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Friday, 07 September 2012 11:41

KCC hands over low performing schools to Academy Trusts

(UPDATED: 12 September)

Kent on Sunday published an abbreviated version of a prepared article last Sunday,  on KCC's handing over of low performing primary schools to academy trusts; the full article being reproduced here.

What follows is an update and amplification of that article, carried out as time permits.

Kent County Council is quietly resolving the problem of low performing primary schools by handing them over to sponsors, mainly large academy trusts, in a dramatic change to the face of Kent education. Interestingly, in Kent on Sunday this week, in a comment on this article, a spokeswoman for KCC is reported as saying "school governors, through discussion with the Department for Education and KCC, make their own decisions to become an academy". Rubbish, as many governing bodies can testify. Government has made clear that low performing schools are required to become academies (no freedom for governor choice there, as made public by the case of Downhills Primary in London and many others); governors report that KCC has put pressure on them to convert; some headteachers who have resisted conversion have "left" their schools; some governing bodies have been removed - in any case conversion sees new governors appointed, sometimes with members who have nothing to do with the local community, usually with a reduction in the number of parent governors, sometimes to as few as one.  All this too often without the knowledge of parents who have no right of consultation over the change. 

A classic example is Dame Janet Community Infant School in Ramsgate, placed in Special Measures by OFSTED in January. A recent follow up OFSTED inspection is highly critical describing progress as inadequate.  KCC ought to have.....

 

poured in resources to bring it back on track; instead OFSTED considers that KCC’s "Statement of Action has not had an impact on bringing about improvement". Never mind, the Report states that KCC is developing plans to change the status of the school, and it will become an academy sponsored  by Kemnal Academies Trust operating out of Sidcup. The Trust is also acquiring five other Thanet primary schools to add to its current stable of five Kent and Medway schools. By December the Trust will comprise 32 primary and secondary academies across the South East of England. There is a full list of Kent and Medway academies and those currently converting here.

The other major trusts operating in Kent are: Academies Enterprise Trust which has acquired four low performing primary schools in Maidstone, three having been failed by OFSTED. It has been heavily involved in running the failing Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate and has a total of 29 academies from Essex to the Isle of Wight. Leigh Academies Trust runs three secondary, one special and three primary schools, including the failing York Road Junior School. It plans to take over another three schools and is sponsoring Kent’s first University Technical College. Swale Academy Trust runs two local secondary schools and two primary schools, and is taking over the failing Meopham School.  My favourite is the Village Federation of three small primary academies centred on Selling CofE Primary near Faversham.

The first tranche of primary schools to become academies were all high performing, with several now taking over weaker schools including Pilgrims Way Primary in Canterbury and Chantry Primary in Gravesend, both in Special Measure. Other models are: Linden Grove Primary in Ashford (Special Measures) merged with The John Wallis CofE Academy Trust to form an all through 4-18 academy; and Sherwood Park Community Primary in Tunbridge Wells taken over by Temple Grove Schools Trust which currently includes the primary phase of three SE London all through academies. Sherwood Park has been in difficulties for some years, is one of the lowest performing Kent primary schools, and has just been placed into Special Measures by OFSTED. Having failed to turn the school round, no doubt KCC is pleased to pass responsibility onto a third party.  

There are now 67 Kent secondary schools out of 101 in progress or already having converted to academies, together with 57 Kent Primary Schools and one Kent Special school. Sadly amongst these there are still examples of schools where parents do not know what the future holds, for there is no obligation to consult on the changes.

Kent primary schools have consistently performed below national average in the past, but Kent is under pressure to raise standards and for 2012, unofficial Key Stage 2 results for children having reached Level 4 in both English and maths have risen from 72% to 77%, above last year's national average of 75%. However, with one in every seven Kent primaries on their way to becoming academies, KCC has now lost control of most of its schools who have delivered low standards in the past, with more to follow, and will have no influence on these although it remains responsible for standards. Is it that the academy trusts have an ability to raise standards where KCC has failed; will they simply claim credit for the work that KCC has put in on these schools; or, when the majority of schools are academies and the resource advantages have vanished, will the myth be exposed as we can already see growing numbers of failing academies.  The myth of higher standards can already be seen from research quoted by the admittedly partisan Anti-Academies Alliance. Sadly this does not appear to create as many headlines as the vast pro-academy public relations exercise mounted by government amongst others. One final thought: As KCC has seen its Key Stage 2 results reach their highest ever level through the Kent Challenge programme,  perhaps there was no need to go down this route after all;  and the academies have done well to acquire schools with the improvements already built in. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 21:56

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