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Fleetdown in Dartford: In its newsletter dated 26th June, the Headteacher announced that she and her governors may take away the place of any child who goes away on holiday in term-time and offer it to the next child on the waiting list. This is of course illegal, as the only way the place can be removed is by permanent exclusion. As the absence results from the parents' decision not that of the child there are no grounds to exclude because of serious misbehaviour the main criterion for permanent exclusion. The illegality is then compounded by the creation of a panel of governors to rule on whether the child can be offered a new place, a procedure which has no basis in law.

Hempstead Junior in Gillingham: as confirmed by the Medway Messenger, five of the eleven school governors have resigned “with the utmost reluctance” as it was “the only viable option left open” to them. In a letter to the school which I have seen, the governors said: “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”. The clerk to the governors appears also to have resigned. Cabinet Member for Education, Mike O’Brien, is reported to have said “The decision by some of the governors is entirely a matter for them.” – Obviously no concerns there then!

Second Update on Hempstead: There is a comment below by the recent vice-chairman of Governors; another by the last but one chairman of governors; and a third, moving statement by teachers at the head's previous school. This is building up to be a strong indictment of current management and makes Medway Council's position look even  more precarious.

Continued……


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Last modified on Saturday, 18 July 2015 23:06
Monday, 20 April 2015 00:20

Medway Academy Monopoly Continues

Written by Peter Read

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the abdication of responsibility for the Bishop of Rochester Academy in Chatham, as the Diocese of Rochester, the previous main sponsor, decided to abandon its attempts to improve the standards and popularity of the school. The Academy has now been passed on to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, headed up by The Rochester Grammar School, incorporating Chatham Grammar School for Boys and several primary schools.

Now comes news of a surprising merger between two more Medway Academy Trusts, an agreement having been reached to merge The Thomas Aveling Academy Trust (TA) with the Fort Pitt Grammar School Academy Trust (FP), under the catchy title of Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Academy Trust. 

Thomas Aveling

What is notable in a Local Authority whose academy chains are currently dominated by grammar schools (the third chain being the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Academy Trust), is that this time the non-selective school appears to be at least equal in status.


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Last modified on Thursday, 28 May 2015 06:48

Parents of children at Bishop of Rochester Academy in Chatham learned on 10th March that the school was to pass from lead sponsorship by the Anglican Rochester Diocesan Board of Education to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), headed up by The Rochester Grammar School and All Faiths Community Primary School and that the Principal had already left the school. The other two sponsors, Canterbury Christ Church University and Medway Council, will also have withdrawn from Bishop of Rochester as it becomes a TSAT Academy this month.

Meanwhile, TSAT has withdrawn from its intense campaign to secure Twydall Primary School as a Sponsored Academy.....


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Last modified on Friday, 05 June 2015 18:47
Saturday, 28 February 2015 18:35

The 11 Plus Conference

Written by Peter Read

Updated 6th April, following the Conference 

On 1st April 2015, I spoke at The 11 Plus Conference , about the effects of coaching on the Kent Test. The aims of the Conference were: Bringing together teachers, head teachers, examiners and education industry experts in the area of the 11 plus preparation; Providing a platform for discussion and debate in the future of the 11 plus; and raising money for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust”. The Memorial Trust has been set up to work with young people suffering from depression. You will find a transcript of my talk here.  The Conference now plans to put on a separate meeting targeted at the Kent Test in June.


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Last modified on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 09:46

I have frequently covered the failings of the three Maidstone primary academies run by the Academies Enterprise Trust on the pages of this website. At last there are signs of relief for the poor families whose children are forced to attend one of Molehill Primary Academy, Oaks Primary Academy and Tree Tops Primary Academy as they are taken away from AET control and transferred to the Leigh Academy Trust, currently Kent’s most successful academy chain, on 1st March.

All three schools have been failed by OFSTED in the past few years, an article I wrote in January 2014 being entitled: “Is this the worst school in the country, run by the worst academy chain? - Tree Tops Academy”. An update on the fate of the three schools followed in September. AET, the largest Academy chain in the country, is currently banned from taking on any new academies and received a highly critical letter from OFSTED, following the focused inspection of 12 of its 71 schools (OFSTED is currently not allowed to inspect academy chains directly), in September.……


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Last modified on Monday, 02 March 2015 21:59
Friday, 20 February 2015 20:00

Congratulations to Sue Rogers

Written by Peter Read

Congratulations to Sue Rogers who was Kent County Council's Director of Education Quality and Standards until Christmas, when she left to take up another post. I have today learned that this is as Managing Director of the Lilac Sky Academies Trust, which has developed a strong presence in Kent over the past two years. 

One of her first actions must have been the difficult one to become involved with the controversial proposed closure of Furness Special School in Hextable, which has been managed by Lilac Sky since mid 2012, but has now collapsed with debts of £1,631,520 over that period.......


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Last modified on Tuesday, 03 November 2015 18:27

CONSIDERABLY UPDATED WITH CORRECTIONS ARISING FROM FEEDBACK: 10TH FEBRUARY

Kent County Council has announced a Consultation on the closure of Furness School in Hextable. This is a scandal at the conclusion of four years of mismanagement by KCC, ending with a consultation that is a classic in misdirection.  I wrote a previous article in 2012 entitled “Is this the most damning Kent OFSTED Report ever? Furness School”, which has set the scene for this denouement three years later. 

Much of KCC’s argument for closure is false, based on two false premises, firstly that pupil numbers are low and getting lower, and secondly that education standards are low and not improving, as evidenced by the poor OFSTED Reports.

The school was redesignated to provide for high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder children (ASD) last September, replacing Behavioural, Emotional and Social Disorder (BESD). This year, ASD numbers are already 22 including an unspecified number of high functioning children (rather an important detail I would have thought), with BESD just 8, and new admissions discouraged or prohibited for much of the second half of 2012 for two years. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the trend in ASD is upwards, whilst BESD numbers would soon become insignificant.

All published OFSTED Reports refer to the now vanishing BESD group in the school, and in any case, show a strong upward trend in quality, which KCC has failed to notice!  The most recent report of December 2013 records that: “the principal has led the continuing, and at times dramatic, improvement of the school with unwavering determination. In this, she is supported by a strong senior leadership team and increasingly effective middle leaders”.   
 
Just seven months ago, KCC published its proposal for the new designation, which came about in September, which actually beggars belief in failing to identify ANY of the issues they now claim are central to the closure proposal. If the claims were true (which they are not), this would be gross negligence at a minimum. 
 
As a consequence of the proposal, the families of vulnerable children can see their education and life chances severely damaged as they are destabilised (over half of them for the second time in a year), money poured down the drain and SEN policy casually cast aside or misrepresented, accompanied by KCC attempts to show this is all to their benefit. 

I find it difficult to know where to start to pick my way through the complexities that have led to the KCC decision to close the school, but the article that follows attempts to cast the story in a historical perspective……


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Last modified on Wednesday, 07 June 2017 07:02
Thursday, 29 January 2015 18:47

Is this the final nail in the Marlowe Academy Coffin?

Written by Peter Read

East Kent College is opening a Technical School at its Broadstairs campus in September 2015, in just eight months time, catering for students aged 14-19. 

There is a copy of its full press release lower down this page, released today. 

The press release describes an unusual situation, where a new school, run by a high attaining college, can be set up apparently without permissions unlike the current University Technical College (UTC) in Dartford and the proposed one in Medway that have had to jump through very public hoops to get approval. Neither can i find details of any consultation with the local community.

Class sizes will be limited to 20, and the curriculum will focus on English, mathematics and science along with 'one of two vocational pathways - either Catering and Hospitality or Early Years and Childcare', aiming for 9 GCSEs or equivalent. 

It is surely not a coincidence that the press release has been produced on the same day as GCSE results have been published, which has placed the Thanet non-selectives in the spotlight for disappointing results, as explained in my article below. Clearly the College is looking to benefit from their difficulties and will certainly look an attractive option to many young people in underperforming schools. For example, those in the Marlowe Academy, which prides itself on its vocational provision, will be very tempted to jump ship from a school which is already struggling badly with numbers, as also explained below.  I can't see how the academy will survive this latest blow.....


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Last modified on Sunday, 01 February 2015 12:21

The Anti Academies Alliance is reporting increased resistance to enforced academisation, as typified by Twydall Primary School in Gillingham. The school was placed in Special Measures by OFSTED back in March and has had two critical OFSTED Monitoring Reports since then, although Key Stage 2 results in the summer were good. The headteacher resigned shortly after the second Monitoring Inspection, the Chairman of Governors having resigned earlier, both actions appearing to free up governors to take positive actions to improve the school in their efforts to take it out of Special Measures.

Twdall

 

The Governing Body has since been the centre of much activity, as Medway Council is attempting to impose the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), headed up by The Rochester Grammar School and All Faiths Children’s Community Primary school, as sponsors. It appears that governors are not unhappy with the concept of becoming a sponsored academy, but are increasingly resistant to this being TSAT. Allegations that two members of the Governing Body who have now resigned, had conflicts of interest with TSATs involvement, the replacement Chairman also facing controversy over his role, have not helped.

The arrival of an Interim Headteacher, Mrs Ann Pratt, with an excellent record and clear ideas for turning the school round appears to have had a very positive effect on the school, along with a more united and focused governance, which is now very open with parents about its activities, including a full written consultation, about academisation. The Governing Body section of the school website is a model of its kind, including copies of GB Minutes, and indeed the whole website now projects a very transparent and positive image of the school.  A Facebook page about the consultation contains some very frank comments about perceptions of TSAT……


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Last modified on Thursday, 12 February 2015 21:54
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 00:00

Good Morning Britain – Primary School Admissions

Written by Peter Read

I was interviewed on ITV Good Morning Britain this morning about the pressures on primary school places. The issue was precipitated by a paper from the Local Government Association attacking government lack of provision and planning for school places, and I contributed to the debate continuing on Radio Kent through the day.

The claim may well be true but, the timing of this paper was extremely insensitive (deliberately so?), just two days before the national closing date for primary school admission and guaranteed to worry many parents whose applications for school places have already been submitted.  The government response referred to ‘scaremongering’, and whilst I disagree with much of the rest of their case, sadly I think this word is correct.

Yes there are and will be problems ahead for many local families,  and the main problem areas for 2014 entry in Kent and Medway were described previously in these pages. However, the fact remains that in Kent in 2014, a high 85% of children were allocated their first choice school and just 5% were offered none of their choices. Medway’s figures were very similar at 86% and 5%. However, Kent anticipates an additional 15,000 school places will be needed over the next five years, and it is not yet clear where all these will come from.  

The politics of education are getting more unpleasant as we head towards the General Election,....


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Last modified on Wednesday, 21 January 2015 09:52
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,......

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Last modified on Saturday, 24 January 2015 17:38

The Division of Education Quality and Standards in the Education & Young People's Services Directorate of KCC is shrinking fast, suffering both from a reduction in school adviser numbers and also the departure of three of the four senior officers.

Sue Rogers, Director of Education Quality and Standards left at the end of December to take up post as - Managing Director of Lilac Sky Academy Trust (update 20/2/15). 

My exposure last Spring of the Division’s dubious tactics in removing primary head teachers of underperforming schools  eventually saw Simon Webb, Principal Primary School Adviser and key architect of the policy, subsequently retiring in October, although KCC had initially refused to acknowledge any problem. Amongst the festering issues left behind was the debacle at Kings Farm Primary, discussed previously.

Special Schools and Pupil Referral Units Principal Adviser, Diana Robinson, was made redundant at Christmas, although she was immediately re-engaged part-time as a consultant. The Authority is now engaged in recruiting a replacement. 

The fourth and sole remaining member of the management team is Nigel Blackburn, Principal Secondary School Adviser, who is surprisingly only contracted to work part-time at four days a week, the fifth day being devoted to his B & C Education Consultancy, in partnership with Debbie Coslett, CEO of the Brook Learning Trust. He presumably has to walk a tightrope to avoid any conflict of interest. 

As a result, there is at present no full-time permanent senior manager in the Division. No appointments have yet been made to the three vacant posts, which will remain unfilled until any new person is able to take up post, so School Improvement of necessity must be taking a lower priority. 

In parallel with these departures, KCC has had to reduce its school adviser numbers, both because of financial pressures from government on al local government functions, but also because the increasing number of government directly funded academies is further reducing the funds available to the Education Department to support its remaining schools.  

The issue of PFI schools seeking to become academies is back on the agenda……


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Last modified on Friday, 20 February 2015 22:02
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.......


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Last modified on Monday, 24 November 2014 18:15
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 00:00

Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs: Special Measures

Written by Peter Read

Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, just three years after being found “Good”. This follows the even sharper decline of Castle Community College  in Deal, from “Outstanding” to Special Measures in March, but is all the more surprising as there appeared few signs of decline to the outsider, with very good GCSE results in previous years, a well established headteacher with a good reputation and parents queuing up to send their children to the school.

Charles Dickens

 However, as I warned in a previous article, the new GCSE regime, along with a new Inspection regime, is going to provide Kent’s non-selective schools with a strong challenge.

Academically, the school steadily improved its confirmed 5 GCSE A-C including English and maths to a sound 53% in 2013, and the Report notes that the school has reached the government’s current floor standard of 40%, which sets minimum standards for attainment and progress. However, along with the large majority of Kent’s non-selective schools, there has been a strong dip for the unconfirmed 2014 results to 34%, connected with the changes in GCSE result calculation. This will have played its part in influencing the decision.  

The problem I have with this Report is that whilst it reads as the most critical I have ever read of a Kent secondary school (worse even than Castle), it almost appears to have lost objectivity and to be deliberately vindictive: “boys’ shirts are often hanging out untidily”! hardly the stuff of serious reporting. This sense is compounded by the fact that the Inspection Team invited the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, to join them on the second day of the Inspection, or was it that the findings of the team were so awful, they needed him to see them for himself?

So what are the key issues? The reality is that this is a damning Report, with copious evidence cited to back it up:.....


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Last modified on Thursday, 06 November 2014 12:37

OFSTED has provided Chatham Grammar School for Boys with some excellent news just a week before the closing date for secondary school applications, by classifying the school as "Good" just fifteen months after failing it by placing the school into Special Measures. The school is the only secondary school in Kent or Medway over at least the past two years to achieve an improvement of two categories. You can read the full Report here, and my most recent previous article on the school here

Chatham Boys

This remarkable turn around will be a great relief to all those students and families who have shown faith in the school, and a matter of congratulation to all those staff and leaders who have contributed  to this exceptional performance. The school was a good school and is now again one in which families can have confidence. 


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Last modified on Sunday, 26 October 2014 20:02
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