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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
Saturday, 18 October 2014 00:00

Amazing Week for the website: Kent Test Results

Written by Peter Read

This version of the website has been running for four years, a previous one for another four years. In all that time I have never seen anything that compares to the activity on the site over the past four days. However, the signs were not propitious when my computer crashed on Wednesday morning and my wizard took three hours to remove the virus that had infected it, in the middle of my attempt to prepare my article setting out the news and my comments about this year's new style Kent Test. 

However, I managed to finish it just in time for 4 p.m. and the website has been hit like never before. The news item Kent Test Results 2014: Initial Outcomes and Thoughts has already had almost three and a half thousand hits in three days, smashing all previous records (UPDATE: 5513 exactly a week on). Most of my other data is for the past four weeks, with the Information Page on Kent Grammar School Applications for Entry in 2015 which has recorded 11,433 hits from the 31,587 visitors. Not surprisingly, the next most popular is the Information Page on Medway Grammar School Applications 2015.

Reprints of Newspaper articles posted this year have also proved a great hit. The most recent one, appearing in Kent On Sunday, about advice for secondary school admissions has already attracted 1857 hits in two weeks; shortage of primary places 1328 over the same period; hit rates rising all the way back to February, when an article I wrote on accountability of academies and their relationship with KCC has attracted an astonishing 25,201 hits. 

Over the years the site has attracted a limited number of comments, but the Kent Test page has again broken all records with 25 browsers initially posting their thoughts on the test and my article.  However, ........


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Last modified on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 20:09
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00

Social Mobility and Kent schools

Written by Peter Read

Two issues of social mobility affecting Kent children were in the news yesterday.

Firstly, the proposal by government to extend its current freedoms for academies and free schools to prioritise admission for some disadvantaged children to all schools. I was able on Radio Kent to identify the one Kent academy, a grammar school, that has already gone down this route, However, I cannot see those oversubscribed church schools where the freedom would be most likely to have an effect, taking advantage of this opportunity to increase social cohesion and mobility. 

Secondly, the Sutton Foundation, a highly respected education charity identified the best and worst academy chains in the country for improving disadvantaged pupils, finding a huge variation in the performance of sponsored academies run by the 31 long standing chains examined. One of the of the best performers, the Leigh Academy Trust,  operates in Kent. Of those don’t who perform as well as maintained schools, five operate in Kent, including one very surprising chain based in the county......


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Last modified on Sunday, 27 July 2014 08:03

Governors of Twydall Primary School were asked at their Governing Body meeting last night to approve a binding resolution at the GB meeting last evening, for the school to become a Sponsored Academy.  The resolution was put by Medway Council which appeared to be trying to steamroller the decision through, as explained in my previous article here, only to back down on its demand at the last moment.

Twdall

In the event, and following wide media coverage, articles on this website, a Facebook Campaign and a parental demonstration against the vote last evening, Governors resolved not to put the motion to the vote, but to postpone any decision until there had been a full consultation next term on whether to go down this path.

Many other schools have come under similar pressures and caved in, and this outcome shows that there can be another way, a precedent that may well be copied elsewhere in the country.....


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Last modified on Thursday, 04 September 2014 23:35
Decision Update Published here

I have been contacted by a number of parents since my previous article on the likelihood of Twydall Primary school becoming a fast track sponsored academy, run by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, headed up by The Rochester Grammar School and the All Faiths Community Primary School in Strood. At a Governing Body meeting on Thursday 24th July, with just seven days notice, a binding resolution forcing the school to become a sponsored academy will be debated, three additional Local Authority Governors having been added to try and ensure the motion is carried.  Parents are not being consulted although, at a meeting to discuss the OFSTED Report there was a strong majority against the idea.

Twdall

Clearly, Medway Council is trying to force the takeover in a hurry, irrespective of the key 2013-14 data, which unofficially shows over 80% of the school’s pupils achieving the government floor standard of Level 4 in both English and maths, in the top quarter of all Medway primary schools. In addition, 51% of pupils passed the Medway Test against the 25% average across the Borough. This in a school that has a much higher than average number of children with special needs and with statements of SEN, and is designated as a centre for children with physical disabilities and complex medical needs. The school remains very popular and was oversubscribed with first choices for its 75 spaces.........


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Last modified on Saturday, 26 July 2014 19:47

Back in March, OFSTED inspected Twydall Primary School in Gillingham, and found it Inadequate, placing the school in Special Measures. This will have been a great shock to many parents as the school had previously been found to be Good just 18 months previously in October 2012.

Twdall

Unusually, but now happening more often, the Inspection was triggered by two parental complaints. Whilst we do not know the details of these complaints, OFSTED suggests that they were about the alleged failure of the school to respond to children presenting challenging behaviour, a growing issue in schools which have to balance the needs of these pupils with those of the whole cohort, including safeguarding and learning issues (I am often consulted on both sides of this argument!). There is a suggestion that this may have been partially triggered by poor behaviour management procedures relating to pupils with disabilities. The school has specialist provision for 43 children with physical disabilities or complex medical needs, along with a hearing impaired Unit, all children being taught in mainstream classes........


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Last modified on Saturday, 26 July 2014 19:50

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


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Last modified on Friday, 29 August 2014 23:33
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