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Friday, 14 July 2017 14:54

Academy and Free School News: July 2017

There has been plenty of activity on the Academy and Free School scene over the five months since my previous article on this theme. There are eleven new academies in Kent, and seven in Medway, as detailed below. There are also another ten new applications for conversion and approvals for eleven new Free Schools in Kent and Medway.

Three struggling secondary schools have been taken over to become sponsored academies.

You will find further details on all these developments below, together with the only up to date comprehensive list of academies, Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and Free Schools including applications for conversion in Kent and Medway which is available on this site through the links below. Much of my data comes from the DofE website and a number of other sources, including the OFSTED website for the latest conversions.

This article also looks at matters relating to Folkestone Academy, Holcombe Grammar , Meopham School, Rainham Mark Grammar, The Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe, and Spires Academy, together with a closer look at possibly the country's smallest MAT, in Medway. 

Full list of Academies, Multi-Academy Trusts and Free Schools
Follow the links to academies, multi-academy trusts and free schools. These pages contain a full up-to-date list of these schools at the time of publication of this article, which you will find nowhere else. With 337 schools listed, in most cases by District, I may have made unintentional errors or omissions so please let me know of any mistakes. These lists will be updated with future additions, when I have time. 
New Academies since previous article
In the secondary sector, the Charles Dickens School, which since being placed in special Measures has been managed by KCC, then the Coastal Academies Trust, then St George’s CofE school in Broadstairs, has now been taken over as a Sponsored Academy by Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury. Swadelands School, currently in Special Measures, has been taken over by the Valley Invicta Academy Trust and renamed The Lenham School. The Community College Whitstable, which has limped along for many years, is finally to be academised, sponsored by the Swale Academies Trust.

New converter primary academies in Kent include the three Tenterden schools: Tenterden CofE Junior, Tenterden Infants, and St Michael's CofE Primary. These have formed a MAT with Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, the local secondary comprehensive school, creating a sensible geographical unit. Stone St Mary’s CofE Primary in Greenhithe and Horton Kirby CofE Primary are to become part of the Aletheia Anglican Academy Trust, headed up by St George’s CofE Trust in Gravesend; St Teresa’s Catholic Primary, Ashford and St Augustine's Catholic Primary, Tunbridge  Wells have joined the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership; Charing CofE Primary, converted last week,, no details available yet but likely to become part of the Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust (Aquila); Leybourne St Peter & St Paul CofE, VA, has joined the Tenax Trust; Westcourt Primary in Gravesend has joined the Primary First Trust, which has also been awarded a new Free School in Gravesham. Royal Rise Primary School (previously St Stephen's, Tonbridge) has become an academy sponsored by the Cygnus Trust from Dartford, as Multi-Academy Trusts look every wider for new schools.  

In Medway: Deanwood Primary and Thames View Primary Schools have joined the Howard Academy Trust;  The Pilgrim School has set up the Pilgrim Multi-Academy Trust and has been joined by the Riverside Primary; Barnsole Primary is currently in a MAT on its own; St Margaret's Infants is in the Westbrook Trust (St Margaret’s Junior CofE is a Sponsored Academy in the Rochester Diocesan Multi-Academy Education Trust); Balfour Junior Academy, the Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Academy Trust.

There is also the Rowans, a Pupil Referral Unit in Medway, which appears to be the whole of the Inspiring Change Multi-academy Trust (see below).  

The following Kent primary schools have made new applications to become converter academies: Sutton-at-Hone CofE Primary, Dartford (the Aletheia Anglican Academy Trust) and West Hill Primary Dartford (the Galaxy Trust). Also: Minterne Community Junior School, Sittingbourne; The Oaks Community Infant, Sittingbourne.  St Mark's CofE Primary, Eccles; Borden CofE Primary; and Bredgar CofE Primary.   The DofE website does not indicate which, if any, MAT group these will join.

Medway Schools in the pipeline are: Featherby Infant and Nursery; Halling Primary; St Margaret's at Troy Town CofE VC Controlled Primary. Featherby Junior is in the pipeline to be a Sponsored Academy (Sponsor unknown).

Eleven new Free Schools
You will find my previous article covers the approvals for the new schools in as much detail as is available. The new schools are as follows.
  • Replacements for the closed Chaucer Technology School, Canterbury, and Pent Valley School, Folkestone
  • New secondary schools in Dartford and Medway
  • New primary schools in Dartford, Maidstone and Rochester
  • A new all through 4 -19 school in Medway
  • A new Special School in Maidstone
  • A new Pupil Referral Unit in Medway 
No New Grammar Schools: Meopham and the Sevenoaks Annexe?
Government has now backed away from its proposals to allow new grammar schools to be set up and non-selective academies to convert to grammar schools. This leaves the Swale Academy Trust's strange proposal to convert Meopham School to a grammar high and dry, although the consultation offered it little encouragement, as revealed after a battle by Joanne Bartley to uncover the results. This showed a majority of parents, pupils and staff each voting against the proposal. Bizarrely, the consultation showed that 87.5% of staff felt there would only be limited change if the proposal went ahead (what on earth was their motivation to deny the inevitable massive upheaval), a view strongly (and sensibly) disagreed with by students. The school is now to set up a grammar stream, as operated in many other non-selective schools.

 I, like many others, considered there would be a clear Conservative victory in the General Election, in which case extending the new Sevenoaks Annexe to include boys would be a given. Now without new legislation, no obvious sponsor, and other government priorities  it is difficult to see how it can come about, except that the local MP is Sir Michael Fallon, Defence Secretary in the Cabinet. This situation leaves the new premises currently being built for boys potentially vacant, although KCC has a contingency plan to move relocate the Local Adult Education centre here. 

The Rowans and the Silverbank Centre
In 2013, the nature of the Silverbank Centre, a Pupil Referral Unit, was described by OFSTED as: 'There are two different aspects of the provision for 11- to 16-year-olds. The Oaks has places for pupils who have severe behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. The Rowans has places for pupils who have been permanently excluded from school or who are at risk of permanent exclusion. The centre operates as though it were two separate schools'.  The school was failed by OFSTED with 'Serious Weaknesses', all the problems being at The Oaks, with the Rowans being seen as 'The Rowans meets the needs of its pupils well and the rate at which Rowan pupils make progress is accelerating'. An article I wrote shortly afterwards makes clear the failure lay squarely at Medway Council's door. In 2014 the two centres split and in 2015, the Rowans was found to be Outstanding. Meanwhile the Oaks, reinvented as The Inspire Special Free  School but with a strong Medway Council input went further downhill if that were possible. The Rowans, now wisely breaking completely with Medway has become  the only school in the Inspiring Change Multi-academy Trust, possible the smallest MAT in the country  with around 60 pupils in total.  Meanwhile, The Inspire, removed from its previous sponsors and taken over by the Parallel Learning Trust, a MAT of six Special Schools and Behavioral Academies based in London, was re-branded as Inspire Academy and appears to have been turned around according to OFSTED. 
Rainham Mark Grammar School
Congratulations to Rainham Mark, which has seen the difficulties that its super-selective status has done to children in its local community and is now abandoning the drive to attract high flyers from further away. It is hardly a decision to drum up numbers; this year it turned away 62 grammar qualified children who made it first choice. However, the school clearly sympathises with the many local families who have been split by its current practice. When I was supporting appeals, I advised several of these every year and, with the school having capacity to admit a maximum of only five on appeal, it was highly successful. Sadly, The Rochester Grammar School, whose academy trust appears out to create local havoc by reducing the number of boys grammar school places and replacing them with girls at its Holcombe Grammar School is not following suit (see below). Instead RGS, rather than serving local families made offers to 27 children from London Boroughs, including nine from Greenwich at the expense of local girls.  
Holcombe Grammar School
The strange decision to apply for a second time for the school to become co-educational appears to be taking an inordinate amount of time for government to process. Whilst I am delighted that a number of senior government officials subscribe to this website and so will be aware of the arguments I have put forward against this proposal, I doubt these are having a direct influence on the delay! The school website is breaking the law in various ways at present, regarding admissions. It is required to publish its admission arrangements for September 2018 (2018-19 year) by 31st March 2017, but does not. Instead there is a statement for the arrangements for this September, and a link to a Consultation for 2018-19. Unfortunately, this is false, as well as being hopelessly out of time, for it refers to children - i.e. girls and boys equally, although the school itself has abandoned this time scale for becoming co-educational and hopes for the change to be made for  admission in September 2019.  
Folkestone Academy
Folkestone Academy was once half of the schools in the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, which was heavily criticised as long ago as 2011, when it was reported in The Sunday Times that the DFE considered the problems lay with the main sponsor, a local philanthropist. At that time, the main problem was the now defunct Marlowe Academy, but in the past few years Folkestone Academy has been running down, and  has now been taken over by a partnership of: Turner Schools, a new Trust led by the former Vice Chancellor of a 'for profit' private university, which has also been awarded the replacement Free School for the closed Pent Valley (see above); Folkestone School for Girls and King's School, Canterbury. 
Spires Academy
Spires Academy in Canterbury has severed its unfortunate relationship with the Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls, with whom it shared an Executive Headteacher who resigned in difficult circumstances. Since then it has enjoyed a successful OFSTED Inspection, which should help it find new sponsors in a climate where many Academy Trusts are reluctant to take on additional school with difficulties. 
Last Word
I am afraid I have been pre-occupied with other matters recently (and can't make the RSS Feed on my computer work) so fear I have missed several matters which I would have liked to air. Two stories I hope to cover shortly are the three 'Tough Love' Academies in Kent: Ebbsfleet, Hartsdown and Oasis Isle of Sheppey, and the reasons and evidence for their being so unpopular with families. The second is an update on my January story about Sixth Form Admissions and Departures at the two Maidstone girls' grammars, the most visited and commented news item ever on the website with 23,516 visitors and 31 comments - not that either aspect, although both with serious implications, has apparently disturbed the surface of the two schools.    


Last modified on Wednesday, 23 September 2020 08:03

1 comment

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 July 2017 06:23 posted by Eileen R

    Congratulations Peter on another superb analysis. Who else in the country keeps such a scrutiny of school and Local Authority actions, and provides such a wealth of information. Especially interested in your comments on Holcombe Grammar School. What sanctions are there against them breaking the law on admissions. PETER: No sanctions, but thanks for the compliment.

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