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Tuesday, 25 June 2019 00:04

Delce Academy in Rochester - Ofsted Special Measures - Castle Trust Not Fit for Purpose

Just two weeks ago, when I published an article on Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Primary Schools for September 2019, I was so concerned about the self-evident mismanagement at Delce Academy, that I devoted a special section to the school, the only one I picked out in this way.

It was therefore no great surprise to me that yesterday Ofsted published a Report on an Inspection which placed Delce Academy in Special Measures concluding that: ‘Since the last inspection, leaders and those responsible for governance have been ineffective in ensuring that pupils have received an acceptable quality of education’

Delce Academy

Just two years ago, a previous inspection concluded that the school Required Improvement, down from Good, but in this latest verdict there is no indication that the school or its leaders, including the Local Advisory Body for the school and the Directors of the Castle Trust, have drawn lessons from this or have any clue how to improve matters.‘Parents and carers told inspectors that they had lost faith in the leadership of the school. Parents are deeply concerned by high staff turnover, standards of behaviour at the school and the lack of communication from the trust and school leaders’.

This indictment surely goes some way to explain why numbers applying for places at the school have fallen away so sharply in both the Junior and controversial new Infant sections but, as always it is the children that pay the price, in stark contrast to the school motto: 'Learning Towards a Brighter Future'.  Those responsible for this totally preventable disaster will as usual walk away unscathed. 

My previous article portrays an arrogant Academy Trust and Junior School that have decided to extend into the Infant sector without the necessary skills. This places Delce in direct competition with its own two feeder schools, Crest and St Peter’s Infant schools, although there are not currently sufficient children to fill two schools, let alone three. The wisdom of Delce Infants in changing its name to Crest Infant School, thus drawing clear water between it and the Infant branch of the failed Delce Academy, is self-evident. As the data shows, parents were wise to ignore the inducement of an all through struggling primary school, and just 10 have signed up for the Delce Reception Year in September 2019. After the news of the Special Measures becomes public, this number will inevitably have thinned further. To quote Ofsted again: ‘The Castle Trust leaders claim high ambitions for Delce Academy but have not provided adequate support to ensure that the school improves’. In other words, they are living in fantasy land.

A new Executive Headteacher, Mrs Kate Taylor, was appointed in March from Hempstead Infant School, taking over from: ‘The head of school, who has been in charge since last September, has not had sufficient training to support her in leading the school effectively’.  This post has vanished since the Inspection a month ago and there is now a Headteacher.  I am not clear what the role of an Executive Head of a single school is, when there is also a Headteacher in place but whatever, in spite of overload the management of the school is heavily criticised.

The Trust has a CEO, Karen White, who is also headteacher of the second school in the Trust, Greenway Academy (primary) in West Sussex (very handy!), having also run Delce until last August. She appears to have been the driving force behind the Trust since its inception in 2014 and presumably behind the self-destructive age range extension, which is clearly not looking financially or practically viable. She is currently on a salary of at least £100,000 as a reward for running this small two primary school Trust, although she has effectively moved on from the chaos at Delce, and is clearly not being paid by results.

When the first Multi Academy Trust were set up, they were encouraged to set up Local Governing Bodies (LGBs), but these became unpopular with many Trusts, as LGBs too often flexed their muscles. As a result many Trusts, including Castle, set up Local Advisory Bodies with no powers allowing the Trust to keep control centrally. The Chairman of the Local Advisory Body for Delce Academy since September and a Member of the Castle Trust (Members usually have oversight over the Board of Directors) is Joy Gundry. She also runs the 3J School Improvement Specialists Company, so ought to have brought specific skills with her, although these are clearly not yet showing results. 

Ofsted’s view is that: ‘The school’s leadership over time has been turbulent. The new executive headteacher has only just joined the school. Although staff and governors have high hopes for the changes that she will bring, there has been no time as yet for there to be a noticeable effect on teaching and learning (how often have I read this and seen it unfulfilled). Pupils are not well prepared for the next stage of their learning, whether that is the move to the next class or to secondary school’.

Staff training has not had a marked impact on teaching. Middle leaders have also suffered from a lack of training. They have not had enough time to monitor the quality of teaching or plan necessary improvements’ – this is where good School Improvement practice should have been telling, but isn’t.

Ofsted again on Governance of the school:
‘The Castle Trust leaders claim high ambitions for Delce Academy but have not provided adequate support to ensure that the school improves. Since the last inspection, the trust has failed to strengthen leadership and teaching. This has damaged pupils’ progress. The local advisory committee has recently increased its efforts to hold leaders to account. The chair of the committee, since her appointment in September, has insisted on greater monitoring by governors. This is especially successful in the use of sports premium funding. However, governors still lack sufficient urgency to raise standards in the school. Minutes from meetings show that the local advisory committee is increasingly aware of the decline in standards. They have been frustrated by the lack of attention paid by the trust to the school. For example, the agreement at the beginning of the academic year to have joint chairs of governors and board member meetings for the two schools in the trust has not yet been honoured. Consequently, valuable time in which to tackle the school’s problems has been lost. Governors are acutely aware of the failure to use additional funding for disadvantaged pupils to secure improved outcomes for these pupils. However, they have not held leaders to account for this poor performance or for the use of public monies’.

This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body.

Last modified on Tuesday, 02 July 2019 10:35

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