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Displaying items by tag: ebbsfleet academy

Update: You will find a convincing description to counter the torrent of support for the book and its author in the Comments below. 

Would you pay £16.99 for a 'true story' that contains untrue anecdotes, one inserted by the author for a laugh and is hyped by demonstrably untrue claims. Well, now is your chance!

The Sunday Times of Sunday 20th March published a revealing interview with Alison Colwell about her new book ‘No Excuses: Turning around one of Britain’s toughest schools along with excerpts from the book. When the interviewer asks about the introductory episode quoted from the book: ‘In one jaw-dropping episode, she writes of a speech to parents during which one takes a mobile phone call and loudly discusses her breasts (see full extract below). Did that really happen?’. Her reply: “No. It made me laugh, that bit’. You can read the actual excerpt below here.

I am sorry, this is not funny and of course discredits everything else ‘reported’ in the book, published Thursday 24th March, and backed up by the many false claims already made for it including the one in the title, as demonstrated in my previous article.

Published in Peter's Blog

I have now published more details about the book and its background atNo Excuses: Turning around one of Britain’s toughest schools (2).

Alison Colwell, who took over the recovering Ebbsfleet Academy in 2011 and oversaw its turning into one of Kent’s least popular secondary schools, then publicly denigrated its white working class parents on her departure from the school in an article in The Sunday Times. She then tried to publish 'the true story' of her experience through a leading book publisher back in August 2020. Publication was delayed several times and finally cancelled at the end of last year. She is now trying again with the same story through  Biteback Publishing, a company specialising in political and current affairs titles. You will find a full analysis of her time at Ebbsfleet Academy here. The title of the book has now changed to the above from ‘The Secret Headteacher’, reportedly because she was ‘outed’ in an interview in The Times in November 2020. I have never seen any evidence that Ebbsfleet Academy has ever been seen as one of Britain's 'toughest schools', or seen it suggested by any professional, parent or other person, in my wide and lengthy experience writing and learning about Kent schools. Quite simply, this is a ridiculous claim, and merely undermines the credibility of the book further. 

Ms Colwell is of course one of many school leaders to become styled as ‘Britain’s strictest/toughest headteacher’, and I have written a number of articles about the Kent examples, (2017 onwards) all of which have failed to deliver on their ‘no excuses’ imperative, most recently here. One of the latest who attracted national publicity was previously Vice-Principal at Ebbsfleet, who carried the same disastrous principles into the high profile Pimlico Academy and, after just eight months, was very publicly forced to leave.

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Sunday, 02 January 2022 18:12

Mask Wearing in Class and The Abbey School

I do hope that when the headteacher of The Abbey School in Faversham explains to the children of his school next week that they will have to wear masks in class this term, he has the courtesy to apologise to all those who were punished by his hitman for daring to wear masks last term, whilst all others were ordered not to do so, as reported in KentOnline. Unlike most secondary schools in the county which recognised children had endured a difficult time through two lockdowns, and needed to be supported, the Abbey adopted a very different approach and brought in one of a number of experts who style themselves 'the strictest headteacher in the country' to get tough with these recalcitrant children. As explained here, exclusions soared last year, exceptionally amongst all schools across the county, with Abbey subsequently introducing Mr Smith's 'Tough Love' approach after he was appointed to the school in September on a short term basis.

Published in Peter's Blog
Friday, 26 November 2021 19:23

'The Secret Headteacher' is no More

Once upon a time there was a Kent headteacher who sought to justify her failure after running her school into the ground through a 'Tough Love' approach. She did this by first of all publicly verbally abusing the parents, especially the 'white working class', which must have been an embarrassment to all at the school, then making a variety of false claims about it as I have demonstrated in several articles, most recently here. This was presumably her revenge on the school which, under her leadership had become one of the most unpopular in Kent. She then joined what she claimed in an article in a national newspaper was a ' flood of UK teachers leaving state education for private schools abroad', although over two years later I have seen no evidence of this. 

During her headship, I received more concerns expressed about the way she led the school than any other in Kent,  including too many calls for help from parents trying to find their children alternative schools. Surely uniquely, I also received concerns expressed from staff and ex staff at the school she then joined, in Mallorca. To complete her revenge she wrote a book, The Secret Headteacher, whose proposed publishers claimed had an anonymous author, which was about 'Turning around one of Britain's toughest schools (completely untrue), 'An unputdownable true account of how one tenacious headteacher led one of the worst schools in the country to excellence' (completely untrue). After several delays in producing this fictional account, it has now finally been junked by the publishers and so thankfully  won't see the light of day. 

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For a convincing description of 'Mr Pimlico's style go to the comment under the article 'here'. 

Last month I published an article about the current chaos at Pimlico Academy in London. This was created after Daniel Smith, previously a controversial Vice Principal at the notorious Ebbsfleet Academy in Kent, was appointed Principal at the school.

His Tough Love policies, featuring an uncompromising and confrontational approach to difficulties with echoes of his start at Ebbsfleet, created turmoil from the start. An overwhelming majority of teachers passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Smith in March and were in the process of ballotting for strike action, a decision almost unheard of in recent years. 32 teachers have handed in their resignation including two-thirds of the senior leadership team.

The Future Academies Trust, which runs Pimlico Academy under its founders Lord and Lady Nash (Lord Nash being a former Education Minister), has jumped both ways, initially trying to defend Mr Smith and his policies, but today in a curt statement confirming his resignation, effective 31st May after just eight tumultuous months.

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5th August 2021: I continue to receive a number of offers to expose Ms Colwell's practices at her new school and those of the company that runs it, Orbital Education, from teachers who have left her employment. However, whilst this appears an important issue for the children and staff of the school, I am afraid it is too far away from the main purpose of this website to cover further. Sorry. I see that publication of her proposed book about her 'experiences' at Ebbsfleet has now been pushed back to January 2022, presumably in the hope that those affected by those times will have lost interest in the matter, although too many still carry the scars. 

I have written a number of times previously about the dreadful period when Ebbsfleet Academy was led by Alison Colwell. The previous occasion was back in April, about a book she has written, to be published under the title ‘The Secret Headteacher’ early next year, although there was little secret as her name was given openly in a Publisher’s blurb at the time.

My article demonstrated clearly that most of the claims made about the book are completely false, but this did not stop The Sunday Times repeating these two weeks ago, in its second plug for the book. This begins: ‘It has the makings of a Hollywood block­buster - a story about a failing school where the unsupervised children of angry parents roam the corridors, only for a new head teacher to take the place by the scruff of its neck and mould it into a model academy’. Absolute rubbish!

Just before she left Ebbsfleet, Ms Colwell chose to make an astonishing attack on the parents of a school where she had, according to the advertising blurb, ‘spent seven wonderful years’, which I examined in another article entitled ‘Ebbsfleet Academy: Parents rubbished by departing Principal’ demolishing yet more claims. She has now moved on to run the small private Baleares International College, Sa Porrassa, on the island of Mallorca. I look at all these issues, including how she is getting on in her new school, below.

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Sunday, 05 April 2020 11:43

The Secret Headteacher

You will find an important new article here, written in December 2020. 
This is the first of two articles about the Brook Learning Trust, looking at a new book entitled ‘The Secret Headteacher’, to be published in August about one of its schools.  The original advertising puff claims it to be
The true story of how a no-nonsense headteacher turned around one of the country's worst schools. The Secret Headteacher has spent the last 27 years in teaching, before which she spent 4 years in the police. This is the first memoir from a UK teacher to be published. Under the leadership of TSH, the school she led had a well-reported journey in turning around its reputation as one of the country's worst-performing schools, resulting in an Ofsted report judging the school "good".

There were just a few problems with this: (1) There is no secret; it’s about Alison Colwell, until last summer head of Ebbsfleet Academy, according to an advertisement for the book, reproduced below, although other advertising claims it is by ‘Anon’; (2) It was certainly not one of the worst performing schools in Kent before she took it over, let alone in the country - it was without any form of bad reputation at the time, and was in any case improving strongly before she was parachuted in as head; (3) Ofsted missed key indicators of decline during her leadership, including large numbers of families removing their children from the school, large numbers of families annually placed in the school who never applied for it, and high staff turnover - this is when the bad reputation set in; (4) ‘The first memoir of a UK headteacher’ – unbelievable; (5) ‘well reported’ refers to two puff articles in The Times and Sunday Times, the second being what, in my opinion, was a disgracefully unprofessional performance by the headteacher;  (6) I received more complaints about this school from families, than any other school in Kent during much of this time; (7) ‘confrontational’ is a better word than ‘no-nonsense’.

Published in Peter's Blog

Updated 21st August following developments at Turner Schools. You will find a new item on Turner Schools here

You will find an important update to the Delce story here, with additional material here.

The National Schools Commissioner, on visits to Folkestone Academy and the Turner Free School is reported to have praised the progress of the two schools without apparently noticing the many failures documented on this site. These amount to nearly 10% of all the academies he has visited since he was appointed last September out of a total of  8,678. In a fresh controversy, the Turner Free School lost a Vice Principal, in employment for just eight weeks from the opening of the school last September, who left the school and teaching, and subsequently made a serious allegation about the school about the reason he left. According to the school he has withdrawn the allegation after this article was originally published, bringing it to light. 

I wrote about the Ofsted Inspection that placed Delce Academy in Special Measures, in June, describing what appeared to be a self-destruct mechanism on the part of the school and the Castle Trust which ran it. I concluded: ‘This is another Academy Trust that is not fit for purpose and the Regional Schools Commissioner should be considering re-brokering it to a more competent body’. Last week the Trust wrote to parents to tell them the school was being transferred to the Inspire Academy Trust.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was once again found to Require Improvement in its recent Ofsted inspection, but what specifically caught my eye was the  phrase: ‘however, recent changes to the support available for vulnerable pupils have led to a reduction in fixed-term exclusions’. Hardly consistent with my recent FOI request that found a further increase from the previous year when Oasis had the second highest number and proportion in Kent! The inspection took place shortly after a fundamental structural change for September was announced which will see all Year 7 to 11 pupils taught on a single site, the current two bases being nearly two miles apart. This positive decision is only made possible by a remarkable decline of 550 pupils on roll since Oasis took over in 2013, a loss of over a quarter of the total since then. 

Published in News and Comments

You will find a follow up article on a book to be published describing falsely., the 'experiences' of Ms Colwell at Ebbsfleet, here, through several articles describing her self-publicity drive to here, each identifying false claims about the school.  

Today’s Sunday Times has a feature article on the departure of one of the most confrontational ( the ST describes her as 'visionary') heads in Kent from Ebbsfleet Academy, a school with one of the highest proportions of children leaving for Home Education in the county (top in 2016-7 with 4.1% of families removing their children from the school mid-course) and, for the whole of her time at the school, one of the highest vacancy rates of any secondary school in Kent, partially covered up by some of the highest number of Local Authority Allocations (children placed who did not apply to the school – 83 this summer!). No other Dartford school has any vacancies, or spaces for LAAs. 

Ebbsfleet Academy

She makes a damning indictment of the behaviour of parents from the ‘white working class’ who are unable to cope with the fierce discipline characteristic of the three schools who form what I call the ‘Tough Love Academies of Kent. She makes no reference to any other parents, presumably happy to tar all families with the same brush. The Tough Love academies all exhibit similar negative outcomes from their philosophy, and then appear to think that more of the same will solve the problem they have created. Home Education, which is not the solution, has been suggested by Ebbsfleet to some families in what is called ‘off-rolling’, the implication being that it is encouraged to improve examination results by removing lower performing pupils.   

In spite of its claims to high  academic performance, the school came 45th out of 68 non-selective schools in Kent,  in the government's preferred measure of performance, Progress 8. 

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 Controversial Ebbsfleet Academy Principal Alison Colwell has been asked, according to KentOnline,  to attend another meeting with Schools Minister Nick Gibb, as one of ten "behaviour experts" nationally to discuss the school's "zero tolerance" behaviour policy and how this approach can be used to drive up standards in schools. This follows an article in the Sunday Times Magazine in July 2014, which explained "how it had turned around its reputation as one of the country’s worst performing schools". Puzzlingly, the predecessor Swan Valley School had no such reputation and this statement is completely untrue. The Ofsted Report of January 2011 recorded that "Students’ attainment has risen significantly at Swan Valley over the last few years as a result of improvements in the quality of teaching and learning and careful tracking and intervention, particularly in Key Stage 4. Challenging targets have been set and exceeded. The proportion of students achieving 5A* to C grades at GCSE last year was the school’s best ever result at 63%. When mathematics and English are included, the number gaining 5A* to C grades was 34% in 2010, also a record for Swan Valley ". For 2011 GCSE performance, this figure rose further to 35%. Strangely, in spite of this significant progress the then headteacher (OFSTED: "The headteacher, passionate about obtaining the best for his students") was suddenly removed later in the year and replaced  by Ms Colwell who had been seconded to the school to assist him a few months earlier. Further controversy followed, as explained here, and here.

Ebbsfleet Academy

For 2012 and 2013, under the new management, GCSE performance had slumped to second worst in the county in both years, at 24% and 28% respectively. Overall over the past three years there has been a fractional improvement in GCSE results as the 2014 GCSE pass rate has inched up from the 35% of 2011, just before the putsch, to 36%, hardly endorsing the claim in the Sunday Times article of turning around its reputation. However, what is more notable is that the popularity of the school has fallen sharply in the same period, the most recent figures for admission in September 2015 showing that there were just 47 first choices for the 150 places, with 52 places, or over a third of those available, being taken up by Local Authority allocations of children who hadn't even applied for Ebbsfleet Academy. This is the third highest proportion in the county, the Marlowe Academy being first having now been closed through lack of demand.

Oddly, although I was also interviewed by the Sunday Times reporter, none of these factual statements were mentioned in the article!......

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