Updated with more Medway Academy news below, 7 September
Although there has been just one new converter academy and five sponsored academies in the past five months from Kent and one from Medway, there are six new academy proposals in Kent and five in Medway working through. Most of the new or proposed sponsored academies have a failed OFSTED in the last few years, academisation wiping out any previous OFSTED Grade and securing freedom from a fresh Inspection for three years – almost an incentive in itself for some schools, and surely a great relief for the two Local Authorities as their statistics improve overnight.
There are also five Free School proposals, some already approved for 2017 opening as the government Free School programme gathers pace, with three of the proposals coming from religious groups as, in Kent as well as elsewhere, faith schools are seeing their biggest expansion in numbers for decades.
This article also looks at Academy matters in Canterbury, Deal, Folkestone, Gravesham, Maidstone, Medway, and Sevenoaks, and major new developments in the Lilac Sky scandal.
You will find a full list of Academies, Academy Groups, Free Schools and University Technical Colleges elsewhere on this website; together with my previous article on Academy and Free School News (the delay explained by my commitments elsewhere in recent months).
Further details on all these items below…..
As I was preparing to publish this article, local academy news is overtaken by the ideological decision to force all schools in England to have converted or started on the route to become academies by 2020. Whilst I normally confined myself to matters relating only to Kent and Medway on this website, the impact of this appalling decision on local schools is such that I have added a couple of paragraphs at the foot of the page.
As the conversion rate to academise has reduced to a trickle before this news, there are just two new Academies for February, Manor Community Primary School, Dartford, and Twydall Primary School in Gillingham, the latter having finally seen its future settled as it has been sponsored by Rainham Mark Grammar School after a very difficult failed take-over attempt by the Learning Schools Academy Trust.
There are several new converter applications: Simon Langton Girls Grammar; Upton Junior, Broadstairs; Temple Hill and Oakfield Primaries, Dartford.
News below about: two new build primary academies; Maidstone School of Science and Technology (or rather lack of news!); Castle Community College; Cranbrook School; Chatham Grammar School for Boys; Royal Harbour Academy (not an academy) and the Coastal Academies Trust; and a new 11-14 extension (or is it?) to Leigh University Technical College.
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.
There were four new Converter Academies in Kent for October, all primary schools. Culverstone Green Primary and Riverview Infants are both in Gravesham.
Dymchurch Primary has joined The Village Academy Trust, based in Swale, and St George’s CofE (Aided) Primary in Sheppey has joined the Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust. These four schools bring the total of current and proposed primary academies in Kent to 137 out of 432, or 32%.
Whilst t here are no new academies in Medway there are three new sponsored primary 'academies in progress', all currently in Special Measures, bring the total of current or in progress primary academies to 34 out of 79 or 43%.…….
Three new primary academies this month, all new church academies in Kent. They are: Reculver CofE Primary, sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Canterbury; and two converter academies, St John’s Catholic (Gravesend) and St Mary’s Catholic (Whitstable) both joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership, which is now the largest academy chain across the two authorities. Rivermead School, a Special School in Gillingham for children with complex needs, has applied to become a converter academy, the third Medway Special School to go down this route. St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Canterbury has also applied to be a converter and will be joining the Kent Catholic Schools Partnership in due course.
Other news on academies, Free Schools and the Medway UTC follows……
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 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.
Most of the activity of conversion to academies this year has been in the primary sector, as those secondaries looking to convert have already done so. There is one batch of secondary schools that, even if they are willing to convert, are still in difficulty about doing so. These schools were built under Private Finance Initiative and would incur heavy charges for themselves and KCC if they converted, as explained in two previous articles I wrote last year and a follow up to come.
Once again, the majority of the nine conversions listed below are to join church academy groups either by federation, or under sponsorship for underperforming or failing schools.
Currently in Kent, 72% of secondary schools and 28% of primary schools have converted to academies, are in progress or are Free Schools. The corresponding figures for Medway are !00% secondary and 42% primary. These figures are based on my own records and are not official.
I also comment on three schools that have run into difficulties over possible conversions - Twydall Primary in Gillingham; Kings Farm Primary in Gravesend and The North School in Ashford; together with the proposed new Free School in Sittingbourne for children with high functioning autism.......
Valley Invicta Academy Trust (VIAT) is considering opening a new Free School in September 2017 on the site of its two secondary schools, Valley Park school and Invicta Grammar School. It would be called the Maidstone School of Science and Technology, specialising in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and is proposed initially to take in four classes of entry, or 120 students.
Two issues of social mobility affecting Kent children were in the news yesterday.
Firstly, the proposal by government to extend its current freedoms for academies and free schools to prioritise admission for some disadvantaged children to all schools. I was able on Radio Kent to identify the one Kent academy, a grammar school, that has already gone down this route, However, I cannot see those oversubscribed church schools where the freedom would be most likely to have an effect, taking advantage of this opportunity to increase social cohesion and mobility.
Secondly, the Sutton Foundation, a highly respected education charity identified the best and worst academy chains in the country for improving disadvantaged pupils, finding a huge variation in the performance of sponsored academies run by the 31 long standing chains examined. One of the of the best performers, the Leigh Academy Trust, operates in Kent. Of those don’t who perform as well as maintained schools, five operate in Kent, including one very surprising chain based in the county......