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See more recent comment on Simon Langton here, and on Thinking Schools Academy Trust here. Resignation of Chief Executive of TSAT here.

I make no apology to returning to this subject but events are unfolding so fast it is difficult to keep up.

My previous article written just on Saturday, described events at the two grammar schools, with the CEO of Thinking Schools Academy Trust, flagship school The Rochester Grammar School, being suspended The Times alleging amongst other claims that she snooped on staff email accounts and doctored parts of an external Inspection Report. Although the suspension took place back in April, it wasn’t until The Times went to press that it became public, and today the Trust has issued a statement as a result.

Rochester Grammar

By contrast the Headteacher and Governors at Simon Langton Girls Grammar School in Canterbury, appear to be getting into deeper water daily, with a letter sent out yesterday from Patrick Leeson, Head of KCC’s Education and Young People’s Services Department, requiring a re-run of the Governing Body decision to apply for Academy status last November, on grounds of maladministration. Surely more importantly, the GB should have been focusing with concern  the strong evidence of the school’s sharp fall in popularity as explained below, an issue that has been raised by several commentators concerned for the future of the school.

Simon Langton girls


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Last modified on Monday, 10 October 2016 03:33

For update, go to here.

Kent County Council has published a draft Report on Grammar Schools and Social Mobility, prepared by a Select Committee of County Councillors to be approved at a final Meeting of the Committee on June 6th before going to full Council. There is widespread agreement that the proportion of able children from disadvantaged families gaining access to grammar schools in Kent is too low, although once the children are admitted there is clear evidence they perform almost as well as the whole cohort of grammar school entrants. This Report establishes some important principles and recommendations to be put to full County Council on 14th July for approval, as set out below, and it is hoped that KCC will agree to promote these for the sake of those children.

For me the key statistic is that just 57.4 % of children on Free School Meals Ever (FSE, my preferred measure) who have achieved a commonly recognised grammar school standard of two Levels Five Plus in their Key Stage 2 Reading, Writing and Maths, begin grammar school, compared with 78.7% of similar ability children not in this category. This has to be wrong, especially as many of the reasons behind this disparity lie in the education sector itself………


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Last modified on Tuesday, 07 June 2016 16:42

Update: See latest article here. 

According to The Times, Denise Shepherd, who is Chief Executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, where she is paid £215,000 a year, was suspended from her post last month. The reason put forward by the newspaper is that the suspension was for alleged snooping on staff email accounts and doctoring parts of an external inspection report.

 

Rochester Grammar

 

Meanwhile the controversy at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School in Canterbury is spiralling to an almost unbelievable level for any school, certainly a state of open warfare the like of which I have never before seen in a school. The protagonists have made extensive claims about the actions of Headteacher and Governors relating to the school’s application to become part of a Multi-Academy Trust whilst absorbing the struggling Spires Academy into the Trust. Kent County Council is being heavily drawn into the controversy with no obvious strategy to ease the problems

Simon Langton girls.......


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Last modified on Monday, 13 March 2017 19:17

I was invited on Radio Kent yesterday, to comment on the effects on schools of the decision by Redbridge Council to purchase Howe Barracks in Canterbury to house 208 of the families on their Housing Waiting List. Canterbury City Council also tried to purchase the premises but were outbid, so local homeless families have been deprived of this accommodation. Not surprisingly, there is concern about pressure on local services including schools. 

In the past two months I have carried out surveys of Kent’s Primary and Secondary school allocations, for each District in Kent, looking at oversubscription and vacancies, the summary position for Canterbury is that at the time of allocation of places, there were 74 vacant spaces at Reception Year and not one for Year Seven in non-selective schools.

However, as always, the situation is more complex than this, as explained below…..


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Last modified on Friday, 27 May 2016 18:44

This article looks at two OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Reports close to my heart, for Christ Church Pre-School and The Harvey Grammar School. There is also good cheer for long-suffering Medway as they collect their first Outstanding OFSTED of the year at Barnsole Primary along with some other good outcomes, and four more recent Kent ‘Outstanding’ Reports at: Brookfield Infant, Aylesford; Great Chart; Herne CofE Junior; and Tunstall CofE. Then there is the enigma of the 'Outstanding' Monitoring Inspection of Canterbury Academy!....

Canterbury Academy

The previous OFSTED assessment of Canterbury Academy as 'Requires Improvement', was a surprise to many, 

....


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Last modified on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 19:31
See new article here, dated 29 May
The story below is growing and growing. You may wish to consult the Facebook Forum  to see developing views, or an article in Kent on Sunday which attempts an analyis of the key issues, although these are now so tangled, it is difficult to keep up.   
There is growing controversy over what appears to be a rushed decision by Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School in Canterbury to apply for academy status. The school Governing Body Minutes of November 2015 state that the reason for proceeding with haste was because of the connection, described in the most recent OFSTED Report as an “informal relationship”, with Spires Academy where the headteacher of SLGGS is also Executive Headteacher, and there are close personal links between the two institutions.
 
Simon Langton girls
The fear driving the application was that: “if the decision be held over for a few more months the option of Spires would no longer be available to the school and the decision had to be made by the end of the year as other schools were interested in taking on Spires as part of a MAT (Multi-Academy Trust); and that this could result in being allocated another school (not necessarily a local school)”, which was being discussed by the Academy (see below). Of course, nowhere does this imply that another school taking over Spires is a bad thing for the students of the school, and data presented below suggests it may be even be beneficial for the academy, especially as the Academy was served with a Pre-Warning Notice by the Department for Education because of its low standards. It may well be that the proposed academisation of SLGGS could be seen as a preemptive action to stave off such a take-over. I cannot believe there is another case where the main reason put forward for academisation of a school is to block the future prospects of another school with whom it has no formal relationship. It was reported that a further obstacle to academisation has now been removed in that partially thanks to the good offices of KCC, SLGGS had secured funds to provide new buildings. The headteacher agreed with governors at the November meeting that she would inform staff, parents and students next day of the Governors decision to apply to become a Multi Academy Trust.

It was only when I alerted parents on this website in January that the school had applied for academy status that many people learned what was going on and I was contacted by concerned staff to ask if it were true......


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Last modified on Saturday, 04 June 2016 12:26
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 06:44

Headteacher of Hempstead Juniors Quits School

Written by Peter Read
In a brief letter to parents, the Co-chairs of Hempstead Junior School report that "Mrs S Smith, Headteacher since September 2013 has now retired from Headship and has now left the school". This follows a torrid time for the school over the past few years, as Medway Council supported the Headteacher, whilst good governors who complained about her actions in the interests of the school and its children were snubbed after they sought help from Medway Council, and eventually despaired and resigned, followed by others.
 Hempstead Junior 3
At the same time the school suffered a worrying loss of experienced teachers, unhappy with the way the school was then being run. The troubles culminated with the headteacher being suspended from her post in February although Medway Council refused to confirm this, previous events being described in my article here. This turned out to be the most read news item on the website posted in the past year,  attracting an astonishing 10,669 hits in just two months. 

This retirement follows the recent departure of the equally controversial headteacher of Whitehill Primary in Gravesend, and it is reported that both schools have now returned to their previous positive and happy states.......


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Last modified on Tuesday, 19 April 2016 21:05
Friday, 01 April 2016 21:14

Compulsory Academisation

Written by Peter Read

I think my views on compulsory academisation are clear from comments in articles I have written recently on a variety of topics, as this is a proposal that now appears to pervade everything to do with education in schools. However, I have not yet had opportunity to write at greater length on the issues and consequences for children in Kent and Medway because of other pressures on my time. I did have time to contribute an interview to the new 'Paul on Politics' show on KMTV, which you will find here, including a quite mild excerpt from my views. The Academies Section starts 9 minutes and 15 seconds into the programme........


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Last modified on Saturday, 16 April 2016 07:57

Updated with Government Press Statement

Inspire Special Free School, the only Free School in Medway, based in Chatham, has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED following an Inspection in January, less than two years after opening. You will find the full headlines of the Report later on in this article. Inspire Free

 The then struggling Silverbanks Centre, a Pupil Referral Unit, was broken up into two parts in September 2014, following an OFSTED Inspection that failed the Unit, judging it to have Serious Weaknesses. Inspire, which was set up as a Free School strongly supported by Medway Council, and currently catering for 37 children with social, emotional or mental health needs has failed spectacularly, with leadership and management at all levels judged inadequate and a highly qualified governing body not fully understanding the issues faced by these same leaders, nor recognising that the quality of teaching and learning has declined.


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Last modified on Monday, 04 April 2016 18:25
Thursday, 24 March 2016 06:46

Medway Council: Not in the Public Interest

Written by Peter Read

Update: The application was rejected by Government in August 2016, details here. 

I have covered the apparently unstoppable move by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT) to turn Chatham Grammar School for Boys into a co-educational school in previous articles. One thing above many others puzzled me; the decision by Medway Council (Slogan: "Serving You") not to disclose to the people of Medway if it had made objections to a proposal which inevitably will have a serious negative impact on grammar school provision and admissions in Medway. Indeed, the Council turned down my Freedom of Information request on the amazing grounds that  it was not in the Public Interest to disclose their objections. 

"Our country can't afford a two tier education system with London streaking ahead and areas like Knowsley and Medway lagging behind. It’s morally wrong and economically self-defeating"
Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, in her speech to justify all schools be academised, using Medway Education Department to make the case. 

Following an Internal Review (complaint) I have now obtained the Medway Council submission, which turns out to be a strong, if overly polite, attack on the proposal. This begs the question of why were they ashamed of critical arguments revealing the problems this proposal will now cause, that should have influenced other respondents to the ‘Consultation'?  Given the strength of these objections was there not a case for marshalling the opposition? You can still only read the full objections here at present, although Medway Council may wish to explain why they are not otherwise available.

I have covered most of the following issues in previous places, but not being aware of other proposals by the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Trust, had not realised full the impact of giving priority for grammar school places to children in primary schools of the two Trusts, which is likely to deprive children in some other Medway primary schools, especially in the Hoo Peninsula and Rainham, of grammar school places in the future. Surely this aspect must now be halted somehow for both Trusts. Medway Council has once again let its residents down appallingly in failing to raise this issue publicly at the right time.


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Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 20:03

The Leigh Academy Trust is proposing to extend the age range of the Leigh UTC (University Technical College) to cover the age range of 11-14 with the support of KCC, to increase the number of secondary school places available in Dartford. One must applaud any sensible opportunity to ease the pressure on Dartford places, however the proposal raises a number of important questions.

Leigh UTC 1 

The plan is to build an 11-14 ‘school’ on vacant land opposite the current premises, called ‘The Inspiration Centre’ to cater for an intake of 120 children from September 2017, also working with Dartford Council to create an adjacent outdoor sports complex for all students (it is not clear if this is exclusively for Leigh Trust students).  The students will follow a normal curriculum before going on the UTC offering with its increased focus on engineering and computer science from Year 10 onward, being joined by up to 30 students from other schools. 


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Last modified on Saturday, 04 February 2017 22:41

Further Update: Application Turned Down by Government in August 2016, here.

Update: Medway Council's objections published in full here

Chatham Grammar School for Boys is to admit a co-educational intake for September 2017, subject to approval from the Regional Schools Commissioner (advised by the Regional Headteacher Board of six headteachers, of which Ms Shepherd is a member, but who would not be involved in the decision), following a decision by the Directors of the Thinking School Academy Trust. This decision represents a reduction in opportunity for boys, leaving Medway with one very oversubscribed boys’ grammar, inaccessible to those in most of the Council’s area, as opposed to three girls’ grammars.

Chatham Boys 3

The school is to change its name to Holcombe Grammar School.

The Trust has scrapped its controversial proposal to admit children through a decision of the Admission Committee without testing, following my previous article pointing out that it was illegal. This article also covers some of the main issues and provides links to other items.

Medway Council refused my FOI Request for their response to the Consultation “in the public interest!” leaving one to wonder yet again, which public's interests they serve. 


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Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2016 20:02
Friday, 26 February 2016 22:34

Hempstead Junior School - Headteacher Suspended

Written by Peter Read

The headteacher of Hempstead Junior School in Gillingham has been suspended after an extraordinary series of recent events, as described below, following a controversial time as headteacher since her appointment in September 2013, including conflict with staff and governors that resulted in a high turnover of both, together with difficult relations with many parents. However, she enjoyed the support of Medway Council and its Cabinet Member, Mike O'Brien throughout, even after a previous Chairman of Governors, the Vice Chairman, Chairman of Finance and two other governors resigned over their inability to work with the headteacher, the reason quoted in a letter to the Council as: "Despite our considerable efforts over the course of many months, we no longer believe we can work with the current head teacher to deliver sustainable progress for the school in general and, most importantly, for the children”, which was a clear cry for help for the school. However, this was dismissed out of hand by Mr O'Brien who considered: "The decision by some of the governors is entirely a matter for them – Obviously no concerns there then! 

Hempstead Junior

Sadly, the Council has now chosen to dig itself in a deeper hole by belatedly sending out a letter to parents, stating: "The Headteacher is unwell and will be absent from the school for the time being",although there is now a wide awareness of the true facts in the school. The headteacher is pictured above with Mr O'Brien. 


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Last modified on Monday, 21 March 2016 22:58

In its time Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy has been the most troubled school in Kent, my previous article also providing links to earlier references.

That article, entitled “Problems in Secondary Schools in Kent's Coastal Towns“, looks at the high casualty rate amongst headteachers of non-selective schools around the Kent coast. With Sheppey’s sharp fall in GCSE performance since the current Principal, David Millar, took over in 2013, from 41% and 37% before he arrived, to his 19% then 25% in 2015, he was surely a candidate to be next for the chop, especially with discontent amongst the staff and the continuing cry of ‘anywhere but Sheppey’ from any aspiring parent.

Isle of Sheppey Academy

However, remarkably, although he is leaving the school this summer before his public commitment to serve at least three years at the school was fulfilled, he has been given a ‘great opportunity’, a further promotion with another multi-academy trust, presumably therefore a school even larger than Sheppey, the second biggest in Kent.....


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Last modified on Tuesday, 25 April 2017 21:48

The issues surrounding Chatham Grammar School for Boys’ proposals to go co-educational and also to redefine the way “grammar school ability” is determined are obviously of considerable importance to all secondary schools and the families affected in Medway. You will find my most recent article on the controversy here.

Medway Council’s view is clearly central to the situation as they have legal responsibility for the provision of education, if not the power since the introduction of academies.

According to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, owners of Chatham Grammar, Medway Council is supportive of the proposal to go co-educational: “In Medway the Council can see the benefit of a co-educational school to absorb both boys and girls” and “Medway LEA were happy for the school to increase its published admission number to accommodate all those that applied for a place”.

Unfortunately, whether this is true or not is currently a secret, as Medway Council is refusing to make its representations to the consultation public at this time……


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Last modified on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 22:21
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