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Tuesday, 01 October 2013 23:38

When is an academy not an academy? The mystery of Ebbsfleet Academy (aka Swan Valley Community School)

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 swan valley 1swan valley 4

Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe had its official opening on Thursday 19th September, also attended by local dignitaries. However, there is no Ebbsfleet Academy, rather there is Swan Valley School, which hopes to become an academy on 1st November 2013, after extensive delays, partly brought about by the complexities of converting a school built under the Private Finance Initiative. I understand that unravelling the PFI issues is now the main hold up, but given this is a problem nationally for such schools wishing to convert, it was surely premature to assume that at Swan Valley all would run more smoothly.  The Department for Education's school data base now shows Ebbsfleet Academy as a sponsor led academy, proposed start date 1st November, with Swan Valley being billed to close on 31st October. 

Interestingly, in media interviews and comments two weeks ago, when I broke the story of how PFI academies would still continue to cost Local Authorities unfair costs after conversion, focused around Swan Valley, no one thought to correct the false information that the school had actually become Ebbsfleet Academy. Hardly surprising as everything about the running of the school gives the same impression.

Why is this of interest, apart from the misleading information? Ever since November when the previous headteacher was deposed, there has been controversy about the running of Swan Valley, and I have had a succession of messages from parents and staff expressing their concerns. Not an enormous number, but more than I have received for any other school in difficulties, and dwelling on the punitive nature of the school ethos or, for its supporters, the strict discipline.  A recent example of this is the controversy over the home school agreement, where the school falsely maintained there ws a parental obligation to agree to it. This is accompanied by concerns about poor communication which are obvious even to me, an outsider.

As a result I have monitored developments at the school from a distance......

The previous Swan Valley School and Ebbsfleet Academy websites were masterpieces in lack of communication, with very little information or news on either over the  past year. These have now been replaced by a new Ebbsfleet Academy website.  This is probably the worst secondary school website I can recall, at a time when it is surely critical to make a good impression. The home page contains just three items of news: a link to the school prospectus which until recently only gave the Open Day flyer; the Open Day flyer itself; and a self congratulatory message about the websiteThere is a message from the Principal thanking the hundreds of parents and strangers who have been in contact for support for the new academy. This is hardly surprising given the media storm that hit Swan Valley School when 5% of the whole student body was sent home for not wearing correct academy (sic) uniform on day one, enormously popular in some quarters. There is also considerable content about expectations from students. What is strangely missing is any report whatever about the official opening of the academy; clearly this is an embarrassment.

If you look hard enough on the website, you find a message from the CEO of the Brook Learning Trust telling browsers that the school has elected to become a member of the Trust. The Brook Learning Trust was developed by Hayesbrook School which was going to be the sponsor of the Ebbsfleet Academy, although there is no mention of this in the letter, which is just another general plug for the school: "The Ebbsfleet Academy will be a vibrant, forward looking and friendly community, committed to delivering the highest standards of teaching and learning for its students, whilst at the same time equipping them with the life skills necessary for the world of work or further education.The Academy will welcome male and female students from the ages of 11-16. It is made up of modern, purpose built, light and airy buildings and is set on its own community campus which includes a Health Centre, Library and Pharmacy and is adjacent to the Manor Primary School". 

 

 I went past the school entrance (pictured above) on Open Day and as you can see there are no school signs, just a framework presumably for the new sign when the school becomes an academy, and a sign advertising the Swan Valley pharmacy. Presumably the school has been forbidden to advertise itself as an academy! Oddly, there was no publicity about the Open Day either; does the school want to keep itself a secret?

Parents desperately want the school to succeed whether it is an academy or not. It certainly has the potential with the new Paramount Theme Park proposed for Swanscombe which would bring enormous regeneration to the area. The above comments may point out to the school some areas where it can move to meet their aspirations, but most importantly - why not level with them about the reason it is so half hearted about its claim to be an academy now. 

 

 

 

 

 

Read 60777 times Last modified on Thursday, 03 October 2013 19:24

3 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 04 October 2013 08:03 posted by mr edwards

    Well im sorry but your wrong. The school is Ebbsfleet Academy and not Swan valley community school. Its just another way for you to worry concerned parents. I know you charge for your services. Mmmmmmm. Funny that. Must me a good little money earner for you. I am sure you will respond to explain this but if readers look at your home page they will see. I feel this is VERY suspicious as in my opinion you have reasons to keep posting up incorrect information. PETER: actually, when the Department for Education records on its website that Swan Valley hopes to become an academy on 1st November and not before, that is probably good enough for most people. Perhaps you should contact them rather than me with your evidence that they are worrying concerned parents by publishing false information. I suppose you could ask the head of Swan Valley Community School personally if it is an academy yet. Your feeble attempt to be offensive because I pointed out these truths actually say more about you than me! However, I would be most grateful if you could explain how I can turn this or any of the hundreds of other items of news and comment I have posted on this website to freely inform and support parents, into a nice little earner. I am clearly missing something you have spotted!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 02 October 2013 16:12 posted by mr edwards

    Need to update. Signage up and looks really good. I wish people get their facts straight rather than listening to hearsay. Whats worse is people listen to you on this blog. You should find out facts before writing your own thoughts. PETER: I took the photos that head this article just a week ago on Open Day as as I explained in the article. Hardly hearsay. If the signs say "Ebbsfleet Academy" they are wrong. This is still Swan Valley Community School at the time of writing with no guarantee it will even change at the end of November. Where is the hearsay - that was my photo? These are not thoughts, they are facts. I have asked some reasonable questions. Are you able to explain where the hearsay or thoughts come into it?

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 02 October 2013 14:03 posted by Shelley

    Oh dear very confusing!!! So is it Swan Valley or Ebbsfleet academy??? PETER; Swan Valley Community School

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