Warwick Mansell of the Guardian Newspaper has been investigating such issues for several years and has written a number of articles on the subject in the Guardian and elsewhere. I suspect that in some other schools, no concerns have been raised, as it is not in the interests of those most closely involved. As one contributor to the programme stated, “if an improvement in results looks too good to be true, then it probably is"”.
Partly as a result of the absence of KS2 results and of data having been removed at KS1, Kings Farm Primary was placed in Special Measures in October. However, the most recent OFSTED Report found the school was making reasonable progress towards the removal of SM. It also notes that “Parents and carers who spoke with the inspectors were very positive about changes made by school leaders and staff” and that “The headteacher is leading the school with determination and high levels of commitment. She shows enthusiasm in rising to the challenge of bringing about the significant improvements required and skill in managing the changes involved”.
The programme explained that some schools will deliberately downplay KS1 results to show accelerated progress between then and KS2. A teacher alleged this had happened at Kings Farm, but subsequently most of the school’s data on pupils’ Early Years past performance could not be located. OFSTED reported in October 2014 that “The absence of historic school data and other documentation, prior to the current term, has provided additional challenges for the leadership team”.
I am well aware of the issues as, through my previous roles as Chairman of Governors of Ifield School, the neighbouring Special School, and as previous vice-chairman of Whitehill Infant School before it amalgamated with the Juniors to form Whitehill Primary, I know or have been contacted by a number of staff or ex-staff in all the schools concerned, including some directly affected by the maladministration. I have been approached by a number of ex-staff of Whitehill Primary, concerned about what is going on in their school and heard a number of comments in a similar vein from others in education. The Dispatches programme rightly drew attention to the number of teachers only willing to comment anonymously for fear of their careers, and indeed I have received anonymous letters expressing deep concerns about what is going on at Whitehill, purportedly from current members of staff, whose deep knowledge of events there gives credibility to their testimony.
One staff appointment to Whitehill that clearly rankles is the engagement on a one day a week consultancy basis, of Kent’s previous Principal Primary Adviser, who was retired by KCC following a series of controversial events, chronicled here, but who would have played a prime role in the appointment of the Whitehill Executive Headteacher to Kings Farm in January 2014. Other comments attached at the foot of a previous article give another flavour of how the school is viewed by some.
Currently, Kings Farm Primary is looking to federate with Ifield School, a twice Outstanding OFSTED Special School with a national reputation, which would enable it to put these troubles behind it and give the school a good chance to succeed. Certainly, this storm is nothing to do with the pupils and staff of Kings Farm Primary School who surely deserve better than they were served up with between January and July 2014, finishing with a demonstration by parents after 25 of the 42 staff handed in their resignations.
Statement by KCC to the Dispatches Programme
Patrick Leeson, Corporate Director of Education and Young People's Services, at Kent County Council, said:
“Once concerns had been raised to the governors at Kings Farm Primary School and Kent County Council about possible maladministration of Key Stage 2 SAT tests and the altering of early years assessments, we took swift action. Following an investigation which found evidence of inappropriate behaviour during the assessments, the leadership team of the school was replaced. The case was reported to the appropriate national bodies and as their investigations are still ongoing we are unable to comment further at this stage.
“We regard this as a serious breach of professional conduct. Making sure children at Kings Farm are receiving a good education is our main concern and we acted quickly to ensure the year group of pupils could move on to Secondary School in September 2014 without disruption to their future progress. The outcome of the SATS investigation and subsequent annulment of the pupils’ results was completed by December 2014. The pupils were able to transfer to their Secondary Schools of choice and a range of other information about their progress was made available to their new schools. The children in the early years were reassessed and adjustments made where necessary.
“A new leadership team has been in place at Kings Farm since September 2014. Ofsted inspected the school in October and agrees the school is making good progress. Kent County Council is pleased with the progress the school is making and are working closely with it to make sure standards remain high.”