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Displaying items by tag: Brook Learning Trust

Update with the View of Leigh Academies Trust, below.

Leigh Academies Trust, which took over the failed Brook Learning Trust, is consulting on plans to change the nature of Hayesbrook School, once the flagship of the Trust but now struggling badly.

Hayesbrook is one of just two single sex boys’ schools in the county, and the proposal is for it to also admit girls. A press release issued on Monday gives the main reason as being its unpopularity with families, quoting the data in my article ‘Oversubscription & Vacancies: Kent Non-Selective Schools 2021’, which shows it having  the third lowest number of admission first choices in the county. The press release goes on to claim that the unpopularity is because it is a boys' school, although my analysis below suggests this is only part of the picture.

Hayesbrook 1

The reality is that Hayesbrook School has been badly managed for several years, as I identified in an article earlier this year, when looking at the appalling Brook Learning Trust which has now handed its three schools over to Leigh. It has already decided to close one of them, High Weald Academy, whilst Ebbsfleet Academy, after a disastrous period under a 'no excuses' headteacher, appears to be slowly settling down and then there is Hayesbrook! What a turnaround from 2015, when it achieved the highest GCSE performance in the county for non-selective schools (excluding three highly selective church schools). In January this year it had 368 pupils in Years 7-11, less than half the capacity 755, and so had to subsist on a handout from KCC of £297,000.

Back in 2017 the Trust's auditors expressed significant doubts about whether it could continue to operate unless finances improved, as confirmed by the Trustees. The warning was repeated the next year, but then Brook Learning Trust's response was to deny everything, change auditors so that there were no further doubts expressed, and sit tight until the money ran out, which appears to be the case at both Hayesbrook and High Weald.  

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 10 November 2021 17:13

Closure of High Weald Academy Confirmed

Leigh Academies Trust has confirmed the closure of High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, in a press release issued today. As my previous article makes clear, I believe the decision was inevitable, but also that regrettably it is right. I am so sorry for all the families caught up in this tragedy, brought about by the failure of the leaders of the previous Brook Learning Trust who have let down the pupils of all the three schools for which they were responsible.

Sadly, the current generation of pupils at High Weald will pay a price for that failure. It is now up to Leigh to minimise the damage this will cause, as the pupils make a potentially traumatic change of school, leaving their own locality for a future education miles away, that we must assume will be a considerable improvement on what has been offered previously.

At the time of the announcement, there were around 200 pupils in Years 7-10 at the school, but this number has already fallen to just 75 as most parents have already made their own arrangements for alternatives, ahead of the plan to offer all pupils places at Mascalls School by the end of this school year. It must already appear to be a ghost school to those who remain in the new premises opened less than two years ago at a cost of some £13 million. 

High Weald 2

Published in News and Comments

Update November 2021: The closure has now been confirmed.  

Leigh Academies Trust (LAT), which took over High Weald Academy in Cranbrook on 1st September, has announced that the Minister of Education for Schools has decided the school will close by 31st August 2022, subject to a final agreement of the closure plan, with pupils will be able to move to the thriving Mascalls School in Tunbridge Wells. LAT has set up a ‘Listening Period’ to obtain views on how the closure will operate. This decision has been planned for some time, probably since the takeover was agreed, and includes a linked proposal for alternative use of the redundant site left by the closure, below.    

High Weald 2 

Followers of this website will be in no doubt as to the continuous failure of High Weald Academy ever since it was taken over as a Sponsored Academy in 2012. I have regularly pointed out what was surely self-evident, that on the number of pupils it was attracting, the school was not viable and so it has at last been recognised. It had the highest proportion of vacancies in Year Seven of any Kent school last school year at 59%, My previous article entitled: Leigh Academies Trust to take over (merge) the Brook Learning Trust analyses the issues more fully.

Assuming the closure goes ahead, the site with £15.9 million spent on new premises opened less than two years ago, an astonishing £5.3 million of which went on demolishing property to enable this to go ahead according to the Brook Learning Trust Accounts. This created a school with a capacity of 1020 pupils according to the DfE, but a pupil roll last year of just 256, which will now become vacant. I look at its probable future below 

Sadly for families, my view is that there is no point in contesting the closure, but to look ahead for the best option for your child, who may well be severely troubled by this decision, on top of the traumas of the last two school years of the coronavirus epidemic.  

Also below: Background; What Next? Mascalls Academy; Alternative Schools for the Future; The Future of the High Weald site if the school is closed; Finally.

Published in News and Comments
Sunday, 05 April 2020 11:43

The Secret Headteacher

You will find an important new article here, written in December 2020. 
This is the first of two articles about the Brook Learning Trust, looking at a new book entitled ‘The Secret Headteacher’, to be published in August about one of its schools.  The original advertising puff claims it to be
The true story of how a no-nonsense headteacher turned around one of the country's worst schools. The Secret Headteacher has spent the last 27 years in teaching, before which she spent 4 years in the police. This is the first memoir from a UK teacher to be published. Under the leadership of TSH, the school she led had a well-reported journey in turning around its reputation as one of the country's worst-performing schools, resulting in an Ofsted report judging the school "good".

There were just a few problems with this: (1) There is no secret; it’s about Alison Colwell, until last summer head of Ebbsfleet Academy, according to an advertisement for the book, reproduced below, although other advertising claims it is by ‘Anon’; (2) It was certainly not one of the worst performing schools in Kent before she took it over, let alone in the country - it was without any form of bad reputation at the time, and was in any case improving strongly before she was parachuted in as head; (3) Ofsted missed key indicators of decline during her leadership, including large numbers of families removing their children from the school, large numbers of families annually placed in the school who never applied for it, and high staff turnover - this is when the bad reputation set in; (4) ‘The first memoir of a UK headteacher’ – unbelievable; (5) ‘well reported’ refers to two puff articles in The Times and Sunday Times, the second being what, in my opinion, was a disgracefully unprofessional performance by the headteacher;  (6) I received more complaints about this school from families, than any other school in Kent during much of this time; (7) ‘confrontational’ is a better word than ‘no-nonsense’.

Published in Peter's Blog