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Thursday, 19 April 2018 07:13

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey: Sudden Departure of Controversial Principal

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Update 5th June: To no-ones surprise (surely), Tina Lee, currently Interim Principal, having been at the school for three years has been named as the new permanent Principal of Isle of Sheppey Academy. Whilst I genuinely wish her well with this poisoned chalice the academy surely needs, and 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.  

Update 28 April: Several updates to the article below in blue. Mr John Cavadino, Principal of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Academy (OAIS), has left his post at short notice after just over 18 difficult months in post.

Update 1 July: At least one MP appreciates what is going on in his constituency and is taking actionHe has taken this up with the Schools Minister. Now there is an idea Mr Henderson! 

Ihave written several articles about the mismanagement of the school over this time, and indeed during the time of his predecessor, one of which The scandal of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, written last summer, explores most of the issues. 

One paragraph which bears repeating looks at his formalisation of the notorious Reflection punishment, begun under his predecessor within Oasis in 2014,  referring to many of the 33 pupils who left the school to take up Home Education between September 2016 and April 2017:
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.
 I have seen too many examples of Reflection being inflicted at OAIS for minor failures to follow procedure, including non-production of the pupils ‘Rewards’ diary required to be carried at all times; minor non-uniform breaches, etc.
 
OAIS is one three Kent schools I call the Tough Love Academies, all using fierce disciplinary approaches for often trivial offences and a 'no excuses' culture, and all being very unpopular with parents, having to take in large number of pupils who did not apply to them but can't get into any other school. 
 

The number of pupils withdrawn from OAIS for Home Education hit a record number for schools across Kent for many years, of 44 in 2016-17, Mr Cavadino’s first year in post. This is more than double the 20 of the previous year in his less than illustrious predecessor’s also short term of office.

The school has made maximum use of the Swale Inclusion Centre, designed as a short term respite for pupils at risk of exclusion with 27 placements, second highest of any school in Kent (just below another Tough Love Academy), although some pupils are transferred there permanently, and as a consequence do not appear in the school GCSE statistics. Other Year 11 pupils were sent home early last summer for compulsory ‘study leave’ well before GCSE to enable the school to focus on those who can do well, which is effectively unlawful exclusion.

Reports of unchecked bullying continue to be rife, with the victims (not the bullies) sometimes being transferred between the two sites of the school in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Academically, the previous Principal forecast great things in the summer of 2016, as he was leaving, but which never came to fruition. In a letter to parents about Mr Cavadino’s sudden departure, the Oasis Trust praises the ‘climb’ in GCSE Progress 8 Grades, which is to ‘below average’. Oddly it doesn’t mention the parallel Attainment 8 Grades, also one of the lowest in Kent. Ironically, GCSE performance has been consistently worse than since the most recent pre-Oasis headteacher (David Day), who  achieved the best results ever, was sacked by Oasis in 2013, his reputation being trampled on by his successor.  

A letter to parents from the Oasis Regional Director sent on the first day of term explains how Mr Cavadino had a short illness but on his return to work had several meetings her. Then, and apparently at no notice, in the interests of the Academy and his family he decided to step down and take on a class teaching role in Oasis Academy Croydon, as his passion is to be in the classroom with his students. I am not sure how many families will agree with the Regional Director about his ‘characteristic care and compassion for all of our young people’, given the above, but no doubt this operates best at a classroom level. However, by coincidence this was the only virtue the Academy Trust could find about him in a press release that I had to fight for the following day, presumably prepared as a response to my question.  This rather suggests this was the agreed teerm in the confidentiality agreement that would have been signed on his departure. 

After his predecessor's sudden departure, local M.P. Gordon Henderson was quoted as having been ‘reassured the school would be able to find a good replacement and improve further in the future’.  In the end, the Oasis Trust could  apparently find no suitable external candidate and Mr Cavadino, then Vice-Principal of the already struggling and controversial OAIS, was appointed presumably as a new broom. What a pity. Sadly, Mr Henderson does not appear to be aware of the many issues that festered under Mr Cavadino's leadership being quoted as saying:'I was sorry to hear John has left the Oasis Academy because I had a lot of time for him. The school desperately needs stability and I had hoped he would provide it'. Has he really not been listening to his constituents who have complained bitterly to him about Mr Cavadino, but reportedly received little support. I accept that he did not need to take notice of my own letter to him outlining a catalogue of serious issues sent in June 2017, but it would be good for him to acknowledge publicly the damage inflicted on pupil's education and careers by the academy and its leaders.   

The Academy has now announced that 'We are delighted that Ms Lee (current Associate Principal) has accepted our offer to become Interim Principal of the Academy. Already an integral part of the senior leadership team....'. This may come as a reassurance to parents. However, the leadership of Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey has clearly become a poisoned chalice, as its seeks a sixth Principal since academisation in ten years. However the school's failures stretch back many years before this (I was headhunted in 1984, but wisely turned it down!).    

This short, brutal removal is characteristic for the departure of many Academy Principals and senior staff who have disappointed their leaders, whether rightly or wrongly, and appears to pay little attention to employment legislation, presumably being covered by pay-offs and confidentiality agreements.

OASIS Senior Management.
It is of course easy to focus on the immediate leadership of a failing school, but surely the shortcomings of OAIS have been evident for years. I quoted the OASIS Regional Director last summer as claiming:  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 appeared 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. "   My article also quotes her as accepting the illegal exclusion of Year 11 pupils, on the grounds they were 'disruptive'.  What is evident is that the OASIS Trust were already covering up for their poor decision not to seek an external candidate for a failing school.  We can only hope they don't make the same mistake twice, although the advertisement for a new Principal appears to be looking for a fantasy candidate for a fantasy job. It would be too easy to rubbish the 'vision',  as the Trust describes an: 'Unmissable opportunity for an ambitious, passionate and tenacious Principal'  ready to take up post in September,  so it is unlikely to be an appointment from outside the Trust, being well past the last resignation date for leaving a post at the end of term. 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Read 808 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 July 2018 04:43

3 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 07 June 2018 17:38 posted by Sarah D

    His departure hasn't changed the school's policy of sending children home without going through the legal exclusion process. I have been told if I press it, he will be excluded and it goes on his record. Does no one care for us second rate families on the Isle of Sheppey.

    Presumably the new Principal will carry on in the same old way as she is now. PETER I have also reported this illegal process. As you write, no one cares, but you are NOT second rate and deserve and are entitled to better.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 24 April 2018 00:11 posted by Rachael

    I don't get it. Where is all this compassion? My son was threatened on the way to school two days running and was late as a result. I wouldn't let him attend Reflection. I was told the alternative was to remove him from the school, although you say this is against the law. You write he is allowed to leave with a pay off and no punishment. My son will be paying the price for evermore.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 19 April 2018 22:03 posted by Mrs miller

    The Swale inclusion centre may have had higher numbers but I refused to let my son go there, they told me that he would be going there. I did not feel this was of any benefit to my son and resolving any issues that there were at the time, so my reply was over my dead body is he going there and I did not back down as i knew this was of no help.

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