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Wednesday, 30 December 2020 06:15

Website Review of 2020


Primary Schools
With the great majority of Kent and Medway’s 433 primary schools offering a high standard of education, many of which I have featured throughout the year, the headlines are once again dominated by those in difficulty. Here I look at only those few who have drawn a headline on the site, with many others accessible through the search engine. For primary schools, I often depend on information supplied by readers, so please feel free to let me know about important stories.

Leading the field has to be St Thomas’ Catholic Primary School in Sevenoaks, whose headteacher was first suspended in June by the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership as 'Our immediate priority as a Trust must be the children and staff of St Thomas’. She was then reinstated at the start of the summer holiday, but suspended again in September, and finally dismissed in November. Although he was not technically connected with the school, Father Aquilina, husband of the previous headteacher and Parish Priest at St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Westerham, became heavily involved with it, leading to at least one serious allegation. He ‘voluntarily withdrew from active ministry’  in June ‘to allow due process to take place in relation to Safeguarding matters’ and has now given his ‘resignation from serving as Parish Priest in Westerham and as Parochial Administrator of Biggin Hill’. Details here. St Thomas' is innately a strong and popular school. Now that this sequence of events appears to have come to a conclusion it should be able to return to its previous high standards. 

Then there is the Delce Academy in Medway, which has offered a miserable standard of education and consistently poor decision making for at least the past six years, until it has been taken over by a responsible Trust, the Inspire Partnership, this year. In several articles after being placed in Special Measures. I have used the term ‘arrogant leadership’ in reference to the headteacher and subsequently, CEO, although without the scope of the secondary Trusts described above. A year ago I wrote: ‘The Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body’, and so it came to pass eventually. However, the CEO has stayed with the other small primary school in the Trust and still takes home a very large salary of £105,000 for this role. Since I started publishing articles about Delce, I have received regular enquiries from parents at the school, Greenway Academy in Sussex, expressing concern about their headteacher and seeking my advice. I have to say this is not an unusual response from families whose children attend schools run by headteachers I have previously featured here but who have moved or been moved on. 

 In the same article, I also covered the Barnsole Academy Trust in Medway, whose lead primary Barnsole Primary used to regularly top the Medway school performance league tables. It then slumped to the bottom in a very short period, and the head of school and CEO departed suddenly. It has been suggested that there was improper management of the SATs procedures, and a number of other senior staff have also left suddenly in recent months, but I have no evidence of wrongdoing.

One rather sad story is that of the new Ebbsfleet Green Primary School, opened in September, but whose buildings have been delayed and so children are still being bussed to Bligh Primary School in Strood. The school website gives no indication of when the new premises will be opened. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, this has discouraged families from joining the school, with just nine children in Year R, most not joining until January of April, and 13 in Years One and Two. No doubt it will work through this trouble.

Another school still under pressure is Holy Trinity CofE in Gravesend, recently taken over by the Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust, a growing and successful Trust, with a record for improving schools. When I wrote about the school in February I referred to its shame given the disgraceful way that school leaders had handled several incidents. One of these had ended up with a Report from the DfE that personally and strongly criticised the headteacher’s actions. She left an Assistant Headteacher to respond to a KM article and, as I wrote about it at the time, ‘Try and spot any hint of apology, regret over the events, or even that the DfE Report had any value’. Sadly and perhaps predictably this has not proved sufficient to chasten the headteacher, and I have had subsequent worrying reports about her actions. Perhaps she also should be added to my Leadership group of heads above but, knowing the strong leadership of Aletheia, I would be surprised if this situation is allowed to continue. Like most troubled schools the word spreads and Holy Trinity has 20% vacancies this September, having been full or nearly full for many years previously, the fifth-highest vacancy proportion in Gravesend/Northfleet. Highest is Copperfield Academy with 54% empty spaces in Year R, with the longest unbroken record of troubles of any school in Kent featured on this website, dating back to the start of this century. It is now run by Reach2, a large academy trust that also runs Tymberwood in Gravesend, the school with the second-highest proportion of vacancies in the town at 37%, no other school coming near these two.

There is no doubt that the performance of academy groups running primary schools across the county is very variable, two of the strongest both having turned around multiple schools failing under KCC being The Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust (Aquila) and Swale Academies Trust.

Next Page: Kent County Council, Sir Paul Carter, Other Items and my Conclusion

Last modified on Sunday, 31 January 2021 19:01


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