An Oasis Community Learning school where more than half of pupils don’t turn up regularly and where “homophobic, racist and sexist language” went unchallenged has been rated ‘inadequate’.
Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey was placed in special measures by Ofsted following a no-notice inspection in June, following a complaint raising “serious concerns”. It becomes the only school run by the trust to currently hold the lowest grade.
In a critical report, Ofsted pointed to poor attendance and low expectations among leaders.
“More than half” of the 1,485 pupils choose not to attend school regularly, inspectors said, with too many who do then persistently absent from lessons. Those in class “frequently have their learning disturbed by unruly behavior”.
Leaders “do not know why some pupils are absent or where they are”, which “places them at risk of harm”.
The trust said among the reasons for absence were “increased disengagement” during the pandemic, higher rates of absence in Kent, financial hardship among families and an “ongoing challenge” in the recruitment of staff whose role is to support attendance.
It also acknowledged it needed to “improve partnerships with parents to ensure school attendance is valued equally by home and the school”.
Inspectors also warned “too many pupils” felt unsafe, with some reporting being “jostled and hurt in corridors or verbally abused”. Leaders did too little to challenge “foul, homophobic, racist and sexist language which is commonplace across both sites”.
Oasis has committed to an “inclusive ethos” as part of its “anti-racism statement of intent” which “demands that we do better and do more to break the cycle of racial prejudice and institutional inequality which is endemic in our society”.
Ofsted criticizes ‘very high’ exclusions
Ofsted said “poor attendance and uncontrolled behavior of pupils” were the biggest barriers to pupils achieving well, and the use of suspensions and expulsions was “very high”.
Pupils “have no trust in, or respect for their school”, and feel that “leaders spend too much time checking that their uniform is smart rather than keeping them safe”.
However, inspectors acknowledged that the most vulnerable pupils are “well supported by leaders who are responsible for safeguarding. Their attendance is monitored more closely”.
The school’s attendance issues came to light earlier this year, when Kent Online reported about parental concerns about hundreds of pupils missing school due to teacher shortages.
Ofsted’s concern about attendance at the school comes after ministers made tackling the high absence rates a priority.
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman sits on the Department for Education’s “attendance alliance” group, and a raft of measures have been set out to reduce absence.
The latest government data shows almost one in four pupils in England was persistently absent from school last autumn, following a rise of more than 10 percentage points in the proportion of pupils missing 10 per cent or more sessions.
Oasis invests after ‘challenging’ report
Oasis admitted the inspection was “challenging”, but said it was investing in new facilities for year 8s, the sixth form and pupils with special educational needs, as well as a team of youth workers to provide clubs and activities.
Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis’ parent charity, said the report “clearly shows there are very serious problems at the academy, and makes equally clear the scale of the challenge we face”.
“It is the job of Oasis to turn this school around, and we will do so, urgently.”
Executive principal Andy Booth said the school would “act on the areas that need improvement quickly, and we will continue to do everything possible to accelerate the positive changes that we have made in other areas”.
The report, not yet published by Ofsted but shared online by the school, found the pandemic, leadership changes and high staff absence meant leaders “lack a firm grasp on maintaining positive behavior across the school”.
“Many lessons” are taught by supply teachers because of recruitment issues, and pupils make “poor progress”. Clubs and activities have not restarted after lockdown, school trips are limited and “opportunities for enrichment are rare”.
The school reopened under the Oasis banner in 2009 following a merger of two middle schools and a high school.
It was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2011, before being upgraded to ‘requires improvement’ in 2013, receiving this rating again in 2015, 2017 and 2019. It has never been rated ‘good’ or better.
Pupils ‘failed for too long’
Ofsted said that Oasis had “not been successful” in making improvements, resulting in pupils being “failed for too long”.
“Multiple fresh starts with new leaders and increased investment have raised false hopes and not brought about the intended improvements.”
Inspectors said some individual leaders and staff with “strong moral purpose”, including the new head, were “trying to do the right things for the community and the pupils they serve”.
However, it is “all too new and too late for the pupils who attend the school on a daily basis”.
“Only recently” have strategies to improve attendance started to make a “limited
However, inspectors noted the school provided “much needed support to the families most impacted by the pandemic and continues to do so”.