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Wednesday, 02 June 2021 06:47

Halling Primary School: The end of the Affair?

The failure by the Cliffe Woods Academy Trust to even notice the meltdown at Halling Primary School in Medway after it appointed a totally unsuitable headteacher to the school, has resulted in the Trust being wound up. Its two schools are being absorbed into the Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust (AAAT), subject to consultation, which in my opinion is the best possible outcome for the children of the two schools.

cliffe woods

 The Trust has sent a dishonest letter to parents presenting this as a wonderful opportunity, which it is, whilst completely ignoring the events of the past eighteen months that show it is incapable of operating in its present form and have forced it into this position.. Whilst I forecast the re-brokering of the school in my previous article, I neither anticipated the extent of the changes nor that AAAT, a Church of England Trust, would take on two secular schools in this way, although it does reflect government policy to bring Trusts together in larger groupings and is a warning to others to keep their house in order – Fairview Primary School and The Westbrook Trust take particular note of my final paragraph


Parents of children at Halling will no doubt be angry that events at the school are to be passed over, apparently with no accountability for the culprits or their attempt to pass this off as a positive decision by Trustees with no admission of fault. The teachers and other staff forced out of the school and then denigrated, the families who have removed their children from the school, and the misery endured by those who stayed are all to be forgotten for the greater good, but I suspect it was inevitable, as the Investigation Report is the property of the Trust whose members are understandably unwilling to publish it. What I had not anticipated was their arrogant attempt to pretend it never happened. I have no idea what parents of children at Cliffe Woods Primary, the lead school in the Trust, make of it all, as an adventure elsewhere by those who run their school has now resulted in it being taken away from them.

However, the school has already been managed by AAAT since Easter, and my information is that this has been well received, so parents can be reassured that it will now be in good hands, surely the most important outcome (Fairview Governors again take note!). 

The theme of the self-justifying letter from the Trustees is encapsulated in the sentence: ‘Something that the Trustees and I have always been determined to do is to be the makers of our own destiny and to be in control of the educational direction of the Trust’. However, it is quite simply a masterpiece of flannel, and it remains to be seen how many of them, along with the governors, will be retained by AAAT when the dust settles. Certainly, my previous articles (most recently here), analysing the failures at Halling, highlighted their inability to manage a difficult situation of their own making. 

Faith School Trusts and Secular Schools
Whilst I have not previously been aware of faith academy Trusts taking on secular schools, this is certainly not the first to do so. In particular, I discussed the issues of Sandwich Infant School joining Aquila, the Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust, in a previous article, although strangely the Notes from the 21st January Meeting of the South London and South East Headteacher Board which I quoted have vanished. In spite of the significant issues raised, Sandwich joined Aquila as a Converter Academy on 1st April 2021. 
A Message to Other Trusts
Trustees and Governors of academy trusts, sometimes with no relevant experience, have different roles and parents may not even be aware of them, seeing the school as run by the headteacher. Events at Halling, together with those at Fairview, both in Medway, show how they can make or break the school.  

However, the more important message to all small Academy Trusts is clear. Keep your house in order, or you will be swallowed up by someone larger. Somehow, I doubt this will be the last acquisition by AAAT. 

Last modified on Sunday, 06 June 2021 18:32


  • Comment Link Monday, 07 June 2021 21:59 posted by Furious Halling Resident

    Sadly I do not believe this will be “the end of the affair”, Peter. Whilst we are all absolutely desperate for this very sorry state of affairs to come to an end for the sake of all affected, it will take many many months for those poor staff to recover. Every complainant whether they be staff (and let’s not forget that staff are not only teachers) previous Chair of Governors or parents/carers has now received the same email from the independent HR company appointed by AAAT to oversee the investigation. In it, they state how they feel that information set out in two letters sent out by the trust has dealt with their concerns. These letters have been sent to every parent/carer and I therefore fail to see how this can be deemed to be acceptable in addressing individual complaints? This is not in line with the trust’s own complaints policy and procedures but frankly is no surprise. How can it be right for the trust to apologise to parents/carers for what they said about some staff (note, not all staff) and not apologise to the staff themselves? I completely agree with your comments around the outcome being the best possible one for the children but I cannot get my head around how nobody seems to be held accountable, including the investigating trust if they consider it acceptable for a blanket email to be sent to everyone regardless of their complaint. Understandably, people are now very wary of every single aspect of this sorry state of affairs. For those staff who could quite easily have wrongly had their careers destroyed by these awful people, they are now having to fight for their complaints to be addressed in the correct manner, something which should be a basic right. How can they begin to move forward? I am absolutely appalled at the ease with which these people are not being held to account but more so at how we are all being taken as fools whom they think they can easily fob off. PETER: I totally understand and sympathise with your justifiable anger. As I read the rules, your complaint can only technically be against theTrust, not the investigating organisation or AAAT who had no fault in the matter. You can indeed pursue it, but as the Trust is being wound up (subject to a Consultaion which will no doubt confirm the decision) there will finally be no one to resolve it. However, I am not a lawyer, so I may well be wrong. What I do know is that previous such cases I have been involved in have caused long term but unresolved bitterness, hence my advice - if possible move on and accept the unfairness of life. Sorry.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 05 June 2021 17:12 posted by Penny Harrison

    So what you are saying is, governors can walk away without penalty, proud of the damage they have created. PETER: What I am saying is that the children will be better off for losing them. I am deeply sorry for all the staff who have been failed by the Trust and lost their jobs at what was a good school until Cliffe Woods got its hands on it, but at least they know they have been vindicated. I am sorry it is not more.

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