This article first looks at the two new Free Schools opened in Dartford in September: Stone Lodge School (secondary) and River Mill Primary. Six schools have become academies: Dartford Community Primary School; Horsmonden Primary; Paddock Wood Primary; Rolvenden Primary; St Katherine’s Primary; and Wainscott Primary. A group of primary schools in East Kent are proposing to academise together: Briary; Bysing Wood; Holywell; and Queenborough. Sunny Bank School in Sittingbourne has an Academy Order. The re-brokering of the failed Delce Academy; the Private Finance Initiative and academy conversion; a roundup of the names and numbers of Kent and Medway academies, and various other academy matters.
New and Proposed Academies and Free Schools
There are two new schools both in Dartford, classified as Free Schools: Stone Lodge School (secondary) sponsored by the Endeavour MAT, also comprising the two Wilmington Grammar Schools; and River Mill Primary, sponsored by the Connect Schools Academy Trust based on three primary schools in Orpington, along with Cage Green Primary also in Tonbridge. Dartford Community Primary School, having failed its Ofsted as explained here, has become a sponsored academy under Cygnus Academy Trust, also comprising four Dartford Primary schools, together with Royal Rise Primary in Tonbridge (which also failed Ofsted). Horsmonden and Paddock Wood primaries have became new converter academies, having controversially joined the Leigh Academies Trust. Rolvenden Primary has joined the locally based Tenterden Schools Trust. St Katherine’s Primary School in Snodland has become an Academy sponsored by the Coppice Primary Partnership, which also runs two Maidstone primaries. Wainscott Primary in Medway has joined the Primary First Trust as a converter academy.
Sunny Bank School in Sittingbourne, having failed its Ofsted, is also to become a Sponsored academy, Sponsor as yet unnamed, although it is currently supported by The Island Learning Trust from Sheppey which may be an indicator. Details here, but it has also become one of Kent’s lowest performing primary schools as explained here.
Four East Kent primary schools: Briary Primary, Herne Bay ; Bysing Wood Primary, Faversham; Holywell Primary, Upchurch; and Queenborough School, Isle of Sheppey had their applications to become Converter Academies approved in June. They are planning to join the EKC (East Kent College) Schools Trust, which appears a new entity and these would be the first schools to become part of the Trust. EKC is a Further Education College, albeit a multi site one with Headquarters in Broadstairs, but having taken over Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Sheppey Colleges, several of which had previously failed or underperformed. At present the Trust appears to have no school expertise, apart from the CEO being previously the East Kent Senior Improvement Adviser (but see below) so one has to ask what the advantages of this change are, especially as several of the schools belong to strong mutual support organisations. Perhaps the clue is in a statement from Holywell Primary: ‘As a creative, forward thinking school with an exciting vision to ‘Recognise and Realise’ aspirations for all our pupils, we have been hand-picked and invited to join with three like-minded schools to form a new Multi Academy Trust (MAT), The East Kent College (EKC) Schools Trust’. Handpicked? One wonders what the criteria to be picked were across an area with around a hundred Local Authority primary schools and why it is such an honour. Most of the school websites bashfully keep this news well hidden, but I understand that parents are about to be consulted.
New Kent and Medway Free Schools in the Pre-Opening Phase
The latest government list, up to October, lists the following schools:
The new schools are: Alkerden School (secondary, likely to be all through), Ebbsfleet; Aspire Special School, Sittingbourne; Barton Manor School (secondary), Canterbury; Bearsted Primary Academy, Maidstone; Chilmington Green Secondary Academy, Ashford; Ebbsfleet Green Primary School; Leigh Academy Rainham; Margate Presumption; Rochester Riverside CofE Primary School; School of Science and Technology Maidstone; Springhead Park Primary School, Gravesham (Ebbsfleet); Snowfields Academy (Special School), Bearsted, Maidstone; St Andrew’s Primary Free School, Paddock Wood; The Beeches (Alternative Provision Primary Centre), Chatham; The Maritime Academy, Strood.
Fuller details on all these schools here. Delays in the two new secondary schools in Medway coming on stream will be causing problems in non selective secondary provision in September this year, explored here.
Academy approvals for Conversion and Sponsorship
The government website lists all open academies and those in the pipeline for conversion and sponsorship up until October 2019. There are five Kent and Medway primary schools which have applied and are either still waiting for approval, or more likely have decided not to proceed with the application. These are Bean Primary (applied May 2018); Bethersden Primary (3/18); Roseacre Junior School (2/18); and from Medway Park Wood Infant and Junior Schools. Four of the seven where Approval has been granted are listed in the EKC section above. The others are: Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE Primary which had approval granted as long ago as October 2012, then planned to be part of the mass Deal academy conversion, but now appears to have either pulled out, or else is delaying joining the other six academies. St Ethelbert’s Catholic Primary was approved for conversion in February 2013, and Lamberhurst St Mary’s CofE in November 2016, but neither has taken the final step.
The four schools in the Sponsorship Pipeline not reported elswhere, are all stuck in the PFI trap, also above. They are: Aylesford; Holmesdale; The North; and Royal Harbour. You will also find Sunny Bank Primary above, and St Francis Catholic and West Kingsdown primaries below.
I have reported several times previously on the stand-off between government and KCC, along with a number of other Local Authorities, over who should pay for the ongoing Private Finance Initiative costs if the schools were to become academies. This most recently surfaced over the summer at The North School, as explained here, which sets out and provides links to the full story. An article by ShepwayVox looks in considerable detail at the financial side of the issues. There are eleven Kent secondary schools caught up in what is a real scandal, with three off-shore companies having already been paid over £200 million pounds to service the contracts. Hundreds of millions of pounds further are due in 25 year contracts which are not yet half way through. Two of these are causing particular stress with Swale Academies Trust (SAT) having taken out management contracts with KCC to run Holmesdale and The North School on the currently unfulfilled expectation they would become academies. You will find my most recent article relating to Holmesdale here. My most recent article on The North, here, describes the collapse of the Management Contract over the summer, at short notice. SAT has continued to supply support with the school, but a recent FOI by me confirms there is still no formal arrangement in place up until at least Christmas
The Schools Week website quotes KCC as saying: ‘the PFI contracts at both schools predated academy legislation and “do not lend themselves to the conversion process”, adding the issues potentially left the council facing an “unacceptable and significant risk”’, clearly a risk that applies to the other schools.
Kent and Medway Secondary Academies
Sixteen of the 17 Medway secondary schools are already academies, the remaining school is the Voluntary Aided St John Fisher Catholic Comprehensive, struggling to attract pupils, but with good performance at GCSE this year, and a Good Ofsted.
77 of Kent’s 101 secondary schools are academies. Of the others:
11 are PFI schools and unable to convert to academies at present, although we don’t know how many would wish to. These are: Aylesford; Holmesdale (F); Hugh Christie (F); Malling (F); The North; Northfleet Technology College (F); Royal Harbour Academy (F); St John’s Catholic Comprehensive (VA); and Thamesview (F).
Nine are grammar schools, who clearly feel better off with KCC: Dover Boys (F); Dover Girls; The Judd; Maidstone (F); Maidstone Girls (F); Simon Langton Girls; Simon Langton Boys (F); Tunbridge Wells Girls (F); Tunbridge Wells Boys.
There are four others: The Archbishop’s (F); Dartford Science & Technology College (F); Northfleet Girls (F); St George’s CofE Foundation (F). The last two of these also benefited from BSF contracts, probably a smaller refurbishment which didn’t involved PFI.
Note: (F) is shorthand for a Foundation School; VA for a Voluntary Aided School. Both describe Local Authority schools with additional freedoms.
Delce Academy (primary) in Rochester has been discussed here a number of times, most recently here. I understand that the re-brokerage to the Inspiration Federation in February, not a moment too soon. Janet Downs of Local Schools Network has got to the bottom of the £400,000 loan by Medway Council to Delce described in the article, as explained here. Quite simply, as I reported: ‘This contains the astonishing information that the Council Cabinet appeared to approve a commercial loan to the Academy of £400,000 to fund capital expenditure on the installation of a four classroom block of modular buildings at the Academy for its new Infant provision which was never going to be financially viable’. We now know that this disgraceful financial decision was indeed approved by Medway Council, but the Education and Skills Funding Agency had the common sense to veto it. Meanwhile, Delce Academy is one of the three lowest Medway performers at Key Stage Two this year and, what I have repeatedly reported to be a non-viable Infant Department admitted just nine pupils for its 30 Reception places in September, by a considerable margin the highest percentage of vacancies in Medway. The Inspire Partnership certainly has its work cut out to sort out this mess, especially as it had also taken on Elaine Academy in Medway, wrecked by The Williamson Trust, now defunct. However, the 2019 performance data shows that Elaine has turned the corner, as reported here.
Grammar School Expansion
You will find a new article looking at the Annexe at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, expansion at Gravesend Grammar and Norton Knatchbull School, and a possible annexe in Whitstable/Herne Bay here.
Change of Name of Schools and Academy Trusts
Decus Educational Trust is the new name for the Gravesend Grammar School Academies Trust, comprising Gravesend Grammar School and Whitehill Primary School. A number of Trusts are going down similar routes borrowing from the Classics, presumably to lend gravitas to their purpose. ‘Decus’ is a Latin word with a variety of definitions offered, including: Honour; Ornament; Glory; Distinction; Pride and Beauty. GGS no longer teaches Latin. The Tenax Schools Trust is the name of the Multi-Academy Trust headed up by Bennett Memorial Diocesan School. ‘Tenax’ being a Latin adjective roughly translating as: ‘tending to hold fast’ and is the root of ‘tenacious’. The Aletheia Anglican Academies Trust is named after a Classical Greek term, which is ‘truth or disclosure in philosophy’, or alternatively, factuality or reality. The Arete Trust refers, again in Classical Greek to ‘excellence of any kind’ although again Dartford Grammar Girls does not teach classical languages.
Skills for Life Trust is the new name for the Greenacre Academy Trust as it has expanded, absorbing Walderslade Girls School and Hilltop Primary as Converter Academies, and has sponsored Chantry Community Academy and Warren Wood (see here for more details). Apart from Chantry in Gravesend, all schools are in Medway. Such aaspirational aims are also becoming increasingly popular, one of the more cumbersome being the Every Child Every Day Academy Trust.
Chatham Grammar the new full name of the previous Chatham Grammar School for Girls, changed its name over the summer, moving into the territory relinquished by Holcombe Grammar, previously Chatham Grammar School for Boys. Presumably this is to encourage boys into its mixed Sixth Form which is currently struggling to recruit and retain students of both genders as can be seen from the Individual School Data. The latest schools census reveals a loss of 32% of pupils going from Year 11 into the Sixth Form, the second highest percentage across Kent and Medway and the school is facing the threat of Rochester Grammar’s decision to switch from super selection to offering priority for local girls. However, it will survive by expanding its recruitment of girls from London, a pool now enlarged by the Rochester decision. An article in KM Online refers to plans for a new teaching block, submitted to Medway Council, that claims it will help to increase Sixth Form numbers.
Cornwallis Academy and New Line Learning Academy were to be re-brokered from Future Schools Trust to the Every Child Every Day Academy Trust last September, which was providing them with support. The parallel article last year explores the problems in both schools. However, this decision has been cancelled, presumably because of the improvement in both. However, the Tiger Free School, Kent’s first new Free School, has gone the other way with an Ofsted Report, which Requires Improvement in the school, partly because a high staff turnover has taken its toll. Interestingly, the Latest News at the Trust still carries an article from 2018 that begins: ‘Following news that Future Schools Trust is to merge with Every Child Ever (sic) Day Trust…..‘.
South Kent Academy Trust
Brockhill Performing Arts College and the Towers School Academy Trust, both stand alone academies, are coming together under this title, an expansive one suggesting further acquisitions are to be sought.
Two Kent primary schools served with Academy Orders in 2014, have still not followed through according to Schools Week, which also looks at the issues behind the PFI schools Royal Harbour Academy and The North School, above. West Kingsdown CofE was placed in Special Measures in 2013 and after two ‘Requires Improvement’ outcomes in 2014 and 2016 which were hardly promising, the Academy Order should have been carried out, but wasn’t because of unresolved issues with regard to land ownership. The 2017 KS2 results found the school one of just six in Kent to be ‘Well above Average’ in each of reading, writing and maths, which may well have saved it, Ofsted last month delivering a highly complimentary Good Ofsted Report, which should surely have seen its removal from the list.
St Francis Catholic Primary, a Voluntary Aided school in Maidstone, was also placed in Special Measures in 2013. The appalling and unlawful behaviour of Kent County Council and Simon Webb, then its key officer in such matters is explained at length here. Following the public removal of the headteacher and his wife (who also taught there) during the school day, he was suspended unlawfully by KCC without consulting the Chairman of the governing body who were his employers, creating a controversy that lasted over a year. During this time, the headteacher was absent on full pay and the school achieved a Good Ofsted Report. The then Acting Headteacher was subsequently appointed Head and the school completed a successful Short Inspection in September 2018. Meanwhile, according to Schools Week: ‘HR issues and new governors against conversion have held up a takeover of by the Kent Catholic Schools’ Partnership’. All was looking well to see the Academy Order withdrawn, but the disastrous Key Stage 2 results this summer will have set this back and put the school at risk again.
The planned new Free School, together with sponsor, was controversially vetoed by Paul Carter, Leader of, KCC shortly before he stood down. A final decision on whether it will go ahead is with the Schools Minister now. You will find a detailed article via the link.
Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham
Finally, my huge congratulations to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School for winning first place in the STEM competition F1 in Schools. The school have been involved in the competition for 10 years, getting better each year with 2019 being the year which saw three of their students as ’Team Evolve UK’ win the South East of England Finals in February, second in the National F1 in Schools finals in March and last month they won first place in the World Championships in Abu Dhabi.
Tammy Mitchell: CEO of the new EKC Schools Trust
On the EKC Schools Trust website, Tammy Mitchell’s biography states that ‘In 2006 Tammy took up her first headship at a school in Northampton. She stayed in the role for four years before moving to Kent to take on her second headship. In both of the roles she managed to improve the two schools performance, seeing them rise from two ‘case for concern’ grades to securely good ones’. This is not actually correct. Firstly, in those days there was no ’cause for concern’ grade, with both schools being described as ‘Satisfactory. At Hopping Hill Primary in Northamptonshire, Ms Mitchell took over a school that had been found to be Good, the year before her arrival. Two years later, in 2007 at the only Ofsted Inspection under her leadership, the school was found to be ‘Satisfactory’ a fall of one grade. It was only in 2010, after she had left to move to Swalecliffe Primary, that Hopping Hill returned to the level before she arrived. Swalecliffe had been classified as Good before she arrived, but on her first Inspection in 2011, it had fallen to ‘Satisfactory’ although still not a case for concern. By the time she left it had returned to ‘Good’.