Takeovers and brand new academies – King’s Group is laying its foundations in England

An academy trust founded by a private firm that runs schools in Europe and the Americas will take over three more schools in the New Year, and has two brand new projects in the pipeline.

King’s Group Academies (KGA) will take over College Park Infant School and the Northern Parade Federation (which includes an infant and a junior school) in Portsmouth at the start of February. This brings the trust’s school numbers in England up from two to five.

The King’s Group became an academy sponsor and set up KGA in England in 2014, but it also runs private schools in Spain, Panama and Latvia.

Its first school was Lyndhurst Junior School, also in Portsmouth, which joined in 2016. The trust then took over the failing Ringmer Community College in East Sussex, in September of the same year.

One of the new schools, College Park Infants, shares a site with Lyndhurst; Northern Parade Federation voluntarily converted to join KGA.

We think that’s a strong model

Hannah Hockaday, Portsmouth city council’s cabinet member for education, said she was “pleased” the group is “expanding its presence in Portsmouth” as it will allow a smooth transition across key stages.

KGA will also open two new free schools in September 2018 in Bracknell Forest.

King’s Academy Binfield will be an all-through school on a new housing development, with capacity for 1,851 pupils. It will open with four forms of entry and 120 pupils next September.

The second school, Amen Corner North Primary School, was scheduled to open in September 2019 with a capacity of 210 places, but is likely to be pushed back by one or two years.

Discussing the trust’s expansion plans, Terry Parkin, KGA’s chief executive, said he is “not interested in a race to the bottom”.

The primary school at Amen Corner is part of a local development project that includes 377 new homes, and, Parkin said he understands, it will be built “when it is needed”, to ensure places are still available for potential new pupils in the adjacent housing.

He added that the trust sees itself as Portsmouth-based for now, but in the longer term he would like to build up “hubs” of schools in Bracknell Forest and around Ringmer.

The Kings Group model in Spain focuses on all-through schools supported by a small number of primaries.

“We think that’s a strong model,” he said.

The trust will also continue to encourage collaboration between its UK schools and those in other countries, as they all teach an English curriculum.

Exchanges have already taken place between teachers and pupils in England and in Spain.

“The learning is going in both directions,” Parkin said.

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    • Mark Watson

      Yes. In the same way that if the school buys its electricity from E.ON or Npower then UK taxpayer funds are being used to fund the profits of German shareholders.
      Of course, in that instance the UK schools don’t get any benefit such as collaborative exchanges and a chance for these pupils and teachers to benefit from exposure to different ways of doing things and an international angle which may be hugely beneficial to them in the future.
      Not really sure what point you’re trying to make really …

  1. Mark Watson

    A general questions for anyone (although it’s got Janet’s name all over it as I think she’ll be the one who might know):
    What’s the position with regards to this “failing Ringmer Community College” which KGA took over?
    The above article says KGA took it over in September 2016, but from what I can find out:
    1. KGA took over Ringmer Community College on 1 December 2016, and renamed it King’s Academy Ringmer. I think it was an academy before that.
    2. DfE’s website, and Ofsted’s website, says the school has no published Ofsted report.
    3. The academy’s website, under the ‘Ofsted’ tab says – “The school is monitored closely by King’s Group of Academies. The school was recently visited by the Deputy Regional Commissioner of the South East who commented, “the school is well on the way to becoming a very good school.””
    4. However, a quick google search threw up an Ofsted report based on an inspection carried out on 11-12 January 2017 –

    • Mark – based on info you’ve provided, I did a bit more digging. Ringmer Community College became a converter academy in August 2011. Its predecessor school according to Ofsted April 2014 was Good.
      I had to do an internet search to find the Ofsted 2014 report. The Ofsted website doesn’t record any inspections for Ringmer – neither 2017 nor 2014 nor monitoring. This is unacceptable.
      Ofsted April 2014 judged Ringmer to Require Improvement. In June 2014, monitoring found the academy was taking ‘effective’ action to improve.

      In January 2017 it was, as you say, judged Inadequate. It had become a sponsored academy with Kings Group Academies on 1 December 2016 so the inspection took place just a few school weeks after KGA took over. This seems rather premature.
      DfE data (download spreadsheet here shows that £0 was awarded to KGA on transfer from Ringmer Community College Academy Trust (RCCAT a stand-alone academy trust). The accounts for RCCAT for y/e 31 August 2016 (available from companies house) said KGA would soon take over and the academy hoped funding would be secured for extensive refurbishment. This suggests that capital funding might have been offered on transfer but capital costs aren’t recorded in transfer costs.

  2. A meeting of Binfield Parish Council* on 13 Sept 2016 discussed the proposed KGA academy at Binfield and the primary school at Amen Corner North with KGA directors Sir Roger Fry and Richard Schofield (whose directorship is on and off – at the moment he’s resigned). The minutes reveal that both schools were being built ‘on the back of projected need’ but the academy would need to ‘attract students from a wider area than simply Binfield to be fully operational’.
    The directors were asked if the academy would be run for a profit. This was refuted – it would be run like any other academy trust.
    This, of course, allows related party transactions. As well as the academy trust having relationships via King’s Education Ltd to King’s Group, the company accounts for y/e 31/8/2017 show Schofield Education Partnership Limited, a group run by Richard Schofield, received £41,700 for consultancy services. The accounts said this was at arms length and complied with the Academies Financial Handbook.
    Construction of the brand-new all-through academy is now well underway.

    *You’ll need to do an internet search to find these Minutes.