Firstly, congratulations to the Oaks Academy in being awarded its ‘good’ OFSTED assessment. This must be a great relief to Academies Enterprise Trust whose disastrous management of their other two Maidstone Primary Academies, Tree Tops Academy and Mole Hill Copse Primary has featured in a previous item. Kent was very happy to see the back of these low performing primary schools in 2012, but helped the predecessor Oak Trees Community Primary School out of Special Measures to ‘Satisfactory’ in 2011, so much of the groundwork had already been done in this case. Meanwhile government has now banned AET, the largest academy group in the country, from “taking on new projects to put a renewed focus on driving up standards in their existing schools”.
Kent County Council must have been delighted to see two more of its primary schools gain Outstanding assessments: St Thomas’ Catholic Primary in Sevenoaks, and Speldhurst CofE Primary, taking the total to 5 in total this year. The other three are: Our Lady of Hartley Catholic Primary, River Primary, with St Michael’s CofE Infants in Maidstone retaining its previous grading.
There are no new outstanding schools in Medway since September, only more grief as Byron Primary school and Greenvale Infant School have both dropped two levels, Byron to Special Measures, Greenvale to Serious Weaknesses, both classified as Inadequate. Nearly 20% of Primary OFSTEDs are now failures since September, a record to be ashamed of, even for Medway.
Rosherville CofE Primary School in Northfleet has had a torrid time since it was placed in Special Measures in February 2012, under an Acting Headteacher shortly after the previous headteacher left, but he was dispensed with before a July Monitoring Inspection. The October Monitoring Inspection noted: “The acting headteacher who was leading the school temporarily at the time of the last monitoring inspection has left the school. The deputy headteacher has resigned her post and relinquished her role as special educational needs coordinator. Since September 2012, the school has been working in close collaboration with another nearby school and shares the executive headteacher. A new head of school has been appointed. Three new teachers have been appointed and one has returned from a long-term absence. There is a long-term supply teacher in the mixed Reception and Year 1 class”. By the July 2013 Monitoring Inspection, more major staff changes: “Since the previous monitoring inspection, a number of key staff changes have taken place. The executive headteacher and head of school have relinquished their leadership roles. The leadership of the school is now provided by Lilac Sky Schools. This includes a Principal and Vice Principal and support through coaches and mentors. Four class teachers have resigned since the last monitoring visit”. However, the December Monitoring Inspection is far more positive, noting that two overseas trained NQTs had been appointed in September, yet more staff changes. I count that five headteachers in two years, and at least eight staff changes for a school of just 130 children and still not out of Special Measures. Of course it can be argued that Rosherville is in a difficult socio-economic area of Kent but......
Stansted Primary School, situated between Maidstone and Gravesend, ought to be a thriving school given its socio economic hinterland. However it is an ongoing disaster area, having been placed in Special Measures last July, the headteacher having been on extended sick leave since February. The second Monitoring Inspection has now been published and is highly critical of the failings of the school. The published context suggests, however, that it never stood a chance: “The interim headteacher joined the school three weeks ago, replacing the previous interim headteacher, who had been in place during the autumn terms. The special educational needs coordinator, who was also a part-time class teacher, has left and another teacher is due to leave shortly. The teacher in the Reception/Year 1 class joined the school in January on a temporary contract replacing the previous class teacher. A recently appointed teacher works in the school each Friday”. The Report makes clear that the first interim headteacher was removed because “None of the benchmarks or targets for improvement identified in the statement of action has been achieved”. The previous permanent headteacher who had been at the school for around five years had joined ‘the disappeared’ shortly before the Special Measures OFSTED which was overseen by two Acting Headteachers. Not surprisingly, numbers are plummeting and especially alarming: “The school roll has dropped over the past two years and numbers are low. Current predictions for numbers on roll in September are lower still. The school is carrying a large deficit budget, the extent of which is being partially masked by local authority contributions. It is therefore unlikely that the governors will be able to afford to recruit permanent members of staff. Solutions to resolve the budget deficit and consider carefully the viability of the school and its future have not been tackled by the governing body”. Sounds like a death knell!
Shoreham Village School. I have written about Shoreham previously, it having declined two levels from Good to Special Measures in three years, describing it as "as possibly the most scathing I have ever read". Sadly there is now too much competition around, such as Knockhall Community Primary, new Headteacher brought in before Special Measures identified, subsequently three teachers left, six appointed including 3NQTs and two not qualified. By first monitoring inspection, with school plan not fit for purpose, KCC had decided to hand school over to Lilac Sky, Governing Body sacked, headteacher disappeared immediately afterwards. Second Monitoring Inspection, new headteacher "The Local Authority did not take effective action to establish strong governance and leadership within the school during the autumn term when the headteacher was absent. Plans to improve the school were not evaluated with sufficient precision and teachers’ performance was not monitored closely".
|Kent, Maidstone and Medway Primary OFSTED Report Outcomes to Easter 2014|
Kent OFSTED Outcomes
You will find a comprehensive list of Kent Primary School outcomes here.
In a 2012 document“Bold Steps for Kent”, KCC set as a policy aim for 2015:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. However, the OFSTED performance of Kent’s primary schools has actually declined by 3% so far this year, even from last year’s deplorable 133rd place out of 152 Local Authorities, on percentage of Good or Outstanding OFSTEDs, Whilst this is the same as a national reduction in Good or Outstanding OFSTEDs over roughly the same period from 62% to 59%, Kent continues to seriously lag behind the national average,and nearly as many school declined as improved. Last year I featured Maidstone OFSTED results as the worst district in the county, attracting considerable media comment. Although there is a slight improvement so far this year, just one more school has improved its classification than declined. KCC could argue that as two of the Maidstone failures are with academies, Tree Tops Academy and Molehill Copse, these were already failing schools when they were handed over, and Maidstone parents still have a very poor choice if they want their child to go to a good school.
Sadly, the examples above are not the only ones I could give, and others of the 13 together with some which failed last year but are still not sorted have similar patterns. One common factor is the turn-over of headteachers, in what is an increasingly precarious profession, how can KCC continue to source these. Indeed, several names pop up for more than one of these schools; is someone just trying to find a school where they can succeed?
Cranbrook Primary in the leafy Weald of Kent has fallen two grades from 'Good' to be placed into Special Measures. As OFSTED notes: "Since the previous inspection there has been a high turnover of staff, including at senior level. The current headteacher was appointed as the substantive headteacher in September 2012 following a period as the executive headteacher with responsibility for this and another school. Staffing is still not stable".
There is often criticism of OFSTED's judgments, but there cannot be in these cases. What is not clear, to me at least, is to what extent is OFSTED identifying a problem, and how much is it creating it by putting pressure on schools. What is clear, is that Kent and Medway are both failing their children when compared with the rest of the country so its not just OFSTED to blame. Why is it that every nearly every London Borough is so much better than either? Given this disappointing level of performance across the county, it is hardly surprising that KCC is putting increasing pressure on headteachers to improve standards, as I have recorded elsewhere. The bottom line is, however, that this is not working as shown by a failure rate three times the national level. The message I am receiving is that Kent's Primary School Improvement team appears to be trying to frighten headteachers into improving standards, rather than winning their confidence and working with them.
One special problem is Kent's unerring talent for proposing to expand weak schools to meet extra demand. The Commissioning Plan for new places identified 40 schools for expansion. Amazingly, seven of these are or have been recently failed by OFSTED!
You will find a comprehensive list of Medway Primary School outcomes here.
Medway Council continues to make optimistic statements about its improving standards, but these figures show once again this is again a false picture. Whilst it is true that those primary schools that have been inspected, have a slightly improved record, over last year's 40%, the shocking fact is that 8 have declined in performance against just two that have improved. I really feel there is nothing more to say here, the pages of this website are littered with factual evidence that the Authority is failing its children, but all we get in return are complacent statements and no action.
The Good News Story - Kent Secondary Schools
|Kent, Maidstone and Medway Secondary OFSTED Report Outcomes to Easter 2014|
Whilst Kent's grammar schools are not surprisingly strong OFSTED performers, it needs to be shouted out loudly that 90% of Kent's non-selective schools inspected this year have been awarded a Good or Outstanding OFSTED assessment, led by St Gregory's Roman Catholic Comprehensive School in Tunbridge Wells with its Outstanding Grade. Once again Kent's secondary schools are outperforming the primaries by a large margin. There has so far been just one Medway Secondary Inspection this year, The Howard School which earned a second Good assessment.