I was invited on Radio Kent yesterday, to comment on the effects on schools of the decision by Redbridge Council to purchase Howe Barracks in Canterbury to house 208 of the families on their Housing Waiting List. Canterbury City Council also tried to purchase the premises but were outbid, so local homeless families have been deprived of this accommodation. Not surprisingly, there is concern about pressure on local services including schools.
In the past two months I have carried out surveys of Kent’s Primary and Secondary school allocations, for each District in Kent, looking at oversubscription and vacancies, the summary position for Canterbury is that at the time of allocation of places, there were 74 vacant spaces at Reception Year and not one for Year Seven in non-selective schools.
However, as always, the situation is more complex than this, as explained below…..
Governors of Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, have decided the school should remain in the city, rather than pursue the proposed move to Herne Bay which would also have enabled the school to be enlarged.
The proposal, outlined in previous articles on this website, split parents with many living in the city fiercely opposed to a move to the North Coast. In the other camp, many parents and especially prospective parents living on the North Kent coast around Herne Bay and Whitstable welcomed the proposal for a brand new local school building, with excellent facilities in an area where it was becoming increasingly difficult to access a grammar school place because of rising numbers in Canterbury and along the coast.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the county in Sevenoaks, the county's second proposal to enlarge a grammar school in new premises continues on the tortuous path it has now followed for three years. Planning permission for the proposed annexe and the new Trinity Free School has been approved without difficulty, but there is still no sign of a clear and legal agreement about which school or schools are to run the annexe......
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.
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 .............
A link to this article from another website, means that some browsers are unaware I have updated it with a fresh article above, here.
There are convincing rumours in Canterbury, backed up by an article in the Kentish Gazette, that Chaucer Technology School is to close at the end of the school year. An official announcement of the situation and plans for the school will be sent to parents on Tuesday (25th), and I will update this article when I see the KCC statement that day. i.e. before school allocations are made on 3rd March. You will find the following statement from Kent County Council on the school website and which was also sent to parents. It is hardly designed to comfort families although it is difficult to know what else the Council can do at short notice, given what appears to be an unplanned and unauthorised leak of information.
|Kent County Council regrets that an article speculating on the closure of Chaucer School has appeared in the press. We recognise that parents, pupils and staff may now be anxious about the school. We will inform staff and write to every parent next week to clarify the situation.|
In one sense, this dreadful situation is no surprise for, as readers of this website will know,I have reported on the school's downwards spiral for some years, from its previous standing as being a very popular school. You will find my most recent article here. Even as recently as 2010, the school’s 235 places were all awarded on allocation day, with 163 families making Chaucer their first choice. A few years previous to that I was handling appeals for admission to the school, which was bi-lateral running a popular grammar stream open only to those who had passed the Kent Test, alongside a non-selective section which was heavily oversubscribed........
Back in July, I reported the proposal for an East Kent satellite grammar school sponsored by Barton Court Grammar school and based in Herne Bay.
The plan appears to have changed in principle and, rather than a satellite, the proposal is now for Barton Court to shift its base entirely to Herne Bay, replicating the plan put forward in the 1980s to address the shortage of grammar school places on the North Kent Coast. However, this is not just a change of site, the proposal is for Barton Court Grammar to expand to six forms of entry, with the support of the developer of the site on the old Herne Bay Golf Club land, one benefit of a grammar school being the likely enhancement of status for his housing development. The capital cost of the project would be part funded from sale of the current city centre site, part from the developer, although there would probably be a shortfall that may be the main issue. Canterbury City Council is highly supportive of the move, as it would remove a major source of the heavy traffic problems in the City, so it would fall to the school persuading KCC, Canterbury Council and or government to make up any funding gap.
Much of the background rationale for the move is explained in my previous article, although the proposal to move the whole school lock, stock and barrel is far more radical and raises fresh issues and benefits........
It is no surprise that Chaucer Technology College has been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED. Parents recognised some years ago that there were serious problems, and this once heavily oversubscribed, successful and popular school has seen applications slump over the past two years with only 90 of its current 235 Year 7 places filled. For next September, the school made the decision to reduce the number of empty spaces by the simple device of reducing the capacity to 150. However, at just 81 even fewer offers have been made for next September, including 8 allocated by the Local Authority; a figure that will surely shrink further as children bale out into places at more popular schools. Iworte about this in a previous article here.
GCSE performance, compared to other Kent schools has been declining annually for years, and for the past two years has been in the bottom 10% in the county.
School governors took belated action in January when the headteacher left the school with immediate effect, but the appointment of a new Acting Principal was insufficient to turn the school round in just over a month before the Inspection.
The sorry state of the school at this time can be seen from some of the comments in the Inspection Report:.........
Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys is carrying out a consultation (closing date 15th June) into whether it should join the 'super-selective' club of Kent grammar schools. The proposition is that boys who score over 385 in the Kent Test for grammar school admission and who live within 9 miles of the school are given priority. Currently places are allocated to those boys who pass the test (current pass mark 360), who live closest to the school (for 2011 entry this being 5.157 miles).......