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TPA Consultation Outcome

Should Ightham Primary School should become an academy as part of The Pioneer Academy (TPA)?  Response to consultation carried out from 8th January – 9th February 2024

During the consultation period we received around 15 emails and some verbal feedback too. We held two meetings on 15th January that were attended by around 14 parents and stakeholders. In addition to staff and parents we have also consulted with local organisations such as St Peter’s Church, Scouts, SKIPS, local schools, the WI and the Parish Council.  We have also been in touch with our MP – Tom Tugendhat and our Local Authority – Kent County Council.

This is a summary of the main questions raised and answers given:

Questions and comments:

  • How will Ightham Primary School change?
  • How will our relationships with the Church, PSA, Starfish Malawi etc be affected? 
  • What changes will be made to the curriculum?
  • Will Ightham Primary School lose its character and individuality?
  • How much autonomy will Ightham Primary School retain? 
  • If the admissions criteria changes to accommodate children of staff will that be all staff throughout the Pioneer Academy or just Ightham Primary School and what priority would they take?
  • Will staff be moved to other schools in The Pioneer Academy?
  • Concerns about losing staff.
  • As we are an Outstanding school how will we benefit from joining a Trust where most schools are not?
  • The process is happening too quickly, we don’t need to join an academy.


The Governing Body first started looking at the possibility of joining an academy in 2016 when the then Government’s aim was for all schools to become part of an academy by 2020.  Government policy has since changed but the general direction of travel has remained. Although much of it has since been abandoned, the Schools White Paper of 2022 once again reiterated Government intentions for all schools to become part of Multi Academy Trusts (MATs). We have also witnessed diminishing support from the Local Authority due to reduction in funds and personnel.

It has therefore been strategically prudent for the Governing Body to explore academy options and this has been a standing agenda item for many years.  We have carried out many information gathering exercises during this time.

To date we have met with and investigated the following MATs; Pathways, Tenax, Aquila, Character Education Trust, Golden Thread Alliance, Cygnus and now The Pioneer Academy (TPA).  We investigated other MATs but did not get as far as setting up meetings due to what we learnt from this work. We also explored possibilities of setting up a new MAT of our own with other local schools including the Weald of Kent Grammar School.

We first met with TPA in June last year at our request, one of our governors having had knowledge of their CEO from a previous role in the borough of Bexley.  We felt our values and ethos were aligned with this Trust and were impressed with what we saw and heard and our investigations and due diligence has continued since then.

TPA have assured us that they want Ightham Primary School to retain its character and individuality and ability to adapt provision to the needs of our community.  Our relationship with St Peter’s Church and involvement with Starfish Malawi would remain unchanged.  Likewise the PSA would continue as it always has, for the benefit of children attending Ightham Primary School, and there would be no interference with the Friends of Ightham School charity.  Our membership of the Sevenoaks Partnership of Primary Schools would also stay unchanged. Much of what we do that makes Ightham unique is regarded by TPA as ‘school based decisions’ and would be left to the Head Teacher’s discretion.  We have also been assured that teaching practices, policies and aspects of the curriculum that are working well and producing good results would remain in place.  TPA’s motivation for change is a desire to improve education for the children in their schools, they do not want to stifle the creativity and excellence of outstanding teachers.  Nothing would change within the first two years of us joining TPA.  After that we may well decide there are elements of teaching, curriculum etc we have seen in other TPA schools we would like to adopt. Good practice and ideas are seen in a wide variety of settings, not only Outstanding schools. Ightham Primary School has always been an outward facing school looking to share with and learn from others.  There will be some centralised processes we will need to adopt in order to receive the centralised support from TPA – the finance systems for example.  We understand TPA work collaboratively and decisions will be taken after a conversation rather than a dictate issued.

If, after consultation, we decided to include children of staff in our over-subscription criteria, these would be children of staff at Ightham Primary School and would be third in our current list after Looked After Children and siblings.

Staff wellbeing is high priority at TPA, this has been corroborated by much of the feedback we have received during visits. There is much investment in Continuing Professional Development.  TPA do not have a mobility clause in their contracts which means staff cannot be asked to move schools.  However, opportunities will be open to staff which may involve sharing good practice, upskilling and career progression.  We continue to consult with staff and are addressing any queries and concerns they raise.

To reiterate and summarise, the Governing Body has been carefully considering and assessing the options regarding academisation for many years now.  Many of the concerns raised during the consultation have been at the top of our list throughout the process.  The Governing Body must consider the position of Ightham Primary School’s future if it stays a Local Authority School and the potential of Kent County Council to provide ongoing support as opposed to its future as part of a Multi Academy Trust.   We will only proceed if we are convinced that joining The Pioneer Academy is in the best interests of the school and the children. 

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