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Friday, 22 May 2015 21:14

Academy and Free School News May 2015

This article looks at the five new Kent academies opened since my previous Report, changes in ownership of academies, Lilac Sky, and new and proposed Free Schools.

New Academies

New academies open since February are: Beaver Green Primary in Ashford, sponsored by Swale Academy Trust; Charlton CofE Primary Dover, (Diocese of Canterbury); Lydd Primary (Village Academy Trust); and two Converter stand-alone primaries, Chilton Primary, Ramsgate; and Godinton Primary, Ashford.

There are new converter applications from Manor Community Primary, Dartford and St Mary’s Catholic Primary, Canterbury.

You will find a full list of open and proposed Kent and Medway Academies here, and of the academy groups operating in the county here, although the latter picture changes rapidly and I would be grateful for any updates or amendments that need to be made.

Academy Monopoly

I have recently published two articles on takeovers and mergers of Medway Academy Trusts at Thinking Schools Academy Trust and Fort Pitt Grammar/Thomas Aveling. Government clearly wants education to be run on business lines and the business of many academy trusts is certainly reflecting this.

The Swale Academy Trust continues to acquire other properties, and is currently managing the North School in Ashford for KCC, having planned for it to become a Sponsored Academy for September, although there were legal problems with regard to the Private Finance Initiative Contract for the school. No current news on this project, although the school’s popularity has plummeted this year with 48 vacancies for September before grammar school appeals will increase this number. The Trust has recently taken over Beaver Green Primary in Ashford. Istead Rise Primary is now to become an academy sponsored by Swale Academies Trust, after a disastrous attempt at management by Meopham Community Trust that has seen five OFSTED Monitoring Reports fail to show improvement after the school was placed in Special Measures. The Executive Headteacher of the Meopham Trust has now left due to ‘ill-health’, although this is not mentioned on the Meopham web-site.

Lilac Sky Academies Trust

Has been controversially managing Furness Special School for the past three years and followed it through to closure, although the school is now to be re-formed as an annex of Broomhill Bank School catering for high functioning autistic children and independent of Lilac Sky. Lilac Sky has been a favoured KCC Academy Trust for some years and at the County Council meeting to discuss the Furness closure proposal was four times praised by the Director of Education, Patrick Leeson for its performance at Furness.

One of Lilac Sky’s schools, Knockhall Academy, records on its website: “I am also very pleased to be able to announce in this Newsletter that the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT) is moving its Head Office to Knockhall Academy in September. This will mark Knockhall out as a flagship Academy in the group and also signals LSSAT’s intention to further develop our Academies in Kent and East Sussex. The expansive three million pound building project that will see Knockhall with a new Dining Plaza and kitchen, ICT suite and Library, extended corridor areas, large new classroom block, new toilets, offices, outdoor learning facilities, new car parks and drop off road, has helped to make the move possible with the minimum of disruption”.

This move follows disappointment for the Trust at its current headquarters in Chelmsford, one of its academies having been placed in Special Measures and, apparently as a direct consequence, government withdrawal of its sponsorship of a new Free School in the town.

UPDATE: A Lilac Sky Puzzle: A previous article of mine referred to Sue Roger's appointment as Managing Director of LSSAT. Shortly afterwards, her public page LinkedIn Profile showed a wide range of previous experience, and her then current role but surprisingly made no mention of her time with KCC as Director of Educational Standards. Today Sue Rogers' public LinkedIn profile reads in total

 "Sue Rogers, Durector (sic) of Education at Kent County Council, 

Portsmouth, United Kingdom  Government Administration. Experience: 

Durector (sic) of Education Kent County Council

". No mention of Lilac Sky, but a promotion to full Director of KCC! She has also been airbrushed out of the LLSAT "who we are" website page.
Free Schools
You will find details of all Kent and Medway’s open and proposed Free Schools here.

Government has announced approval for two new Free Schools in Kent earlier this month.

Bishop Chavasse Primary School is to open in South Tonbridge in September 2016, run by Bennett Memorial Diocesan school form Tunbridge Wells, although oddly this year there is currently more pressure on places in TW than Tonbridge. It is planned to be an “inclusive school admitting up to 60 children each year from Reception and will provide a high quality, traditional primary education with a Church of England ethos”, and "and prepare children to transfer to a secondary school of their choice (i.e. not just the church schools)" and could give priority for up to 50% of its intake as allowed for in the Schools Admissions Code, although in an initial statement "It is proposed that 25% of places will be allocated on the basis of parental church attendance, and 75% of places will be open enrolment, available to those of all faiths or none in the local community".

The second, to be opened in September 2017 is a secondary school in Maidstone to be run by Valley Invicta Academy Trust to be called The Maidstone School of Science and Technology and which will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Its admission number will be at least 180 places. There is expected to be a shortage of places in Maidstone secondary schools from 2018 onwards, so this should absorb the pressure, especially at the neighbouring Valley Park School, regularly one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county, for 2015 entry turning away 145 first choices, the second highest number in Kent. Two schools likely to be hit by this are Swadelands in Lenham, although this is increasingly being seen as a school for Ashford children mainly taking in unsuccessful Valley Park applicants from the south east of the town, and New Line Learning, which always has difficulty in attracting students.

A new proposal is for Hope Community School, Northfleet aiming to open in September 2017, in an area where there is a dire shortage of primary school places. It would be part of the New Generation Schools Trust, run by the New Generation Church, an Evangelical Christian Church that already runs a Free School in Bexley. As with the Jubilee Primary School in Maidstone, with a similar background, it will present issues for some families living in the area, as there may be no alternative to this faith school offered. Jubilee had over half of its 60 places offered to children whose parents had not applied for the school, although in the end just 30 turned up. The preferred location for the school is on the Springhead Development, where KCC turned down the opportunity to open its own school a few years ago, on the grounds there would be overcapacity.

The proposed Aspire Free School in Sittingbourne was turned down by the DfE in March, one reason being the lack of Commissioned Places. However, KCC has now agreed to commission all places at Aspire with an EHCP or Statement of Educational Need for the first two years of operation, if the school is approved, and a fresh application has been submitted this month. The school will cater for those young people aged 7 to 19 years, who have a primary diagnosis of Autism (broadly average to high functioning or have Asperger’s Syndrome).  They are likely to have associated difficulties such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Epilepsy and poor Emotional Regulation, often manifesting itself as school refusal, depression and sensory processing difficulties”.

Last modified on Thursday, 29 September 2016 08:04

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