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Tuesday, 07 September 2021 17:26

Another Sheppey Oasis Academy Principal bites the Dust

Update 12 September: Swale Borough Council is holding a meeting on Sheppey open to the public on Tuesday 14th September. On the agenda is an item to discuss the current crisis in secondary school provision, based on the enclosed document. I look at this in more detail below.    

Update 9th September: It has been suggested that the school's GCSE performance this summer may have been a factor in Miss Lee's departure. Interestingly, in his statement to KentOnline (below), Rev Chalke made no mention of these, which would have been a good indicator of the real progress he talks about. 

 The latest Principal of the Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIOS), Tina Lee suddenly left her post without notice either in July or over the summer holiday according to different reports, and has now been replaced by another new temporary Executive Principal, the eighth leader of the school since it became an academy in 2009.

Miss Lee had already been humiliated last September after Oasis brought in an Executive Principal over her head, but he only lasted a term and it appears that her performance in the interim may not not been sufficient to keep her job. I have written extensively on the failures of the Oasis Trust to turn the school round since it sacked the most successful Principal it has ever had, when it took over OAIOS in 2013 after another Trust had failed with the school. At the foot of this article, you will find a list of some of the previous reports I have written on this ongoing calamity.

Oasis Sheppey

According to Kent Online: ‘The Rev Steve Chalke, the founder of Oasis Community Learning, insisted Miss Lee had not left "under a cloud." He said: "The reverse is true. Tina has done a great job. For the first time in years, we have a full intake of Year 7s and are having to use the Sheerness site again. We have also just received a really good letter from Ofsted saying the school is making real progress. We are not 'good' yet but we are heading in the right direction. It takes a long time to turn a school around. For years huge numbers of children have been bussed off the Island every day." These claims are looked at in more detail below. 

I have considerable sympathy for Miss Lee, who was previously Deputy Principal at the school. You will find the background to her appointment as Principal here, when I noted that: 'the Trust was surely looking for an external candidate'"Someone with a strong track record of outstanding leadership" with, as a priority in the next two years: 'Ensure the Academy is well placed to secure a judgement which is at least good and ideally Outstanding at its next Ofsted inspection'. I am afraid in salary terms, offering up to £100,000 was never going to attract such a candidate to the second largest, split-site, most troubled school in the county'. Failure to find such a candidate was surely inevitable, and it may be that Miss Lee took on the post in the absence of any alternative candidate. The Trust may consider that Miss Lee failed to come anywhere near achieving the priority target they set for the successful candidate. It is also possible that she simply walked away from this unrewarding role, the daily commute from Brighton also taking its toll. Brutally, it will need the next permanent Principal to have that very strong track record of outstanding leadership if they are to make any impact on the problems that beset Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey. Anything less will result in further failure.   

I provided an analysis of the problems at OAIOS just a year ago when I wrote The Struggling Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Appoints its Fourth Leader in Seven Years, about another heavyweight Executive Principal who joined the school in September, but who abandoned it and the Trust just a term later, leaving Ms Lee to carry the can. The fact that this term has already started and, at the time of writing parents have not been officially told, is yet another disgrace, perhaps as the Oasis Trust still tries to work out how to explain her sudden departure after ‘the great job she has done’.  Whilst Ms Lee still gives the Principal's Welcome on the academy website she has, however, been removed from 'Meet the Staff'  who are, apparently, only the Senior Leadership Team and the Year Leaders.  

Ofsted
Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey had a full Ofsted inspection in June, whose result is awaited with interest. Rev Chalke suggests it will be a positive outcome, which hardly fits the evidence on the ground including the sudden departure of the Principal with one report suggesting she had already left before the Inspection. Headteachers are sometimes sacrificed after critical Ofsted Reports elsewhere (or possibly as in this case, before).
 
Pupil Numbers
Rev Chalke also reports that the school has a full intake of Year Seven pupils. This is a real puzzle to me, as the March figure for children offered places in Year Seven at OAIOS beginning school this month still gave 20 vacancies, despite including 108 children who didn’t want to go there and never applied for the school. This led to a false headline in kentonline: 'Oasis Academy is expecting a record 369 pupils to join it in September' which also included the 108 Local Authority Allocated children. Many of these will have subsequently made efforts to find an alternative school, with some securing grammar places in Sittingbourne on appeal. Others will choose home education. Last year, 2.2% of parents of children on the school roll, the second-highest percentage in Kent, withdrew their children from OAIOS to join some 200 others at last count, who were home educated on the island. Others will simply disappear in the gap between primary and secondary education. To put the figure of 108 in context, it is the second-highest number of Local Authority Allocations ever for any school in Kent, and amounts to over one in eight of the children allocated to secondary schools they never applied for, across the county.

So where have all these extra children come from, who Rev Chalke claims have filled the school? I am afraid I have no answer. Time will tell.

One further reason for the high LAA numbers is the crisis in pupil places in Sittingbourne, for so long a bolt hole for many Sheppey families. Whilst I have forecast this for some years now, it has reached a head this year with the two Sittingbourne schools nearest the island being the most oversubscribed non-selective schools in the whole county. Fulston Manor School turned away 134 first choices, and subsequently had no successful appeals for places. Westlands School rejected 110 first choices and, I understand has also seen very few successful appeals, both reflecting the pressures these two schools are under.  

KCC has long regarded the vacant spaces at OAIOS as a solution to the current situation, created both by the large increase in Sittingbourne housing and in the pressure from Sheppey families to escape the island.  The current Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2021-2025 gives a few lines to the problem (p 122), ‘Surplus capacity in Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy will help to offset some of the deficit in Sittingbourne but will not meet all the need from 2023 when demand peaks’, and ‘We will continue to press for access to the North Sittingbourne (Quinton Road) development to establish a new 6FE secondary school to meet the future need from the population growth and new housing developments’  but without any sense of urgency. The 'over-arching principles' in the Commissioning Plan that: 'We will always put the needs of the learners first. • Every child should have access to a local, good or outstanding school, which is appropriate to their needs' appear particularly empty in this case. 

Meeting of Shepway Area Committee of Swale Borough Council Tuesday 14th.
A paper discussing 'Secondary School provision in Sittingbourne and Sheppey - the Administration view' is Item Six on the agenda, and fairly mildly sets out the issues, which will be familiar to readers of this website, because 'we are concerned about the difficulties that many of our residents increasingly face in accessing places of choice for their youngsters'. There is a problem of shortfall in capacity. It is hoped that this can be met by the opening of the North West Sittingbourne School, but it is not clear to us when this will happen and in the meantime many families face stressful dilemmas each year. However, as I have made clear above and previously, there is no indication of any progress towards this aspiration. In practice, it can take four years or more before a proposal is converted into a school, even when a site and finances are forthcoming. The problem is rapidly worsening! 'But the situation is further complicated due to the Academy on Sheppey never reaching its Pupil Admission numbers because so many young people on Sheppey migrate each day to the mainland. This has put severe pressure on places on the mainland, with many Sittingbourne youngsters being offered unwelcome places on Sheppey. It is the administration’s view that this is not equitable, nor is it good for the sense of community on Sheppey for so many youngsters to want to go elsewhere for their important education'. Equitable is a very polite word for the poor performance of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey that creates this scandalous problem. 
 
The long term low academic outcomes at the Academy on Sheppey are a matter of concern. It obviously motivates the daily migration to Sittingbourne, and it leaves many young people low on skills and aspirations. We would support any moves to widen the opportunities for young people by providing an option of two schools. However, the future provision of schools is very much in the hands of the Regional office for Academy schools. A two-school solution is supported by the constituency MP. The Council appears to be giving up on the prospects of improving performance, but instead argues the two school solution which has been put forward many times over the years, and indeed there are two separate sites where this could happen. The problem is that the academy is controlled by the Oasis Charitable Trust which is most unlikely to agree to its school being split in two and half given to a different operator to act in competition The Regional Schools Commissioner is unable to take any action unless the school were to be placed in Special Measures, but it appears to have an unmerited but charmed life. I have clashed several times with the local M.P. Gordon Henderson over the performance of OAIOS, as we have a very different view on this, as can be seen here. However, I can confirm that he is in favour of the unrealistic two school solution, which has the effect of diverting attention from the real problems of OAIOS 
 
 
 
Finally
There are many Sittingbourne families seeing their children off on the train for the first time this week, or over the Kingsferry Bridge across The Swale, to a school with a poor reputation and poor performance, without a headteacher yet again although they don’t yet know this. The conclusion to my previous article last year still stands. It began with: ‘The new Executive Headteacher certainly has a job on his hands to turn the school round at short notice to head off this further challenge’. Well, he lasted just four months! It also includes ‘The Trust has failed the children of Sheppey and so someone else operating a different model of leadership and management needs to be brought in’. Unfortunately, Oasis Community Learning  (slogan: Exceptional Education at the Heart of the Community) is a very high profile academy Trust, and so it is unlikely that the Regional Schools Commissioner would take such an action, although she is in any case unable to do so unless the school is placed in category (failed) by Ofsted. Another case of lack of accountability! 

And so Kent County Council’s responsibility ‘for ensuring there are sufficient places of high quality, in the right places for all learners, while at the same time fulfilling our other responsibilities to raise education standards and promote parental preference’ is unlikely to be fulfilled for some time to come, but to be fair, they have no responsibility for the management of an academy.  Is there a solution? Does anyone care? 

 Previous Articles on www.kentadvice.co.uk relating to Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey
 This list excludes multiple articles dealing with GCSE, school allocations, Local Authority Allocations, Extended Home Education, Exclusion, etc.  

Swale Crisis in Non-Selective School Places, including two sections on Oasis. 

Exclusions in Kent Schools, 2019-20: Astonishment and Predictability. For Oasis section follow the link. 

Elective Home Education & Children Missing from Education in Kent 2019-20

The Struggling Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Appoints its Fourth Leader in Seven Years

Kent and Medway Ofsted Outcomes 2018-19: Secondary

Academies in the News: Turner Schools; Delce Academy; Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey. For Oasis Section follow the link. 

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey: Sudden Departure of Controversial Principal

Tough Love Academies: Ebbsfleet; Hartsdown; Oasis Isle of Sheppey. For Oasis Section follow the link. 

The scandal of Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey

 Kent Pupils vanishing from schools before GCSE; including Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey For Oasis Section follow the link.

Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy: Further turmoil as yet another Principal leaves unexpectedly.

Problems in Secondary Schools in Kent's Coastal Towns For Oasis Section follow the link.

Closure of Oasis Hextable Academy is announced

Isle of Sheppey Academy: All change, yet again (2013)

 
 
Last modified on Sunday, 12 September 2021 19:49

2 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 09 September 2021 17:02 posted by Richard B

    You haven't mentioned the GCSE results! PETER: Thanks for this which I hadn't considered in my article. If there has been no improvement, it may well be an explanation.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 09 September 2021 06:23 posted by Judith

    I can't believe we have to learn our headteacher has gone from an external website. Shouldn't parents have been told by the school? What a disgrace. Peter, thank you for your analysis of what is going wrong at Oasis

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