The Trust's flagship school is The Rochester Grammar School in Medway and, amongst the other eight schools the Trust runs are Chatham Grammar School for Boys, which is to be renamed Holcombe Grammar School for September 2017 and become mixed. This places it in direct competition with Chatham Girls’ Grammar which, as a small stand-alone school in an Authority full of big Multi-Academy Trusts, is vulnerable and it has been suggested could also be swallowed up by the predator. The monopoly politics of large academy groups appears far removed from the prime purpose of schools, to educate children, not just hot-house them through hoops, and the Trust is currently having mixed success with several of its Medway schools.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Rochester Grammar School website makes no mention of the suspension, but The Times picks out the following section from Ms Shepherd’s introduction: “Our success is due to our strong educational vision… our outstanding and driven leaders, dedicated teachers and support staff backed by a committed team of governors. The greatest asset in our trust is our staff”. It then provides considerable evidence of lack of trust by those same staff in their Chief Executive. !
Ms Shepherd is one of the most senior Academy Leaders in the South London and South East Region, being one of four elected headteachers to the Board of seven members (two from Medway) which make decisions on Academy approvals. The March 2016 Meetingof the Board approved an Academy Order being issued for Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School to be a Multi-Academy Trust, and also approved it becoming a Sponsor Academy, with conditions relating to CEO development and performance, which leads neatly on to the next item below. Poignantly, it also had as a major discussion item “the Role of Executive Headteachers”. Should have been an interesting discussion!
What is clear is that there is an unprecedented breakdown of relationships between many parents and staff on one side, and the Headteacher and Governors of the school on the other. I cannot see how the school can go on without massive change internally, and it is going to take a long time for its reputation to heal. Without passing judgement, I cannot see how the headteacher can continue in post, having completely lost the confidence of so many parts of the community. Even the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys has put clear water between itself and SLGGS, the headteacher sending home a letter to parents which contains a well-argued case for maintaining the status quo at present. No partner support there!
Meanwhile the school has put out an end of term Newsletter on Friday that underlines the appalling Public Relations skills of the school. Whilst completely failing to mention the dispute (understandable in the circumstances) or the fresh Consultation Meeting on June 8th in the diary dates (unforgiveable), the letter is headed by a paragraph which states “The governors of Barton Court Grammar School have announced their intention to launch a consultation with parents, local community and other parties about their plans to open a Free School on the Chaucer site and also to sponsor the Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs”. One wonders which mastermind decided to show that another school was going down a similar path, presumably in the hope of suggesting that what SLGGS was doing was not controversial. Instead what it underlines indelibly is the contrasting complete failure of SLGGS to take parents into their confidence, by attempting to prepare the conversion to academisation in secret.
Too many other misleading communications including one sent to parents of joining children just last week which said, ".. wanted to congratulate her on obtaining a place at Langton Girls in what has been another oversubscribed year". Except that it hasn't! On allocation in March, the school put up its Planned Admission number to 170 from 165, even though it was only able to make 163 offers, so either 7 or two vacancies, take your pick. For 2015 entry, the school just filled thanks to one girl allocated a place by KCC who hadn't applied. 26 girls were offered places who hadn't put the school first, the school actually starting in September with just 157 girls for its 165 places even after appeals, the higher figure for Barton Court suggesting a shift towards the latter.
If you want to get more than a whiff of the troubles swirling around the school, try the Academy Status Forum and stand back. Admittedly it is dominated by the rebels, but there are enough allegations with evidence posted to realise there is a very strong case to answer. Its certainly unusual to have a PTFA not allowed to meet in the school, that has to assemble in the car park to discuss ways of raising funds!
One final thought: Kent County Council has recently lost a very expensive legal action after it removed the headteacher of the Community College Whitstable, on grounds that it appears to have been unable to defend. It will not be anxious to repeat the mistake.