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Sunday, 04 August 2019 19:42

Academies in the News: Turner Schools; Delce Academy; Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey

Updated 21st August following developments at Turner Schools

The National Schools Commissioner, on visits to Folkestone Academy and the Turner Free School is reported to have praised the progress of the two schools without apparently noticing the many failures documented on this site. These amount to nearly 10% of all the academies he has visited since he was appointed last September out of a total of  8,678. In a fresh controversy, the Turner Free School lost a Vice Principal, in employment for just eight weeks from the opening of the school last September, who left the school and teaching, and subsequently made a serious allegation about the school about the reason he left. According to the school he has withdrawn the allegation after this article was originally published, bringing it to light. 

I wrote about the Ofsted Inspection that placed Delce Academy in Special Measures, in June, describing what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism on the part of the school and the Castle Trust which ran it. I concluded: ‘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 week the Trust wrote to parents to tell them the school was being transferred to the Inspire Academy Trust.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was once again found to Require Improvement in its recent Ofsted inspection, but what specifically caught my eye was the  phrase: ‘however, recent changes to the support available for vulnerable pupils have led to a reduction in fixed-term exclusions’. Hardly consistent with my recent FOI request that found a further increase from the previous year when Oasis had the second highest number and proportion in Kent! The inspection took place shortly after a fundamental structural change for September was announced which will see all Year 7 to 11 pupils taught on a single site, the current two bases being nearly two miles apart. This positive decision is only made possible by a remarkable decline of 550 pupils on roll since Oasis took over in 2013, a loss of over a quarter of the total since then. 

Turner Schools
Last month I wrote an article entitled ‘Turner Schools: More Self Promotion’ , one of a series about the struggling Academy Trust with a gift for presenting itself in a glowing light. It led with a report of a visit by Duncan Herrington, National Schools Commissioner, who has oversight of all English Academies. He has visited  just 21 academies since his appointment last September (and one school in Holland). Of these: four are in the South East; eleven are in London Boroughs; two Oasis Academies in Birmingham; two Delta Academies in Grimsby (both Required Improvement); one in Nottingham; and one in Cambridge. This is a rather mixed geographic based list, but apart from the two Delta Academies, two failed schools now rebrokered, and Turner Free School (TFS) new so not inspected, the other 16 were all found either Good or Outstanding on their most recent inspection. These include Folkestone Academy (FA) found good in 2015 but which is now failing by a number of measures as explained in my article, including by far the highest fixed term exclusion rate in the county, presumably the reason for the visit. He also visited TFS in its first year of operation with just 118 pupils back in January (in spite of a reported waiting list, it was not full at the time of the school census). However, according to the Trust, he was pleased with progress at FA, although it appears to be going backwards, and there will have been little to see with the small numbers at TFS, although no doubt he was given the usual glorifying spin.  Perhaps he was also interested in the fact that the expansion of TFS to 180 pupils for September will draw another 60 pupils away from undersubscribed FA, damaging its viability. Or was it simply yet another case of Turner Schools using its special relationship with the 'movers and shakers to cover up its deficiencies.

This is the year that the first Shepway Test cohort, which saw an additional 159 boys and girls selected for grammar school without passing the Kent Test, reach GCSE. Their removal from the two non-selective schools had seen the demise of Pent Valley School, now replaced by TFS. No doubt when Dr Jo Saxton, CEO of Turner Schools, carried out due diligence before proclaiming that both schools will outperform all schools in the south of England – excluding grammars - and provide “success without selection”’ she will have taken this into account, as FA will have lost a whole swathe of its brightest pupils for this summer’s GCSEs. Perhaps this was also explained to Mr Herrington. 

Turner Free School is certainly well staffed, its leadership back in September comprising a Principal and three Vice Principals to oversee the 120 pupils (now down to 117) However, one of the Vice Principals suddenly left the school and teaching eight weeks after his appointment in September, making a serious allegation about the school on Twitter. Subsequent to the original version of this article being published, the school reports that he has withdrawn the allegation. I am not aware of the reasons for this. His departure leaves a leadership primarily drawn from the nearby Folkestone School for Girls (grammar), which has ‘a close working relationship’  with TFS. This includes the Chairman of Governors, the Principal, and one of the two remaining Assistant Principals. It may be that this close affiliation to one school has not helped outsiders either, although the departing Vice Principal posted on Twitter in June just before he took up post: ‘So proud to be part of #Team Turner’.  How wrong he was.

Delce Academy
My article, headlined ‘Delce Academy in Rochester – Ofsted Special Measures - Castle Trust Not Fit for Purpose’  goes into detail about the failures of the Castle Trust and Delce Academy, and the disastrous attempt to destroy its linked infant schools by setting up a new and competing Infant section which has failed completely through incompetence. I was contacted by a number of concerned parents before and after publication and advised them to complain to the RSC quoting my article, which may have played its part in the decision. Clearly my conclusion that Castle Trust is not fit for purpose stands, and it would be best if it were wrapped up and placed under a more competent leadership.

The letter from the Trust CEO makes no mention of the reasons for the decision, and contains no regrets about the failures by her, the Castle Trust and the leaders of Delce Academy to offer the children of the school an adequate education, severely blighting their educational development (why does no one mention the children in these games of monopoly?). It does make clear that this is a decision of the RSC and not the Trust; i.e. the school has been taken from the Trust as not being competent to run it, and re-brokered.

I have also been contacted by representatives of Trafalgar Community Infant school in West Sussex, which was due to join the Trust, a decision that was deferred by the RSC’s Headteacher Board in May, presumably to ponder on these events.

Inspire Partnership is a small Multi Academy Trust, currently running five primary schools, three in SE London, having recently taken over the failed Elaine Primary and struggling Maundene schools in Medway. I have written extensively about Elaine before when it was part of the failed Williamson Trust, then re-brokered to Inspire. What I do know about the Trust is that I have been in correspondence with the CEO, Rob Carpenter (is he connected with Melissa Carpenter, Executive Head of Elaine and Woodville primaries?), who clearly cares passionately about the task ahead of him at Elaine and has provided as yet informal evidence of the considerable improvement under his charge. I am therefore optimistic that the children will now get a decent break, although there still remains the considerable problem of what to do about the wholly unnecessary Infant section, when there are already two good infant schools with sufficient capacity between them, feeding into Delce Junior section.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIS)
You will find my article on Exclusions for Kent and Medway in 2017-18 here, and the parallel article on Elective Home Education and Children Disappeared from Education here. My FOI  to OAIS reveals that there were 796 fixed term exclusions between September and 21st June 2019, ten MORE than the 786 for the whole of 2017/18 when it was second highest in number and proportion (equivalent to 61% of pupils receiving one exclusion) to Folkestone Academy with the latter’s massive 1,211 (equivalent to 88% of pupils each receiving one exclusion).
Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey
 2017-18
Sep 18 -
21 June 19
Fixed Term Exclusions   786 796
Elective Home Education 47 30
Disappeared from Education 30 29

 The chart shows the continued high levels of Home Education (for part 2018-19 equal to the second highest number in the county in 2017/18) and pupils disappeared from education (one less than 2017-18, although with a month still to go, which was also the highest figure in Kent).

The Ofsted Inspection Report contains that familiar sentiment for new headteachers being inspected, too many of which do not come to fruition: ‘Since her appointment, the principal has identified correctly the strengths and weaknesses of the school. She has a deep understanding of the challenges the school faces’, although being an internal appointment after an extensive external trawl for alternatives, the new Principal must have previously known the school’s qualities well, as explained here.

OAIS has suffered since its inception as an 11-18 school in 2009, being based on two sites, each of which had an equivalence, for pupils from Years 7 to 13. I have regularly documented its problems since the takeover by Oasis in 2013, when it got rid of the only effective headteacher the school has seen since it came into existence.  the problematic two site structure also offered a solution for victims of bullying who could easily be transferred to the second site, at cost to their education and friendships, but leaving the bullies to continue their work unabated.

Earlier this year, plans were announced to change the structure making one site academic and the other vocational, a local newspaper reporting this as a commitment. The founder of Oasis is quoted as excitedly saying that 'one will be for prospective engineers and the other for those interested in law or medicine', suggesting he is completely out of touch with reality. Unsurprisingly this fantasy proved unworkable so at very short notice, families have been told the ‘exciting news’  in what is ‘a fantastic opportunity’', that from September the school will be split vertically with Years 7 to 11 on the East site and Years 12-13 on the West, although squeezing the former and leaving great areas of the latter empty, with just 93 sixth form pupils in a building with capacity for some 800! None of this would be possible if the school had not lost an astonishing 550 pupils from its roll since Oasis took it over, with more than a quarter of the 1961 pupils attending in 2012 shrinking to 1405 in 2019. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 21 August 2019 00:49

5 comments

  • Comment Link Sunday, 18 August 2019 12:23 posted by Another Folkestone Teacher sickened by the behaviour of Turner Schools

    If homophobia in the employer is proven, surely TFS should be taken away from Turner Schools.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 17 August 2019 23:40 posted by Folkestone Teacher

    The allegation about Turner Free School above has been made. This is very worrying. Who is it that carries out the investigation? PETER: The school claims that no one has left because of homophobia but we do have the original allegation which has not been withdrawn, from a senior member of staff who did leave the school suddenly after eight weeks there claiming: 'As an openly gay, former teacher, who left teaching, in part, because of homophobia on the part of an employer'. Someone independent should now be prepared to look into this. Clearly not governors, or Turner Schools. You could write to the Regional Schools Commissioner asking him to look into this troubling situation but, as so often there is limited accountability.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 August 2019 19:48 posted by Kent Trust CEO

    TURNER SCHOOLS: I write as CEO of a successful Kent MAT where standards may now decline as a direct result of crippling financial cuts. Peter, do you have any suggestion how I climb on the gravy train? PETER: Thanks for providing your name; I quite understand why you don't wish to provide it, perhaps for fear of the consequences. You would certainly not be the first to have such fears. I regret you have failed to cultivate powerful friends and it is probably now too late. The unfairness is not your failure, but that of the system.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 August 2019 19:38 posted by Insider

    TURNER SCHOOLS: You are quite right about the relationship between Dr Saxton and Dominic Herrington. He also visited the Trust several times when he was SE Commissioner. In that sense the title of your previous article - Turner Schools; More Self Promotion - is not quite correct, as it is this and other connections that deliver the goodies in abundance. Many of us in the business find it difficult to countenance the special treatment given to Turner as a grossly unfair reward for its distinctly underwhelming performance

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 August 2019 18:38 posted by Vicki

    DELCE ACADEMY:
    With regard to your question about the Carpenters, Peter, Rob and Melissa are married and she started at Inspire as an NQT. Rob Carpenter delivered some ‘professional development’ at an old school and I did some digging

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