Following on from yesterday here is Part 2 where we look at the new
Turner Free School – previously known as Pent Valley
To understand the direction of travel of the two Turner secondary academies, they being Folkestone Academy and the school formerly known as Pent Valley; it is best to look at the new Turner Free School first, even though the website is light on fact but with masses of information about governance and governors. However, it does contain plenty of slogans, headed by ‘Success without selection’ , offering ‘a grammar-style education for everyone’ whatever that means, and another vision that includes: ‘empowering pupils with cultural capital’ . It will offer government preferred Ebacc for everyone, an academic curriculum heavily criticised in places for its absolute focus on academic studies at cost to the arts and vocational courses. This has lead to a 38% fall in entries to Arts GCSEs n the past five years.
The school claims to be opening in September on its wafer thin website, boasting of the 70 applications it has received. On the Turner Free School website its front page of ‘latest news‘ informs browsers that it has attracted just 70 applicants for its 120 places. I am told by the Trust that the school has now had 240 applications with half placed on a waiting list, but no one has bothered to update the website. If this is the case, then probably most of these have also secured places at Folkestone Academy.
This monopoly in secondary provision across Folkestone is unique in the county and has the effect of eliminating choice for families who dislike the ethos projected by the Trust in its schools.
One of the many issues is that these applications are outside the Kent Secondary Application scheme and so are open to and will include pupils already offered places Folkestone Academy. Turner Trust knows how many of these there are, and who, so could try and ‘guide’ applicants to improve numbers.
It is claimed that every pupil at Turner Free School will be able to speak fluent French (or Mandarin), an ambition surpassing most grammar schools‘. ‘Only eight children in the whole of Shepway did a French A level, even though on a clear day you can see France’, although Harvey Grammar had more than this alone last year. ‘Kent also has the highest exclusions from school for racist intolerance and abuse’. Not sure of the relevance of this, but Kent actually has no permanent exclusions for racist intolerance and as the largest Local Authority in the country, many others have a larger proportion of fixed period exclusions. ‘The Academy is founded to transform education standards in East Kent through our HEART principles: High expectations; Energy; Academic subject-based curriculum; Reading for all; and Trust’ – now that is what I call an ambition, transforming standards across East Kent. ‘Ultimately, every student from TFS will have the chance to follow any dream, achieve any goal, and to be anything they want to be’
Currently one wonders what the 70 children who have signed will discover. The school is already planning to increase to 180 for 2019, in contradiction of its claim that: ‘As a smaller than average secondary school all pupils will be known and educated as individuals’. There is a four page prospectus, equally slogan heavy and fact light, leading with: ‘A Traditional Education for the 21st Century’ . However, there are a few aspirations thrown in: ‘By providing an outstanding education for your son or daughter – with a focus on English, mathematics, science, humanities and a modern foreign language – we will secure their future. These subjects (together forming the EBacc) will mean that your child will be able to follow any pathway, from A Levels and on to studying at Russell Group universities, or on into the world of professional employment….In addition to the EBacc subjects, we will equip our students with a detailed core knowledge in a range of areas, including STEM, music, art and select sports….We will also offer a range of enriching extra-curricular activities and trips in order to broaden the horizons of our students and to bring their learning to life. All students will have access to a range of additional sporting and academic experiences, which will also build their confidence and resilience. This will include residential visits, music and drama performances, debating, mock legal trials and a variety of competitive sporting events…..We will encourage positive relationships through our House System, which will inspire students to strive for both personal and team success’ although this is a principle which appears opposed to the one being dismantled at partner Folkestone Academy (below) as incompatible with the Trust’s vision! ‘we will operate a system of Family Dining, which will be packed-lunch free (pity about those with dietary restrictions). All staff will dine with students to build relationships, ensure social inclusion and develop confidence in trying new foods. This will ensure that all students are part of our community and that they can develop fluency in conversation, impeccable manners and the ability to show appreciation for those around them’. And that is about it. Pity about the non-Russell Group Universities who don’t appear to be up to it; no mention of supporting children with Special Education Needs or disabilities, who seem to cause problems in the Trust primary schools.
Although there is no mention of premises or facilities, surely an important factor for all enquirers, the old Pent Valley buildings are currently being adapted for their new use. A whole school roll of 70 pupils or fewer in the first year is very difficult to staff, as is this level of uptake in higher year groups in the future, but all those at Folkestone Academy are having their contracts changed so they can teach across the Trust, clearly planned as an integral part of provision.
A headteacher designate, Kristina Yates (pictured above), has been appointed. She is currently Vice Principal at Folkestone School for Girls, but with a background at the non-selective Marsh Academy.
It appears that the success of Turner Free School will depend on the further unpopularity of Folkestone academy.
(This blog post first appeared on the Kent Advice website, we are grateful for their kind permission to reproduce it here.)
The Shepwayvox Team – Dissent is NOT a Crime.