Supporting Families
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Tuesday, 21 December 2021 08:09

KentAdvice: Review of Seventeen Years of Support for Families

Index

Page Five: School and Trust Closures
I have tracked the decline and closure of each of the five Kent secondary schools that have vanished from the scene over this period, not including High Weald Academy, due to close at the end of this school year. These are: Walmer Science CollegeChaucer Technology, Marlowe Academy, Pent Valley Technology College and Oasis Academy Hextable, all the subject of poor leadership which led to falling rolls at a rate that made their demise inevitable. Whilst researching this article I came across one I wrote in 2015, that looked at all of these and the large number of headteachers in East Kent schools who had lost their jobs in attempts to staunch the declines, another frequent theme on the site. There are too many articles throughout featuring headteachers who tried in difficult circumstances but still  lost their jobs in what is proving an insecure role for many, including the purge of primary heads driven by KCC’s then Lead Primary Adviser (now a County Councillor). I am sure there must have been more primary school closures than Stansted in Tonbridge and Malling District in 2015, after two failed Ofsteds' and parents fleeing the school, the only primary closure I recall, but I am open to correction. 
 
By contrast, there have been 10 new Kent primary schools, six new secondary schools, and two Special Schools. In Medway, there were one secondary school and one Special School, all listed here, and in the linked article. 

The list of Academy Trust closures is surprisingly long, inevitably led by the corrupt Lilac Sky Trust, which I exposed in the face of its support by KCC, and SchoolsCompany, both of which have now closed with millions of pounds having vanished. Three years on the government, which promised to publish investigations into the finances of the two Trusts, is still resisting publication, although in September 2019, all that was needed before publication of the Lilac Sky scandal was 'fact-checking'! Hardly a warning message to send to others considering misuse of government money. I continue to received enquiries from victims over the Trusts and those who used to lead them, many of whom have found other enterprises to bring their skills to (one received New Year's Day!). Other Trusts that have closed because of poor management or scandal included The Williamson Trust and the Brook Learning Trust, in the case of the latter with all of its  three schools failing on a variety of criteria. Both were technically ‘merged’ with the much larger and successful Leigh Academies Trust, but in practice the schools were simply swallowed up and the Trusts vanished, having failed many of their children. Academies Enterprise Trust also had three of its primary schools taken away and handed to Leigh back in 2015, the first time such an event had happened in the county, although it continues to be one of the largest Trusts in the country. The small Meopham Community Academies Trust closed after its CEO, then the most highly paid primary head in the county on £160,000 five years ago, took it into financial difficulties.  Then there is Castle Trust, with its own highly paid CEO who disastrously ran a Junior school in Medway expanding it into a non-viable all-through primary, and also failed to do the same thing for a school in West Sussex. Another disaster was the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, which ran the first purpose built academy in Kent, that also became the first to close, along with Folkestone Academy which, whilst it had run controversially, nosedived after it was taken over by Turner Schools. Cliffe Woods Academy Trust the most recent to fold, earlier this year, was another Trust undermined by a controversial headteacher, who wrecked one of the two schools inside a year, and was taken over by Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust; Rochester Diocesan Multi-Academy Education Trust, ran its lead school into the ground and saw it re-brokered to TSAT, its two primary schools going to other Trusts; and Barnsole Academy Trust  also ran into difficulties. Griffin Schools Trust which began in Kent, has also proved a goldmine to its founders, but is still in operation in spite of having one of its Medway primary schools removed, and more recently what was one of the largest schools in the country until Griffin got its hands on it and ran it into the ground, also being taken away.

Grammar Schools
Unsurprisingly in two selective Local Authorities stories with 38 of the country's 164 grammar schools between them, stories about these appear frequently, exposing for some people some surprising facts. For example Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Grammar Schools on Allocation for 2019, with over fifty thousand hits, featured the ten grammar schools with vacancies contrary to much popular media  conviction that all grammars are heavily oversubscribed. This imbalance became even more extreme for 2021 entry I have also published stories about the Kent and Medway tests and their outcomes for each year from 2014, most recently focusing on the increased bias away from ordinary and disadvantaged families created by KCC and Medway Council inaction towards adjusting the unfairness created by Covid. 
 
Finally
I first became involved in working on behalf of families after I was approached by the parents of William, who asked for my help around 2003. I had retired nearly four years earlier from my post as a grammar school headteacher on health grounds, during which time we admitted William, who was the first ever ASD statemented boy to be offered a grammar school place in the county, over the objections of KCC. This experience was a great success, not only for him, but for the school whose culture changed for the better as a consequence. William went on to university, and his parents approached me to see if I could help them get financial support for his transport as KCC had turned him down. . After four months battling, we  discovered that funding was a government cost, not KCC's and they caved in! I was hooked and a new occupation beckoned, working with local parents who had problems with schools or the education service. I began a website to publicise my service, and everything flowed from there. 

I have been contacted by enough parents in other parts of the country to know that what I offered was unique, a local service, based on local knowledge, also offering free support where appropriate. As illustrated above, the website simply grew in size and range, from initially just offering information and advice on school related matters, to its current enormous range with extensive news items, accompanied by campaigns covering many different aspects of school activity. 

One item that gave me particular pleasure to publish was about the knighthood of Sir Paul Carter, CBE, whose name appears several times in this article. Although we certainly did not agree all the time, his strong commitment to providing the best education possible for the children of Kent, and being prepared to overcome whatever obstacles that stood in his way,  whilst first Cabinet Member for Education, then Leader of Kent County Council,  made a real difference across the county. He had a particular commitment to Special Education provision and Vocational Education and the county would be much the worse off without his drive. 

I know I have made the right decision to retire, but the host of messages of appreciation from parents and professionals I have already received suggest this is a concept that should be replicated elsewhere, or followed on locally. Almost as one, the professionals agree that what I have done is hold schools and Trusts to account, where no one else is willing to do so, although I am also sure that  others, such as those identified below, will be glad I am standing down. 

However, I have not vanished completely,  and there are a number of projects that I have begun which will bear fruit in the next few months, including, but not exclusively: Home Education, further information on Kent Test including Pupil Premium, Ofsted outcomes, the October 2021 census, Academisation and fees for EHCP pupils at Private Schools. So plenty still to come for you to keep an eye open, and thank you for reading this far. 

With my Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year

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Peter Read

 

 

 


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Last modified on Thursday, 27 January 2022 04:59

10 comments

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 04 January 2022 23:09 posted by Richard Thompson

    What an amazing story, together with evidence of the events described.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 23:26 posted by EHCP parent

    Congratulations on halting the removal of all Kent SEN Units as described in 'Early Articles' and also bringing about a dramatic reduction in the number of statemented pupils being expelled. You give equal credit to Sir Paul Carter and Kent on Sunday, but the fact remains, without your exposing the malpractices many EHCP children would have suffered. We should all congratulate you on these victories. Thank you. PETER: Actually all I did was to expose these two malpractices. Others followed through with action.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 20:07 posted by Ex Member of Staff Folkestone Academy

    Your efforts to shine a light in the darkness of Turner Schools are to be commended. Sadly, in spite of your many other successes chronicled above, you were unable to break through on this one, probably because of government protection for the CEO who presided over such a disastrous regime. Still, I forgive you! Enjoy your retirement, although somehow I don't believe you can walk away completely.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 January 2022 08:36 posted by Kent Resident

    Wow! Peter, this is certainly a unique record of monitoring schools in the county. It puts Ofsted and the County Council in the shade. And all for free. You should be publicly praised for the many achievements you have listed, not just allowed to slip away quietly.

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 December 2021 13:42 posted by Andrew Lancaster

    Peter, I echo the appreciation from Julia, below. One of the individual features you often apply, is so often to follow a story through in an unexpected direction. I have in mind your item: The Battle of Pimlico Academy, a twist at the end of the tragedy of Ebbsfleet Academy. PETER: You will find it at http://www.kentadvice.co.uk/peters-blog/item/1386-pimlico-academy-and-its-kent-connections.html

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 December 2021 13:26 posted by Julia

    Comment About Ebbsfleet Academy:
    I would like to wish you a very happy and enjoyable retirement. I'm sure I am among the growing numbers of readers of your blog that will miss your updates on the state of our schools and education as a whole. Your words of wisdom have helped many of us face the difficulties that education can bring. Not only as parents but also staff members of schools that have been taken over by people who call themselves teachers but really haven't got a clue about the real meaning of education and the welfare of young people placed in our care during the most important time of their lives.
    I was very lucky to have worked at a school for the last 7 years of my working days, where the Headteacher was a man of very high principles and had such a wonderful duty of care as to how we could help the students in our school. He certainly lead by example and he had the respect of the staff and students alike. The school was Swan Valley Community School and the Headteacher was Nigel Jones. He had such a wonderful presence about him, he could see the potential in all of his staff and students alike. If the students needed a guiding hand his was the first one to be held out to them. It was a very sad day when we were told he had left the school. It was a terrible day for us all. Then suddenly the heart of the school had been removed. We all felt the lost immensely.
    But we could rely on you to give us the encouragement to continue as we tried to carry on his work. Though sadly for many of us we were beaten down by the new regime. In one end of term it was nearly a complete staff walkout. We couldn't take the constant comments of 'in the predecessor school administration' etc etc. All they did was belittle a man who turned the school around in his time there and cast a long shadow over the school when he left and they weren't worthy of walking in his shadow. But through all that you always spoke so well of him and his time at the school. We always thought you were there for us. You still to this day give him the credit he so richly deserves.
    So Peter I thank you very much for your time and commitment to this site and also thank you for all the help and encouragement you gave parents and staff when they needed it.

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