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Sunday, 07 September 2014 00:00

Disappearing Heads: Shifting Sands, and Kings Farm Primary School

Kent County Council has confirmed that Simon Webb, KCC’s Principal Primary School Adviser, is to retire next month, and he appears to have left his desk with immediate effect. KCC is tight-lipped about the decision and is making no other comment about the matter. Mr Webb is the principal architect of the ‘drive for school improvement’ that has produced such a large number of casualties amongst Kent primary heads, and a severe drop in morale for many others, as they have witnessed the manner of removal of their colleagues. Mr Webb has escorted a number of headteachers of underperforming schools from their schools in the middle of the school day and placed them on ‘gardening leave’, sometimes without documentation in place, as if they have committed a disciplinary offence and are not safe to leave of their own accord. 

I have written several previous items on both subjects of this article, most recently here

The recent National Conference of the National Association of Headteachers, hardly a hotbed of radicalism,  approved the following motion from the Kent Branch:

Conference calls upon National Executive to highlight the number of school leaders being forced from their posts through spurious and unacceptable means by the bullying actions of some local authorities who seek to remove experienced and skilled head teachers to make way for academy sponsorship or other forms of school governance

Rather pointed, and indicative of one reason for the sharp decline in teachers willing to take up headships in Kent......

I have talked with too many of the victims of a protocol to manage the problems of underperforming schools to believe that KCC really provides the pastoral support it owes these often long-serving, hardworking written-off headteachers.

How ironic if Mr Webb has himself been placed on gardening leave! Let us hope that recent events act as a warning to KCC to change its approach to achieving school improvement. 

Kings Farm Primary School, Gravesend

The problems at Kings Farm Primary School, Gravesend, deepened this week when it has emerged that the Executive Head of the school, Mrs Jane Porter, has reportedly been removed by KCC from the headship of Kings Farm. She remains Executive Head of Whitehill Primary School, which is part of the Gravesend Grammar School Academy Trust. This would not appear directly related to the issue of ‘disappearing heads’ I have written about recently, although the sudden departure of Mr Jackson, the previous head of Kings Farm, on the last day of the Christmas Term, appears to have precipitated issues reported widely in the national and local media.....

The appointment of Mrs Porter at Kings Farm has been controversial from the start, a flavour of her alleged leadership style being seen in comments below the article in the News Shopper newspaper from back in July.

I have already posted the background to this story in a previous article. An interim Headteacher, Catherine Taylor, has now been appointed to run King’s Farm Primary School. She is a very experienced head and is used to carrying out this role – I count five previous struggling schools where she has stepped in with considerable success. A parent has already told me what a positive impression she made last week on the first day at school, welcoming parents at the gate and introducing herself, a contrast to the approach of her predecessor.  

Rumours about the reason for the reported removal are circulating, but it does not appear to be an issue of poor school performance at Kings Farm as the provisional SAT results were reported as being good.  However, unusually, no Key Stage 2 outcomes of either school have appeared in internal KCC data results, a situation referred to in one of the News Shopper comments.

It has been suggested that the proposed date for Kings Farm to become an Academy sponsored by Gravesend Grammar school, has been put back until January 2015, indicating the scale of the current problems. 

Last modified on Friday, 03 February 2017 22:23

2 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 15 September 2014 05:50 posted by Kent Head

    I cannot tell you how much we all rejoiced hearing this news. This man is a total *****. Good riddance.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 07 September 2014 23:08 posted by Ex-primary head

    Congratulations from myself and on behalf of so many heads whose careers and lives he ruined. I still suffer from work related stress, see item below, and cannot visualise going back to any form of work soon. As part of my medical diagnosis I saw a psychiatrist. Question one: are you considering taking your own life? Yes I did, but was able to draw back. I have no doubt that your publicising of the scandal played a major part in bringing it to a resolution. Still SW will have an enhanced pension and if he has no conscience a long and happy retirement, if not a new well paid sinecure somewhere. Yes, I am bitter and will remain so for the rest of my life.

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