The boss of a school where teachers have been on strike over pupil behaviour admits he has failed the children there.
Oasis Community Learning Trust runs 50 academies across the UK, all in deprived communities. But chief executive Steve Chalke told KentOnline his two campuses on the Isle of Sheppey were the hardest to run.
The trust revealed it would be pulling out of the schools on the Island earlier this year following an “inadequate” Ofsted report and a barrage of other issues.
Education on the Island is now set for a major revamp as the secondary will be split into two separate schools and run by different trusts.
Despite this, Mr Chalke thinks the problems – which have seen teachers have to deal with abuse and death threats – will not disappear when someone new takes over, unless the Island has more investment.
He explained when the trust took over it did so on the understanding the government would provide better special educational needs (SEN) provision and alternative provision for students who struggle to learn in a classroom environment.
He added: “The poverty on Sheppey is immense so it was the toughest to run. 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.
“It means having more teaching assistance, specialist psychologically trained staff, trauma-informed staff. It means all of those things and that is needed across the country but it is really needed on the Isle of Sheppey.”
The fact the Island has some of the most deprived areas in Kent is another reason why the school became so difficult, Mr Chalke claims, as you “inherit all the issues that go with” living in a poorer community.
He said: “I have campaigned and fought and fought and fought and I will continue to fight. Although we face all these issues across the country, there is nothing like the Isle of Sheppey.
“The toughest schools are in rural areas and then coastal schools because it is harder to get people to come and work there.
“There are lots of issues about the Isle of Sheppey such as the lack of transport and facilities the community needs to thrive are not there. This is bigger than education, but every staff member should feel safe and I apologise that they do not.
“The needs on the Island are huge and SEN and alternative provisions are needed. There needs to be investment.
“This is not about running great schools. Is it about not failing the children on the Island which I realise we have, in that we have not had the resources or perhaps we should have been smarter with some?
“What could we have done better? Perhaps I could have camped on the Department for Education's doorstep.
“Of course, there are things we could have done differently and we made mistakes. It is impossible not to but we have not had the opportunity to provide what we wanted.”
Around 80 teachers across both sites, in Minster and Sheerness, have this month gone on strike over the bad behaviour of pupils which they claim is putting both staff and student safety at risk.
Although Mr Chalke understands why staff are walking out, he thinks the 10-day exclusion being called for will not help as there is nowhere for the children to go.
He said: “Every teacher, every staff member in the school should feel safe and be safe and it is a tragedy when that is not true.
“The majority of the children at Oasis Academy are brilliant and wonderful but there are some children who behave badly.
“They are the ones that give the whole school a bad reputation and they are the ones that make the environment unsafe for some of the teachers.
“But if you suspend some children there is nowhere for them to go so what are they going to be doing for 10 days? We know that sending them home makes our school safe, but it does not mean they are safer.”
There are further strikes proposed for next week.