The proprietor’s statement of action is not fit for purpose. The academy’s action plan is not fit for purpose.
Clearly, the Academy proprietors are panicking after a highly critical Special Report by OFSTED in July on TKAT. As part of their Report on Drapers Mills, OFSTED notes:
No action had been taken before the summer holiday except the removal of the governing body and the formation of an IEB….Since the inspection the previous headteacher has left. A new executive headteacher was put in place from 1 September 2014 who is a TKAT regional director of education. Two heads of school were also appointed and began work on 1 September 2014. The governing body was replaced with an interim executive board on 17 July 2014. There have been a large number of changes to the staff since the inspection. Fifteen members of staff have left the academy, including four out of the six newly qualified teachers who started at the beginning of the academic year.Fifteen new members of staff have joined….The executive headteacher and the two heads of school have acted decisively since September to address some of the inspection’s findings…. The proprietor has recently made available an additional team of skilled teachers to support the academy.
But we are now two years on from TKAT taking over a previously Satisfactory school. Two wasted years! Governors of the Primary School with local accountability were no doubt pressured to turn it into an academy. Do they feel responsible for the way it has turned out? Where is the local accountability now?
Salmestone Primary School
School became a TKAT academy in Sept 2012, after a previous Satisfactory OFSTED. Headteacher left September 2013, replacement left Easter 2014. OFSTED June 2014, found school Requires Improvement. The October Monitoring Inspection reports:
Half the teaching staff have left and been replaced. The governing body was suspended on 17 July 2014 and replaced with an Interim Executive Board (IEB). The IEB has had one meeting this year. The headteachers continue in part-time acting capacities. One of them is also headteacher of a school in London, and one is an educational consultant.....The external review of governance recommended at the last inspection has not taken place. The academy’s arrangements for governance are unusual as it is governed by the central TKAT IEB which oversees another academy locally. These arrangements are not sustainable if the long-term success of the academy is to be assured because the necessary time and skills for effective governance are spread too thinly.
Alternatively, schools in Special Measures may choose/fight to remain with KCC, like Lydd and Beaver Green Primaries, although there are problems with the support provided here also, as explained below.
School Governors are increasingly being held to account if their school is in difficulties, but it is increasingly difficult to see where they should turn to for help. Has the departure of the Senior Primary Schools Improvement Officer seen a change in the aggressive attitude of some officers in the Authority to schools in difficulty?
If governors don’t know where to turn (and for the first time I have fielded a number of enquiries for assistance from both governors and headteachers this year) what about the distraught parents trying to get a decent education for their children? Unfortunately, with the pressure on primary school places, the only vacancies that exist in many areas are in failing or underperforming schools, and so there is often no alternative. Strangely, the recommendation to move if you don't like what you are getting is often made by headteachers who must know there is no appropriate alternative. The lucky ones who can afford it have the option of private schools often seen as second choice but, for most, all they can do is watch as their children’s life chances are damaged by those responsible for nourishing them.......
Drapers Mills Primary Academy in Ramsgate has just joined two other Thanet Primary Academies in trouble, all three run by The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), who have been failed by OFSTED, becoming yet another academy to decline in category since conversion. Today, OFSTED has published an equally scathing Report on TKAT itself, confirming that conversion to become a Sponsored Academy is no panacea for success (parents at Twydall Primary and Kings Farm Primary, Gravesend, take note!)........
School motto: Dream it! Believe it! Achieve it!
In 2012, Kent County Council, worried about the low performance achieved by our primary schools, laid out its strategy to improve standards in “Delivering Bold Steps for Kent”. This document set as a central policy aim for 2015:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. This article explores some of the unintended consequences of that aim.
Just a year off the target date, OFSTED outcomes for Kent primary schools have actually fallen, compared both to previous performance and also to national norms over the same period. Since September 2013, 16 Kent primary schools have failed their OFSTEDs out of a total of 103 inspections, three times the national average. There is a fall in the proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected by OFSTED from last year’s dire figures which placed Kent 133rd out of 151 Local Authorities to a new low up to the end of May. In 2012, 61% of Kent’s Primary schools were classified as Good or Outstanding, a figure that the Document described as “clearly unacceptable”. One wonders therefore how the Authority will describe the current shocking figure of 53%, (down again from last year’s 56%) compared to a national average of 59%. 30 of the schools inspected have even seen the grade assessed declining from last time around, with half a dozen of these declining by two grades.
The story so far: In September 2010, Chaucer was still Canterbury’s most popular school, and the year before that I was handling appeals for places at the school. However, because of poor governance, mismanagement and failure to provide proper oversight of the school’s finances it had already started on a downward spiral culminating in OFSTED placing the school in Special Measures in February last year, identifying these as the key issues. By then the school had reduced its Planned Admission number from 235 to 150 with just 57 children entering the school in September 2013, filling only a quarter of the places available and taken up a few years previously. Kent County Council subsequently decided to close the school in February this year after just 26 children placed the school as their first preference, a decision that was unavoidable given all that had gone before. You will find further details here.
Following a Public Consultation, whose outcome was inevitable, given that nearly all students in Years 7-9 had been transferred to other schools by Easter, a formal decision to close the school from September 2015 was made on June 4th.
However, OFSTED in its most recent Monitoring Inspection of the school, explicitly and wrongly places the blame for the closure on the decision of The Canterbury Academy to increase its intake by two forms of intake to absorb a massive increase in first choices, soaring from 155 in 2013 to 205, rather than the failures of those responsible for the school itself, as parents sought to avoid the disaster that was now the Chaucer. This is demonstrated by the dramatic fall in first choices to 26, continuing a sharp decline over several years, finally halving from from 58 the previous year. This has nothing to do directly with Canterbury Academy, except for the latter's far more popular offering. Chaucer is currently run by the Executive Headteacher of the Swale Academies Trust, which originally took it over with the intention of turning it round, but having failed in this task is now closing it down after the current Year 10 students, the only year group left in the school, have taken their GCSEs.
OFSTED identifies the following consequences .............
There has been much debate since my previous article on the problem of Kent’s disappearing primary headteachers, with Kent County Council arguing that the removal of these headteachers is a necessary part of school improvement, that the improvement in OFSTED outcomes proves this and that every Kent primary school has someone in charge of it. It appears from the information available that some 40 primary headteachers have lost their posts since September 2012, 21 by formal means, the remainder being "encouraged" to resign.
However, chickens are coming home to roost. There is a sharp increase in the number of primary headship vacancies across Kent, a sharp fall in the number of applicants for each vacancy to an average of 2.33 per post, a quarter of all primary headships are having to be re-advertised, 16 Kent primary schools have failed their OFSTEDs since September, there is a fall in the proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected by OFSTED and more schools are seeing a worse OFSTED outcome this time round. Kent’s Key Stage 2 results for this summer should be interesting!
In 2012, KCC published its key policy document: “Bold Steps for Kent”, laying out its key education priorities for the next three years. Its key policy aim for 2015 was:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. With standards falling instead as we head towards 2015, KCC is clearly panicking and headteachers are becoming scapegoats, taking us into a spiral of decline.
The Kent Messenger has discovered, via a Freedom of Information request, that 21 headteachers of Kent schools were removed from their posts since September 2012. Of these, 15 were told to go due to performance reasons, five on grounds of conduct and one for an issue not disclosed. These will be mainly primary school heads, but would include secondary heads like the head of the North School, Ashford, a KCC run school, who resigned after the school was placed in Special Measures in December. It will not include the additional ones removed from academies, such as Castle Community College in Deal and Molehill Copse Primary in Maidstone. Neither does it include those who “voluntarily” gave up their posts, rather than face the stigma of removal. I hear that in total some 40 heads have given up or “lost” their posts since September 2013. I covered some of these issues in a previous article in April, which may well have sparked the Kent Messenger FOI request.
Please make no mistake; Kent County Council is forced to take action in maintained schools about 'Schools Causing Concern' through Government Statutory Guidance. This government policy is unforgiving and leaves limited room for manoeuvre, but the evidence presented below suggests that KCC's interpretation of this is not achieving the aims of the document, to 'drive up standards'.
St John’s CofE Primary School, Canterbury
See update on this item here.
In a previous article below, KCC describes in a policy document the circumstances under which they will replace the headteacher after a school is placed in Special Measures by OFSTED. Even as a news item describing this policy was being published in the Guardian, another headteacher was humiliated a few days before OFSTED arrived, being marched out of the school in front of pupils and staff by the Kent Principal Primary School Improvement Adviser, probably without notice. As OFSTED records in the recent Report that placed St John’s in Special Measures: "The headteacher was given a period of authorised absence just before the inspection" so it was not a disciplinary matter. However, the action ensured she was not in a position to defend a decision that was highly critical of her leadership. See below for more on this story.
Castle Community College was controversially formed from what was called a merger of the school of the same name and Walmer Science College in 2012, but was effectively the beneficiary of the closure of Walmer. Surprisingly, there was no change of name to indicate this was not just a take-over, which it became in practice, leaving many Walmer students and parents feeling bitter about the effective closure of their school. The Principal, Mr Philip Bunn joined Castle in 2011, shortly before it received an Outstanding OFSTED Report that June. In what is probably the fastest decline of any school in Kent, Mr Bunn has left the school during the Easter holidays without prior notice to parents, after the school achieved the 10th worst GCSE results in the country last summer, and is reported to have failed its most recent OFSTED Inspection. See below for more on this story........
As explained below, and as expected, OFSTED has carried out an in depth inspection of the Authority, backed up by 10 school inspections following Medway’s appalling primary school OFSTED and KS2 record,.
Results of eight of these inspections have been released today, of which six are primary schools.
Of the six just one, All Faith’s Children’s Community School, has been classified as good, the other five: Fairview Community Primary School, Napier Community Primary School, Stoke Community School, Walderslade Primary School and Thames View Primary School all being found to require improvement.
All Faith’s is and has been an academy for the past year so Medway Council can hardly claim responsibility for its performance although it appears to be trying to. Not one of the six has improved its OFSTED Grade and Fairview has in fact declined from its previous “good” assessment. Medway’s press release (below) astonishingly regards this as a good outcome.
BBC South East covered this item, on SE News last night, available on i-player today (Friday).
The facts: In December, OFSTED published its annual report for 2011-12, showing that Medway came 9th from the bottom in the whole country for OFSTED performance in its primary schools, with only 54% of its primary school inspections being Good or Outstanding, with Kent 10th from bottom at 55%. I have kept records of OFSTED Reports for both Medway and Kent for 2012-13 to date, and these reveal that of Medway’s 34 published OFSTED Reports since September, just 14, or 41%, are now good or outstanding, a sharp further fall on the previous year’s appalling performance. If these figures had been for last year, Medway would have been placed botttom Local Authority in the whole country. OFSTED, in its explanation as to why it was Inspecting Medway made clear the reason was the poor performance of Medway primary schools in OFSTED inspections, with the latest results for each school shoiwng a total of fewer than two out of five were good or outstanding (consistent with my figures for the past year). By contrast, Kent, which publicly recognised its deficiencies, has seen its percentage of good or outstanding schools rise to 59%. Medway came bottom of the whole country in KS2 performance......
Medway OFSTED Inspection
I understand that OFSTED is very keen for more parents to contribute to their in depth Inspection of Medway schools. One way of doing this is through Parent View for any school, which you will find here.
A press release by OFSTED published today begins: "Teams of Ofsted inspectors have today begun a week of co-ordinated inspections in Medway to find out why the city has a disproportionate number of under-performing primary schools – and whether the picture is improving. Ofsted’s latest data from the 30 April 2013, found that almost 8,000 children are attending a primary school that, at its last inspection, was judged to be less than good. That’s 29 primary schools not providing the expected level of education to young children. This is much worse than the quality of primary schools across England and is an unacceptable situation". However, as regular browsers of this website will know, the picture is far worse than this with so many areas of the Department underperfoming or failing in their functions. Just six weeks ago, Councillor Les Wicks lost his job as Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services after having presided over this debacle for too many years, despite calls for him to go from all sides. Other recent lowlights of Medway Council (slogan: Serving You) performance include: