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New Sheppey Oasis principal says she has a year to turn academy into a 'good' school

Sheppey’s Oasis Academy has a nine-word mantra, a copy of which is pinned to new head teacher Tina Lee’s office wall.

The colour-coded chart includes words like compassionate, joyful, honest, patient and forgiving. But perhaps the most relevant is hopeful.

Miss Lee, who has worked at the twin-site college for the past three years, took over the reins of departing principal John Cavadino with “immediate effect” this month after an “arduous” interview by a panel led by Oasis founder Steve Chalke.

Tina Lee, new principal at Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy (sub) (2433339)
Tina Lee, new principal at Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy (sub) (2433339)

She is the secondary school’s sixth head since it was ‘academised’.

The salary, up to £100,000, is certainly tempting but many believe the job is a poisoned chalice. The past two principals, who commuted from Croydon every day, only lasted 18 months before seeking pastures new.

Mr Chalke admitted the college now needs stability and, hopefully, a principal who lived nearer. So is former associate principal Miss Lee, who drives in from Brighton every day, in for the long haul?

The PE and geography teacher admitted: “It’s a challenge but one I am really looking forward to. I genuinely believe I can make a difference. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have applied.

Words: the mantra of Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy (2433337)
Words: the mantra of Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy (2433337)

“But it’s not a five-minute job. It is a huge commitment. I don’t put a time on anything because I don’t think you can. Anything personal can happen.

"It would be silly to say I won’t be going until the school has bells and whistles, because I might be 85 by then. But we want to be a good school by September 2019.

"That is part of our Rapid Improvement Plan. I want the academy to be a secure, good school where children leave suitably skilled and qualified for next stage of their lives, whatever that might be.”

Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy east site at Minster (2433334)
Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy east site at Minster (2433334)

The school, split over two sites at Sheerness and Minster, was designed for 2,500 pupils but has 1,414. Even so, parents say there aren't enough teachers. There are 102 on the payroll.

Miss Lee, 40, who is at her desk before 6am, said: “We are in the middle of recruiting. We have five vacancies and recruitment is going well but we are being selective. I am confident it will be finished by the end of the week.”

The new boss of Sheppey’s Oasis Academy is herself a product of a large comprehensive school.

Tina Lee said she was a pupil at Sedgehill School, Catford, south London when she made up her mind to become a teacher: “I was 12 when a new PE teacher joined my school and became my role model. I was a sporty child and was given the opportunity to pursue that.

“I stayed on at sixth form and it was my PE teacher who urged me to go to university. I was the first child in my family to go.”

Miss Lee went to the University of Brighton and studied PE and geography. She still teaches geography twice a week.

She worked in six difference schools including Hackney, Dagenham, Staines and a Kent sports college at Cranbrook before joining Oasis.

She admitted: “None of the schools have been easy schools. They all had their own challenges.”

After working as deputy head at Haggerston School in east London, where she helped improve it from Satisfactory to Good, she joined David Millar for a one-year secondment to Sheppey.

She said: “It was almost a try before you buy.”

It led to her becoming associate principal working under both David and then John Cavadino before taking the top job.

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