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Sunday, 20 July 2014 00:00

Twydall Primary School; Governors to debate forced academisation on Thursday without parental consultation

Written by
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.........

I have had reports of splits within the governing body, with Medway Council packing the governing body with appointed members to get their way and Medway Council bouncing the governors into considering a resolution on Thursday 24th July that would be binding on the school to become a Sponsored Academy, without consulting parents in advance. However parental opinion on this issue is well-known for, at a meeting of parents to discuss the OFSTED Report, there was very strong opposition voiced about the proposal. There were similar issues involved in the take-over of Gordon Junior and Infant schools by the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (the pressure appearing to come from Medway Council rather than the Trust).

I don't sense that governors are necessarily opposed to becoming an academy. The problem is that they are being forced by a Local Authority that appears to have let the school down badly, by not noticing or acting on its problems before OFSTED failed the school: “The local authority has provided only light touch support to the school and has not provided enough challenge, so achievement by the end of Key Stage 2 has not improved” and has now failed it again by failing to offer quality support afterwards. The subsequent Monitoring Inspection Report notes: “Consultants make regular visits to the school. However, their reports are not sufficiently focused on the areas identified for improvement in the inspection report, and they do not give a clear enough view about whether progress is being made.” Provisional Key Stage 2 results show the school is improving, Key Stage 1 has always been good as acknowledged by OFSTED, why on earth is Medway Council so desperate to get rid of this potentially good school so quickly, which only two years ago was classified as "Good". 

It is alleged that a senior employee of the Council, when challenged by a governor about the enforced academisation last Tuesday, responded: “"If parents don't like the school being an Academy they can move their children to another school."  This suggests that parents are being treated with contempt, and indeed with the only primary schools in Gillingham with vacancies all having a recent history including a failed OFSTED, hardly confidence building. I do have the details of the senior employee and the person to whom she is alleged to have made the remark.

OFSTED also observes: “The local authority has arranged for the headteacher from a local outstanding primary school, which also specialises in supporting disabled pupils and those with special educational needs, to support the headteacher for two days per week. This partnership is due to start soon”. I can neither identify a local primary school with these characteristics, nor is Twydall Primary aware of such an appointment being considered. Given that this was reported as being in place over a month ago, if the Local Authority was serious about improving the lot of the pupils at the school before discarding it away from its control, the arrangement should surely have been implemented by now. Can we be told which school this is, as OFSTED clearly found it a plus for Medway Council, showing it was doing something about the mess it has created; surely it is not something to be kept secret?

I have recently posted another article on the dire fate of some primary schools that were forced into academisation in Thanet. Twydall parents may wish to take note of it. 

Not for the first time in Medway, there is something badly wrong here, and the pressure to sort this before the summer holidays smacks of desperation. Why not put in some proper resources (if the Authority has access to these), give the school time, consult the parents and see if it can be turned around?

Incidentally, I have also got to the bottom of the reported mistake in the OFSTED Report. The original published Report had to be withdrawn after it was pointed out this referred to a serious incident which never occurred and was thought to have referred to an OFSTED of another school! As a result the reference was removed and the classification of Behaviour and Safety of Pupils was raised from 4 (inadequate ) to 3 (Requires Improvement).

Note: The Thinking Schools concept is an American philosophy, with the Medway schools being accredited by Thinking Schools International

Read 8575 times Last modified on Saturday, 26 July 2014 19:47

7 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 25 July 2014 14:41 posted by anon

    the vote has been postponed until September and apparently the parents will be consulted prior to this :)

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 July 2014 13:31 posted by Anon

    Strictly speaking there is one thing that can be done -
    You could file for judicial review of the process and ask a judge to preside on whether or not the process has been reasonable
    He could halt it or indeed reverse any decision that's been made. PETER: Technically yes, but it is rather expensive to say the least!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 July 2014 12:24 posted by Twydall Parent - Give us a SAY

    Parents are getting Organised... https://www.facebook.com/events/1446753278919717/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular. (PETER: I just wish I could access this page!)

    Everyone should help if they can, parents should be allowed a voice in anything that effects or impacts children and children with specialised support.

    Twydall has twice the Medway Test pass rate of the Local Authority and has had its best SATS results for 11 years.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 July 2014 23:45 posted by Anon

    Although I cannot get into too much detail here, I can confirm that it is Medway Council who are rushing this through, they do not want Parents involved. This school does not have ingrained issues but fell victim to taking their eye off the ball briefly. The question I have is "WHY" must the school convert without any consultation. What is the rush Medway Council???

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 July 2014 21:04 posted by holly

    Can parents do anything about this? PETER - legally nothing that I can see. What you can do is embarrass the Governing Body and Medway Council to the extent that they back away from the rushed decision on Thursday and give time for reflection on whether this is a good idea and indeed tome to consult parents on the proposal. Embarrassment inevitably means organised publicity.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 July 2014 20:02 posted by anonymous

    Firstly, Thank you for posting my comment and replying to it.

    Secondly, I am pleased we are aiming for the same overall solution and I look forward to reading your upcoming post.

    Just to add, my consultancy was with Ofsted where I was employed to help schools identify ongoing difficulties and to help reach higher standards.

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 July 2014 11:44 posted by anonymous

    Legally I can not disclose certain aspects of the school nor its internal running. However 4 years ago I was hired by an outside teaching body to be placed within the school to help support certain areas. The news that the school is struggling and going through difficulties is not surprising. At the time of my employment several issues were brought forward and at the time rejected by the school. With this mindset therefore I am not surprised that the council seek to push for academic status from the trust. The school is and has remained a popular school within the area, especially considering the over subscribing nature the school endures year on year, obviously with this in mind, with the addition of its specialised teaching, that the council are now trying to find new ways to prolong the school. With correct guidance and teaching staff this school, whatever status, will thrive. Change can be good, however the cloak and dagger nature that is being witnessed here will only cause more upset, if change is openly expressed to all involved including parents. PETER: I think that is what I am saying in part. There are clearly things wrong at this school, but cloak and dagger is not the way to resolve them. Academy status to resolve a specific issue hinted at by several correspondents is surely not right - see a forthcoming article on primary academies in Thanet! Deal with the problem! I hope you are not one of those consultants criticised by OFSTED in their most recent Monitoring Inspection

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