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Wednesday, 12 April 2017 22:47

Eleven New Kent and Medway Free Schools

Update with sponsor for Maritime Academy

Government has today announced approval for eleven new Free schools in Kent and Medway, amongst 131 nationally. These “exclude those meeting a need identified by Local Authorities”. They contain some familiar names, and some wholly new to Kent or Medway. You will find a full list here.

The prospect of one or more becoming grammar schools is signalled by the government statement.

I look further at the individual schools below and will update this article as I learn new information. The article concludes with an explanation of the distinction between the terms 'academy' and 'free school'. 

Official statements are in normal type, the italics are my comments. A previous article, written only last month, looking at need in secondary schools, does contain considerable overlap, but some worrying shortfalls. 

press release by the Leigh Academies Trust, Kent’s largest chain, identifies their three new schools and includes the following:

Medway Academy
A new secondary school for Medway with an intake of 180 pupils per year and sixth form. The new school will be a brand new build sited in either Strood or Rainham. LAT will now work with Medway Council to agree the final site for the academy. Medway Academy will open in September 2019 and will have a grammar stream for more able pupils across the Borough ((actually a Unitary Authority).   I don’t see a need for the school at this time at the Strood end of the Authority where the LAT already has the Strood Academy, and with the Maritime Academy, see below, arriving at the same time. However, there is extensive building development taking place, so this could rapidly change. The Leigh Trust operates on a 'hub' principle, with Strood Academy seen as the Medway hub, around which other schools will cluster. 
Bearsted Academy
A secondary special school for the region based at J7 of the M20, near Maidstone. The new special academy will work in close partnership with LAT’s doubly outstanding Milestone Academy. Bearsted Academy will open in September 2018 in brand new, state-of-the-art premises. LAT’s bid was given full support from Kent County Council  although an unsuccessful bidder was the Kent Association of Special Schools which surely had a unique set of skills to offerSadly, whilst the Valley Invicta Academy Trust was awarded three new primary academies on  condition they each opened new SEN Units catering for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in September 2015, they took the money, but did not open the SEN Units in the new schools. As a result, there is continued shortage of SEN places in the area. 
Maidstone Primary Academy
This brand new primary with 60 pupils each year will share a site at J7 of the M20 with Bearsted Academy. Like Bearsted Academy, it will open in September 2018 and help to
meet the growing demand for primary school places in Bearsted and north Maidstone. Actually there has been enormous pressure right across urban Maidstone and for 2016 entry, there was just one vacant space on allocation. KCC has been trying to secure a new school in this area for some year, but the Regional Schools Commissioner selected a site at Langley, on the other side of town. As a result children in the Bearsted area have been allocated to this school, which is in rural Maidstone with plenty of spaces, for two years, a bizarre piece of planning. 
Stone Lodge Academy, Dartford
This is described by government as a new secondary school for 11- to 19-year-olds in Dartford, proposed by Endeavour Multi Academy Trust. The trust already runs 2 highly successful grammar schools and will use their expertise running selective schools to open a new non-selective free school”. The Endeavour MAT has very recently been formed   by the union of the two Wilmington Grammar Schools which have until now been running as a Federation (thanks for several contributions correcting a previous error). Both the Leigh Academy Trust (which went as far as inviting prospective families to register their interest) and the Brook Learning Trust (which runs nearby Ebbsfleet Academy) were clearly making a strong pitch for the new school. With these two schools a sponsors both committed to giving priority to local children I think it unlikelythis could be nudging towards turning into a new grammar school as there would be no shortage of grammar places without the two Dartford grammars chasing high scoring London children. The need is certainly for non-selective spaces with the rapid expansion of the area, even with the opening of the Leigh Inspiration Centre providing a further 120 places in September.  and the proposal certainly dilutes the current 80% of places run by the Leigh Trust.

Barton Court Academy Trust Free School– a new non-selective free school providing 1,050 school places for 11- to 19-year-olds in Canterbury. It is proposed this will open in 2019 as a five form entry mixed school on the site of the now closed and adjacent Chaucer Technology School, much reported on elsewhere on this website, Barton Court winning over an alternative bid from Christ Church University, with its strong record of turning round Dover Christ Church Academy. BC has recently taken over Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs, after it failed its OFSTED.  BC notes: There is considerable demographic pressure on secondary school places from 2017 onward. A new 5 Form entry secondary school will be needed for Canterbury and the local area by 2019’  as explained here. There is not currently a shortage of places in local grammar schools.

Turner Academy
This is a fully comprehensive (?) four form entry secondary school to be located in Folkestone, to replace the now closed Pent Valley School. As a result of the closure, there is certainly a shortage of places in the town as explained hereTurner Schools was set up just twelve months ago, and currently running three primary schools in the town it took over from the disastrous Lilac Sky chain, another profit making organisation. I am receiving reports that at least one of these schools is unsupportive of childrne with SEN, so a number are looking to go elsewhere. Focusing on French and Modern Languages for September 2018 it makes the false claim"According to research by the New Schools Network, only six state-educated students in Shepway studied languages beyond GCSE – putting the district amongst the worst in the country".
CSAT Northern Gateway
This will be a primary school to be located in Dartford. Crofton Schools Academy Trust has produced the thinnest  and weakest ‘vision’ I have ever seen for a new school.  It currently runs a combined Infant, Junior and Pre-School in Orpington; Infants OFSTED ‘Outstanding’, Juniors ‘Good’. I am not clear what expertise it has to set up new schools in Kent.
Primary First Trust Gravesham
This will be a primary school to be located in the Gravesham area. The enormous pressure on primary places in urban Gravesham, is explained here. Primary First Trust is based in Bexleyheath, and appears to be an effective organisation in terms of the performance of its schools. It currently runs three primary schools in Medway, Cuxton Infants and Juniors and Wayfield Primary. It has also recently taken over Westcourt Primary in Gravesend. My main concern is the phrase 'to be located in the Gravesham area', underlining the problems to be faced in finding an appropriate site without going out of town. 
Rochester Riverside Church of England Primary School. 
This will be a primary school to be located in Rochester. The schools is planned for the new Rochester Riverside development which is planned to include 500 new houses. The school will be run by the Pilgrim Multi Academy Trust, formed last September and based on the OFSTED Outstanding and consistently highly performing Pilgrim School, a strongly CofE Primary Academy situated in Borstal, also in Rochester. The Trust currently has no other schools. 
The Beeches
This is an alternative provision primary school to be located in Medway. It will have places for 35 pupils with behavioural issues and excluded children.This will be a Pupil Referral Unit for children and I will expand this when I know more. 
The Maritime Academy
This is an all-through – both primary and secondary – school to be located in Medway. It is planned to have places for 1940 pupils including a Sixth Form of 250 pupils. Sponsored by the Thinking Schools  Academy Trust, headed up by The Rochester Grammar School. Scheduled fro opening on September 2019, pending approval of a new site in Strood. 
Academies and Free Schools
The first academies were set up in 2002 being sponsored new build schools replacing low performing Local Authority schools.  They were subsequently joined by Converter academies, high performing schools choosing to leave Local Authority control and Sponsored Academies run by approved institutions, including Converter academies. Both these types of academy continue to be available for LA schools to choose, although the definition of 'high performing' has been considerably watered down. The first Free Schools opened in 2011, run by groups of interested individuals or organisations sited where they chose, being government approved and funded. This is still a route that some prospective sponsors follow. The Term 'Free School' now refers to any new provision academy, as explained here in the 'Free School Presumption'. Where a local authority thinks there is a need for a new school in its area it must seek competitive proposals to establish an academy (free school). So any new school is a 'Free School (Academy) and also an Academy (Free School), according to the government document! All are sponsored. School may choose their own names within reason which may include either term or neither. The titles of most of these new schools in a government release referring to them as Free Schools suggests that the term 'Academy' is winning the day, perhaps suggesting a more serious purpose. In passing one school in Kent, called an Academy, is not an academy!
Medway Council Press Release - here.
The Medway Council Press Release contains little information outside the government announcement. We are all guilty of grammatical mistakes, myself included, but an education department surely ought to know how to use a semi-colon (wrongly used four times!). 
Last modified on Sunday, 25 November 2018 06:01


  • Comment Link Monday, 17 April 2017 05:20 posted by Sally

    With reference to Turner Schools, I have removed my daughter from Martello Grove after the new regime made it clear they weren't able (wouldn't) support her SEN. Does nobody care what is going on? PETER: Not the first time I have had reports about this school. Sally, I am so sorry, but it is a very good question.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 April 2017 19:02 posted by Kent primary headteacher

    Hear, Hear to the comment below. Why do we not get told by official channels with such speed and thoroughness? Kentadvice is essential reading to many headteachers who need to know what is really happening. Yes, we don't like the criticisms, but most will concede they are fair, and balanced by positive comments.

  • Comment Link Friday, 14 April 2017 22:55 posted by Richard Webb

    Peter, why is it that your website once again is the only source of detailed information on this important education development. No local newspaper or media outlet appears to offer anything other than a rehash of the government statement. Your research, although you acknowledge you don't have all the answers goes so much further. PETER: I am afraid you must ask them. Most of what I have reported on is available on the internet if you only look for it.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 13 April 2017 15:08 posted by Mike Smith

    Riverside free school will be sponsored by The Pilgrim MAT based on The Pilgrim School, Borstal. PETER: Thanks,, entry now updated.

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