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Friday, 27 February 2015 20:55

AET loses Maidstone Academies to Leigh Academy Trust: Monopoly winners and losers

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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.……

At present, Molehill has been judged to have Serious Weaknesses by OFSTED, Tree Tops is in Special Measures, with Oaks, the only bright spot, having a Good rating, after KCC saw it into Special Measures, then up to Satisfactory and after further raising of standards, it was assessed as Good shortly after being taken over by AET.  

That just leaves St James the Great Academy in East Malling with AET, which enjoyed a Good OFSTED rating in April 2014 and are clearly happy with the support they have received from AET. AETs only other venture into Kent was a disastrous year ‘supporting’ The Marlowe Academy in 2011. The county is well rid of (almost) the chain that has damaged the education of too many children.

The Leigh Academy Trust will now have eleven academies, six in North West Kent. Of the latter, three enjoy Outstanding OFSTED’s (Hartley Primary, Leigh, and Milestone Special), two Good (Longfield and Wilmington – both previously troubled), and one Requires Improvement (York Road Junior, up from Special Measures). The Group has recently become a joint sponsor for the Stationers’ Crown Woods Academy in Eltham and has set up Kent’s first University Technical College in Dartford, the Leigh UTC. The press release invites other schools to join them “on this journey to help design and lead a ‘cluster’ of academies in Central Kent which are shaping lives and transforming communities”. This is surely an invitation designed to tempt other Maidstone schools to look that way, the district having had the worst OFSTED record in the county over recent years, admittedly dragged down by these three schools.  

In passing, the press release also records that David Simons, Principal of Cornwallis Academy, within the Future Schools Trust,  signals both multi-academy trusts’ intention to work closely together from now on. Academy monopoly continues, with several take-overs in Medway to come. 

Read 4256 times Last modified on Monday, 02 March 2015 21:59

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 02 March 2015 18:57 posted by Liz Simpson

    Hi Peter

    I am Chair of Govenors at St James The Great Academy East Malling and have only just become aware of your website and blog. I just wanted to make a couple of observations about this article. Firstly, the Good Ofsted rating was gained in 2014 and not 2004 as you stated. Secondly, we made an active decision to remain with AET based entirely on the support that we had received from AET which we believed had enabled us to get the best results we had ever had in the history of the school. We have seen a record number of children gain Grammar School places and have been asked to support other local schools. I speak as I find and have been very impressed by the focus on improvement and driving up standards that we have seen in AET. Their firm but supportive direction in preparation for Ofsted was appreciated by staff and Governors alike. I am sure that The Leigh Academy will produce good results with their new schools but we decided it was not broken and so did not need fixing! We would be delighted to host a visit if you would like to see for yourself PETER: Apologies for the date typo error which is now amended. I am delighted to hear of the excellent support you have had from AET, so different to that reported by OFSTED about the other schools. As you say, if its not broke, don't fix it, and one can only speculate on the differences. Thanks also for the invitation; as you will appreciate, I receive many of these, and am not sure what it would achieve as I don't regard myself as having the assessment skills necessary to come to an informed opinion on one school as compared with another.

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