The shameful legacy of Dr Karon Buck.

Dr Karon Buck was the Principal of Medway UTC from July 2014 – December 2017 (3 years 6 months). In this time Dr Karon Buck’s LinkedIn profile (recently deleted / made private) noted she was  – 

Founding Principal of a fantastic new school for 14-19 year students from Medway and the surrounding regions. Medway UTC opened in September 2015 and specialises in Engineering, Construction & Design as well as core subjects including English, maths, science, DT, history, computing, business & art. 

Medway UTC is working with major sponsors including BAE, BAM, Bouygues, Gainwell Futures, Kreston Reeves, The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), & The University of Greenwich. Working with industrial leaders gives my students the opportunity to work alongside the very best professionals in their area of expertise.

The students and staff at Medway UTC work in a new state-of-the-art, purpose built building at Chatham Waters, in the historic Chatham Docks. The legacy of this location is perfect as we take engineering and construction forward into the 21st Century.

Dr Karon Buck’s profile mentioned she was an Ofsted inspector from May 2015 to the time she left Medway UTC in December 2017 when she took up the position of Principal and CEO of GEMS Winchester School (WSA) Abu Dhabi. Dr Karon Buck’s ‘Welcome message from the principal’ on the schools website proclaims – 

Education serves many purposes, one of which is to provide children and young adults with the knowledge and skills that will lead to them fulfilling all of their ambitions. Education is about people, aspirations and the ability to achieve… I strongly believe achievement and enjoyment go hand in hand to ensure each child’s excellent progress.

This is not too dissimilar with the claim she made in when starting at Medway UTC in 2014 –

I will be working tirelessly to ensure that regional UTC provides the very best education and life-chances for our young people.

 – and building on this summary from her LinkedIn page at the time –

Experienced senior leader. Specialising in improving the outcomes of young learners by ensuring that teachers, middle & senior leaders are equipped and skilled to provide the very best quality of teaching; and that the curriculum provides challenge and opportunities so that all learners are able to experience success and develop into resilient young adults who are able to contribute positively to society. Passionate that, as educationists, we never lose touch of the real purpose of education.

Odd that someone who professes such principles and who should understand the importance of succession planning and good governance left the school prior to a new principle being appointed and not feel it necessary to see the academic year through to the end. 

Dr Karon Buck

Dr Karon Buck

Medway UTC have recently received the outcome of their first Ofsted inspection, undertaken in March 2018. The school is rated grade four – inadequate in all areas. The report is highly critical of leadership throughout Dr Karon Buck’s tenure at the school. 

…senior leaders and governors had an overgenerous view of the quality of education provided by the school.

Governors and leaders have not demonstrated that they have the capacity needed to
secure the improvements needed. Actions they have taken have been too slow,
ineffective or have been too recent to have had sufficient effect.

Leaders have not been effective in establishing a culture of high expectation since the UTC opened in September 2015.

During the first two years of the school, some teachers were never observed teaching by senior leaders; others did not have a clear line management system. Over time, leaders had not identified areas where teaching has not been effective enough because they had the impression that it was better than it was.

Over time, governors and previous senior leaders have failed to support staff at all levels to do their jobs.

The curriculum is too narrow and does not meet pupils’ needs. In addition, the school has not met the requirements for the provision of physical education or religious education.

The timing of Dr Karon Buck’s desertion of Medway UTC appears self-serving, cowardly and cynical. It was perhaps aligned with her aspirations, enjoyment and progress more so than those of students at the school. 

One of our boys has been at the UTC for the last two years. During this time he has told us of many instances of poor teaching and supervision, a lack of opportunities provided in a number of areas and general low level of engagement and support by teaching staff. We raised this with the school In January and deeply regret not doing so sooner.

We took a risk moving our son to UTC in the hope that he would be inspired and have opportunities to do well. It turns out that was a mistake. Year 11 exam results will be to his credit and by virtue of the hard work he has put into revising at home since January of this year and the new leadership team of the school. Our son, his peers and the staff at Medway UTC are now tarnished by Dr Karon Buck’s legacy. She ought to be ashamed.

UPDATE 08/18: Our son passed his exams well enough to go onto 6th form. He has chosen to transfer to another school.