Last week we outlined some of the physical changes that were being made at Rye College since the Rye Academy Trust had been taken over by the Aquinas Trust. But the college buildings are only part of the story, so now we look at what changes are being made to improve the education of the children.
The restrictions placed on government funding for education over the last few years caused particular difficulties for the Rye Academy Trust, the formation of which and change of status of the school, had seemed such a good idea at the time. The trustees certainly had problems in adjusting to the situation and, as a small trust with just the two schools, it did not have the financial reserves that would have helped it through this period.
The College also suffered a succession of head teachers, with four changes in as many years. Frequent changes at the top and lack of funds inevitably reflected on staff morale, with the consequent exodus of a number of teachers who were not, or for funding reasons, could not be replaced, leaving the school understaffed.
An Ofsted report a year ago classed both the primary school and the college as below the standard required and needing immediate improvement. The Department for Education also issued an ultimatum that the Trust should join with another larger Trust by September last year. In the event, that timescale proved a little ambitious and the Rye schools were finally absorbed into the Aquinas Trust in November 2018.
Aquinas is a Church of England educational trust and, as such caused initial concern among some parents and others who did not feel it was appropriate to force on the town what they saw as a ‘faith school’ and this view is still held by some. Aquinas, however, insist that Rye does not come under the C of E banner but are, and will remain Community Schools, with religious education being determined by the requirements defined by the DfE and no more nor less.
Staffing has been an immediate priority, with the establishment of a new leadership team, and the executive head, together with head teachers and their deputies for Primary School and College are all now either in post or appointed and due to join. Further staff are also being recruited and full staffing levels should soon be reached.
An interesting new development is the intention to establish a branch of the Bromley Schools Collegiate on the college premises, using what were the old Trust offices. This is a teacher training facility which, as well as training teachers for other schools, should also provide a source of well-trained teachers available for Rye.
At the recent meeting that Rye News had with Aquinas CEO Kathy Griffiths and Rye Executive Head, Barry Blakelock, they were clear in their mission to effect dramatic improvements within the schools and to bring both premises and educational levels up to the standard of other schools under the Aquinas banner.
They were also at pains to point out that it takes time to change attitudes, minds and systems and expectations need to be realistic. Nevertheless with exams for College students already under way and basic educational tests for the Primary School also coming up, to say nothing of an inevitable further Ofsted inspection at some point, it must be hoped that already the students must be seeing some benefit in the changes and that this will be seen this August, when exam results are published. However, with a new and positive management, revitalised teachers and funding to provide them with the facilities and equipment needed to give the students a proper grounding in their subjects, there must be grounds for optimism for the future, the first signs of which may, perhaps, be seen this August.
Image Credits: Aquinas Trust.