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Wednesday, 07 July 2021 13:03

Lynsted and Norton Primary: Ofsted Inadequate*

Update: As well as the four primary school inspections listed below, Ofsted are today (9th July) inspecting Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey.

Lynsted and Norton Primary School, in Swale, has been found Inadequate by Ofsted in May in a Report published this week, one of just three Kent primary schools inspected and reported on since the end of lockdown. This follows a remote monitoring inspection in January that found that ‘Leaders and those responsible for governance are taking effective action to provide education in the current circumstances’, which suggests that the remote inspection was itself inadequate. 

Four months later the new Report reads, ‘the curriculum for all pupils is not fit for purpose. It is jumbled and does not set out what knowledge pupils will learn. Some teachers do not have the subject expertise to be able to take confusing plans and turn them into learning that develops and builds pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding successfully. Standards are lowSome teachers’ expectations are low. Assessment has relied on commercial schemes that are not linked to what pupils have studied. As a result, staff do not have a clear understanding of what pupils already know or need to learn next. 

Lynsted and Norton Primary (2)

The previous headteacher left suddenly in February after 'Trustees recognise the need to improve their oversight of provision. They have acted robustly since identifying the issues in February 2021' according to the Ofsted report, but clearly too late to avoid this outcome. The school's previous three Ofsted Inspections have all been 'Requires Improvement' and it has changed headteachers after each. A new headteacher has been appointed who will be the seventh in eight years. Not surprisingly, the school is not popular with families, having failed to fill even half of its Published Admission Number of 20 places in any of its Year Groups. Year Six currently has just four pupils and Year One six.  

* Previously there have been two separate subdivisions for an Inadequate rating: Special Measures and Serious Weaknesses. I can find no reference to either of  these in this Report

There have been just three full inspections of Kent schools and one in Medway this year so far, all following the end of lockdown: Copperfield  Academy in Gravesham, up two categories to Good; Hunton Primary in Maidstone, no change, still Good; Lynsted & Norton, Inadequate; and Twydall Primary in Gillingham, Requires Improvement, up from Inadequate. Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was inspected on 9th July, but no report is available yet. 

The background does not reflect well on The Village Academy (TVA), the Trust which has run Lynsted and Norton since 2011 and which I looked at in a recent article. According to the Inspection Report, the Trustees only noticed there was a problem at the school in February this year despite the three consecutive Requires Improvement Ofsted outcomes in 2014, 2016 and 2018. All of the seven year groups in the school have fewer than half of the Published Admission Number of 20 pupils, with Year Six having just four pupils, most parents of the 18 children when the same class was in Year One having voted with their feet. This will not help!  Lynsted and Selling, two of the original three TVA schools in rural Swale, have by some way the highest vacancy rate in Swale in Year R this year with 40% and 70% of their places empty, respectively. It is not so many years ago that I trained an Appeal Panel to manage admission appeals for Selling Primary School to cater for its high oversubscription level, as it was once very popular. 

Mary Haney was Head of School at Lynsted from 2007 and when TVA was formed in 2011, with it being one of the three founding schools of the trust. When TVA took over Petham Primary in 2013 after it had failed its Ofsted, she was transferred to sort the problems out, working to a Principal and Deputy Principal operating across the Trust who oversaw the then four small primary schools (somewhat of a management overload!). She took Petham to Ofsted Good two years later. Meanwhile, Lynsted had three short-term headteachers, one leaving after each RI Ofsted, so Mrs Haney was returned to Lynsted in 2019, the Ofsted Monitoring Report later that year recording ‘After the previous inspection, the headteacher left the school. Following this, an executive headteacher was appointed. However, the executive headteacher also left the school in March 2019. The school’s current headteacher was appointed in September 2019. The number of pupils attending the school has declined since the last inspection’.

Mrs Haney’s departure is not mentioned in a published school newsletter and her name appears to have been whitewashed from most of the site apart from the Headteacher's Welcome, her name as Headteacher in 'Contact Us and Key Information', and a short profile and photo on the Governance page, although I anticipate these will shortly be removed! David Whitehead, acting CEO of the Trust, until it combines shortly with the Potential in Everyone Academy Trust of which he is also CEO, has taken over as Interim Headteacher. The school's sixth headteacher in eight years, a Mrs McGlaughlin, will take up post in September.

It is not clear if the Our Community Multi Academy Trust, the approved merger of The Village Academy and the Potential in Everyone Academy Trust has actually come about. There is an OCMAT website here, but it is also the TVA website and only lists and has links to TVA schools. It opens: Mr David Whitehead, provides support for the Trust as Interim CEO. David is also CEO of the Potential in Everyone Academy Trust’ and it reads simply as if the Village Academy has changed its name to OCMAT, before the merger. 

The Inspection Report also notes that: 'In the past, those responsible for governance have not tightly held leaders to account. They have not checked the quality of work or its impact on children. As the trusts merge, leaders must ensure that monitoring and evaluation processes are set out and followed'. Surely this is a basic responsibility of Trustees of TVA and the CEO, who have clearly failed in their duty over the years. Will they resign like the headteachers before them? Hardly an endorsement of the merger. 

One of the Trustees is Mike Lea, the Head of Planning at the Education & Skills Funding Agency,  who must be somewhat puzzled at events. Another is Quentin Roper, Director of Education for the Diocese of Canterbury, who describes himself as both a Member and Chair of Trustees, which is surprising as the SE Regional Schools Director, responsible for academies, has frequently ruled that the two roles should be separated and carried out by different people!

 

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 09 July 2021 19:54

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