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Teachers at Oasis Academy in Sheerness and Minster to strike over safety concerns

Teachers at a troubled secondary school are striking over staff safety following numerous incidents of pupil threats and violence.

National Education Union (NEU) staff at Oasis Academy, on Sheppey, are taking “unavoidable” strike action at both of the school’s sites tomorrow.

The Minster campus of Oasis Academy, on the Isle of Sheppey
The Minster campus of Oasis Academy, on the Isle of Sheppey

The strike has been called after negotiations over the safe management of poor pupil behaviour and staff and pupil safety failed to meet member demands.

Teachers and educators at the school have been calling for fixed exclusion tariffs of 10 days for assaults or threats of assaults against staff and pupils following numerous incidences of pupil threats and violence.

The NEU explained there were also disputes over workload and a promised bonus payment were largely addressed during negotiations, but concerns over safety in the face of widespread and deteriorating behaviour remain unresolved.

The union has around 80 members and expects the school to be closed to pupils during the strike.

An Oasis Academy spokesman said: “Providing a high-quality education for every student is always our top priority, and during this industrial action we will be offering online study materials to all students to minimise the disruption. We will also be offering on campus support to students with specific needs.

“Whilst this is a scenario that nobody wants, we have had positive discussions with the union, and we are confident that we have made significant progress. We remain committed to working positively with staff representatives to try and avoid any future disruption, and to ensure that Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey is a school where everybody can thrive."

The Sheerness campus of Oasis Academy, on the Isle of Sheppey
The Sheerness campus of Oasis Academy, on the Isle of Sheppey

Parents and carers were sent a letter yesterday as a “pre-warning” of the strikes, with a second letter sent out at 4pm today.

It detailed how online resources will be available for year groups, accessed through the academy website, from 8am on Wednesday.

In 2022 the Department for Education made the decision to remove the school from the Oasis Community Learning Trust and create two new schools. It was confirmed the schools would be transferred in September 2024 to the Leigh and EKC Schools Academy Trusts.

Nick Childs, senior regional officer for the NEU said: “It is regrettable that strike action has been unavoidable.

“The Oasis Trust have been aware of staff safety concerns for many months and the union has been clear about the decisive action required to address the unacceptable working and learning environment.

“Whilst some progress has been made in negotiations in recent days this is too little, too late for our members.

“Behaviour at the school is currently completely unacceptable.

“Lessons are regularly disturbed and staff safety and well-being put at risk.“

The Oasis Academy on Sheppey
The Oasis Academy on Sheppey

A zero-tolerance approach must be introduced including a fixed exclusion tariff for assaults and threats of violence against staff and pupils.

“School should be a safe space for learning and until this is the case at Oasis Sheppey Academy our dispute shall remain unresolved”.

Pickets will be held outside both school sites – Marine Parade, Sheerness and Minster Road, Minster – from 7.30am.

Further days of strike action have also been scheduled for November 28, 29 and December 5,6,7.

Oasis Academy is set to leave the Island at the end of the academic year to make way for Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) and EKC Schools Trust who announced plans earlier this year to run two new schools on Sheppey.

The departure comes after years of scrutiny and criticism from parents and education inspector Ofsted.

Oasis was put into special measures after officials visited the site and rated it Inadequate.

Educational expert Peter Read. Picture: Peter Read
Educational expert Peter Read. Picture: Peter Read

After one visit, a report said: “Antisocial behaviour, including pupils using derogatory language, remains a feature of break times and transitions between lessons, but, again, there are some signs of improvement.”

Following the most recent inspection in March, the school was still rated Inadequate but was slowly improving.

Speaking on the situation education expert Peter Read said: "This is unique in my experience. I think for teachers this is the last straw, what else can they do?

"I do not blame the teachers in the slightest. Teachers have been left with no alternative. The leadership has continually been appalling for too many years.

"I am shocked, not by the strike, but by the fact the school leadership has not clearly done anything about it.

Mathieu Stevens will become the new principal at Leigh Academy Minster, on Sheppey, next September. Picture: Leigh Academies Trust
Mathieu Stevens will become the new principal at Leigh Academy Minster, on Sheppey, next September. Picture: Leigh Academies Trust

"These are children's lives being ruined by incompetent leadership. What happens next is an interesting question."

Last week, a new principal for one of the two proposed schools was announced.

LAT and EKC Schools Trust are expected to take over secondary education on the Island in September 2024.

Between September and October, some teachers in Wales at a 1,300-pupil school staged two walkouts over a “failure to address violence and abuse” from pupils.

Members of the NASUWT union have refused to teach some youngsters they believe are a risk to staff.

Sheppey County Councillor, Mike Whiting
Sheppey County Councillor, Mike Whiting

Sheppey and Sittingbourne MP Gordon Henderson (Con) said: “I am sorry that the staff at Oasis Academy have been forced to take this action by a minority of the pupils at the school. Violence and threats should have no place in any school and such actions have an impact not only on staff, but the vast majority of pupils who are well-behaved.

“The situation at the academy highlights again that we need a radical change to the system of education on Sheppey, which is why I support the proposal to scrap the current single split-site school and replace it with two brand new schools.

“While changing the education system is not a silver bullet that will solve some of the wider social problems we face on the Island, I believe that in the long term it will improve the negative perception some of our young people, and their parents, have about the importance of education.

“Sadly, over many years, we have allowed a culture of indiscipline to fester, not only in Sheppey’s only secondary school, but also some family homes. It is now time to introduce a more disciplined regime.”

Sheppey County Councillor Mike Whiting added: “It is vital that staff and pupils feel safe in attending school, and parents feel secure in sending their children to school.

MP Gordon Henderson said “we have allowed a culture of indiscipline to fester” for too long in schools. Picture: John Nurden
MP Gordon Henderson said “we have allowed a culture of indiscipline to fester” for too long in schools. Picture: John Nurden

“However, the teachers’ action suggests the issues around behaviour highlighted in previous Ofsted inspections continue.

“I hope that the union, its members and the management at the school can get around a table and agree a way forward that allows the school to remain open while ensuring all at the school can work and learn in a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment.”

Has your child been affected? Get in touch by emailing timesguardian@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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