There has been much debate since my previous article on the problem of Kent’s disappearing primary headteachers, with Kent County Council arguing that the removal of these headteachers is a necessary part of school improvement, that the improvement in OFSTED outcomes proves this and that every Kent primary school has someone in charge of it. It appears from the information available that some 40 primary headteachers have lost their posts since September 2012, 21 by formal means, the remainder being "encouraged" to resign.
However, chickens are coming home to roost. There is a sharp increase in the number of primary headship vacancies across Kent, a sharp fall in the number of applicants for each vacancy to an average of 2.33 per post, a quarter of all primary headships are having to be re-advertised, 16 Kent primary schools have failed their OFSTEDs since September, there is a fall in the proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected by OFSTED and more schools are seeing a worse OFSTED outcome this time round. Kent’s Key Stage 2 results for this summer should be interesting!
In 2012, KCC published its key policy document: “Bold Steps for Kent”, laying out its key education priorities for the next three years. Its key policy aim for 2015 was:“No KCC schools will be in an Ofsted category of concern. There will be more good schools, with at least 85% of primary and secondary schools judged as good or outstanding”. With standards falling instead as we head towards 2015, KCC is clearly panicking and headteachers are becoming scapegoats, taking us into a spiral of decline.
The Kent Messenger has discovered, via a Freedom of Information request, that 21 headteachers of Kent schools were removed from their posts since September 2012. Of these, 15 were told to go due to performance reasons, five on grounds of conduct and one for an issue not disclosed. These will be mainly primary school heads, but would include secondary heads like the head of the North School, Ashford, a KCC run school, who resigned after the school was placed in Special Measures in December. It will not include the additional ones removed from academies, such as Castle Community College in Deal and Molehill Copse Primary in Maidstone. Neither does it include those who “voluntarily” gave up their posts, rather than face the stigma of removal. I hear that in total some 40 heads have given up or “lost” their posts since September 2013. I covered some of these issues in a previous article in April, which may well have sparked the Kent Messenger FOI request.
Please make no mistake; Kent County Council is forced to take action in maintained schools about 'Schools Causing Concern' through Government Statutory Guidance. This government policy is unforgiving and leaves limited room for manoeuvre, but the evidence presented below suggests that KCC's interpretation of this is not achieving the aims of the document, to 'drive up standards'.
UPDATE Feb 13: Dover Road Primary has just failed another Monitoring Inspection. Inadequate progress. Quote from "Context": "Since the previous monitoring visit the headteacher has left the school. An interim headteacher joined the school in January and is due to remain until August 2013. The Early Years Foundation Stage leader has left the school. Two part-time teachers are covering a vacancy and a maternity leave in the Nursery class. Two further classes are being covered by fixed-term supply teachers because of vacancies. One of the deputy headteachers is covering a further vacancy in a Year 6 class, created when a teacher recruited in December 2012 left the school in January 2013.Classes in Years 5 and 6 have recently been reorganised into ability groups for literacy and numeracy lessons. The school is pursuing conversion to academy status, which is planned to take place at the beginning of September 2013". How could it have come to this????
PREVIOUSLY: I have just come across a story in the Gravesend Messenger, stating that the headteacher of Dover Road Community Primary School in Northfleet left the school over Christmas. It reports that she has signed a "compromise agreement" with Kent County Council ending her employment and settling any disputes. Presumably there would be a confidentiality clause. A notice in the staffroom apparently warns teachers not to comment on this outside the school at risk of disciplinary action. Of course such agreements are not unusual in themselves, and usually cover a financial agreement for the headteacher to go without a fuss. Dover Road is in Special Measures, and the tenure of headteachers of failing schools increasingly look like that of Football Managers, but in this case, Mrs Smith had been placed in an intolerable situation by previous Kent County Council decisions, described elsewhere in this website.However, in summary,......