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Displaying items by tag: folkestone

Wednesday, 10 June 2020 17:58

More drama at Turner Schools

Update in blue below., about Jo Swash, Vice Principal vanished 'in the night'.  
Since its arrival in Folkestone at the Easter of 2017 under the leadership of CEO Dr Jo Saxton, Turner Schools has indulged in an ad hoc adventure: appointing and removing staff at short notice amidst a flood of changing job titles, along with other multiple changes of direction; low academic standards and unpopular schools; and a massive variation in exclusion rates, at its peak the highest number of any school in Kent. Headteachers have come and gone in attempts to fix the problems, six at Folkestone Academy and another half dozen at Martello Primary, along with a multitude of other senior leaders as changes in the structure become bewildering in their frequency.

Dr Saxton has now moved on to advise Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education in March this year (see below) and Seamus Murphy, her successor as CEO, is wasting no time in making his mark on Turner Schools. Having arrived in April 2019, he is now on his fourth role in the Trust.

One of his early actions on taking on full responsibility has continued the Turner Schools tradition of creating a high turnover of senior staff, with the Executive Principal of the two Trust primary schools departing at very short notice on Friday last, after just one week of Term Six. Monday’s letter informing parents of the decision can be found by a link on Facebook but is well hidden. It is also very short on detail about Mrs Sowden-Mehta who has been at the school for three years, having been promoted twice. In spite of this success, she has very suddenly ‘decided to leave Turner Schools to pursue new opportunities’, a time-honoured phrase used to cover leaders who have been forced out of their schools. The previous Principal of Folkestone Academy has also recently vanished after first being demoted. 

Update July: Jo Swash, Vice Principal has left Folkestone Academy suddenly, my correspondent says'mysteriously'. When I checked this recently here, he was present in the photographs but has now gone, but is still present on the list of all staff, below

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Update 11 April: If you wish to apply for the vacant post of Head of School at Folkestone Academy, you will find details here. The 84 point Job Description defining the post-holder's responsibilities shows that Turner Schools has not lost its touch for covering all the bases.    

Update: To add to Dr Saxton's Achievements, below, the number of families putting Folkestone Academy as their first choice school for 2020 has fallen yet again, from 153 in 2019 to 127 in 2020. 23 children, probably all from Folkestone, were allocated to the school, refusing to put it on their application form.

Dr Jo Saxton is leaving her post as co- founder and Chief Executive of Turner Schools, the small Academy Trust in Folkestone, but being paid one of the largest salaries in the country for a Trust of this size. Her departure comes after just three tumultuous and underachieving years and a big vision, along with a huge number of unfulfilled promises including for the two Folkestone secondary schools the fantasy claim: both schools will outperform all schools in the south of England – excluding grammars - and provide “success without selection’.

She had already effectively thrown in the towel a year ago, when she appointed a new Deputy Chief Executive, now her successor, so that 'she could focus on curriculum matters, being the original reason she took on the Turner Schools post’, although I can find no other mention of this focus anywhere else.

TurnerSchools

The news of Dr Saxton's departure was contained in Kent Live published earlier today, 11th March. I have never before received so many emails in half a day informing me of a news item in such a small time. None of them regret her departure.

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The Turner Schools Annual Report to Companies House, posted on the final due date, 31st January 2020 suggesting some difficulties in completion, continues the saga of well rewarded underperformance. CEO Dr Jo Saxton whose recent main focus has been on Curriculum across the four Turner Schools, was paid a salary of £149,783, conveniently just below the £150,000 level at which government looks askance. The salary is in return for running a small, struggling Academy Trust and is highest of the Kent Trusts I have found so far, excepting four which are large and successful. The Report works hard, as is usual for Turner Schools, on blaming its problems at Folkestone Academy on legacy issues despite the evidence that standards have only declined since it took over. Amongst other own goals: it also manages to excuse the failure of the two Turner primary schools to attract pupils, including Morehall with the highest vacancy rate in Kent; has run up a loan repayable to government of £1.3 million; and has two of its four schools running at a sizeable deficit.

Turner Schools Logo

In other news, Government has at last released a Free School Impact Assessment for Turner Free School carried out in 2018, looking at the likely effects its opening would have on neighbouring schools. The good news (??) according to the DfE was that there would be a Minimal Effect on Folkestone Academy in terms of recruitment, but a Moderate Effect on Astor College in Dover. For the Sixth Form there would be Moderate Effects felt by Canterbury College, East Kent College (which have now merged) and Hilderstone College. How much more wrong could government be! See below.

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The following article may not be of direct interest to families but it identifies the chaos and machinations at the top of Turner Schools and as such I consider it is an important testimony. The consequences for schools operating under this chaotic level of leadership cannot be good.   

The mystery of the resignation of the Chairman of Directors and Founder of Turner Schools, Professor Carl Lygo, along with Dame Susan John and four other Directors continues to deepen in what appears to have been a meltdown amongst the Board of Directors back in  May. Amongst other developments below, the Trust has quietly announced the appointment of Mike Buchanan as the new Board Chairman in the middle of an article about building works, although completely forgetting to mention why another Chairman is needed, or to give any mention or credit anywhere to Professor Lygo, Dame Susan John, or Jenny King amongst others for their important contributions to the Trust.

TurnerSchools

Since I wrote my previous article, Folkestone Academy has had another set of poor GCSE results. Although it has improved on its record of awarding more than one in seven fixed term exclusions for the whole of Kent in 2017-18, the 2018-19 performance of being the third highest percentage in Kent is nothing to be proud of, nor are the high exclusion rates at Martello Primary and the Turner Free School. 2017-2018 had seen a mass exodus of staff, another large swathe going in July this year. Folkestone Academy has got through five headteachers since Turner Schools took over. Sixth form numbers have slumped, as has intake. The Trust has made multiple false claims about its ‘successes’ over the past two years to cover this record up. There is more to come before Christmas.

Published in Peter's Blog
Friday, 05 July 2019 07:12

Turner Schools: More Self Promotion

The National Schools Commissioner (NSC), Dominic Herrington, recently paid a visit to Folkestone Academy, proudly announced on the Turner Schools Trust website, in yet another article expounding the school's brilliance, and explored below. Mr Herrington is also currently Regional Schools Commissioner for the South East so, although this is not mentioned, he may have come in that capacity. One can only speculate on the reasons for this unusual visit to a school which is part of a Trust recently described by several ex members of staff as being run like a personality cult ( You will find a profile of CEO Dr Jo Saxton with photographs from the TES back in October, centrally featured on the Trust's 'Latest' news items, displacing the NSC's visit). 

TurnerSchools

Was it that the National Commissioner wished to see at first hand the issues that Turner Schools have created at Folkestone Academy and the two primary schools of the Trust, as detailed in various articles on this website and summarised below; or was it to look at the way the largesse that has been lavishly showered on this small struggling Academy Trust has been used and why it was needed in the first place; or was it the false claims of a severe shortage of places across Folkestone and Hythe in five years’ time in this article grandly entitled 'How Turner Schools is helping Kent meet the growing secondary school population'.

Overall, the Turner Schools website appears specifically designed to impress important people rather than target the population of Folkestone with children considering secondary school places. 

Published in Peter's Blog
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.
Published in Peter's Blog
 
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?
Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 21 November 2018 10:18

Folkestone Academy - Further Troubles

Update: In spite of using the Turner School headhunters, Saxton Bampfylde, the Trust has been unable to appoint an Executive Principal for the Academy. See below

I make no apologies for yet another table topping statistic for Folkestone Academy after it ran up a debt of £708,707 in 2017-18 for overestimating its pupil roll for last year, the highest figure in the country, as confirmed by SchoolsWeek. A spokesperson for Turner Schools trust, which runs four schools including Folkestone Academy, pointed out the calculation was made in November 2016 before the school transferred to the trust. 

Turner Schools Logo

However, it is clear that the reason the school saw a fall of 50 Sixth Form students (or 21%) leading into the year 2017-18  is because of decisions made by Turner Schools  after it took responsibility for the school in April 2017, as it chased higher academic performance. This will have been exacerbated for 2018-19 by the sharp fall in GCSE provisional performance, with Progress 8 diving to -0.78 from -0.22, sixth worst in the county, and Performance 8 falling to 31.0 from 36.4, fifth worst in Kent after over a year of Turner Schools' control. 

The academic ambitions of the Trust are clear from a quotation by Dr Jo Saxton, CEO of Turner Schools, and from many other quotations: ‘This past summer, 101 students went on to university but only one per cent went to a Russell Group university. Some are dropping out of university before finishing their degree’These ambitions may be laudable but surely the Trust has to secure its base instead of collapsing it along with young people’s education and aspirations, before driving ahead without foundations. These would include a lawful admissions policy for Sixth Form admissions (see below). 

My previous article recorded that the school had by far the highest number and rate of Fixed Term Exclusions of any school in Kent.

Published in Peter's Blog
Wednesday, 10 October 2018 00:25

Turner Schools Part 3: Folkestone Academy

This is my third article on The Turner Schools Trust which operates three academies and one Free School in Folkestone, a town described recently by a Turner Schools speaker as comparable with an American rust-bucket city.

TurnerSchools

The start of term saw Chief Executive Dr Jo Saxton addressing the staff of Folkestone Academy on the subject of the school's dreadful 2018 GCSE results. She informed them that these were the result of five years of poor teaching. It did not go down well especially as these are a sharp fall from the solid outcomes of 2017, after more than a year of Turner School oversight.  Nevertheless the school website falsely reports Folkestone Academy as ‘Celebrating an Encouraging Uptick in Students Securing Top Grades’  (uptick – a financial term relating to small increases in share price).

2017-18 saw a teaching staff turnover of 33.1%, more than twice the average of local secondary schools but in line with them, according to the Trust.

Contrary to claims by Turner Trust, the opening of Turner Free School has badly hit the Folkestone Academy intake with a fall of over a quarter in its new Year Seven numbers.

On the strength of its 'success' in Folkestone, Turner Schools is, according to yet another exclusive article in the TES, contemplating opening a university to follow on from its Sixth Forms in Folkestone. Many would argue it needs to show it can run its two secondary schools successfully before even thinking about developing this further vision.  

Turner Schools uniquely (?) refuses to follow the Freedom of Information Code of Practice about handling Requests for Information....

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You will find a considerable update to this article here, posted 13th July

One of the Turner School Visions:

We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,

which we interpret as being the whole person.

Turner Schools, an Academy Trust whose leaders have no problem with schools being profit making enterprises, appears to be heading for difficulty with each of its four Folkestone projects. Currently Folkestone Academy is the only non-selective school serving the town. It is to be joined in September by the Turner Free School, to be opened on the site of the old Pent Valley School. The Trust also runs two Folkestone primary schools acquired in January 2017 from the failed and now closed Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and both struggling to attract pupils.

One problem I, and surely most enquirers, have with the website for the Trust with its sections for  each of the four schools, is that it appears to be aimed at an audience of academics and teachers (website now superseded). This is in contrast with every other school website I have visited which set out to be attractive to parents and potential parents, providing them with much valuable information rather than empty words and aspirations.  

I look at all four schools in more detail below on separate pages, underneath a broader look at the Trust, with the following links to each school: Turner Free School; Folkestone Academy; Morehall Primary & Martello Primary You can see a fascinating variety of views in the comments at the foot of the page. 

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