Kent MAT with links to former minister causing concern

Janet Downs's picture

All-through academy, previously good, facing reorganisation and redundancies

Turner Schools, a multi-academy trust (MAT) in Folkestone, is causing concern, Kent Independent Education Advice (KIEA) reports (see here  and  here).

Dr Jo Saxton, Turner Schools’ CEO, was formerly CEO of Future Academies, the MAT founded by former schools minister Lord Nash, and was once a director of the New Schools Network, the charity which promotes free schools.  

Dr Saxton sits on the advisory council of Parents and Teachers for Excellence (PTE) set up two years ago by Dame Rachel de Souza, CEO of Inspiration Trust whose directors include schools minister Lord Agnew, and Jonathan Moynihan, director of Vote Leave.    PTE is supposed to be a grass-roots group but its advisory council mainly comprises representatives of MATs currently praised by schools minister Nick Gibb.  

Turner Schools took over Martello Primary School and Morehall Primary School from Lilac Sky Trust in January 2017 – rebrokerage totalled £100k.  The Trust expects to open Turner Free School in September.    Folkestone Academy, an all-through 3-19 school, was taken over in December 2017 for a ‘fresh start’.

The predecessor Folkestone Academy was judged good  in October 2015 but accounts for Folkestone Academy trust* show it was classified as ‘coasting’ in January 2017.

Areas of concern listed by KIEA include:

  • ‘An unpopular and major reorganisation’ at Folkestone Academy
  • Staff redundancies at Folkestone Academy
  • Few applications for places at the two primary schools
  • Primary academies ‘currently on their third joint Executive Head in just over a year’

High-profile trainer imported from US to deliver basic classroom skills

KIEA’s latest blog discusses a TES article  describing a training session at Folkestone Academy delivered by US-based ‘guru’ Doug Lemov. 

It’s unclear how much it cost to bring someone from the States to deliver basic classroom skills such as walking around instead of teaching from a static position and ‘cold-calling’ – teachers choosing pupils to answer questions rather than relying on hands-up.  I learnt about these at my teacher-training college over forty years ago.

Folkestone compared to US ‘rust-belt’ town

Lemov said Folkestone reminded him of US ‘rust-belt’ towns because there’s ‘net migration out’.  But KIEA found no evidence to support this.   Neither are there acres of corroding industrial units which give the US rust belt its name.

Dr Saxton attempted to soften Lemov’s disparaging comparison by saying many coastal towns had been ‘badly hit by cheap air travel’.   But she could have gone further and described the town using words in a Turner Schools job information pack:  

Folkestone ‘on the beautiful Kent coast, a town recently voted among the coolest places to live in the UK.’

Folkestone Academy trust in name change

The Folkestone Academy trust changed its name to ‘Oldfaat’ on 25 May 2018.  I’m not sure how this is pronounced – it sounds like a malodourous joke.

*Accounts for Folkestone Academy available from Companies House.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Matthew Bennett's picture
Mon, 23/07/2018 - 13:06

If we wanted another name for what Roger calls the 'behaviourist culture of training' in academy chains (and too many LA schools), we could call it ... Lemovism.

Perhaps it's worth quoting again that famous passage from Lemov's Teach Like a Champion which describes a teacher in a 'no excuses' charter school training his new students to pass out handouts:

Doug teaches his students how to pass out papers on the first day or two of school.  He takes a minute or so to explain the right way to do it (pass across rows, start on his command, only the person passing gets out of his or her seat if required, and so on).  Then his students start to practice.  Doug times them with a stopwatch: 'Ten seconds.  Pretty good.  Let's see if we can get them back out in eight'.  The students, by the way, are happy as can be

There follows one of the most bizarre passages in this bizarre book, as Lemov rhapsodizes about the 'efficiency' of this 'technique':

Unfortunately, this dizzyingly efficient technique -- so efficient it is all but a moral imperative for teachers to use it -- often remains beneath the notice of the avatars of educational theory.  Few schools of education stoop to teach aspiring teachers how to train their students to pass out papers, even though it is one of the most valuable things they could possibly do.

Neither Lemov nor Doug -- Doug McCurry, now co-CEO of the Achievement First chain of charter schools -- ever attended a school of education.  They both came to teaching via Teach for America (the US version of Teach First), which means that their training consisted of a five-week summer camp.

In 2013, newspapers reported 'astronomical suspension rates at Achievement First schools, including the fact that it suspends kindergarteners at rates up to 15 times higher than in neighboring public schools'.  McCurry and his fellow-CEO Dacia Toll put out a grovelling statement:  'The last few days have been tough as we work to reconcile our values and our practices'.

In 2015, five special needs students at Achievement First Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, sued the school because -- as the New York Times put it -- they 'did not get mandated services and were punished for behaviour that arose from their disabilities'.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.