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Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey principal's dismay after report ‘inaccuracies’

The top man at the Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey says quotes from him which appeared in a national newspaper article were inaccurate and taken out of context.

The executive principal at the school, David Millar, was featured at the weekend after speaking at a Future Leaders conference in London on Thursday.

It said he had described Sheppey as having “poverty like he’s never seen” and that there are “terribly low literacy” levels at the academy.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Executive principal David Millar
Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey Executive principal David Millar

But he says the article came across as though he had given an interview to a journalist, which was not the case.

The information published came from a question and answer session which took place with him and other head teachers, he said.

Now the 37-year-old, who joined the school in September last year, has hit back, saying he is unhappy about anything which casts aspersions on a community which is he is doing everything to work with.

He says he was quoted in response to a question about the challenges he faces and, although he did talk about poverty and aspirations, it was not in a way which belittled or disrespected the pupils.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey's west site in Sheerness
Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey's west site in Sheerness

He says some of what he said is fact – there are some children without access to the same opportunities.

However, it was not meant as an insult but something which the school would be addressing to give them those opportunities.

“I’m committed to the belief this academy will be outstanding because the children deserve it,” he said.

“I belong to and serve this community and anything that damages those relationships I will act swiftly to counteract.

“We have made great progress and remain committed to our vision – we know we are going to create an academy everybody can be proud of and we know we can only do that with the community and we have been overwhelmed with support.

“I am only interested in the future and the future we have is bright.”

The article also talked about staffing and how much change there had been.

Mr Millar said such issues were no secret. In previous years, numbers of supply teachers had reached double figures, and this was something the school had been working to eradicate and was now fully staffed.

Mr Millar has also talked about changes to the design of the £54 million school, which was built with open-plan classrooms.

He did not like the feature and has now been given £2 million from the Education Funding Agency so walls and subdivisions can be built to create traditional classrooms.

He says he believed the design was inappropriate and a significant barrier to progress. Children, staff and parents agreed.

Although he admitted it was a shame the school was built that way, he said at the time it was thought that would be the right thing to do.

“I don’t think it’s what’s required to move it forward quickly and successfully,” he said.

“Open plan classrooms can work in some instances, but when they are the only main spaces you have and they have to be used at once with different year groups and subjects going on with no barrier between them, it’s just not workable.

“We need to be able to do every type of teaching and learning.”

Work to create the classrooms will take place throughout the summer holidays so lessons will not be disrupted and it will be completed by the time the children come back in September.

Some of the open spaces will remain, to retain some flexibility, but most of the biggest areas will be divided.

Money will also be spent on a new perimeter fence and a system of swipe cards for some of the external doors and lifts.

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