There are two new academies, Kingsnorth Cof E Primary and Temple Mill Primary in Strood, since my last report, together with three new applications – Brenchley and Matfield Primary, Westgate Primary and a new primary at Ebbsfleet Garden City. Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar is also consulting on forming a multi-academy trust.
The Academy Monopoly game continues to run, with Marsh Academy now being managed by the Skinners Company Trust, Mascalls School joining the Leigh Academy Group and taking over the running of its three troubled Maidstone Primary Schools, and Chantry Primary in Gravesend being taken over by Greenacre School in Chatham after the failure of the Meopham Community Schools Trust.
The opening of the new Bishop Chavasse Free School in Tonbridge opening has been delayed by a year to 2017; this year's newly opened primary academies are taking time to attract pupils, with all having vacancies in Reception, several with over 50% empty spaces.
You will find a full list of Academies, Academy Groups and Free Schools elsewhere on the website....
New, Pending and Changed Ownership Academies
Just one new Kent Academy was created in November, Kingsnorth CofE Primary in Ashford, a Converter Academy, but choosing to come under the sponsorship of the Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust
In Medway, the troubled Temple Mill Primary in Strood concluded its protracted change of status, becoming an academy sponsored by The Howard Academy Trust in December, their first venture into multi-academy Trust.
A new converter application has been submitted by Brenchley and Matfield Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary school, Paddock Wood. It will join the Tenax Trust, run by Bennett Memorial Diocesan School in Tunbridge Wells, along with the new Bishop Chavasse Free School (see below).
Manor Community School in Dartford, due to become an academy in February, is to form a multi-academy trust known as Cygnus Academies Trust and take over Westgate Primary in Dartford in April, which it is currently supporting, with the ambition to absorb further schools.
Simon Langton Girl’s Grammar School in Canterbury has written to parents informing them it is consulting on forming a multi academy trust in the new year, although it appears rather bashful about the proposal and there is no reference to it on the school website. The school is currently working with the Spires Academy also in Canterbury, with the Head of SLGGS as Executive Head of both schools, which will become an academy sponsored by the school, presumably losing its current sponsors: Crown Imperial and Holiday Extras - two Kent businesses, together with Kent County Council. The school anticipates several local primary schools wishing to join the new Trust.
The Marsh Academy in New Romney, with sponsors Tonbridge School, Microsoft and Kent County Council, appears to have now become a Skinners Company School.
Chantry Primary School in Gravesend now has new sponsors, Greenacre Academy Trust in Chatham, after its disastrous experience with Meopham Community Primary Academy who also failed neighbouring Istead Rise School which is now run by Swale Academies Trust. The headteacher of Meopham has now left the school.
Leigh Academies Trust is to run the first of the new schools to open at the new Ebbsfleet Garden City Development in September 2017 as a sponsored academy. It is likely to be called Castle Hill Primary School, not to be confused with Castle Hill Community Primary school in Folkestone. The successful Mascalls Academy in Paddock Wood has also joined the Trust, bringing it up to twelve schools in total, with three more on the way, including a new secondary Free School in Greenwich which will be part of a South East London Hub. Mascalls heads up the Central Kent hub, the school taking on responsibility for the three Maidstone primaries the Trust recently took over. A good omen for the change from the disastrous Academies Enterprise Trust experience of these schools is the recent OFSTED Report on Molehill Primary School which states:
The rapid and highly effective action of the executive principal since September, and her work as lead principal of the three cluster schools prior to this, have brought about significant improvements in teaching, pupils’ progress, attendance, safety and behaviour. The executive principal has, with the board of governors and the Leigh Academies Trust’s development group, secured the confidence of staff and pupils in the leadership of the academy. There is now a shared sense of purpose, drive, enthusiasm and determination to continue and increase the pace of improvement. Staff morale is high. One leader commented, ‘The executive principal is inspirational and allows us to thrive as leaders. We are empowered to make changes.’ In addition, leaders with proven track records of skills and expertise support all staff across the cluster and at Molehill have had a significant impact in securing improvement, for example in teaching and learning. What a turnaround from the consistently depressing reports on the three schools under previous ownership!Although unsurprisingly the school still Requires Improvement from its previous Inadequate assessment under AET, this shows that under the right sponsors academies can improve with the necessary expertise and commitment.
Bishop Chavasse Free School
The proposed new Bishop Chavasse Free School in Tonbridge, to be run by Bennett Memorial Diocesan School from Tunbridge Wells, has had its opening put back a year from 2016 to 2017. This is because it has been unable to obtain temporary premises whilst a new permanent building is being constructed on its own site. Whilst this is represented as a decision that will be best for the long term and is probably out of the control of the school, it will be a major disappointment to Tonbridge parents, grappling with the shortage of quality primary school places in the town for the coming September. Two years ago some Tonbridge families were allocated primary schools in Tunbridge Wells because of the shortage of places.
The 2015 Crop of New Academies and Free Schools
Most of the six new Primary Academies which opened in September, have clearly suffered from not being part of the co-ordinated primary admission scheme in their first year and from having no established reputation, according to the KCC October schools census but potentially offer parents moving into the area or not happy with their current school a good option. Finberry Primary in Ashford had attracted just 14 pupils, with only three in the Reception Year for its 30 places. The pressure on primary places at Kings Hill saw the Valley Invicta Academy taking in 33 children through to Year 4, but just 14 so far in Year R. There were similar Reception numbers at the Valley Invicta academies at Leybourne Chase and Holborough Lakes in Maidstone, and Martello Grove Academy in Folkestone. However, the experience of the new Jubilee Free School in Maidstone which still has no permanent site is a good omen with Year R intake numbers leaping from 23 to 55 in one year. Skinners Kent Primary School and Ramsgate Free School were all nearly full in Year R by October, all these schools having a planned intake figure of 30 in Reception, whilst Thistle Hill Academy on Sheppey had just 26 of its 60 places filled. The two most recently opened Free Schools, Wells Free School in Tunbridge Wells and Jubilee Free School in Maidstone were both just short of their planned admission number.