‘What message is this sending to the children?’ Locals tell striking teachers to get back to work and accuse them of ‘bowing down’ to their pupils after school staff walked out because of their unruly behaviour

  • EXCLUSIVE: Locals living near the antisocial hotspot have criticised teachers 

Striking teachers who walked out of a Kent academy in a row with authorities over pupil behaviour have been slammed by some locals who say they’re ‘bowing down’ to the anti-social children they’re supposed to be teaching.

National Education Union (NEU) members at Oasis Academy on the Isle of Sheppey joined the picket line today as they claim not enough is being down to protect staff from pupil attacks.

The troubled school was rated inadequate by Ofsted in August 2022 due to concerns over ‘bullying, racism, homophobia, vandalism and pupils’ understanding of sexual consent’.

Around 20 staff formed a picket line between 7.30am and 10am today holding up placards including some saying: ‘I Come to work to teach not to be abused and ‘NOT ready, not respectful not safe.’

The school, which is one of only two on the Isle, has denied repeated calls for 10-day suspensions to be handed out to students if they abuse teachers.

The Oasis Academy was rated inadequate by Ofsted in August 2022 due to concerns over ‘bullying, racism, homophobia, vandalism and pupils’ understanding of sexual consent’

Teachers outside the academy waved signs reading: ‘I come to work to teach, not to be abused’

The strike has been supported by the National Education Union 

The school has nearly half of its students receive free-school meals and was taken over by the Oasis multi-academy trust in 2014 – but remains in Special Measures after an Ofsted inspection found wide-spread discrimination among its students.

READ MORE: Teachers at an academy rated inadequate over bullying, racism, homophobia and vandalism go on strike over fears for staff safety due to behaviour of pupils

Despite the Christian school trust saying it aims to improve troubled institutions, the school split across two campuses has being yo-yoing between Special Measures and Requires Improvement since it was taken over by the trust.

The registered charity runs 53 schools across the UK – and teaches 1486 youngsters on the Isle of Sheppey alone – but is handing over control to two other trusts from next academic year.

A previous principal at the school attempted to crack down on the levels of disruption seen in the Isle by removing pupils from lessons for offences as trivial as hiccupping – but this has seemingly not had an effect on pupil behaviour.

Barbara, who lives down the road from the school’s Minster-on-Sea campus, was less than happy about the strikes.

The local, who moved to the Isle in 1979, said: ‘Everyone’s striking these days. 

‘I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not but it doesn’t send the right message to the children.

‘But the school is so different these days, my four children all went to those schools and they turned out alright. But my youngest is in her 40s so it was a long time ago now.

Deb, a nurse who moved to the Isle two years ago, also disagreed with the strikes and says that teachers should get back to work.

The health worker, 65, said: They get more money than I do! And they get more leave too!

‘The discipline is down to the law as far as I am concerned. Just as we have to bow down to our patients, they have to bow down to their pupils

‘I’m really old fashioned. It doesn’t matter what school a child is in – if they want to learn they will learn.’

‘There’s always been issues with pupils. And unfortunately, the issue starts with a lot of the teachers are frightened the parents because they can be very challenging.’

Despite the opposition to the strikes teachers have continued to slam the school’s working environment

Teachers are calling for 10-day suspensions to be handed out to students if they abuse teachers

Despite the opposition to the strikes, a trainee teacher, 20s, at the Academy who wished to remain anonymous slammed the school’s working environment.

The trainee, who has been there for 18 months, said: ‘Students verbally abuse teachers – arguments about phones are constant as well as the use of the iPads which we loan them.

‘I’ve seen a chair thrown at a teacher. I’ve seen a gang of four students chase a teacher into the staff room.

‘Those who criticise us striking are wrong – regardless of what the children have said or what they’ve done we still go back every day and give them a clean slate.

‘But if we have an incident in class and we need a student removed and we send a call out, no one comes. That’s 20 minutes of learning time lost in a 50 minute session’.

English teacher Jo Gilmore told BBC South East: ‘I teach here because I am a member of the community and I am passionate about trying to help students here because it is my local community.

‘But some of the abuse we face on a day to day basis is out of hand. It makes the job really difficult and it needs to stop.’

Retiree Patricia, 74, echoed the sentiments about the school.

The former care worker moved to the Isle of Sheppey six years ago to be close to her family in retirement.

But far from the cozy retirement she expected, Patricia has had step in to help her daughter after her grandson, 14, experienced so much abuse at the school that he was pulled out of the school.

Fencing allegedly kicked down by students close to a bus stop servicing the academy 

Locals have said the disruptivebehaviour of some pupils has made life in the area a nightmare 

She has drawn upon her years as a special needs support worker in Wandsworth, south London, to help care for him – after teachers were unable to stop him being cruelly abused by other pupils.

She said: ‘My grandson was at the school for a year – we had to pull him out. He’s got special needs and there’s bullies – some nasty bullies. You get that at every school but it seems like in this case it is too difficult for these teachers to deal with.

‘We’ve only got these two schools on the island so the majority of kids are going to these schools.

‘I usually don’t believe in strikes but what else can they do. I support my grandson two days a week but I want to enjoy my life as much as I can.

‘I have a friend whose grandson also came here but she pulled him out too. She was going into the pastoral meetings and has even heard about teachers being attacked in the playgrounds by a pupil’s parent.

‘I remember when my grandson first came here – people said to me that the place has a reputation but I paid no mind to it. But his first day at that school was the last time I saw him smile.

‘More than once I had to come to the school to pick him up at 11am and he’d just be there in tears’.

Ruzina Kahan is also at her wit’s end with students from the Academy.

Ms Kahan and her family live in a large detached house on the same road as the Minster-on-Sea site – and have had to deal with students kicking down their fences four times since she has lived there.

The multi-generational family have been left to shell out hundreds of pounds to replace the panels which stands next to a busy bus stop.

She said: ‘Me and my husband have come out to speak to them so many times. These things are expensive, we’ve had to fix it four or five times.

‘But they just give it back to us. They 100 per cent need to be disciplined more’.

William Martin agreed that the safety of the teachers in the context of the school was important

William Martin, 72, said: ‘I agree with the teachers. It’s about their safety. I’ve got my son’s stepdaughter who goes to the school and she gets picked on.

‘Pupils shouldn’t be allowed to take it out on each other or the teachers either.

‘I do agree with the strikes. In my day of school, you went to learn and if you did the teachers were with you and if you didn’t you were pushed to the back.

‘If they don’t want to learn, push them to the back and crack on.’

Nick Childs, the NEU’s Senior Regional Officer 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 wellbeing put at risk. 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.’

A spokesperson for Oasis Academy 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.’

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