A former head teacher says the government must “urgently intervene” with the county’s most troubled secondary school to prevent a child or teacher from “serious harm”.
Former Gravesend Grammar head and education expert Peter Read, went on to say if an alternative solution to the behaviour issues in the school could not be found, it would need to consider hiring security “as a last resort” or face early closure – a first for England.
It followed a damning Ofsted report last summer which said “too many pupils feel unsafe at this school”.
Just this week, it has seen teaching staff once again take to the picket line amid concerns over safety at the school, forcing the school to close to pupils. Further walk-outs are planned this month. Such action is unprecedented in the county.
One explained to KentOnline: “There have been too many incidents of violence against staff and threats of violence against staff.
“Members of staff are off with stress because they've been physically assaulted. We have the n-word used on a regular basis to our black teachers. We have chairs thrown. I myself have been threatened with death on numerous occasions.
“A particular student told me he was going to cut my throat. Teachers have been pushed and shoved.
“We have situations where hordes of children are running after one child to beat them up. We've had kids who have had eye sockets falling out of their head because there's been a mass brawl on one particular student.”
An alarmed Mr Read said: “The first priority of a school is to keep the children safe - that is an imperative.
“It is not happening at the Oasis Academy and I am seriously concerned a child is going to be harmed because the Oasis Learning Trust has failed for years to set a standard.
“Something has to be done to stop children being harmed or if not, the school should now be closed to avoid this.”
Asked if pulling in external security to ensure the safety of pupils and staff could be an option, he added: “I am horrified by the suggestion but, frankly, Oasis have failed, have no solutions, and I can't see what else can be done under their control.
“The fact remains there are youngsters there with no regard whatsoever for authority. I think no one would disagree with that.
“So innocent children, who go to school to learn, are at risk.
“If I was a parent, I think I would withdraw my child and cite home education as a reason like so many others already, as all other local schools are bulging at the seams.”
Next summer, the school will once again be split into two separate institutions – one at its Minster campus, the other in Sheerness.
The Department for Education has confirmed bids from the Leigh Academies Trust to take over the running of one site and the EKC Schools Trust the other. Consultation into the plans are now on-going.
A statement from the Leigh Academies Trust, following the recent teachers’ strike action, said: “Behaviour like this has no place in any educational setting and it is important that swift measures are put in place to improve safety for all.”
In its most recent monitoring visit to the school – which continues to be branded ‘inadequate’ and in special measures – Ofsted inspectors said “attendance remains a major concern” adding it must “accelerate sharply”.
Kent County Council has no jurisdiction over the school as it is an academy chain, while Steve Chalke, chief executive of the Oasis Community Learning multi-academy trust has admitted defeat.
He said this week: “The poverty on Sheppey is immense so it was the toughest to run [of our academies]. It has been and will continue to be really hard for whoever runs the school without more investment.
“There are children who need extra tuition, extra help, extra input and bespoke care. Someone to be with them as they kick off and not give up on them but that means having more resources.”
Mr Read concluded: “KCC can't do anything. The Oasis Academy Trust may well have admitted defeat, but this unique situation is the consequence of its own failures. So, therefore, government has to step in urgently with a solution for the sake of the children.”
A Department for Education spokesperson refused to be drawn on any possible steps, saying instead: “Strike action is damaging to pupils' learning and disruptive for parents, and we are disappointed with the strikes at the Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey.
“We are considering a proposal from two strong local trusts to replace the existing school with two new ones, extending parental choice in the area and ensuring children receive a high-quality education."
It added that the Leigh Academies Trust, EKC Schools Trust, Oasis Community Learning, KCC and the Department for Education were “working together and are committed to improving the secondary education standards on the Isle of Sheppey”.