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Displaying items by tag: academy - Kent Independent Education Advice

 

Four new applicants to become converter academies, together with further information on the new Jubilee Free School In Maidstone and Leigh UTC.

Published in News and Comments

Although I am no fan of Free Schools in principle, I can quite understand why a group of people of Deal has proposed a new Free School in the area, with age range from Nursery through to 18 plus, following the disaster at Castle Community College.

This article also looks at other new academies  and Free Schools opened and proposed,  along with several snippets of news....

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

Academy and Free School News April 2014

Once again this article only just makes it into the month, as I have been overwhelmed with concerns about primary school provision, and other news some of which is published or to come shortly.

Academy News

Three new Kent academies have opened this month, two sponsored by Lilac Sky Academy Trust: Morehall Primary School in Folkestone and Richmond Primary School in Sittingbourne. The third is the converter academy, Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend federated with Gravesend Grammar School.

In Medway there are two new stand-alone converter academies, Bradfields Special School and Delce Junior School.

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Dover has also applied to become an academy, presumably joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, which appears to be taking over all local Catholic schools.

Reculver CofE Primary School and St Mary of Charity CofE (Aided) Primary Schools are to be sponsored by the Diocese of Canterbury, with West Kingsdown CofE VC Primary School going to the Diocese of Rochester, as the churches take over an ever growing proportion of schools from KCC. Cuxton Community Junior School is to become an academy sponsored by the Primary First Trust, a multi academy group running academies in South East London. The troubled Warren Wood Community Primary School is to be taken over by the Greenacre Academy Trust. All of these schools have had a recent troubled history, some described in this website, which you can find using the search facility.

Free School News

No new developments this month, except to record the initial success of Kent’s Free Schools against recent national debate about the number of empty spaces in Free Schools........

Published in News and Comments

Kent County Council has submitted hard-hitting written evidence  to the Government Select Committee on Education’s inquiry into Academies and Free Schools which began on Wednesday last week. It explores “the potential atomisation and fragmentation of the education system” – a very evocative image. The Guardian calls its views on Free Schools ‘withering’ and, with last week’s news about the culling of sixth form courses for financial reasons, whilst the Free School budget appears to have no bounds, KCC makes some very good points on this aspect. Perhaps the money that state schools would have to find to keep schools open for nine hours or even taking Public School Common Entrance Exams, would be better spent on reinstating foreign languages, economics, music and other important sixth form curriculum courses all dear to Mr Gove’s heart, that have bitten the dust.

Much of the evidence provided is concerned with the problem of accountability and what to do with underperforming or failing academies, taking as an exemplar the surely non-viable Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate, now down to fewer than 30% of its places filled this year.

Kent on Sunday published an article expanding on these issues, which you will find here, however, to pick up some of the issues in the article ........

Published in News and Comments

John Wallis

My own view, scarcely original, is that a school succeeds through the quality of its leadership, rather than its status as an academy, free school or maintained school. My current nomination for best performing school in Kent is the John Wallis CofE Academy in Ashford (my hometown, so I am one of the few that know who John Wallis was!). Yes, its OFSTED published last week was only ‘Good’, not ‘Outstanding’ but the school replaced the previous Christ Church School and Linden Grove Primary both in Special Measures under KCC control just over three years ago and has travelled a great distance in that time. It is only Kent's second all through, children ages 3-19, academy. OFSTED sets the scene by describing the school population's characteristics: “The proportion of students known to be eligible for the pupil premium (additional funding provided by the government to help nationally underperforming groups such as students eligible for free school meals and children who are looked after) is considerably above the national average; close to 80% of students are of a White British heritage. While the proportion of students from minority ethnic groups is below average, the proportion who speaks English as an additional language is well above average; The proportion of disabled students and those with special educational needs supported through school action is well above average. The proportion of students supported at school action plus or with a statement of special educational needs is also well above average”.

In other words, this is a school flourishing in an area that includes much deprivation, and where many would dismiss the school and its students as bound to fail, because of the very high proportion of disadvantaged and SEN pupils. Other schools with a similar intake do fail because of low expectations and poor leadership. John Wallis shows what can be done to overcome disadvantage.......

Published in Peter's Blog

Former headteacher, Peter Read the man behind the Kent Independent Advice Service, examines a growing tension between Kent County Council and the growing number of schools opting to become Government Funded Academies

 Kent County Council (KCC) has submitted written evidence  to the Government Select Committee on Education’s inquiry into Academies and Free Schools which began on Wednesday.  It addresses concerns about both accountability and performance of academies, choosing The Marlowe Academy as an illustration. However, KCC could equally have chosen Tree Tops Academy and Molehill Copse Primary School, both run by the controversial Academies Enterprise Trust, which previously 'ran' Marlowe for a year. 

KCC's proposes that underperforming academies should revert to Local Authority accountability, but the weakness is that there is an assumption the LA is up to the job. I have written extensively on Medway Council's repeated failure to manage standards adequately, and they clearly do not have capacity to improve schools, whilst Kent is not yet a beacon of excellence. For, although it is improving, it has still too many primary schools fail OFSTED Inspections recently, all vulnerable to takeover by Academy groups (nine already on their way).  

This week’s news about the culling of sixth form courses for financial reasons whilst the Free School budget appears to have no bounds, underlines the illogical nature of current education policy, and KCC makes some very good points about the problems with Free School philosophy and implementation  .......

Much of the supplementary evidence to back up assertions in this article can be found on my website: www.kentadvice.co.uk......

Published in Newspaper Articles

This is a summary of a more comprehensive article that appears elsewhere in this website, prepared for Kent on Sunday 

The face of secondary education in Kent is changing rapidly as government decisions allow popular schools to offer additional places to meet demand. In Kent, with 75% of secondary schools either academies or in the process of change, this freedom is producing dramatic results. 

In 2013, schools created an additional 352 places by temporary or permanent expansion, most high profile being the West Kent grammars, where Judd, Skinners, Tonbridge Grammar and Weald of Kent Grammar each admitted an additional class of entry. Less prominent were Skinners Kent Academy (30 more children) and Bennett Memorial School (16 children). Most of these schools have not declared their intentions for admission next September, so parents are left uncertain of their chances of winning places at their school of choice. Parental choice is of course even greater this year as the Trinity Free School in Sevenoaks joins the Kent admission scheme. I anticipate that within two years this mix will also see the arrival of the proposed satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks.

The three new Free Schools, Trinity, Wye Free School, and Hadlow Rural Community School added a further 240 places, creating a total expansion of nearly 600 new places.

Not surprisingly, this saw KCC able to claim the highest proportion of satisfied families in recent years, with a record high of 84% of children getting their first choice school.

I anticipate that this trend will continue, as even more of the popular schools choose to admit more children, giving them additional finance and clout in the educational world.

Already for 2014 entry, with some of these schools making their enlargements permanent, and others joining them, I count 525 additional places confirmed since 2012, with another 140 probable and others expected to join this great monopoly game......

Published in Newspaper Articles

 swan valley 1swan valley 4

Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe had its official opening on Thursday 19th September, also attended by local dignitaries. However, there is no Ebbsfleet Academy, rather there is Swan Valley School, which hopes to become an academy on 1st November 2013, after extensive delays, partly brought about by the complexities of converting a school built under the Private Finance Initiative. I understand that unravelling the PFI issues is now the main hold up, but given this is a problem nationally for such schools wishing to convert, it was surely premature to assume that at Swan Valley all would run more smoothly.  The Department for Education's school data base now shows Ebbsfleet Academy as a sponsor led academy, proposed start date 1st November, with Swan Valley being billed to close on 31st October. 

Interestingly, in media interviews and comments two weeks ago, when I broke the story of how PFI academies would still continue to cost Local Authorities unfair costs after conversion, focused around Swan Valley, no one thought to correct the false information that the school had actually become Ebbsfleet Academy. Hardly surprising as everything about the running of the school gives the same impression.

Why is this of interest, apart from the misleading information? Ever since November when the previous headteacher was deposed, there has been controversy about the running of Swan Valley, and I have had a succession of messages from parents and staff expressing their concerns. Not an enormous number, but more than I have received for any other school in difficulties, and dwelling on the punitive nature of the school ethos or, for its supporters, the strict discipline.  A recent example of this is the controversy over the home school agreement, where the school falsely maintained there ws a parental obligation to agree to it. This is accompanied by concerns about poor communication which are obvious even to me, an outsider.

As a result I have monitored developments at the school from a distance......

Published in Peter's Blog

I have identified a financial scandal relating to academies, with Kent County Council being forced to pay more than £100 million to Private Finance Initiative (PFI) companies who are running schools that have become academies, over the length of their contracts. This is a figure that is likely to rise even further, and perhaps double as more schools convert. Academies are run independently of KCC and fully financed by government, many would say over generously, so it is bizarre that KCC still has to financially support their arrangements.  I was interviewed on both Radio Kent and BBC SE about the issues.

None of what follows is a criticism of the schools themselves, who are the innocent parties in this mess.

The PFI money comes out of the pot available to KCC maintained schools, so every school that is not an academy contributes to this totally unjust payment. The size of the pot depends on the number of schools that are not academies and so shrinks every time one converts. However, the sum payable to the PFI companies remains constant (and is index linked) so each school remaining with KCC receives a smaller budget. To take it to the extreme, if all but a few schools became academies, as the government would like, those few would have no budget at all - the total school fund going to meet the PFI bill.  This injustice can only increase the pressure on schools to change status, supporting a vicious circle that already operates because of other fixed costs faced by the county.  

Published in News and Comments
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 19:43

Home school Agreements and Swan Valley School

Swan Valley School has had a very bumpy ride since it disposed of its previous Principal in November, when he left with immediate effect. A previous article covers some of the issues surrounding this, and has attracted a mixed batch of comments about the school and its actions. I have now had complaints from several parents about Swan Valley, shortly to become Ebbsfleet Academy under the sponsorship of the Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, about its heavy handed approach to forcing parents to sign the Home School Agreement agreement which appear to be completely counter-productive, and contravene government regulations. This latest controversy appears to be a prime example of unnecessarily heavy handed behaviour by the school in its attempts to introduce new disciplinary standards....

Published in News Archive
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