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Thursday, 27 August 2020 05:47

Academy and Free School News August 2020

There are just five schools that have converted to become academies in 2020, including the four which came together to be the EKC (East Kent Trust) in March.  These are: Briary Primary, Herne Bay; Bysingwood Primary, Faversham; Holywell Primary, Upchurch; and Queenborough School, Isle of Sheppey. I have written extensively about the new Trust here.  The month before, the failed Sunny Bank Primary in Sittingbourne became a sponsored academy with The Island Learning Trust on the Isle of Sheppey. Background here

I also look below at the new applications to become academies of: Marden Primary, near Tonbridge; Eastchurch Primary, Isle of Sheppey; Holy Trinity VA Primary, Gravesend; Worth Primary, Deal; and Fairview Primary and Oaklands School in Gillingham, two schools converting to become part of the Westbrook Trust. The re-brokering of the failed Delce Academy to the Inspire Partnership Academy Trust has also taken place. Update: 4/9/20. The conversions of Marden, Eastchurch and Oaklands have now taken place. 

There are six new free schools opening in Kent in September including one new secondary school, Maidstone School of Science and Technology.  There are three new primary schools: Bearsted Primary Academy in Maidstone; Ebbsfleet Green Primary in Dartford; Springhead Park Primary in Gravesham; and two Special Schools, Aspire School in Sittingbourne and Snowfields Academy in Maidstone. 

I look at other decisions of the South East and South London Headteacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner, relating to the Barnsole Trust, Folkestone Academy and Holmesdale School, along with an item relating to the North West Kent Alternative Provision Service.

You will find a complete list of Kent and Medway academies and of schools applying to become academies up to the end of July, here.  I have also included the local Free Schools which are also academies (F) on this list, with an additional separate article here.  There is a list of Multi-Academy Trusts with schools in Kent and Medway here, which also now includes every local academy. When I started these pages nine years ago, they were quite straightforward, but now with nearly four hundred schools on the lists, is quite complex. Please let me know of any omissions or errors (updates from these pages underway).

Marden Primary School has had its application to become a converter academy with Leigh Academies Trust approved, although this is not mentioned on either website. I would guess the takeover will happen in September. This follows declining standards identified by Ofsted, here. Conversion Confirmed 4th September.  

Eastchurch Primary on the Isle of Sheppey, on two sites over two miles apart, fell apart last year when it hit financial difficulties, both site headteachers left and Ofsted found it Requires Improvement, down from Good. Its application to be a converter academy has been approved, and a parental consultation completed. The school is currently Voluntary Controlled and is joining Aquila, The Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust (presumably before it was pushed) which has an excellent record in turning around poorly performing or failed KCC schools. Conversion Confirmed 4th September

Holy Trinity Church of England VA Primary in Gravesend has not been a happy school for some years, and two scandals reflecting badly on the leadership that reached the national media underline the problems. Not surprisingly, a third of its Reception places have not been taken up this year. Wisely the school has realised it needs to change its approach and its application to join the successful and expanding Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust has now been approved. Perhaps in a sign of continued discord, the Chair of Governors has not attended any Governing Body meeting in 2020, on the last two occasions being absent without apology.

Worth Primary is a very small village school with an intake of 10 pupils, all first choices this year, midway between Sandwich and Deal. It has a Good Ofsted Report with sound performance. It has an Executive Head who is also Chief Executive of the Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust. It is therefore entirely logical for it to join the Trust as a converter academy and has now put in an application. 

Fairview Primary School in Medway has applied to become a converter academy, joining the Westbrook Trust, having worked through a terrible period in 2018 when Medway Council was captivated by the idea of bringing in new heads from successful London schools, to improve standards. It is now popular and oversubscribed again, and presumably happy to leave Medway behind.

Oaklands School in Medway was approved to be a Converter Academy in May, also joining the Westbrook Trust. Conversion Confirmed 4th September

The seriously troubled Delce Academy in Rochester was re-brokered to the Inspire Partnership Academy Trust, which has managed to turn round the Elaine Primary School after it was re-brokered from the now-defunct Williamson Trust which failed it badly. This happened just before the lockdown leaving the school leaders a host of challenges, including the specific problems of the Infant section as explained here. Whilst it is too early to be confident that the school has changed for the better given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, a wander around the school website, including school letters home, leaves me with a sense all is going well.

New Free Schools
I have looked at each of these in a previous article, Progress on 15 Approved New Free Schools in Kent and Medway, but there is further information on two elsewhere: Aspire School; and Ebbsfleet Green
North West Kent Alternative Provision Service
The Headteacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Department has turned down KCC’s request to revoke an Academy Order imposed following its Inadequate Ofsted Inspection in October 2017, with a specific but unidentified  Academy Trust found to take it over. The request was made following a Requires Improvement Ofsted in December 2019, after a roller coaster recent history according to Ofsted,  littered with massive staff turnover including reliance on agency staff, temporary and multiple sites, one school using it as a ‘dumping ground’ (the headteacher now having moved on), and poor oversight by KCC. However, the 2019 Report considers that ‘For many pupils, their time at North West Kent Alternative Provision Service (NWKAPS) is transformational’, and the number of pupils on the roll was up to 89 from 36 in 2017 as other local schools recovered their confidence in referring pupils to it. To revoke an Academy Order is exceptional and generally requires a lengthy period of quality performance and I am only aware of one such Kent case in recent years, so it was probably an optimistic request. 
North West Kent APS Ofsted Record
 Inspection Type Outcome  Other
Dec 19 Full Requires Improvement
Nov 2018 Monitoring Swift and Decisive Action
Oct 2017 Full Serious Weaknesses 2 Sites
Jun 2013 Full Outstanding 6 sites
Oct 2012 Inadequate Gravesham PRU


South East  and South London Headteacher Board of the Regional Schools Commissioner
This body is responsible for approving structural decisions relating to academies in the area. As well as the relevant decisions above, and several minor matters in Kent and Medway, it approved the following:

The merger (takeover) of Barnsole Primary Trust with Maritime Academy Trust, covered here, following the rapid decline in performance by the Barnsole Trust.

The highly sensible de-merger of Folkestone Academy secondary and primary, given the poor and controversial performance of the former, described here.

An extension to the Interim Executive Board for running Holmesdale School set up after the school's record of failure. This remains a Local Authority School managed by Swale Academies Trust which has now been turned around by the Trust. Swale Academies wishes it to become a sponsored academy, but the outstanding PFI debts are currently stopping this. 





Last modified on Wednesday, 18 August 2021 07:17

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