I have previously recounted the story so far here, and with previous links. To summarise:
KCC removed the headteacher of Kings Farm primary at Christmas 2013, and replaced him with the headteacher of Whitehill Primary on an Executive basis. This proved a disaster and the Executive Head was removed by KCC in September 2014, leaving a school that had degenerated into chaos. A consultant headteacher was appointed, the Headteacher of Ifield Special School appointed to oversee progress, and although an OFSTED Inspection in October placed the school in Special Measures, it both recorded the mess into which Kings Farm had been left by the previous leadership and the subsequent excellent progress in the school. A spokesman for the Government Standards and Testing Agency subsequently stated: “Following an investigation into the administration of this year's Key Stage 2 tests at King’s Farm Primary, in Gravesend, the decision was made to annul all tests results for all children. Any instances of maladministration of the tests are completely unacceptable.” A parallel investigation took place into the Whitehill results with the same result.
Kings Farm has now had its initial Monitoring Inspection following the Special Measures finding. Now free of the malign influence of Whitehill, the Report is the most positive assessment of any Kent school I have read at this stage, and my congratulations to all concerned. There can now be no doubt where the initial responsibility for the disaster lays.
Meanwhile, KCC had rewarded Whitehill Primary, the most unpopular primary school in Kent with parents, according to one measure, by allocating another 24 children places in the school at the last moment, raising its Reception Class numbers to 114, making it by far the largest all through Primary school in the county……
Kings Farm Primary School
The OFSTED Monitoring Report is almost effusive in its praise for the school. About the Consultant Headteacher, Mrs Catherine Taylor, it states: “Following the inspection, you acted decisively and rapidly to tackle the key problem of poor quality teaching in the school. Your strong leadership, passion and high expectations act as an inspiration to others. You bring a relentless approach to monitoring and evaluating the work of the school and show flexibility when responding to problems which arise”. What a contrast to her predecessor! It continues: “You are being assisted well by a National Leader of Education and her school which is a National Support School. Together you are taking the necessary steps to tackle weaknesses, train staff and challenge underperformance. This well-directed support is building the confidence and skills of staff in the school…. You have recently increased the capacity of the school’s leadership by appointing two senior leaders, seconded from the local National Support School, to share the post of interim deputy headteacher. They specifically bring experience and expertise in early years and special educational needs which are two areas that the school needs to improve. You are helping teachers who show leadership potential to build their skills and take on additional responsibilities”. And it continues in the same positive vein. A Report to be proud of.
Whitehill Primary School
The school now has 114 children in Year R. Of the initial 90 allocated places in April 2014, 30 did not even apply for the school but were placed there by KCC, the highest proportion of any school in Kent. Living locally, I was consulted by a number of parents’ adamant they were not going to take up places in the school, a reaction I have never encountered elsewhere. I also made the mistake of talking to parents at a local Nursery School and was taken aback by the almost universal ill-feeling expressed towards Whitehill. Gravesham is the Kent district with the highest take up of Reception places in Kent, a crisis I have been forecasting for some years to no avail, but Whitehill was the only school chosen to expand its intake for 2014, at the last moment to absorb all late applicants.
I appreciate that KCC had left itself with little room to manoeuvre by failing to plan ahead, but Whitehill was already a controversial school in the District. The Executive Head had previously been asked by KCC to run two other schools in difficulties. The first of these was Westcourt Primary, the Deputy Head of Whitehill being put in place to manage day to day issues as Head of School. This proved a controversial arrangement and allegations about the Head of School soon surfaced, were also reported in the local media and widely known locally, but no action appears to have been taken by the Governing Body or KCC. Whitehill withdrew or was withdrawn from the arrangement, and the Head of School has since been shuffled round the county, initially as Interim Deputy Headteacher at Dover Road Primary, another school in difficulties, and then two acting headships in the county, one of which he still occupies. Oddly, his Linkedin profile describes him as, still substantive Deputy Headteacher of Whitehill out “on loan!”. In September 2013, the headteacher of Whitehill took over Raynehurst Primary six months after it had been placed in Special Measures, until it became an academy, but was not appreciated. One plaintive communication I received read: “All previously identified good practice was ignored, particularly in the Nursery. TA's were sent in from Whitehill to throw away resources they didn't like including the nursery managers personal items! There was no consultation with staff, many previously good or outstanding teachers suddenly found themselves inadequate. Even more peculiar was they regained their good judgements once Whitehill had left! Parents and pupils were antagonised and the governing body was ignored". Coincidentally, almost the same complaints were levelled by parents and staff at Kings Farm!
No child who left Kings Farm or Whitehill Primary Schools last summer carries a KS2 result with them, although as far as I can ascertain, none have been formally told this. Even more surprisingly, as far as I am aware, no sanctions have been applied to those staff concerned at Whitehill, although what happened is documented. Bizarrely, this is not unusual, as explained by Warwick Mansell in the Guardian. Is it a coincidence that the Chairman of Governors of Whitehill Primary also writes for the Guardian, and will be aware of this shocking revelation?
It is reported that the KCC Principal Primary Schools Adviser, who controversially left KCC in the autumn shortly after this debacle, and who removed the headteacher of Kings Farm on the last day of the Christmas Term 2013, was subsequently appointed as a Consultant to Whitehill for one day per week.
Because Whitehill is an academy, KCC is unable to take any direct action to investigate further the reasons the KS2 results were annulled at Whitehill, which is down to the governors of the school. Parents have not yet even been told that the KS2 results were annulled, let alone that this arose because of cheating by the school.
Meanwhile, Kings Farm Primary can look forward more optimistically. No longer is it to be part of an academy trust with Whitehill primary overseeing its progress, and the relationship with Ifield school next door appears to be paying dividends. Parents know they have been through a difficult time and it is not over yet, but almost none have taken their children away, and their faith in the school appears to be well-founded.