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Update 24th January (original article below): Over two weeks on from my article, below, and eight weeks on from publication of its latest damning OFSTED Report, The Marlowe Academy has neither published the Report on its website, as it is required to do by the Department of Education, nor has it given any indication what action it is taking about the Report, preferring to take comfort in the following statement, released to KentonlineIt is the case the Marlowe Academy faces challenges, and as Ofsted’s letter states, governors are in discussion with the DfE about ways to address the issues that have been highlighted. It is not appropriate or helpful at this stage to speculate about what measures may be taken.
Marlowe Academy
Neither has the academy published its final 2013 GCSE results as required by the Department for Education, nor its English Baccalaureate results, nor the link to Government Performance Tables, enabling parents to compare results with other schools, also required. There are also other publication requirements omitted. According to the letters home section on the website, parents have not even been informed of the OFSTED outcome. Instead the following news item was posted on the website on 16th January, tucked away under the utterly misleading headline "Parents may have been concerned to read an unfortunate article in the local press, criticising the Marlowe Academy. We are pleased to say that the Marlowe Academy can report some very good news". It continues: Applications for September 2015 have increased significantly; Our current Year 7 students are making excellent progress; Year 11 students are highly motivated to succeed this year following promising Mock results; We anticipate another excellent year for our sixth form; ‘It is a fabulous school’ said one of our parents in our November parent survey". It really is difficult to know how to respond to this vacuous response to a Kent Messenger article revealing the appalling OFSTED Inspection Report to parents who would otherwise not know the school had even been inspected. Instead,......
Published in Peter's Blog
Updated with Salmestone OFSTED Report 24 Nov 2014
 
Drapers Mills Primary Academy, now run by the Kemnal Manor Academy Trust (TKAT), together with its predecessor school, have frequently appeared on the pages of this website. The latest OFSTED Monitoring Inspection in October, after the school was placed in Special Measures again in June earlier this year, has concluded that:

         The proprietor’s statement of action is not fit for purpose. The academy’s action plan is not fit for purpose.

Drapers Mills

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.

Beaver Green

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.......

Published in Peter's Blog

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!)........

Drapers Mills

 School motto: Dream it! Believe it! Achieve it!

Published in News and Comments

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.

Published in Newspaper Articles

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

 

Chaucer

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 .............

Published in Peter's Blog

 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.

Published in News and Comments

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'.  

Published in News and Comments

 St John’s CofE Primary School, Canterbury

See update on this item here

St Johns CofE Canterbury Kingsmead

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, Deal

 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........

Published in News and Comments

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......

Published in News and Comments

 

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:

Published in News and Comments
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Just click on a news item below to read it in full. Feel free to subscribe to the news via the email link to the right or the RSS Feed at the bottom of the page. Please note that the 800 or so regular subscribers who receive each news item directly are not included in the number of readers recorded below the item. If you have a view on any item posted, please leave a comment. Also feel free to suggest items of news, or areas where comment is needed to: peter@kentadvice.co.uk. \nNews items appear as and when I have time in a very busy schedule supporting clients.

  • Holcombe Grammar: Another Plan to Change Character?

    The 2018 Admission Appeals process is a pointer suggesting Thinking Schools Academy Trust has yet another plan to change the character of Holcombe Grammar School. It is to be changed from a school serving its local community well, to one dedicated to attracting high scorers in the Medway or Kent Tests no matter where they are drawn from.

    Currently, Holcombe Grammar has a Planned Admission (PAN) number of 120. For September 2018 entry it offered 148 places topping up the PAN with 28 offers to boys living in London Boroughs as far away as Croydon. It then declared itself full in spite of a previous claim that ‘We have the capacity to provide enough places for every boy and girl who wants one’.

    The Case for the School from the Trust to the Appeal Panel is a document  riddled with issues. Most importantly it completely misleads the Appeal Panel by providing a gross misrepresentation of how the Medway Test works, as explained below. It also states that ‘students who have not been deemed selective should not be considered for a place at Holcombe Grammar School, steering the Panel to select additional boys who have been found selective (probably through the Kent Test), but live too far away to secure a place initially. In the event just four appeals were upheld, by a Kent Panel who appeared out of their depth, in sharp contrast to the 30 successes of 2017, typical of previous years.

    The school is rightly proud of its GCSE performance having been second and third of the six Medway grammar schools in terms of both Progress 8 and Achievement 8 in the past two years, demonstrating its great capability to take local Chatham boys with moderate Medway Test scores through to strong performance. All this is now to be thrown away in the pursuit of glory, using pupils imported from London each year, including 10 from Greenwich for September, nearly 30 miles away.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 21 June 2018 18:16 Be the first to comment! Read 35 times
  • Cedar Federation, Gravesend: Ifield Special and King's Farm Primary Schools Celebrate Excellent Ofsted Outcomes

    Ifield    

    Kings  Farm 2018

    Ifield School celebrates its third successive Outstanding Ofsted assessment and King's Farm, brought to its knees four years ago by a headteacher now banned from the profession, is now Good in every respect, in a very powerful Report.

    The Federation saw a change of Executive Headteacher in September when Pam Jones, OBE, retired after a stellar career, and was succeeded by Abbie Birch, moving from the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector, having previously been a headteacher in Kent.

    If anything, the achievement at King's Farm is the more powerful, having risen like a Phoenix from the train wreck of 2014. Taken over by the Cedar Federation that year, now: ‘All leaders, including governors, are uncompromising in their high aspirations for every pupil. They are relentlessly driving improvement and accept nothing but the best. The executive headteacher and the head of school model the high standards expected. An exceedingly positive and respectful ethos permeates the school’.

    The strength of the transformation can be measured by: ‘In 2017 the school’s results at the expected standard for combined reading, writing and mathematics were the most improved in Kent, with an impressive rise of 34% from results in 2016’.

    Read more...
    Written on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 13:07 4 comments Read 1449 times
  • Leigh Academies Trust and The Williamson Trust to explore merger

    Update at foot of article

    The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

    Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

    Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 14 June 2018 11:47 6 comments Read 452 times
  • Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018

    There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

    A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

    Brent Outstanding 1

    There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

    East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

    The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

    I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

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    Written on Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06 2 comments Read 996 times
  • Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.

    Last Updated 29/05

    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. 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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    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27 27 comments Read 4667 times
  • Grammar Schools, Faith Schools, and Non-Selective Provision in Tunbridge Wells

    Updated 13th May

    This item covers the government announcement of £50 million to provide new grammar school places and the relaxation of rules for admission to faith schools. 

    The first issue was discussed on Meridian TV News on Friday to which I contributed, having previously discussed both issues including a previous article from last year, that looked across the landscape. This was updated with more recent coverage of the now likely provision of a Coastal Grammar annexe at Herne Bay or Whitstable, and the extension of the Weald of Kent Annexe. The latter is currently for girls only, but with premises offering capacity for boys, so approval does not appear to be finance related and presumably can be granted simply by a change in regulations. There may also be proposals from some of the more assertive grammar schools to look at annexes across the county boundary in Sussex and Surrey. 

    The second part of the government plan has attracted fewer headlines, and indeed appears toothless, whilst promoting a new generation of  Voluntary Aided faith schools. However, any built under this proposal (which appears little different from current regulations) will evade the current limit on new faith Free Schools, who can admit just 50% of their intake for children who qualify through faith criteria.

    The crisis in non-selective places in Tunbridge Wells has been brought about by church schools operating under the previous regulations, as explained below. 

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    Written on Friday, 11 May 2018 14:12 2 comments Read 757 times