See more recent comment on Simon Langton here, and on Thinking Schools Academy Trust here. Resignation of Chief Executive of TSAT here.
I make no apology to returning to this subject but events are unfolding so fast it is difficult to keep up.
My previous article written just on Saturday, described events at the two grammar schools, with the CEO of Thinking Schools Academy Trust, flagship school The Rochester Grammar School, being suspended The Times alleging amongst other claims that she snooped on staff email accounts and doctored parts of an external Inspection Report. Although the suspension took place back in April, it wasn’t until The Times went to press that it became public, and today the Trust has issued a statement as a result.
By contrast the Headteacher and Governors at Simon Langton Girls Grammar School in Canterbury, appear to be getting into deeper water daily, with a letter sent out yesterday from Patrick Leeson, Head of KCC’s Education and Young People’s Services Department, requiring a re-run of the Governing Body decision to apply for Academy status last November, on grounds of maladministration. Surely more importantly, the GB should have been focusing with concern the strong evidence of the school’s sharp fall in popularity as explained below, an issue that has been raised by several commentators concerned for the future of the school.
The Thinking Schools Academy Trust
An article in the Medway Messenger published yesterday gives a Statement from the Trust containing the following information:
"Recently the Board received an allegation from an individual about the Chief Executive, Denise Shepherd. The Trust, which is duty bound to investigate any allegation, took the decision to suspend Ms Shepherd whilst it investigated the substance of the allegation."which claims alleged snooping on staff email accounts and doctoring parts of an external inspection report
The Trust said it was unable to make any further comment on details of the allegation, although the suspension took place over a month ago, but said it had taken steps to ensure the education of the pupils is not affected. Stuart Gardner the previous Executive Head of Chatham Grammar School for Boys and The Victory Academy is to assume the role of Director of Secondary Education in TSAT, and will be supported by Claire Stevens who is already the Director of Primary Education in TSAT.
Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School
That the school is in serious trouble cannot be in doubt. A letter sent out by Patrick Leeson yesterday, reports an agreement, or more likely a requirement, for the school to carry out a re-run of the Governing Body decision to apply for Academy status back in November. This is in direct contradiction to a statement by the Chair of Governors that Mr Leeson had previously given the school GB actions a legal clean bill of health in that both GB decisions stood and there was no legal requirement to re-run either vote, but it now transpires that fresh thinking, or more likely the mass of evidence compiled by parents, has completely reversed this view. Amongst other areas of maladministration, there was voting by an ineligible governor, issues of conflict of interest not being declared, and “other procedural shortcomings at the full Governing Body meeting on 25 November 2015 which breached the School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013.” Crossing this in time, came a letter from the Regional Schools Commissioner's Office, so not quite up to date, but confirming that KCC has reversed its original view, stating: "I also understand that Kent County Council has carried out its own investigation of the vote originally taken to apply for an academy order and has concluded that it is not necessary to take it again. The governing body still has to make a final decision about whether to proceed to academy status when it has considered the responses to the consultation exercise".
My own view is that it will take a very brave, or very foolish, Governing Body to proceed with academisation in view of all the controversy they have released through their self-evident mishandling of the process, the misleading statements that have been released, and the attempts to hide what was going on until it became impossible because of adverse publicity.
There is no doubt that the whole reputation of the school is severely tarnished and it is going to take considerable time, determination and ability to right the situation and return to it the fine reputation the school rightly earned just a few years ago. That its reputation is clearly fading is demonstrated by the 2015 admission figures and rates of transfer into the Sixth Form.
Year Seven Admission
For September 2015, just 139 of the 165 places offered went to girls who put the school in first place, the final one going to a girl allocated by KCC who had not even applied to the school. To this were added 22 girls on appeal, none of whom had passed the Kent Test, it being particularly easy to win a place that year with just 4 families losing appeals. This should have produced 187 girls to start in Year Seven, but in practice just 157 turned up as measured by the School Census in October, an astonishing and shockingly high number of girls who declined places offered.
For September 2016, the headteacher has written out to parents of new girls joining in September, describing the school as ‘oversubscribed’. This is unfortunately untrue, as just 163 girls were offered places in March, out of 165, although actually as the school increased its Planned Admission number by 5 to 170, there were 7 vacancies before appeal. Because there was no oversubscription, no girls who appealed will have passed the Kent test, although I don’t yet have the data for outcomes.
Sixth Form Admission
Recent proposals by staff at two other Kent Grammar Schools to consider strike action because of cuts in sixth form funding resulting in redundancy and courses being cut, underline the critical importance of attracting students into the sixth form (see earlier article). However, SLGGS will also be suffering deeply because of its failure in this respect, with just 122 girls taking up Year 12 places last September against 155 girls in Year 11, a transfer rate of just 74%. This is the third worst percentage in the county (although Barton Court is one of the two lower at 72%), and governors must be seriously concerned about the consequences of this failure of retention and recruitment, which is surely far more critical for the school’s future than the principle of academisation. By contrast, and certainly contributing to the problem, is Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, whose follow through Year 12 Form Roll is 73% LARGER than that of Year 11, placing it on a very sound financial footing indeed.