A beleaguered primary school which will have lost 70 per cent of its teaching staff by the end of the current term has been placed in special measures by Ofsted.

Roke Primary School in Kenley has suffered a staff exodus amid a long-running feud about Department for Education (DfE) plans to forcibly convert it into an academy.

Twelve of the school’s 17 teachers will have left by the end of the school year, according to figures seen by the Croydon Guardian.

The Harris Federation is expected to be named Roke’s academy sponsor by the DfE later this month.

The school will relaunch as Harris Primary Academy Kenley in September, under current plans.
The changes, which have been vehemently opposed by many parents, have led to upheaval at the 105-year-old school.

Its headteacher, Caroline Phillips, resigned in April, and was replaced by interim heads.

Some 29 staff – including 12 teachers, two teaching assistants, five midday supervisors, three children’s centre employees and a librarian – will have left by the end of the academic year.

They amount to 44 per cent of the school’s 66 staff. It is more than double the number of staff who left in the previous academic year. 

Now an Ofsted report, due to be published later this month, is to label the troubled school inadequate – despite the watchdog saying it was making satisfactory progress in January.

The report, following an inspection in April, said high staff turnover since September 2012 meant some teachers had missed out on vital training, leading to gaps in their skills and understanding.

It added: “School leaders and governors have not made enough progress in tackling the inadequacies identified at the previous inspection. They have not been effective in improving the quality of teaching.

“The pace of improvement has been too slow and important changes to systems and policies are not well-established.”


Your Local Guardian: Roke campaigners protesting at the Harris Federation's headquarters in Wellesley Road last month

Parents protesting outside the Harris Federation's headquarters

The report, by lead inspector Melanie Knowles, rated the school inadequate in three categories – pupils’ achievement, quality of teaching, and leadership and management – and said it required improvement in a fourth, pupils’ behaviour and safety.

Parents who have campaigned against the academy conversion said the poor performance was inevitable because the process had “torn apart” the school and demoralised teachers.

Becky Carrier, 31, whose eight-year-old daughter Millie goes to Roke, said: “The fabric of our school is being torn apart. How can this not be damaging for our children's education?

“How can standards not now slip, when children have been robbed of teachers often mid-way through term?

“These are good, inspiring, motivated teachers who have been put through the forced academy wringer, with disastrous results.

“This is exactly what we predicted would happen, that our good teachers would leave in droves. Forced academy is toxic and does more damage to a school than good.

“It is incredibly demoralising and disruptive. It rips apart not only schools but careers and parental faith.”

Malcolm Farquharson, the school’s chair of governors, agreed the “upheaval and uncertainty” surrounding the school’s future had “certainly not helped”.

He added: “As governors we have written to parents to express our disappointment at this result and to voice our support for our interim heads who have worked very hard to make an impact on the school’s performance.

“Sadly there was insufficient time to implement the changes that are needed.”

The school’s interim headteachers, Katie Turner and Elizabeth Vincent, refused to comment on the report.

Your Local Guardian: Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families Michael Gove

Education secretary Michael Gove

A spokesman for Croydon Council said: “Special measures are always a matter of grave concern for any school, but it was perhaps inevitable that staff would struggle maintain their focus on improvement during the uncertainty of the last few months.

“The council has done everything possible to provide support and we’ll be expecting significant and rapid change under Academy leadership.

“Whilst some people have been very critical of the DfE’s choice of Harris, it’s now important that parents set these feelings aside and look to the future so the school has the best possible chance to improve.”

The DfE has repeatedly claimed academy conversion was necessary to “turn around” Roke, which has described as a “failing school” since an Ofted gave it notice to improve in May 2012.

A Department spokesman said: “We cannot just stand by when a school is failing children – we need to step in and make changes quickly.”

It said Harris had “extensive experience” of revitalising failing schools, despite the federation having no proven record of working with primaries such as Roke.