Supporting Families

Peter Read

Wednesday, 10 April 2019 07:37

Turner Schools: Fresh Blessings from on High

Update: In spite of claims that the two Trust Primary schools are proving popular with parents, recent data shows that Morehall Primary has 75% of its Reception places empty on allocation for September, the highest proportion in the county (along with two other schools), with Martello Primary not far behind at 63%. 

Turner Schools, a small academy Trust with a CEO being paid the disproportionate £140,000 – £150,000 a year, has appointed a Deputy Chief Executive Officer, on a salary likely to be above £120,000, to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum matters. His salary will be met from a Grant  of £143,100 from the government’s Multi Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund, at no cost to the school, as explained in a letter to staff. Such grants are only available for MATs which have a “proven record of working with underperforming schools to improve performance” . This should surely have ruled Turner Schools out, given the damage they have wreaked on Folkestone Academy, as demonstrated in various articles on this site, most recently here

TurnerSchools

 

The letter provides three reasons for the appointment, explored below:

  • To join our mission to deliver a powerful education that overcomes educational underperformance.
  • To provide executive principal function when and where needed in our trust schools
  • To create additional capacity to enable the CEO to focus on curriculum.

Please see Important Update Below

The Guardian Newspaper has today (03/04/19) published a news item about a girl with mental health problems who was placed in an Isolation Room, on a repeated basis when she ‘failed’ to comply, reaching the stage where she developed depression and attempted suicide.

Prior to the intervention of lawyers in mid-March, she had spent every day since mid-January in isolation, meaning she had to remain silent throughout the day and had no directed teaching.

 Although the school is not identified by name it is described as a school in Kent.

I am delighted that someone has at long last taken legal action to try and stop such practices for I have written about them regularly, describing such punishment as 'child abuse'. 

Index

All Medway boys and girls who are grammar qualified will have been offered a place at Chatham Girls or Holcombe if they did not get one elsewhere and applied to one of these two. An example of  what I am coming to regard as 'Medway Madness' which affects both the Local Authority and some local schools, the Council has unlawfully deprived late applicants including those moving into Medway of their right to be considered at a grammar school, as explained here. This follows the complete breakdown of the Medway Review process, with just 4 Medway pupils having a Review upheld, out of 159. 

Only one grammar school, Chatham Girls, had vacancies. 242 out of Medway candidates have been offered places out of 1042 in total. This amounts to 23%, or nearly a quarter of all the places offered, and is well up on 2018's 185 offers to children from outside Medway. 

An additional 68 new places have been created, 38 at Chatham Girls and 30 at Fort Pitt, although The Rochester Grammar School took away the 30 extra places it has offered for the past two years, probably for reasons outlined below. 

Rochester Grammar      SJWMS1

The Rochester Grammar School was by a long way the most oversubscribed grammar in Medway, turning away 121 grammar school qualified first choices, as a result of seeing its pass mark to soar to its highest ever, the year before it scraps super selection completely.  It is followed by Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (The Math) with 70 first choice boys turned away.  

I look in more detail at the outcomes, including the situation for each grammar school individually, below.

Index

Update September 2019: I have belatedly received fuller details about oversubscription from KCC, with which I have replaced a previous measure below, along with 2019 Appeal outcomes

You will find the parallel article looking at Kent Non-selective schools here. Medway Schools to follow. Please note that the two articles on secondary school allocation in Kent had over 27,000 hits last year, being the two longest and most popular I publish. If there are corrections to be made, or you would like any section expanded or clarified, please let me know. 

The number of Kent grammar school places available for Year 7 pupils has risen by just 20 overall since last year, to 5469, with a total increase of 535 over the past five years.  The biggest change is an increase of 30 places at Simon Langton Boys to 150, although its popularity has dropped sharply. There are currently 217 empty spaces for September (up from 184 in 2018), in ten grammar schools including three of the four Maidstone grammars. 

417 of the 5252 Kent grammar school places offered, or 8% (down from 9% in 2018) of the total, went to pupils from outside of the county (ooc), with  223 pupils going to out of county grammars, mainly in Medway. 147 pupils coming in were offered places at the two Dartford Grammar schools. As a result, the pressure on places at these two schools continues to rise inexorably along with the two Wilmington grammars, led by Dartford Grammar School with a record 336 grammar qualified first choices turned down for its 180 places, up from 313 in 2018.  The next most popular schools were unsurprisingly Dartford Girls, The Judd School, Skimmers and Tonbridge Grammar.

dgs        dggs 2

As far as I am aware there is just one black spot for grammar school applications, North West Kent, especially around Swanscombe and Greenhithe, where a number of grammar qualified children have been offered no grammar school place, although most applied for two or three of the local schools.

I look at the outcomes below in more detail, including levels of oversubscription and vacancies together with a look at each school individually. You will find copious data on each individual school here.  

Saturday, 23 March 2019 11:10

Lilac Sky: Final Chapter

Update: Shortly after I wrote this article about the www.trevorbeeson.com website, the site was withdrawn from the internet, together with any links. I retained a download of the key page which was a justification for Mr Beeson's actions, and which prompted this article, which you will find here.

Trevor Beeson, Founder and CEO of the late Lilac Sky enterprises, has published a defence of his actions  called 'Lilac Sky: Final Chapter' on his new website (which does not appear to have a direct feed to the article!). Amongst other matters, the site advertises Mr Beeson's latest company offering his professional services which is not registered with Companies House, so there will be no scrutiny of the accounts (see below).  This unique document is the most original I have seen in my professional career. My article is written primarily to look at some of the issues raised in that defence and elsewhere on the site.

LSSAT Logo

Mr Beeson's four previous companies (one in the name of his partner), have been through a total of five additional name changes between them, two of which had the same name at different times, and have all now been dissolved: one liquidated by a petition from HMRC;  one via voluntary liquidation owing £917,000; one struck off for non-filing of accounts - a situation that appears to have been prevalent in all four companies. Consideration of the three where there there were historic accounts show large outstanding loans to Mr Averre Beeson (which may have been repaid outside the formal records),  and in one case sizeable dividends. In addition there is considerable and confusing 'cross-fertilisation'. Mr Averre-Beeson also founded Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) in 2012 which paid 'extortionate'  costs to Lilac Sky companies (as confirmed by the Trust's own Annual Report, see below) before crashing with a net deficit of £1,329,631. 

The Trust's shocking performance has been chronicled extensively in these pages, and is the subject of an ongoing three year investigation by the  Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), partly triggered by the loss of a payment of £537,000 by government which was simply swallowed up before the Trust was closed.   

Index

Update  in progress 2/10/19
 
 
Note: Oversubscription levels have been altered since the original version of this article, as KCC did not originally provide it in the same form as in previous years. There is a parallel article on Kent grammar schools here
 
 
The main themes of 2019 allocations to non-selective secondary schools in Kent are the increased pressure on places following a 4.6% increase in numbers, and the increased polarisation of choices. KCC has worked hard with individual schools to provide additional places in some areas, with a total of 431 extra places being provided in the non-selective sector since 2018 allocations, taking into account 113 which have been removed from four schools for different reasons. Many of these were forced late changes as explained below, settled on top of the 2019 Published Admission Numbers (PAN), some pressure points being unpredictable. After allocation there were just 434 vacancies out of the 13,708 available, a total of 3.2%, down from 3.9% in 2018. The four most oversubscribed schools in the table of most oversubscribed schools below are the same as in 2018, led by Valley Park, Maidstone, turning down 186 first choices and St George's CofE Foundation, Broadstairs, with 182 disappointed families.  
 
      Valley 2        St Georges Foundation
 
Six Districts were left with no non-selective vacancies at all, in spite of the extra places added in: Ashford; Canterbury; Dartford; Gravesham Maidstone; Sevenoaks. However, there will be considerable churning in the next few months, following successful grammar school appeals, appeals in the more popular schools and waiting list re-allocation to fill fresh vacancies  in some of these areas.
 
Just 12 of the 68 schools have vacancies at this time. Nine schools each have over 40 Local Authority Allocations (LAAs). Each of these, identified below, has been the subject of concern expressed in previous articles on this site. One school, Holmesdale which had 41% vacancies in 2018 before Local Authority Allocations, has seen this soar to 60% for 2019 with several other schools seeing a rise of over 10% in their vacancy rate. 
 
I look more closely below at the situation in each District, along with the most oversubscribed schools and those with most vacancies, together with the impact of out of county offers..
Thursday, 21 March 2019 18:44

Radio Kent: Secondary Transfer

I spend an hour on Wednesday evening, at the Radio Kent studio in Tunbridge Wells talking on the Graham Jones show, in company with Sally Lees, Principal of the Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre. Not surprisingly, our main topic was secondary school transfer and what to do if children had not been awarded one of their preferences. Naturally we widened the discussion including what makes a good school, whether parental choice was a good thing, why there were 837 Kent children with none of their choices, and how to increase provision to cope with rising rolls. The discussion was given a spice as we two guests tended to have a different perspective on a number of issues!

Radio Kent March 2019

Some children of families who are amongst the many re-locating to Medway,  and local children who are late developers, may be denied  grammar school places this year as there is no facility to sit the Medway Test late, contrary to previous practice.  This is because the Council quietly changed its selection procedures last year so that only children who are registered at the correct time can ever sit the Medway Test, which takes place in September.

Medway

Late applicants are therefore effectively barred from being considered for Medway grammar school places which require a Medway Test outcome for admission (the two Chatham grammars have a secondary route via the Kent Test). Most grammar schools have not made arrangements to put an alternative form of testing in place for admission this September, the combination being contrary to Medway's own co-ordinated scheme for secondary admissions.    

 The consequences of this decision by Medway Council are wide ranging and may well spell the end of the Medway Test as an objective standard for grammar school entry in Medway, with each grammar school defining the standard and setting its own test for entry, as explored further below.  The last time I collected data for late sitters of the Medway Test was for admission in September 2017, when there were 80, 53 from within Medway, 27 from outside, including 16 applicants from the London Boroughs, of whom 47 were successful.  

Also, the Council has also been acting unlawfully for years in putting conditions on late admissions to other Medway schools, although these appear to have been withdrawn from 2020/21.

Kent County Council has been awarded one of 39 new Special Schools to be opened across the country, following a bid to government. This will be built on the Isle of Sheppey, on land adjacent to the new Halfway Houses Primary School site,  and is planned to focus on children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs aged 11-16. Under current regulations KCC will now need to set up a tendering process to select a Sponsor from an existing academy chain to run the new school. As explained below, this can be a drawn out and uncertain process, with the opening date not yet fixed.

This follows approval in January for the Aspire School, Sittingbourne a new Free School for children with autism or speech and language difficulties to be run by Grove Park Academies Trust, currently comprising Grove Park Primary School. It will be built on council land not far from Grove Park, both schools in Bobbing. The Aspire School came into existence because of the vision of parents as long ago as 2013. The original vision was for high functioning autistic children aged 4 -16, although final details have not yet been settled, and it is now looking likely to be for primary aged children, opening at the earliest in September 2020.

 
You will find a fresh news item about Turner Schools here (27/4)
 
Update:  In a critical two page article about Folkestone Academy in the Folkestone Herald and online, Turner Schools once again attempts to deflect the criticisms by answering irrelevant 'concerns'. See my analysis at the foot of this article, below
 
Turner Schools has published a bizarre advertisement in the Folkestone and Hythe Your District Today magazine published by the Local Council, purportedly to answer the question ‘What is Turner Schools’?
TurnerSchools
It begins: ‘Turner Schools blazed onto the Folkestone scene just a few years ago’, and is in the form of a pseudo interview with the CEO Jo Saxton. The second of the initial two brief paragraphs justifying the takeover of Folkestone Academy by Turner Schools also describes the high quality of food now provided for students.
The next section asks about an artificial controversy I have not seen aired before amongst all the major criticisms of Turner Schools published here and elsewhere,  about whether Turner Schools is only interested in purely academic routes.
Then follows a justification of the CEO’s very high salary for running a small low achieving Academy Trust, the article finishing with ‘We know that some people find change hard, so don’t believe all the negatives you’ve heard or read about Folkestone Academy’ . There is no mention at all of the other three schools in the Trust, and the initial question is ignored for start to finish. 
I am left bewildered why the Turner Schools remorseless publicity machine, examined in detail across previous articles on this website, most recently here, can have produced such an inept article in the official Council publication, an article which raises more questions than it answers and does nothing to promote its image.
 
Also below is the answer to a question I posed in a recent article: Turner Schools: What were they trying to hide?
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