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Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury will close, forcing children and teachers to find other schools

Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury will close - leaving hundreds of students to find other schools, it has been confirmed today.

Kent County Council formally announced the news this afternoon, nearly a week after our sister paper the Kentish Gazette revealed the plans.

KCC education chiefs say falling pupil numbers have left the school "particularly vulnerable", meaning there were inadequate funds to pay for enough teachers.

Chaucer is set to close
Chaucer is set to close

Letters explaining the closure were sent to the parents of all 609 pupils at the school this week.

Children in Years 7, 8 and 9 will be offered places at other schools from September, but those in Year 10 will continue their studies at Chaucer until they finish their GCSEs.

Pupils in Years 11 and 12 will be given help finding places in schools and colleges elsewhere.

Pupils who live more than three miles away from their allocated school will be given help with transport and paying for school uniforms.

KCC cabinet member for education Roger Gough said: "Any decision to close a school is taken with a heavy heart and is only ever the very last resort.

"As ever, the council is committed to making sure that children are taught in the most effective environment and get the best possible education.

Kent County Council education cabinet member Roger Gough
Kent County Council education cabinet member Roger Gough

"Since the inadequate Ofsted inspection report a year ago the school has been doing well and making good improvements under the strong leadership of the Swale Academies Trust.

"Recent GCSE results show that there has been an improvement in attainment.

"Many people recognise the improvements the school has made over recent months and these improvements will continue regardless of the consultation process.

"The local authority, the school and Swale Academies Trust will continue to work together to secure a good education for current pupils.

"However the future of the school depends on being able to provide the resources that children need in the longer term.

"With numbers dropping, the school is no longer viable – it does not have enough pupils to bring in the funding required to provide the resources needed.

"In this situation, the county council has little option but to find alternative places for the children currently at Chaucer.

Head of School Elizabeth King
Head of School Elizabeth King

"Given the size of the current Year 10 group – 153 young people – and the improved results this year, the council will work with the school and the Swale Academies Trust to keep this year group together on the Chaucer site to complete their GCSE courses.

"I believe that, while it is particularly unusual to occupy a school with one year group, this will be less disruptive for this group of students than to be spread around other schools in the area.

"At the same time, KCC will carefully consider the future of the site – paying particular attention to the forecasts of future pupil numbers in and around Canterbury."

Last week, our sister paper the Kentish Gazette exclusively revealed Chaucer looked set to close its doors for good, after Mr Gough refused to deny the speculation.

Its imminent closure was described by one city head teacher as "the worst kept secret in education circles in Canterbury".

It comes after only 27 families opted for Chaucer as their first choice school for the next academic year.

Ofsted placed The Chaucer, which is in Spring Lane, into special measures in April.

Deputy head Elizabeth King was appointed acting head and shed more than half of the school's workforce in a bid to bring in fresh blood and improve teaching standards.

Just last month, the Swale Academies Trust - which took over the running of Chaucer last summer - promised a bright future for the school.

Swale Academies Trust head Jon Whitcombe
Swale Academies Trust head Jon Whitcombe

Trust executive principal Jon Whitcombe also announced plans to turn the school into an academy and sell off 22 acres to fund a £4.7 million refurbishment of the buildings.

He said: "We have expertise and experience in improving schools and, based on the outcomes students are already achieving, the future and security of the school could not be stronger.

"We have a zero-tolerance approach to low-level professional standards in teachers. We have seen a significant turnover of staff, which has raised those professional standards.

"Good schools aren’t placed into special measures, so things had to change. This is fast becoming a good school, and we’re really excited about becoming an academy."

Mr Whitcombe said he expected to achieve his aims within five years, adding: "By then, we expect our outcomes to be second to none in the city. The future of this school is rock solid – it couldn’t be more robust."

The school was founded before the Second World War as the Canterbury Technical High School for Boys, sharing a building in Longport with a girls’ school which later became the Barton Court Grammar School.

In September 1967 Chaucer moved to the current site in Spring Lane, and for many years it catered for both selective and non-selective children until it switched to solely non-selective education.

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