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Friday, 11 July 2014 00:00

Chaucer Technology School: Nearly the Last Rites

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

of the Canterbury Academy decision  which it claims has created the following "detrimental and irreversible effect on projected numbers" -  b Most of the content of the OFSTED Report, uniquely in my experience, is based on historical 'facts' told to the Inspectors by those who have an interest in covering up the real reasons for failure.

  • taking account of the school’s history of falling numbers and the significant reduction in staffing already necessitated, the local authority and governing body have concluded that the future of the school is no longer financially sustainable;

  • a full consultation process has been conducted and concluded with a proposal to close the school for all students with the exception of the current Year 10 going into Year 11, with effect from August 2014;

  • five consultation meetings have been held for parents and carers, with input at each from officers of Kent County Council;

  • a decision has been made by Kent County Council, following the consultation period to publish a Notice of Closure;

  • the local authority and school leaders have matched CTS students by post-code to the nearest local school with spaces, and places have been offered and accepted with a few appeals pending at the time of writing;

  • Kent County Council psychological services have provided one-to-one and group support for vulnerable students and staff prior to students’ transfer to their matched schools.

 OFSTED is full of praise for the work of the staff, with a very positive report on all that is currently happening at the school, and the plans for next year when there will be at most 134 students with accompanying staff in a school designed for some 1500 students (OFSTED appears to have based the capacity erroneously on the slimmed down PAN of 150). Leaders have worked "relentlessly" and "tirelessly", two favourite OFSTED phrases, to bring about this remarkable change in attitude and high forecast achievements for GCSE results in 2014 and 2015. OFSTED records that "Results from GCSE examinations already taken attest to a GCSE headline figure for the current Year 11 that will at least match the significant improvements secured in August 2013"; which the school achieved in its nadir year of 2013!   

Whilst I had numerous concerns expressed to me by parents mainly from this year group and those forced to find other schools, I have received no comments or enquiries for some months, which I hope indicates that KCC's support for parents has been successful in finding suitable alternative schools for the displaced children. In addition, quite a few moved early to independently secure places in the schools of their choice. A number of children in Year 10 also chased after other schools, some of these securing grammar school places.

The OFSTED Report is vague about practical teaching arrangements for the remaining children especially for next year when there will be just the one Year 11 Group taking GCSE. I imagine that most staff will be part-time at Chaucer, probably based at the Swale Academy Trust schools for the majority of their time. Whatever, it is going to be a most strange environment, but it is good to see a determination to make it work. 

One oddity: OFSTED in its Report  has approved the appointment of Newly Qualified teachers to Chaucer Technology School  between now and its closure. Surely not!

Now, although there is presumably no guarantee or evidence that Canterbury Academy will repeat its increase in numbers, KCC must be desperately hoping that they do, having removed 150 places from the Canterbury total of Year 7 places for September 2015. 

 

 

Read 28347 times Last modified on Friday, 29 August 2014 23:33

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