalism.

Strategy To anticipate challenges and align responses with the Academy values.

Enquiry To be continually curious in the pursuit of excellence.

 

Teacher capacity and skill is (sic) the best antidote there is to exclusion of students, 

The group with an ambitious plan to turn Folkestone Academy into the best school in the south of England describes  'ambitious plans to transform the two worst performing secondary schools in Folkestone into some of the best in the country'

Turner Schools blazed onto the Folkestone scene just a few years ago.

Folkestone Academy is a school that spoke to me the first time I visited. It was sad talking to children who thought that the 52 rules were what the school was about, when it should be about the power learning gives them. We haven’t got everything right yet, but the school is so much brighter, happier, and its regularly filled with music now.

We’ve got a fantastic leadership team who love working with children to get them a better education. Almost everyone who steps across the threshold tells us how different it feels.

 I’m very well aware that I’m well paid, and it’s a real privilege to be CEO of Turner Schools. Salaries of the most senior people in any organisation are rightly scrutinised, and ultimately the test of anyone’s worth is whether they deliver what they promise.
 
However the trust pointed at positive signs of progress, and said a new timetable has been introduced (article responding to criticisms)
A Turner Schools spokesman admittedthe closure of the Glassworks affected its sixth form numbers and in reference to the courses offered said: “The nature of the offer has changed slightly, as we refine our vocational offer in line with our students’ preferences” but denied it is “cutting out practical vocational options.
Singling out Folkestone Academy (on the sharp fall in GCSE performance compared to other local schools) would therefore present an unbalanced picture, as this issue is replicated both nationally and locally
The trust spokesman acknowledged the high number of suspensions at Folkestone Academy, which came under criticism from parents last year, saying they were a results of “high expectations for behaviour”.
 
I want Turner Schools to be known for our expertise in curriculum. 
Our mission to deliver a powerful education that overcomes educational underperformance
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Last modified on Saturday, 03 August 2019 23:59

5 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 19 September 2019 16:23 posted by Kel

    What utter rubbish! You are blaming a trust for inherited issues, Morehall & Folkestone Academy were a mess when taken on by Turner, you can not turn a whole school culture around in such a short amount of time. The reality of Turners success in Folkestone Academy can not be determined until the first year 7 intake under 'turner' management complete their GCSE's.
    Have you had kids attend these schools? I have had children who started at Martello when it was based at Morehall and then attended a year at the new Martello site, However I moved out of Folkestone so my children then changed school.
    I now have one of my children at TFS (as I like the structure and having met Dr Saxton on various occasions, truly believe in her vision and her methods, not to mention her previous track record in transforming schools, she is and has always been in education for the right reasons.) With TFS she has the freedom to really instil her vision of quality education without barriers and so far at TFS which is the only true indicator of her work and vision parent satisfaction is very high.
    Martello yes had an horrendous staff turn over, but a shortage in teachers in kent is a well documented issue, an issue that Dr Saxton herself is putting in schemes to rectify at the ground level of teacher training.
    My child at TFS has learning difficulties and has been supported and honestly could not be happier, they have offered so much care and understanding, my child states that the current teachers are the best they've ever had.
    Statistics and numbers are not everything, TFS is a breath of fresh air, in an area where if your child did not pass the kent test etc you were left with a poor choice of secondary schools which are severely over subscribed. Hopefully Folkestone Academy can be turned around and also offer a supportive and constructive learning environment, but this will take time, there is no quick fix.
    Dr Saxton is one of the good ones, she has taken on a monumental challenge in an area in desperate need of change and forward vision for its education establishments. For the number of schools she has taken on and the never ending work load her salary is not disproportionate.
    Brockhill is heavily over subscribed due to a lack of a reasonable alternative, give Turner a chance to change this.
    Maybe try a bit of positivity and trust until given a reason not to. PETER: Sadly all irrelevant, the link was to comments about Martello and Morehall, showing both are massively unpopular with parents (highest and ninth highest vacancy rates for Reception on allocation for this September). Follow through the links to find much more evidence of the Trust's failings. You spend much time on TFS with its heavy reliance on highly paid senior staff. You may notice I have no views on this school, as my writings are all based on evidence. Feel free to challenge this with counter evidence, not just shouting. For information a CEO's salary of £140,000 plus is exceptional for a small Trust with no record anywhere of success, where the CEO focuses on curriculum, with a highly paid invisible Deputy also on a very high salary. Perhaps you can help me. In my various articles I have identified a large number of falsehoods uttered by Turner Schools. Several times I have been accused by the Trust of publishing misleading information, but they refuse to give me any examples. Could you pinpoint some of these, otherwise I continue to presume that all are factually correct. Thank you.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 07 March 2019 22:45 posted by Folkestone Parent

    Yet another set of Turner School scandals. What
    sweeteners do the local newspapers get to bury the news, or else turn it into more publicity for this propaganda machine with its catchphrase 'never mind the children'!

  • Comment Link Saturday, 26 January 2019 00:04 posted by Concerned Teacher

    There are various new allegations swirling around in Folkestone. Are you aware of these? PETER: I am sure if such allegations are valid and can be proved they will become public.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 January 2019 19:32 posted by Despair

    Peter you have powerfully made your point that Turner Schools is failing its children. What next, or is it all in vain? PETER: I wish I knew. All I can do is rattle the cage and hope to draw attention about this scandal to those able to make decisions. Sadly, too often they are committed to seeing success whether or not it exists. The lack of accountability of academies continues to astonish me. Kent has seen Lilac Sky and SchoolsCompany amongst others in Kent walk away from the ruination of schools and the education of children without penalty.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 January 2019 14:52 posted by kathy

    The W1A Soundbite of the Year Award goes to...'Ultimately, every student from TFS will have the chance to follow any dream, achieve any goal, and to be anything they want to be’.
    I can let them have this one for free "Truth, Wisdom, Aspiration, Dedication, Doughnuts*, Leadership and Excellence" or TWADDLE for short.
    *Doughnuts cannot be guaranteed and may be subject to availability.

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