Supporting Families
  • banner12
  • banner9
  • banner13
  • banner3
  • banner11
  • banner8
  • banner4
  • banner2
  • banner6
  • banner7
Saturday, 03 June 2017 12:39

The scandal of Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey

See also more recent article on Tough Love Academies

Between September and April this year, 33 children at Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIS) have ‘left’ the school to take up Elective Home Education (EHE), some having reportedly been encouraged to do so, which would be unlawful. This figure is almost twice that of the next two Kent schools, Cornwallis Academy and Ebbsfleet Academy, which both saw 17 children leave to be ‘Home Educated’.

Oasis Image

 Other OAIS pupils were sent to the Swale Inclusion Centre, and removed from the school’s Register, the removal having the effect of deleting the pupils GCSE record from school examination performance, as explained in a previous article, here.

The school also sent some Year 11 pupils home early in May for compulsory ‘Study Leave’ without tuition, whilst the others continued to be prepared for their GCSEs in school. This action amounts to what is often called an ‘informal exclusion’, which is unlawful.

Some of these children will previously have endured the Reflection punishment, which requires pupils to sit in a room and ‘Reflect’ on their behaviour for a whole day, an utterly unrealistic expectation that a day of boredom will improve matters. Astonishingly, 39% of the whole student body has been subject to this humiliating punishment, many on multiple occasions. The reality is that Reflection is utterly destructive, inevitably producing antagonism towards and alienation from the school, is almost certainly unlawful as the child has been forcibly deprived of education without provision for catching up, and indeed could be regarded as child abuse.

Reports of bullying are rife.

As with other out of control academies described in these pages previously, there appears little proper accountability apart from a recent Ofsted Inspection that appears not to have noticed key signals. Meanwhile, children's futures are being blighted.....
Background
This new tough disciplinary regime has been introduced by the new Principal, John Cavadino, promoted from within the school in September. He replaced John Millar, the first Oasis Principal whose time at the school and its previous history are discussed here. The Oasis academy chain is developing a reputation for improving academic standards by removing pupils from its schools by exclusion, encouragement to go, and seeing SEN children move to more sympathetic environments. Isle of Sheppey is clearly attempting to follow this model. However, GCSE performance is consistently worse than under the most recent pre-Oasis headteacher (David Day) who  achieved the best results ever, but was sacked by Oasis and his reputation trampled on by his successor.  

The Kent District of Swale is in the top 10% of most deprived areas in the country (along with Thanet), with Sheppey having seven of the 20 most deprived local council wards in the county, so ‘tough love’ is an understandable strategy. However, simply dumping problems elsewhere without caring about where the child finishes up is no solution, and heaps up future problems for society.

Unfortunately, on the Isle of Sheppey with alternative secondary schools on the mainland in Sittingbourne all oversubscribed, these approaches to improvement are seriously flawed, and so pupils forced out are left without a school. As a result, private tuition flourishes on the island, but should not be an alternative to school.

Ofsted in March found the school Requires Improvement. Oddly, although Ofsted is very positive about the new leadership and the changes it is introducing, the Inspection downgrades the effectiveness of Leadership & Management from Good to Requires Improvement. Whilst there are reports of supply staff being laid off, to be replaced by teachers sent in by Oasis, and some children being sent home for the day as they arrived at school, this practice also happens in some other schools being inspected. The failure of Ofsted to pick up these practices is very concerning although, with two of the Inspectors leaders of the underperforming Griffin Trust, perhaps not so surprising.  

Kent County Council is rightly and seriously concerned about the extraordinarily number of EHE children leaving some schools in the county, but has no powers over academies. A national comparison showed 1112 children leaving Kent schools for EHE in 2013-14, nearly twice the next largest figure of 593 in Essex.  A third of Local Authorities had less than 50 new cases. For 2015-16, the Kent figure was again extremely high at 987 new cases. Figures across the county suggest that the situation is worsening sharply for 2016-17. Permanent exclusion is less popular across the county than a few years ago, as it brings with it obligations for the excluding school for the child’s welfare.

Overall, OAIS lost 54 Year 7 pupils between allocation of secondary school places in March 2016, and the January 2017 Census of actual numbers, by far the highest figure in the county, but the fourth highest percentage, behind Ebbsfleet Academy (22%), Community College, Whitstable (20%), and Swadelands School (19%).

Of course Oasis' track record in Kent, although limited, is also very poor elsewhere. Two years ago, at very short notice, they simply closed down Oasis Hextable Academy, apparently, as it was running out of pupils - poor management of a school that had a few years previously been oversubscribed. No interest where pupils would go, nor those offered places for Year 7 who mainly finished up being accommodated in Bexley schools. They were going to run what eventually became  the new Thistle Hill Primary Academy on Sheppey, until it was taken away from them and in a masterstroke, handed over to the useless Lilac Sky Academy Trust which closed at Christmas. Also two years ago, Oasis Skinner Street Primary Academy in Medway was served with a closure warning notice because standards were so poor. 

The open Parental Facebook page gives a good insight into views about the school. 

Elective Home Education
Home Education is a reasonable option for families able to make alternative arrangements to school membership, and the KCC website is informative with plenty of advice.

However, the situation in Kent appears out of control from the data, with some rogue schools taking advantage to remove troublesome pupils. The situation at OAIS should already have raised serious questions about what is going on before this year. In 2015-16, fourteen of the 20 new EHE children leaving the school  (second highest figure for any school in the county) came from Years 10 and 11, proportionally far more than for any other school, so unlikely to be a principled decision by parents at this late stage. This pattern is typically a move to remove poorly performing children from the school’s GCSE results.

The OAIS pattern for children being withdrawn for EHE during 2016-17 has changed under its new management. There has been a further and astonishingly sharp rise in numbers to 33 children leaving up to Easter and four months still to go. These are now spread out across all year groups, with particular problems evident in Years 7-9, where astonishingly 22 children, two thirds of the total, were withdrawn from the school by their families in the first two thirds of the year to educate them at home, a phenomenon I have never heard of elsewhere, nor replicated in the county data. These are often drawing on private tutors to try and make up any deficiencies. I have spoken with several families who claim that the reason they withdrew their children to be Home Educated is because the school recommended this as an option to exclusion, which is both unethical and unlawful. Why did Ofsted not pick this up; why has the school's Academy Council not noticed what is going on under its nose?

(Update) The Regional Academy Director for the Oasis Trust did not dispute the number of pupils who had left but claimed “all decisions to take a pupil off-roll were solely as a result of parental choice”.  A common strategy amongst Multi Academy Trusts is not to have anyone from the school make such claims, it makes it easier to explain later that they had not checked at first hand. She appears to have no interest in the fact that parents are coming forward, making such allegations of illegality by the school, and no interest in investigating further. Instead, sling some mud: "A  'significant number' of the pupils who left to be home educated were 'persistent school refusers'. " Presumably the majority, still a very large number were not.  Sadly, this is not the only  academy I have exposed in the past year that thinks denial of the facts is sufficient to get by as there is no real accountability, so no reason to back down. Sadly, they may well be right, never mind the children! 

The next five Kent schools with highest EHE numbers have all had problems in one way or another, as identified elsewhere on this website, but none anywhere near this scale. Kent County Council has a responsibility, but little power, to monitor each child being elected by parents for Home Education, and should be highly concerned about the escalation this year at both OAIS as it is across the county.

It is astonishing, and I would argue negligent, that Ofsted failed to pick this up in its Inspection in March especially as, a short while previously the Chief Ofsted Inspector instructed schools to look out for off-rolling, the practice of illegally persuading children to withdraw from school to improve GCSE performance.

Removal to Swale Inclusion Centre
At the time of writing, I don’t have exact number for OAIS children being transferred to the Swale Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), and will update this section when I receive results of an FOI in progress. A PRU (often called a Pupil Re-integration Unit in some Local Education Authorities) is an establishment maintained by a local authority which is specifically organised to provide education for children who are excluded, have behavioural difficulties, or otherwise unable to attend a mainstream or special maintained school, and usually hold pupils for a short period before returning them to mainstream.

There are just two Pupil Referral Units in Kent with a significant number of pupils ‘single registered’ at them, so transferred permanently, sometimes used as a device that gets the pupil off the school roll and so not counted for GCSE performance. These are Swale Inclusion Centre, which saw the number of pupils increase from three to 26 in the four months October 16 to January 17, and the North West Alternative Provision Service, mainly serviced by several Dartford schools, which saw an increase from two to 20 over the same period.

For the three other Kent PRUs, there was actually a decline of one pupil in Year 11 Single Registered Pupils between October 2016 and January 2017, to a total of 14 young people between them, underlining the wrong use of PRUs in Swale and NW Kent. .

Study Leave
It is quite understandable that a school which cannot manage its discipline would wish to remove disruptive pupils from lessons during the run up to GCSE for the benefit of others and there are ways to do so. However, once again it is unlawful to send them home for a week or so, without going through a formal exclusion process.  In any case, for an exclusion, it is required that the pupils should be set appropriate work to carry out at home, which appears not to have happened.
 
Update, again from Schools Week: "A spokesperson for Oasis confirmed the pupils were asked to do independent revision from home because they were disruptive pupils". I have in any case acknowledged the possible nature of the pupils sent home. However, the fact that they were not set work, and no alternative arrangements were made for them is not acceptable, nor is it legal as it amounts to an informal exclusion.  If they were disruptive, quite simply they should have been excluded and work set for them. 
 
 
Reflection
I have written previously about this humiliating, inappropriate and surely unlawful punishment theoretically designed to encourage a pupil to reflect on their sins for a full school day, with only toilet breaks and a basic mid-day meal allowed, no school work provided to make up for what is missed, although a single book is sometimes allowed. Surely in practice this will have the effect of making pupils, often guilty of minor misdemeanours, utterly antagonistic towards and alienated from the school, a major step towards seeing them on their way out. Or is this deliberate? One media organisation which questioned the school was told it was categorically untrue that school work is not set. Parental statements would indicate otherwise. 

I lodged a Freedom of Information Request with the school, by enquiry form, asking for the statistics regarding Reflection and acknowledgments of my requests on May 5th, over a month ago, and had to submit another formal request as I did not even get an acknowledgement, although requested, which has produced the following response. 

As requested in your Freedom of Information request, please find below the numbers of students that had been placed in reflection during the academic year 2016-17:

Year 7 – 87; Year 8 – 115; Year 9 –  120; Year 10 – 123; Year 11 – 88

The start date for the reflection system was in the 2014-15 academic year, although prior to 2016-17 data this was not recorded in a common format so we can only verify accurate data for this year.

It is worth noting that this these numbers are higher this year than is anticipated going forwards as we have significantly raised our expectations of student conduct in terms of punctuality, equipment and behaviour in lessons and around the school. This is to ensure a safe, ordered environment for learning that enables students to achieve to the best of their ability. At times, students will only spend part of the day in reflection. Fundamental to the Academy’s drive to improve standards and culture is a robust rewards procedure. The ratio of ‘positive’ achievement points given this year to ‘negative’ behaviour points is 8:1

The system was commended by OFSTED in March 2017 which noted that ‘current leaders’ actions are rapidly improving behaviour’  the report noted that ‘most pupils’ are positive’ about the system as ‘it improved punctuality and is helping to reduce low level disruption in lesson’.  It is also worth noting the large reduction in fixed term exclusions as compared with previous years.

Sent 8 Jun 2017 

This is, as could be expected, a very misleading response. Firstly, the data shows that 39% of the whole Year 7 - 11 school population has endured this robust and counterproductive punishment. I realise I didn't ask the key question, the number of times it was used for each child, with several parents referring to their children being placed in Reflection several times a week. Self-evidently, Reflection does not work for these children. To assist understanding of the system, I have comments from a number of parents sent to me, including: My kids have been in there quite a lot but no work done; My daughter in year 9 has sat in silence in there, coloured in a piece of paper and scribbled on a piece of paper; My daughter year 8 has either done nothing or been told to copy word for word from a book; No work as far as I'm aware, read a book, but then my son always failed reflection; My two only had a book to read no actual work and because the lunch on the trolley was not nice they didn't eat when they were in the school; My daughter goes in and reads a book; Mine failed by talking, but it got to point he refused to go and was sent home; my son got into trouble for trying to go to the classroom to get the work that the class was actually doing even though he was sitting his mocks he was told to do the work that's in the reflection room my son has been in there so many times he has probably done that work hundred times over; My daughter is at west and she didn't do any work the one time she's been in there. I accept there may be some exaggeration here, but the whole is directly contradictory to an Oasis comment to a media outlet that all children are set relevant work - I know which I believe and certainly there is sufficient evidence for the school leaders to institute an enquiry if they really do not know what is happening. Simple denial is not enough. I am sure parents will be happy to give evidence if the school is prepared to look properly. Or is there no accountability in Oasis Academies? 

With regard to OFSTED, I agree the dichotomy over improving behaviour is a puzzle, given the amount of real parental unhappiness and the high proportion of parents taking away their children, or being forced out, with no other school to go to.  A colossal step, if you don't have the resources to cope. One partial solution may be the allegation that, whilst OFSTED was inspecting, the number of children sent to Reflection dropped sharply, and they were set with relevant work. There is a suggestion that recently, following local newspaper coverage of Reflection, the school has taken a more sensible approach to setting relevant work in Reflection. Please advise. As the numbers in Reflection are so high, it is no surprise it is balanced by a reduction in fixed term exclusions. The main difference is that children formally excluded are required to be set relevant work, so it could be argued they are better off!

Last modified on Friday, 06 October 2017 07:03

11 comments

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 27 September 2017 09:11 posted by Laura west

    Can I just say every time my brother has been excluded he has never been set any work to do at home or chance to catch up. He has spent quite a few days in reflection and only a few times had he been set work to do in there. When he refuses reflection he is sent home and has to go back at 3pm-5pm and then has to go in the next day and complete a day in reflection. He also is not set any work whilst in the 3-5 punishment. I'm all for punishment if the child is naughty but it's totally unfair that they are missing out on their education as well, especially as most the time the reason are stupid that they are put in reflection. My brother has irlen syndrome and he has books with blue pages. When he started back this September the teacher didn't give him one so he asked for one and he was told no just do it in that book and we will stick it in a blue book next time. That's all well and good but when he needs to look back at it for revision or whatever he will struggle to read it. The teacher then said he was rude for asking and gave him a detention that night. He told them he he wasn't doing it and walked out of class to go see the teacher that supplies the blue page books. He got a load of books off her for his classes then because it all got escalated he ended up getting in more trouble. I told the school he would not be doing the detention for two reasons. 1. His teacher should already know which of her pupils she needs to provide with these books and if she doesn't, when she is told she should allow them the have/ go and get the correct books. 2 I don't think it's rude asking for something you need to work to the best of your ability especially as it is the school that diagnosed him with this and put in place the fact he need blue page books. My sister has recently completed her GCSEs and left the school she did ok but could have done better with proper support. She is dyslexic and was not given any support in exams for this. The school had gone downhill in the last couple of years with stupid rules like you can't wear your coat indoors or it's a day in reflection. Yet you see all the teachers you are asking for around in coats. And if they are one minute late for a lesson their in reflection for the day. I went to the school for a meeting with the head. 30 minutes after my appointment time I was told he was stuck in another meeting and can't make it so had someone else. My appointment was 8.45 in the morning so if he knew he had another meeting why book me in. I'm just wondering if he spent the day in reflection for being late to where he was supposed to be? No, more than likely not. You need to lead by example and this is not happening you can't expect respect for the kids when you are not willing to give any out. Yes, rules are there to be followed but how is it fair the teacher can be late and wear coats but not the kids. I don't like writing about all the bad bits of the school because some of the pastoral teams are exceptional up there and could not fault them. But all the good they do does not outweigh all the bad from the rest of the school.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 11 June 2017 20:24 posted by Oasis Sheppey Parents Page member

    Peter I am a member of "Oasis Sheppey Parents Page" which was set up by two parent's who were concerned with the extent of the use of reflection !! I too have the same concerns and have had so many issues as a result so I have applied to Westlands for my child. I applied months ago and I read today on the Parent's page that someone who applied a couple weeks ago has their child starting this week !! How is this possible ?? PETER: It could depend on the age group. However, I have previously had concerns about the operation of the Admissions Policy at Westlands, with children apparently offered places outside proper procedures and others left dangling. In any case, waiting lists are not required once the initial Year 7 admissions have worked through, so the school has considerable freedom to operate.. I would always recommend you appeal for a place as well as going on the waiting list. This sometimes appears to precipitate action! The January 2017 census suggests that the school effectively has 10 forms of entry, although its official intake is 285. It clearly has flexibility which it uses to the full.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 11 June 2017 18:04 posted by Concerned Parent

    At Parent's evening my child's teacher told me that his grade would be higher but due to the lack of physical work in his book she could not give him the grade he deserved.. The lack of work was due to the numerous occasions my child was in REFLECTION doing nothing and the reasons for him being in there were trivial. The figures you have received on Reflection are staggering but they do not show the whole picture as many children are in reflection regularly and missing out on learning ......

  • Comment Link Friday, 09 June 2017 03:07 posted by Sandra

    It is a lie to say that all children were set work to do in Reflection. My son has spent too many days, wasted, not learning with only a book to read. Once he was given a story book to copy out all day; once some worksheets he didn't understand and was warned if he repeated his request for help he would be expelled. He is certainly not alone, too many of his friends have had similar tales to tell. And ofsted praise this mental torture and deprivation of learning. How is he supposed ot keep up?

  • Comment Link Thursday, 08 June 2017 19:56 posted by Disgusted of Sheppey

    Reflection. My son has now been in reflection seven times, but has reflected nothing good, as it was all for minor or none crimes. He now hates the school as a result, but we can't find anywhere else to send him. The first two times he was given nothing to do, three times he has had a book. When OFSTED were in, he had work set that he was missing. Most recently he had an old worksheet of stuff he had done before. I now worry the school has made him a disruptive pupil as he has no respect at all. PETER: Thanks for the private message exchange. I am convinced.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 06 June 2017 19:37 posted by Ailbhne D

    I would most certainly say that Parental Choice is not how I would describe what happened with my children at the Academy. It was Mr. Cavadino that firstly asked if I had looked at other schools and I replied yes I had but they were all full. Mr. Cavadino then said " Have you considered Home Schooling " to which I replied No as it was not something as a family we had even thought about let alone considered !! I was told my child had to do reflection ( and I strongly felt it was not justified) or my child would be excluded until such time as the reflection had been completed. I have no issue with suitable punishments when justified but I feel very strongly that sitting in a room with no work from 8.30am until 4pm is very counter productive and soul destroying. I now pay privately for a tutor to ensure my children get the Education they deserve as Oasis has let my children down very badly. PETER: so who is lying - the Regional Director (or to be generous, has been lied to), who claims that every one of the 33 children taking up EHE since September were solely as a result of parental choice or Alibhne and others who have described their personal experiences.? Of course the school cannot admit fault as this would be an unlawful action.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 06 June 2017 11:48 posted by John Alden

    An interesting read and I believe what is happenning in this academy is just an extreme version of what happens in many schools in Kent. I am aware of primary schools that impose fixed term exclusions without informing the local authority and primary schools that routinely illegally exclude pupils from school rather than meet their needs. The LA are well aware but take little action, after all this keeps the exclusion figures down when reporting to DfE.

    In reality we fail to provide an acceptable education to many of those in most need and in order for schools to make their targets it is too easy to ignore these pupils. In my mind an exclusion is a failure on the part of the school not the pupil and it is about time Ofsted took a long hard look at the strategies employed by schools to meet the criteria for a good inspection outcome.

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 June 2017 16:05 posted by Gemma macken

    I had to take my twin daughters from oasis in march 2017 after their lack of support with my daughter being bullied then assaulted on school grounds twice by the same girl, i rung the police who said the school have to deal with it and she apparently got 1 day reflection... my daughters are missing out on an education because the teachers are lazy and make empty promises to help...

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 June 2017 13:44 posted by T M Dams

    Any NUT members worried about this phenomenon at Oasis Sheppey or any other Kent Academy please contact me with your concerns.

  • Comment Link Monday, 05 June 2017 07:57 posted by Marie miller

    What really annoys me is that even though some people may think it's good that kids with behaviour problems are put on study leave to stop them from being distracted but my son is adhd this is his most stressful time sitting his exams was any support put in place NO did the senco put anything in place NO. I have not seen the senco for 3 years he needed support in place so his behaviour did not get the better of him at this stress time was anything done NO, even though I begged for the senco to support my son during this time she done nothing then they just Palm him of on study leave because they can't be bothered to put the support in totally wrong and needs to stop all you get told is if you don't like it find another school yes because there are loads of them around

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.