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Saturday, 13 March 2021 04:58

Academy and Free School News: Part Two

This article follows on from my previous Academy and Free School News February 2021 Part One, and looks at other developments of new Academies and Trusts, together with various items of Academy news. As well as those mentioned in my previous article, Leigh Academy Rainham is opening in September, other new schools on stream including: Alkerden All Through School, Ebbsfleet, planned for 2023; Barton Manor School, Canterbury, opening in September 2022: Chilmington Green Secondary, Ashford, planned for 2022 but delayed; Maritime Academy, Strood, opening in 2022; Park Cresent Academy, Margate, planned for 2023; new Special School on Sheppey planned for 2022.

LAR Projection

The Potential in Everyone Academy Trust and The Village Academy comprising ten schools between them are merging, although a bid by Brockhill Park Performing Arts College & The Abbey School (Faversham), to merge was turned down.

Other items looked at are about Infant and Junior School Trusts, the Brooke Learning Trust, The Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, Fairview Community Primary School and Halling Primary School.

With too much news arriving and too little time, I have decided to publish this item now before items become out of date, with a third instalment to come. 

Leigh Academy Rainham (LAR)
This new school is due to open in September 2021, with construction well advanced at the time of writing (April 2021). I published a previous item here in my initial look at Medway secondary school allocations, and have now received the full breakdown of offers (fresh article to come). This shows that Medway N/S schools have increased their admission numbers by a total of 249 places greater than their current official PAN over the last few years, almost identical to the 240 places offered by LAR outside the scheme, and 60 more than its own official PAN. In total, there are just five vacancies across Medway. The great unknown is the number of places that will be taken up at LAR taking children out of other local schools, initially and mainly from the nearest two, the Howard and Rainham Girls, and then Brompton and then, looking particularly vulnerable,  Robert Napier and St John Fisher (62 LAAs). Those that choose to stay with the established schools rather than take up LAR offers will leave gaps quickly filled by some of the 277 children who were turned down for LAR on distance grounds. Other places will be filled up from successful grammar school appeals. This will set up a wave of unpredictable changes that will work across Medway, all the way across to Hundred of Hoo School, as the more popular schools fill up places from those further down the line.
Alkerden Church of England Academy, Ebbsfleet, Dartford.
Alkerden will be Kent’s fourth all through school, the other three, the two St George’s in Broadstairs and Gravesend together with John Wallis in Ashford also all being CofE schools. Most of the funding is coming from Henley Camland, major developers in the area, with £2.5 million coming from KCC’s Basic Need Capital Funding.
Alkerden vision (2)
The school, which is sponsored by the Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust will open a year late in 2023, with 1FE in the primary school (expanding to 2 FE), and 4FE in Year Seven (expanding to 8 FE), in a complex including a Nursery, a community sports centre with outdoor pitches, a sports hall, a dance studio, fitness suite and cafe with enough space to support 500 visitors at any one time.
Barton Manor School, Canterbury
Barton Manor, a five form entry school, on the site of the Chaucer School which closed in 2014 is, like most of the recent new schools in the county, behind schedule and will open in September 2022. Although the county Commissioning Plan for 2021 (page 67) forecasts a shortage of 32 places in three of the city’s schools, then if one includes Spires Academy in nearby Sturry this vanishes. Indeed Archbishop’s and Spires between them have 62 empty spaces in Year Seven this year, so the new school is going to put both schools under pressure to attract pupils. Barton Manor was approved in Wave 12 of new Free Schools in 2017, the five year span before opening proving increasingly common. It is part of the Barton Court Trust and geographically close to the lead school, Barton Grammar.
Chilmington Green Free School, Secondary, Ashford
To be built in a major area of expansion in the rapidly growing town, it was approved in Wave 13 of Free Schools in 2019 at a cost of £22.5 million. It is also planned to open in 2022 but information is scarce so this appears unlikely. The school will be part of the large United Learning Group comprising two parts, the United Learning Trust of 73 state academies, including Wye School in Ashford, and the United Church Schools Trust, made up of 13 private schools including Ashford School (numbers of both out of date). The only information I can find (not on the United Learning website), is as what appears to be an afterthought on the Wye School website. This describes it as 'a six form 11-16 school, with the potential to add a Sixth Form', a slightly odd idea. Its priorities will include: ‘to give access to a United Learning education for families currently living outside the Wye School catchment area in South and Central Ashford’, suggesting it has something special, but unspecified, to offer.
Maritime Academy, Strood
This mixed six form entry (6 f.e.) secondary school will also provide places for 250 sixth form pupils. It was one of the government Wave 12 Free Schools and originally planned to open in 2021 as an all through school, but the primary school element appears to have been quietly dropped. The documentation states that ‘Maritime Academy is positioned to support the need for pupil places in Strood, the riverside development and the Hoo Peninsula in the north of Medway’, recognising the coming increase of pupils in Year Seven. Certainly, Strood Academy is already bursting at the seams, partly because of pupils wanting to come across from the Hoo Peninsula. This new development will therefore hit The Hundred of Hoo Academy until numbers work through as the latter had 31 Year Seven vacancies in September 2020 according to the schools' census, over half of the total across Medway. 
Park Crescent Academy, Margate
I have previously covered the bumpy path of this new school, now planned to open in 2023 a year late, most recently here. The school will cost KCC some £20 million, although it is still unclear if it is needed and, as I have demonstrated in the article and its forerunner the site is hopelessly inadequate for this 6 f.e. 11-16 school. The main justification for the school is apparently that it will ‘support the reversal of an increasing trend of pupils travelling to schools in neighbouring districts for their secondary education’, but does nothing to address the reason for those pupils travelling. The current Commissioning Plan (page 130), forecasts a deficit of 2 f.e. before the school is completed, so there are likely to be a number of empty spaces for some years afterwards.
Park Crescent Projection
new Special School on Sheppey
This new secondary Special school on the site of the now closed Danley Middle School at Halfway Houses, is due to open in September 2022 with 36 places, building up to 120. It will cater for children with Social, Emotional & Mental Health issues and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. You will find my previous article here, but I have no further information at present, as the Sponsors, SABDEN Multi-Academy Trust who run four Special Schools and a PRU in East Sussex, don’t yet mention it on their website, nor is there any sign of progress on building planning or works.
Potential in Everyone Academy Trust and The Village Academy
These two primary school Trusts have been given RSC approval to merge as the Our Community Multi Academy Trust. Both are based in Swale with four and six schools respectively, but very different profiles. The common factor is their CEO, David Whitehead, who has an unusual and very high profile across both Trusts and their schools, with lengthy video monologues on most school websites, whose target audience is unclear. For PiEAT, as well as his introduction on the website, he is the sole person featured on the Who's Who next page, describing his own profile as he advanced up the ladder of senior roles initially at the small Bredgar Primary, then adding Borden Primary and finally Minterne Junior with The Oaks Infant schools. Two years ago, he also took on the Acting CEO role of TVA, which has had a rocky past recently, with the previous CEO having no educational background and lasting less than a year, after her predecessor suddenly left, having founded the Trust from his own position as head of Selling Primary. TVA was originally based on three small village primaries, then disastrously took on Pilgrim’s Way Primary in Canterbury, an urban school with multiple challenges, which it failed to improve and saw it taken away in 2018. Since then the government awarded it three more village primaries elsewhere in the county, Petham near Canterbury and Lydd in Shepway both of which it took out of Special Measures to Ofsted Good, and  Dymchurch, which it took down to Ofsted Requires Improvement in 2018.
The Headteacher Board added a few general points to its notes of the Meeting relating to such proposed mergers. These were that there are likely to see more such proposals and 'the Board should therefore consider whether a one year to 18 months period of consolidation might be needed after mergers to allow time for new arrangements to bed in. Important to have these conversations between trusts before mergers come to the RSC for approval'. It went on to note that in this case, pupil numbers are still not very high so the trust needed to be cautious about growth. There needed to be discussion with the merged trust that it now needs a period of consolidation to embed processes and systems.
Update: An Ofsted Inspection at Lynsted and Norton Primary in January, one of TVAs academies underlines this point. The Report states: 'Governance is in a state of flux because the trust will soon merge with another trust. Communication between the two layers of governance is not strong enough, especially regarding the provision of education and the curriculum. Local governors discuss the actions you have taken in the current circumstances with you, including decisions about the curriculum and remote education. They then report this to trustees. Trustees have focused on finance and the merger. They have not sufficiently assured themselves that the quality of provision is as they intend'.
Brockhill Park Performing  Arts College, Hythe and the Abbey School, Faversham were seeking approval to merge according to the draft agenda of the South East and South London Headteacher Board meeting, held on 25th February, although neither school website made any mention of this. I assume this was shorthand for the Trusts to merge not the schools themselves, but the Board has turned the proposal down.  A few years previously, the singe school Academy Trusts of Brockhill and the Towers School, Ashford, were to merge to form the South East Kent Academy Trust with ambitions to absorb other schools in the area, but this idea was also rejected. 
Principle of Junior and Infant Schools joining Separate Trusts looking at the specific example of Joydens Wood Infant and Juniors, Dartford.
The Headteacher Board considered that linked infants and juniors should be working closely together, and joining separate trusts does not facilitate this. They need to join the same trust, there being a general view that amalgamation can bring educational and financial benefits, and paves the way for the school to join a trust in the future. Equally, the schools joining the same trust as separate entities can bring many of the same benefits. In this case, the RSC would write to both schools outlining the preferred way forward. It is not clear what initiated this case, but there are various examples of other pairings with different arrangements such as: the discussion in the previous article with regard to St Stephen's Infant and Junior schools; Downs View Infant (Maintained) and Kennington Junior Academy (my old school!); Riverhead Infant (Maintained) and Amherst (Junior Stand Alone Academy); Christ Church CEP Junior, St Laurence in Thanet CofE Junior, and Upton Junior are all academies with no linked school amongst Thanet's four county infant schools. In Medway, there is the horrible mess that is the maintained Crest and St Peter's CofE Infants feeding into the all-through Delce Academy, explained here 
Brook Learning Trust
This was to have been a major article, but the proposal for it to be merged with (taken over) by Leigh Academies Trust caused my draft to be incorporated into a separate item here. Assuming the proposal goes through, it will join the list of Kent and Medway Academy Trusts that have vanished from the scene: Barnsole Academy Trust; Castle Trust; Lilac Sky Academy Trust; Meopham Community Academies; Rochester Diocesan Multi-Academy Education Trust; Roger De Haan Charitable Trust; The SchoolsCompany Trust; University of the Creative Arts Trust; and The Williamson Trust. 
Kent Catholic Schools Partnership
After the controversial departure of the previous CEO, the KCSP is advertising for a replacement here,  to start in September, although applications have now closed. 
Fairview Community Primary School and Halling Primary School, both in Medway
I have covered the stories of these two schools extensively over the past few months. SchoolsWeek, the online national education newspaper, has now picked up the Fairview story (news item and editorial), focusing on it being unique as having a proposal to academise turned down on grounds of parental opposition. It has also been reproduced by the Anti Academy Alliance
The story of Halling Primary School, an academy in the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust is one of lack of accountability in view of a meltdown in school management, which has attracted over 5,000 browsers in just nine days. 


Last modified on Sunday, 22 August 2021 19:44

1 comment

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 30 March 2021 16:31 posted by Sophie

    Congratulations Peter, I am sure there would have been no investigation without you. One observation. Cliffe Woods Trust has shown no recognition of the problem it has created from beginning to end. Why start by proposing an external investigation? There are plenty amongst us who believe the RSC required this after reading your accounts of the shambles.

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