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Displaying items by tag: academy - Kent Independent Education Advice

Regular browsers of this website will be be well aware of my concerns about the accountability of academies. I have just posted my initial advice and views on complaints about Independent Panels set up by academies to hear admission appeals. Sadly, I am very disappointed.......

Published in News Archive
Thursday, 02 June 2011 00:00

Complaints about Academies

The following table gives a breakdown of the data for complaints to the EFA about Academy and Free School Appeals for the past two years, 2015-2017. You will find an article expanding on these figures here.   

Complaints to the EFA about Academy
and Free School Appeals
  National  Kent Medway
   15-16 16-17 15-16 16-17  15-16  16-17
 227  234  25  21  3 4
 14  6  o  o  0  0
without Injustice
 21  15  0  1  1  0
 133  164


 18  2


 0  33   0  2  0  1

You can see that success rates have halved since my previous data collection in 2011, below. 

A. Maladministration that the YPLA considers may have caused injustice.  Where this is the decision a fresh appeal is required to be heard by a different panel.

B. Maladministration that the YPLA does not consider to have caused injustice.  Where this is the decision no fresh appeal is required

C. No maladministration.


Total received

Decision Pending / Awaiting Further Info from parent or Clerk A* B* C* Parent Withdrew Complaint
National 107 16 7 3 78 3
Kent County Council Area 18 0 4 1 13 0
Medway Council Area 0 - - - - -

* Letters refer to decisions in previous paragraph.

Compared to Ombudsman decisions, there is a remarkably low proportion of successful complaints settled so far. Of course it may be that those where decisions are pending include a higher proportion of cases which may be settled in favour of the complainant.

By comparison, for 2010 entry, the Local Government Ombudsman heard 1403 school admission complaints nationally, fairly similar proportionately, given the number of schools involved. For Kent in 2010, there were 35 complaints to the Ombudsman about school admissions for county/community schools although the outcomes are not recorded. Kent foundation and voluntary aided schools produced 77 complaints of which 30 were the subject of local settlements (this means in general that the complaints were upheld with a fresh appeal or a recommendation to admit directly to the school), and in Medway, 6 out of 18 were upheld.

There thus appears to be a dramatic fall in the chances of success for complaints about academies, three possible reasons being as follows. Firstly, those still pending may produce a higher proportion of success, as they may be the subject of further investigation, but this would still leave the chances of success much lower. Secondly, the process of determining outcomes has significant differences. Normally in Ombudsman cases, there is discussion of the issues arising between the parties so that all have a chance to comment on the other's case. The complainant usually sees the appeal clerk's notes and the admission authority's comments on the case. he is then able to challenge any wrong information put forward. The Ombudsman issues a provisional view which either side can challenge and put forward further information. On the other hand, with the EFA, the academy gets to see the complaint, but the parent does not see their response - this is clearly unfair! There may be limited informal discussion, but the first real indication one has of the  outcome is the final decision. Thirdly, the Ombudsman website is packed with information and advice on complaints, backed up by a telephone support line. There is no such help available for complaints to the YPLA.  There is solely information on the address to send a complaint to. One of the massive frustrations reported by schools and parents alike, is the difficulty in contacting real people - telephone numbers all too often lead to message boards where no one answers!

I am happy to be corrected on any of the above views or information.

Kent County Council has appointed another new senior Interim Officer,  Lorraine O'Reilly, who is to be Director of School Standards and Planning, a poisoned chalice indeed........

Published in News Archive
Monday, 16 May 2011 21:45

Bishop of Rochester Academy (2)

I hear that Mr Christopher Sweetman, Principal of Bishop of Rochester Academy since its opening in September 2010, who was suspended by the governors in March, following reports of poor behaviour in the school, is to leave the Academy. Although the two Vice-Principals have been running the academy in his absence, he is now to be replaced by an Executive Headteacher, Mr A Reese who is also headteacher of Greenacre School in Chatham. You will find a previous article on the issues behind these moves here.

The Medway Messenger has now covered this story in more detail and has attracted a (very) wide variety of comments on the story!

Published in News Archive
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 00:00


Last updated  September 2018




When I started this page seven years ago, it was a simple matter of record. As you read it, you will become aware it is now a very complicated set of data and I am only too happy to correct any errors or omissions that may have crept in. 

Government policy has now backed away from forcing all schools to become academies, whilst still putting considerable pressure on underperforming school to change status. A BBC article from October 2016 explains the current situation well. 

The concept of an academy becomes increasingly complicated and below I have attempted a simplistic definition only. For an excellent legal understanding go to the ‘Can of Worms’ website, where an analysis is provided by the Education Law Journal.  Of particular interest is the learned comment at the foot of the article by Sir Peter Newsam, first Chief Schools Adjudicator. One quote:it needs to be recognised that the contract system (the current academy model), as a way of running thousands of individual institutions, is expensive, inefficient and dangerous. The expense and inefficiency are becoming obvious. The danger lies in the power contracts give to an individual government minister. Annual funding, much of it discretionary, by an individual, on which a school is wholly dependent, is precisely what the 1944 Act was so careful to prevent. An academy is a government school, defined as a school created by a government minister, wholly dependent on funding approved by that minister and subject to a terminable contract with that minister”.

 You will find KCC's views on Academies and Free Schools set out in their Evidence to the Select Committee Enquiry into Academies and Free Schools back in 2014. I published an article describing what is quite an outspoken document.  

An academy is a school directly funded by the Department for Education and independent of direct control by local government in England. However local government Councils are responsible for the funding formulae used to allocate funds among sections of education within an authority. An Academy may receive additional support from personal or corporate sponsors, either financially or in kind, but must meet the same National Curriculum core subject requirements as other state schools and be subject to inspection by Ofsted.Academies are self-governing and most are constituted as registered charities or operated by other educational charities.Government policy is to encourage all schools to become academies. Those regarded as the stronger can choose how they are governed (see below); those that are perceived to be underperforming or have failed an OFSTED Inspection come under considerable government pressure to become sponsored academies taken over by stronger schools or by one of the many flourishing Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). They lease their premises from government and set their own terms and conditions for teachers (Headteachers generally attracting considerably higher salaries than for other schools). This is allowing academies to attract teachers away from other schools whose needs may be greater. You will find the Department for Education's rationale for academies here, along with more details of operation. 

Government has also blocked Local Authorities from setting up new schools, and these now have to be academies, Free Schools, or Voluntary Aided Schools (I can't see the logic for these last in converting, where a Foundation or Trust contributes to building costs and has some influence on the running of the school). In the case of new academies and Free Schools, government provides the building costs and the sponsors run the school. A major expansion of provision in primary schools is needed in parts of both Kent and Medway, so the academy and Free School sectors will both naturally expand. You will find a  parallel information article on Kent and Medway's Free Schools here.  

In Kent and Medway, academies are generally independent of the local authorities in most respects, although a few are directly sponsored by the Authorities (as far as I can see this just means they appoint a governor who does not necessarily report back, and have no other control). However, they all required to obey the same Admissions Code and are members of the Kent or Medway coordinated admissions scheme for all schools. As the two Local Authorities diversify into an increasingly splintered education provision under the academy programme, there are now many types of local model, as explained below. 

Currently three quarters of Kent secondary schools, academies and free schools (74/101) are either academies or free schools, with another five having made application (although several are held up because of PFI issues), a total of 79%. There are over a third of all Kent primaries (161 /456), another 17 officially in progress, a total of 39%.  In Medway 94% (16/17) of Medway's secondaries are academies and 52/79 of the primaries, along with two more in progress, 66% in all. There  is one academy Special School in Kent out of 21, and four out of five in Medway. Academies exist in either Stand Alone Trusts (SAT) or Multi Academy Trusts (MAT). There are currently 61 Kent  academies in SATs and 169 in MATs, of which 30 are in small units of two schools only, and 46 in MATS with 10 or more academies in Kent. 

The distinction between academies and Free Schools is becoming increasingly blurred, but you will find a list of distinct Free Schools here

An organisation that is highly critical of the academy programme, but whose website is very informative on aspects of it, is the Anti-Academies Alliance

I have now heard anecdotal evidence of several schools which signed up to be sponsored or converter academies, in Multi-Academy Trusts, where the agreed level of top-slicing of the academy budget to pay for Trust costs is greatly increased soon after the conversion takes place.

Old Style Academies
First up are the “old style” secondary academies. The rationale for these  was originally based on replacing failing schools in socially deprived urban areas, although this definition became stretched as government sought to increase the number with,, for example, the Knole Academy in Sevenoaks not qualifying on any of the three counts. The earliest academies have either been completely rebuilt or had plans approved to secure a rebuild on a very generous budget of the order of £30 million each, Isle of Sheppey Academy doing best with premises at a cost of £54 million. Those approved later have still been generously treated usually benefiting from a major rebuild, usually of £15 million or more. Most of these academies have main sponsors who have been given control of the institution for a donation of the order of £2 million, waived in the case of charities or churches.
You will find a list of Multi-Academy Trusts here, Old Style Academies generally being sponsored by one of these. 

The old style academies are: Brompton Academy, Gillingham (sponsored by University of Kent); Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone (Future Schools Trust); Dover Christ Church Academy (Canterbury Christ Church University);  The Duke of York's Royal Military School, Dover (fully boarding, previously Independent, with a tradition of admitting children of military families, associated with Dover Federation of the Arts); Folkestone Academy (all through, incorporating the previous Folkestone Primary Academy, now Turner Schools, previously sponsored by Roger De Haan); Isle of Sheppey Academy; The John Wallis C of E Academy Ashford (all through, incorporating the previous Linden Grove Primary School, Ashford);  The Knole Academy, Sevenoaks; Leigh Academy, Dartford (Leigh Academy Trust); Longfield Academy, Dartford (Leigh Academy Trust); Marsh Academy, Romney Marsh (previously Tonbridge School, now Skinners Company); New Line Learning Academy, Maidstone, (Future Schools); Orchards Academy, Swanley (TKAT); St Augustine Academy, Maidstone; Strood Academy (Sponsored by University of Creative Arts); Skinners Kent Academy, Tunbridge Wells (Skinners Company); Spires Academy, Canterbury; Victory Academy, Chatham (Thinking Schools Academy Trust, previously Bishop of Rochester Academy, Rochester Anglican Diocese); and  Wilmington Academy, Dartford (Leigh Academy Trust).

Newer academies fall into two types: 'sponsored' and 'converter'. Both types of academy are able to bid for capital developments in competition with other schools under two categories: where numbers of children are expanding in the area; and where the school buildings are identified as in need of improvement. In neither case is it yet clear by what criteria these funds are awarded. In my opinion certain academies attracted undue priority for their bids in the most recent capital allocations I have analysed. Many academies are expanding fast, including grammar schools.
Sponsored Academies
The first type are the Sponsored Academies, who are taken over by more successful schools, academy chains or other organisations. Increasingly, they are new schools. Not all are underperforming and some have chosen to take up this arrangement.  Currently government is putting pressure on Local Authorities and school governing bodies in an attempt (almost wholly successful but often controversial) to force underperforming schools. into academy partnerships. There is no public consultation for these conversions and it is not until the decision is announced that one can be sure this is happening. Often there is great secrecy about the process. 

There is no pattern for these schools, but I have attempted to identify the Multi Academy Trusts  that operate in Kent and Medway with information about them and their other academies elsewhere in the country. I provide a summary list of the sponsored academies below, cross check with the Multi Academy Trust groups page to find the sponsor.  

The sponsored academies are (in their academy groups here):

Kent secondary schools

Charles Dickens School, Broadstairs; Ebbsfleet Academy (previously Swan Valley School); High Weald Academy (previously Angley School); The Lenham School, (previously Swadelands School); Meopham School; Orchards Academy (previously Swanley Technology College); SchoolsCompany The Goodwin Academy; St Edmund’s Catholic Secondary, Dover; Sittingbourne Community College.

Medway secondary schools: Holcombe Grammar (previously Chatham Grammar for Boys); Hundred of Hoo Academy (5-19); Robert Napier 

Kent primary schools:

Ashford:  Beaver Green Primary; Brenzett CofE; Finberry Primary; Kennington CofE Juniors; Kingsnorth CofE; John Wallis Academy (Primary Section,previously Linden Grove).

Canterbury: Petham Primary;  Pilgrims Way Primary School and Nursery; Reculver CofE Primary 

Cranbrook: Cranbrook Primary (in progress)

Dartford: Cherry Orchard Primary Academy; Dartford Primary Academy (previously York Road Junior School and Language Unit, and St Alban's Primary); Knockhall Community;Westgate Primary.  

Dover:  Charlton CofE Primary; Hersden Village Primary School (F); Temple Ewell Church of England Primary. 

Faversham: St Mary of Charity CofE (Aided) Primary School

Gravesham: Chantry Community AcademyCopperfield Academy (previously Dover Road Primary); Istead Rise Primary ;  Rosherville CofE Primary; Tymberwood Academy (previously Raynehurst Primary School) 

Maidstone: Archbishop Courtney Primary; Barming Primary; Holy Family RC Primary; Molehill Copse Primary; Oaks Academy (previously Oak Trees Community School); St Francis Catholic Primary (in progress); St James the Great Academy (previously St James the Great Primary Community and Nursery School); Treetops Academy (previously Bell Wood Community Primary School).

Malling: Aylesford Primary School; Valley Invicta Primary School at Holborough Lakes (Snodland); Valley Invicta Primary School at Kings Hill; Valley Invicta Primary School at Leybourne Chase (Maidstone) 

Sevenoaks: West Kingsdown CofE VC Primary School (in progress)

Shepway: Brenzett CofE; Lydd Primary; Folkestone Academy (Primary Section, previously Park Farm Primary); Martello Grove Academy, with SEN Unit; Morehall Primary; St Nicholas CofE, New Romney.

Sheppey:  St Edward's Catholic; Thistle Hill Academy; 

Sittingbourne: Kemsley Primary; Lansdowne Primary; Milton Court Primary; Richmond Primary; South Avenue Junior;  Westlands Primary School

Swanley:  Horizon Primary School;

Thanet: Chilton Academy Primary School; Christ Church Church of England Junior School in Ramsgate; Cliftonville Primary; Dame Janet Primary Academy (previously Dame Janet Infant & Junior Schools), Drapers Mill Primary School, Margate; Newlands Primary, Northdown Primary; St Laurence in Thanet Church of England Junior School;  & Salmestone Primary,

Tonbridge: Royal Rise Academy (previously St Stephen's Primary)

Tunbridge Wells: Skinners' Kent Primary School; Temple Grove Academy, (previously Sherwood Park Community Primary School) 

Medway primary schools:
Allhallows Primary School; Byron Primary; Cedar Children's Academy; Cuxton Community Junior; Deanwood Primary; Elaine Primary Academy; Featherby Junior; High Halstow Primary; Gordon Infant and Junior (operating as Gordon Schools Federation); Kingfisher Community Primary; Lordswood Primary; Napier Community Primary & Nursery, Gillingham ; New Horizons Children's Academy, Chatham; Oasis Academy Skinner Street; Phoenix Junior Academy (previously Glencoe Junior School); Saxon Way Primary Academy; St James Church of England Primary Academy, Isle of Grain; St Margaret's CofE Junior; Temple Mill Primary; Twydall Primary; Warren Wood Community Primary & Language Unit.
Sponsored Academies in Development
Community College Whitstable (Swale Academies Trust); Maundene School (Inspire Partnership); Holmesdale School, Snodland; North School, Ashford (Swale Academies Trust, PFI); Riverview Junior (Gravesend, Pathway Trust); Royal Harbour Academy (Coastal Academies Trust, PFI);  St Francis Catholic Primary, Maidstone (Kent Catholic Schools Partnership); St Stephen's (Tonbridge) Primary School (sponsor discussions in progress); West Kingsdown CofE VC (Rochester Diocesan Board); 
 Converter Academies
Secondary SAT: The Abbey, Faversham;  Borden Grammar, Sittingbourne; Brockhill Park Performing Arts College, Hythe; Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School, Ramsgate ; Cranbrook School; Dartford Grammar; Dartford Grammar Girls; Folkestone School for Girls; The Harvey Grammar, Folkestone; Herne Bay High School; Highsted Grammar, Sittingbourne; Highworth Grammar, Ashford; Hillview, Tonbridge; The Maplesden Noakes, Maidstone; Mayfield Grammar (previously Gravesend Grammar Girls); The Norton Knatchbull, Ashford; Oakwood Park Grammar, Maidstone; Queen Elizabeth's Grammar, Faversham; Sandwich Technology; Sir Roger Manwood's, Sandwich;  Tonbridge Grammar;Towers, Kennington; ; 

Secondary MAT: Astor College for the Arts; Barton Court Grammar, Canterbury; Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, Tunbridge Wells; The Canterbury High; Cornwallis, Maidstone;  Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs; Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne; Gravesend Grammar; Hayesbrook, Tonbridge; Hartsdown Technology College, Margate; Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, Tenterden; Invicta Grammar, Maidstone;  King Ethelbert's, Westgate; Mascalls, Paddock Wood; St Anselm's Catholic, Canterbury; Saint George's Church of England, Gravesend;  St Gregory's Catholic Comprehensive, Tunbridge Wells, St Simon Stock Catholic Maidstone; The Skinners', Tunbridge Wells; Ursuline Convent, Westgate -on-Sea; Valley Park, Maidstone; Weald of Kent Grammar, Tonbridge; Westlands, Sittingbourne; Wilmington Grammar Boys; Wilmington Grammar Girls; Wrotham.

Medway: Chatham Grammar School for Girls (S);  Fort Pitt Grammar School (M); Greenacre School (M); Howard School, Gillingham (M);Rainham Mark Grammar School (M); Rainham School for Girls (M); Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School (M); The Rochester Grammar School (M); The Thomas Aveling School (M); and Walderslade Girls School (S)

Ashford:  Adisham CofE Primary (S); Charing CofE Primary; Furley Park Primary (S); Godinton Primary (S); Hamstreet Primary; Kingsnorth CofE Primary; Pluckley CofE Primary; Smarden Primary; St Michael's CofE Primary (Tenterden); St Simon of England RC; Tenterden Infant: Tenterden CofE Junior; 

Canterbury: Canterbury Primary; Hampton Primary (S); St Stephen's Junior; Sturry CofE Primary; 

Cranbrook and Weald: Brenchley and Matfield Primary;

Dartford: The Brent Primary (S); Gateway Primary; Hartley Primary Academy; Joydens Wood Infant (S); Joydens Wood Junior (S); Manor Community Primary, Swanscombe; Oakfield Community; Our Lady of Hartley Catholic Primary; Temple Hill Community; Stone St Mary's CofE; Wentworth Primary; Sutton at Hone CofE; Wilmington Primary (S); West Hill Primary.

 Dover, Deal and Sandwich: Barton Junior; St Joseph’s Catholic Primary (Aylesham); Priory Fields; St Martin's; St Mary's Catholic Primary; Shatterlocks Infant; Vale View Community; Warden House Primary, Deal; Whitecliffs Primary College of the Arts;

Faversham, Herne Bay, Whitstable:  Graveney Primary (S); Luddenham (S); St Mary's Catholic (Whitstable); Selling Primary; 

Gravesham:  Culverstone Green Primary; Meopham Community Academy (previously Meopham Primary School); Riverview Infants; Shorne CofE Primary; St Botolph's Church of England VA Primary; St John's Catholic Primary; St Joseph's Catholic Primary School; Westcourt Primary; Whitehill Primary; Wrotham Road.

Maidstone: Allington Primary; Coxheath Primary; Loose Primary; St John's CofE Primary School; South Borough Primary; Valley Invicta at Eastborough, 

Malling: Leybourne St Peter & St Paul CofE, VA; More Park Primary; St Mark's CofE (Eccles); West Malling CofE Primary and Language Unit (S);

Sevenoaks: Amherst School (S); Fordcome CofE Primary; St Thomas Catholic Primary; 

Shepway: Christ Church Cof E Primary (S); Dymchurch Primary; St Eanswythe's CofE Primary; St Mary's CofE Primary; Stella Maris Catholic Primary;

Sheppey:  Halfway HousesMinster in Sheppey; St George’s CofE (Aided) Primary; 

Sittingbourne & Rural Swale: Bobbing Village; Borden CofE; Bredgar CofE; Grove Park Junior;  Iwade Community Primary; Lynsted and Norton Primary; Milstead and Frinstead Church of England Primary School; Minterne Community Junior; Oaks Community Infant; Regis Manor Community Primary; Sheldwich Primary; South Avenue Infant; Westlands Primary;

Swanley: Horton Kirby CofE; 

 Thanet: Chilton Primary (Ramsgate); St Gregory's Catholic Primary, Margate; St Joseph's Catholic Primary, Broadstairs; Upton Junior, Broadstairs; 

Tonbridge:  Chiddingstone Primary (S);St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Primary;

Tunbridge Wells: St Augustine's Catholic Primary;

Primary academies in Medway, all MATS: All Faiths' Children's Community Primary, Strood; All Saints CofE Primary, Chatham; Balfour Junior Academy; Barnsole Primary; Bligh Infant and Junior Schools; Brompton-Westbrook Primary; Chattenden Primary; Castle Academy, Rochester (previously Delce Junior); Cliffe Woods Primary;  Cuxton Community Infants;  Deanwood Primary;  Featherby Infant and Nursery; High Halstow  Primary; Hilltop Primary; Hoo St Werburgh Primary; Maundene School; Miers Court Primary; The Pilgrim School; Riverside Primary; St John's Cof E Infant; St Margaret's at Troy Town CofE VC Primary;St Margaret's Infant, Rainham; Stoke Community Primary; Thames View Primary; Walderslade Primary; Wayfield Community Primary & Nursery; Woodlands Primary, Gillingham; 

 Special schools: 

 Milestone Special School, New Ash Green, (M). And in Medway: Bradfields Academy, Chatham (M); Danecourt Community Special School, Gillingham (M); Rivermead  School, Gillingham, (M). The Rowans (Pupil Referral Unit).

Converter Academy applications in progress
Schools with applications in progress are:  Holmesdale Technology College, Snodland; 

 All Souls CofE, Folkestone; Bean Primary, Dartford; Bethersden Primary, Ashford;  Cage Green Primary, Tonbridge; Darenth Community, Dartford; Deal Parochial CofE; Hornbeam Primary, Deal; Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE Primary School; Lamberhurst St Mary's CofE; Northbourne CofE Primary, Canterbury; Parkway Primary, Maidstone; Rolvenden Primary, Tenterden; Roseacre Junior, Maidstone; Sandown School, TW; Sholden CofE Primary, Deal; St Ethelbert's Catholic Primary, Ramsgate; Sutton Valence Primary, Maidstone.

In Medway: Park Wood Infant and Junior Schools. 

Several schools that applied for Academy status appear to have withdrawn their applications as they no longer feature on the government data base of Applications. I would be happy to receive further information on these schools. They are: Borough Green Primary School; Bromstone Primary School, Broadstairs; Lady Boswell's Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary, Sevenoaks; Mundella Primary School, Folkestone; Oakfield Community, Dover; Riverhead Infants (Sevenoaks); ;  Sandgate Primary (Shepway); St Mary's Catholic (Canterbury); St Richard’s Catholic Primary School in Dover.

West Kent Health Needs Education Service for Tonbridge and Malling (Pupil Referral Unit);  

Final Thoughts 
For me, the major concerns are the two tier financial structure being created and a lack of accountability. The threat to a failing school was that it would be closed and turned into an academy. What happens to a failing academy (they do exist and numbers will inevitably increase)? Against this, there is no doubt that academies are raising the status of schools, and some are notable successes. The myth of higher standards can be seen from research quoted by the admittedly partisan Anti-Academies Alliance. Sadly this does not appear to create as many headlines as the vast pro-academy public relations exercise mounted by government amongst others.

The concern over lack of accountability sees parents unhappy with provision finding it very difficult or impossible to get satisfaction, for the local authority does not have responsibility for the internal running of Academies, and Department of Education processes can often appear impenetrable. The Local Government Ombudsman has no role in complaints about academies or appeals for admission or permanent exclusion, as they do not come under the aegis of local authorities. For complaints about academy admission appeals see my website article here. The correct route for complaints about academies, is via the DofE. You will find the procedure here.  Oddly, the DfE website recommends a private charity, Coram Children's Legal Centre  for legal advice about such matters.  I have no information about this charity other than what is on their website. 

Parents who send their children to academies need to understand the issues, although for most it may well be the best or only option available, and a very positive experience.

Thursday, 07 April 2011 16:45

Bishop of Rochester Academy (Updated)

The Principal of Bishop of Rochester Academy has been suspended today for unspecified reasons. A statement  from the three Sponsors: Rochester Diocese, Canterbury Christ Church University and Medway Council states: "The strategic direction and performance of Bishop of Rochester Academy is of the utmost importance to the academy sponsors and Board of Governors....

Published in News Archive

Another knotty problem for Michael Gove.

Following Kent secondary school allocations on 1st March just gone, 9% of places in Year Seven were left empty or occupied by children who had not applied for the schools in question. The Audit Commission considers there should be no more than 5% empty spaces in any area or authority. So there is a problem in Kent. However, with 49 of the100 Kent secondary schools either Academies or well on the way and another 36 Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools partially independent of KCC,  the county has lost all control of its ability to plan numbers of places to fit the population, and so has no way of meeting government targets...... (read more)

Published in Newspaper Articles

The following article appeared in the first edition of the new "The Reporter" newspaper, reflecting the pressure on the newspaper industry as it replaces the old established Gravesend Reporter and the Dartford Times.


Kent County Council has made a largely successful commitment in recent years to improve the quality of the school building stock following many ‘drought’ years when this aspect of our children’s education was neglected. Projects such as: the ‘Old Style’ academies - 10 brand new luxury schools brought into being (including Leigh in Dartford and Longfield); the six PFI project schools; and the first eleven schools completed under the now defunct Building Schools for the Future programme (including Northfleet Girls, Northfleet Technology, St Johns and Thamesview in Gravesend), have resulted in over a quarter of Kent’s secondary schools being completely replaced.  The Special School Review saw many of Kent’s Special Schools rebuilt or refurbished (including Ifield in Gravesend), and many readers will be aware of major primary school rebuilds, and new schools in the area (including Manor Community at Swanscombe) that have transformed the learning of so many of our children. Kent has also been working on a schedule to reduce major maintenance issues, which saw a reduction in the backlog from £147 million to £98 million over the past four years.

However, all this has come to a juddering halt with government cuts in education spending, some of which is retargeted at other priorities. Seven ‘Old style’ Academies (including Wilmington and Orchards in Swanley) are waiting a government review which will probably provide them with budget new  buildings and KCC has gone to court to try and recover the BSF programme for the remainder of Gravesham’s secondary schools (or more likely the millions of pounds lost in preparation works.  You will find further details of these projects at

Meanwhile, all schools are grappling with a swingeing 80% cut in their own grants for the repair, maintenance and improvement of buildings and provision of ICT from 1 April 2011. Whilst this is a hammer blow, worst affected will be the ten schools which lost out under BSF  (including Gravesend Grammar, Gravesend Girls, Meopham and St George’s). For they will all have cut back on their maintenance and building plans expecting that BSF would solve their premises problems, but now there is no money to carry out essential repairs and improvements. A typical secondary school would have been awarded some £120,000 for this work last year, but now sees this reduced to £24,000, inevitably leading to safety concerns. This comes the week after compensation was awarded to families whose children were taking examinations in the school hall at Minster College (now The Sheppey Academy) when central heating ducts fell on them. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries or deaths, but this will certainly not be the last such incident now that schools have been deprived of sufficient funds to carry out repairs.

All this leaves KCC with a backlog of maintenance problems, currently totalling £90 million, its main hope of shrinking this being to say goodbye to schools who are choosing to become academies. Some of these will be leaving because increased budgets may give them the opportunity to resolve these issues, but when all secondaries have become academies, the pain will need to be shared equally once again.

Published in Newspaper Articles

THe following article appeared in an abbreviated version (missing out some of what I thought were the best bits!) in Kent on Sunday 16 January


The face of education in Kent is changing with astonishing rapidity, driven by the Academy movement. Currently, there are 28 secondary Academies in the county with another 5 in Medway, and 10 Kent and 2 Medway secondary schools on the way. You will find a full list at Many others have begun the process, so Kent is close to losing 50% of its 101 secondary schools. This is surely well past the ‘tipping point’, where KCC has confirmed it will encourage all remaining secondary schools to become Academies, as it becomes uneconomic to run a system for the rump.  Instead, KCC plans to change its focus to supplying services to schools who wish to buy them in.

What does this mean for the schools, and more importantly for the children? 10 of the original ‘luxury model old style’ Academies, mainly replacing failing schools, have been completely rebuilt at an average cost of around £30 million apiece, so the students are being educated in superb surroundings designed to offer exciting curricula,  often attracting highly talented leaders.  The remaining 6 ‘lean old style’ academies face a more difficult future as the plug was pulled on their building programmes, although several have been promised a watered down development.  However, as this week’s GCSE results tables show, many of these have yet to convert academic promise into real progress.

The remaining Academies are the new ‘Gove’ models, having converted since September, the government aggressively encouraging all schools to change status. It promotes the following advantages: freedom to reward staff appropriately; freedom in the delivery of the curriculum; freedom to change lengths of terms and school days (why not offer all these to all schools?); and freedom from Local Authority control. However, to quote the headteacher of one such Academy this week: “parents and children will not have noticed the difference; for us the main advantage is a short term financial gain of some £350,000 for the year”. The first crop of  Gove Academies are OFSTED ‘outstanding’ schools, so one is unsure why they need to be financially subsidised at the expense of others, as school budgets shrink to pay for them and because of the national financial crisis.

Kent County Council will probably continue to  support the majority of Primary and Special Schools (just 4 primaries have changed so far, with another 2 underway), otherwise it will be reduced to offering key services such as Special Education Needs and School Admissions, although these will be undermined by the independence of Academies.

It is already evident that there is a worrying lack of accountability of the Academies, with parental concerns having nowhere to go except the Department of Education that hardly appears geared up to deal with them. Some schools are already bucking the Admissions system with no sanction available, and others are actively discouraging children with Special Needs, so that shortly these will become a greatly disadvantaged group. I have already expressed concerns about pressure on primary school places in West and North West Kent, and cannot see how KCC can carry out its planning role in the new climate, as new provision moves over to the market place for individual schools  which wish to expand. One interesting development is the encouragement to successful schools to take over others, and there are successful examples of this, but no rationale to the decisions being made; indeed one civil servant is reported to be visiting Academies with a shopping list of primary schools across a wide geographical area, encouraging bids to take them over.

Soon nearly all secondary schools in Kent will be Academies, each ploughing their own furrow.  One can already see some adopting business models, seeking to expand their activities rather than putting the education (not just the league table outcomes) of their pupils first. Kent County Council which once billed itself as ‘champion of children’ has no role in the new set up so there will be no one who will stand up for the children of Kent as a whole, until government recognises there needs to be accountability and takes more central control. Then, when the number of schools is too great, it will set up local centres to administer schools. Presumably these will be without local accountability, unless they delegate responsibility back to KCC following the Eric Pickles philosophy of localism.

One final question. If government has the power to close failing schools and turn them into Academies, what will it do with failing Academies?

Published in Newspaper Articles
Thursday, 18 November 2010 00:28

The Irony of the failing Marlowe Academy

Today, Michael Gove has announced that schools with 'Good' OFSTED Reports can apply to become Academies. Historically, Academies were failing schools that by changing to become Academies, by some alchemy suddenly become a good schools (or is it the resources that do it!). What then happens to failing academies? For today, a published OFSTED Report for the Marlow Academy, Ramsgate, serves it with a 'Notice to Improve' - that is to say, the Academy is failing!

Published in News Archive
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