A “two-school model” proposed for secondary education on Sheppey.
As a high performing local trust, Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) was identified by the Department for Education (DfE) in April as its preferred choice to replace Oasis Community Learning (OCL) as the sponsor for the Isle of Sheppey Academy, and asked to develop a plan for its rapid improvement. Following a detailed assessment of the current school and discussions with other local schools, the local authority and local politicians, LAT has developed an outline proposal to replace the existing school with two smaller non-selective secondary schools.
Under this proposal LAT would run one of these schools and EKC Schools Trust (EKCST), recognised for its substantial educational contributions in the county, has been identified as the preferred trust to operate the second school. EKCST is now undertaking its own detailed assessment and planning, ahead of presenting a joint formal proposal with LAT to the DfE later this year. The proposed new schools would both provide a strong academic offer and the EKC school would also offer technical education. This will provide a real choice of two high quality schools for parents on Sheppey.
The DfE’s Regional Director, Dame Kate Dethridge, has approved EKCST as preferred sponsor alongside LAT and has agreed that the two trusts should proceed to develop a detailed plan and for them to seek the views of the local community.
The plan has been carefully designed to best address the immediate and long-term needs of the local community. LAT has proposed significant improvements to Special Educational Needs (SEN) and alternative provision for the Island which are also currently under consideration by the DfE and Kent County Council (KCC). The plan is inclusive, community-based and ambitious. Further details will be announced over the coming weeks.
The trusts will continue to work with local partners as well as undertaking listening exercises with the local community to refine their educational plans. Upon completion of these activities, they will present a detailed plan for the future of secondary school provision on Sheppey to the DfE. A final decision on the plan will be made by ministers.
What timeline are you working to for this new model to be established?
Both trusts are working diligently to explore this two-school model and submit final plans before the end of this calendar year. Subject to approval, it is proposed that the two new schools will be in place for September 2024. Meanwhile, OCL will continue to make improvements at the existing school.
How will the department fund this proposed two-school model?
Funding for academy transfers are decided on a case-by-case basis. Comprehensive details regarding the funding available can be accessed on the DfE’s website under the sponsored academies funding guidance.
What benefits does the two school model offer to the local community?
By operating two new schools with distinct yet complementary curriculums the community will have access to a more diverse educational offer. Both schools will provide a high-quality education covering academic and vocational programmes. In this way, we hope that more local pupils will decide to stay on Sheppey for their secondary education.
Does this update confirm that the school will be split into two?
Our main objective is the swift improvement of education standards on the Isle of Sheppey. While we are optimistic about the two-school model proposal, there are some challenges that will need to be overcome for this model to be implemented. Ultimately, we will work towards the best possible solution for the students and the wider community.
How will the two-school model work?
The intention is for the two proposed new schools to open on 1 September 2024, replacing Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIS), which will close. The first would be operated by LAT on the Minister campus. It would be for students aged 11-18 and have a pupil admissions number (PAN) of 180 per year group, with a maximum of 250 students in the sixth form. It would be called Leigh Academy Minster (LAM). The second new school would be operated by EKCST on the Sheerness campus. It would be for students aged 11-16 and have a PAN of 150. It would be called EKC Sheppey Secondary. LAT and EKCST are planning to run open events in collaboration with OCL in the autumn term for all existing and prospective parents.
How will students gain a place at one of the two new schools?
The capacity of the two new schools will together match that of the existing OAIS and there will be capacity for all existing pupils to join one of the new schools. Should the plans go ahead, parents will be asked to specify which school they would like their child to attend. Places will be allocated according to the admissions policy of both schools. The exception will be students currently in years 10 and 12 who will all transfer to LAM in order to complete their existing course of study uninterrupted. Parents of students starting in year 7 in September 2024 will initially indicate their preference for OAIS by 31st October 2023 in the normal way. Later on, and should the plans go ahead, like parents of existing students, they will be asked to indicate which of the two new schools they would like their child to attend from 1st September 2024.
Will existing parents be expected to pay for new uniforms?
LAT and EKCST will seek funding from the DfE to ensure that all parents of existing students in years 7-10 will be supported to purchase any new bespoke uniform items required by each of the new schools which are different to those required now. Parents of year 7 pupils starting in September 2024 will be given details of uniform items required in due course and will be expected to fund these themselves as they would have done had OAIS remained open.
How will members of staff transfer to one of the two new schools?
Each of the two new schools will publish its staffing plans later this academic year. Staff currently employed by OCL who are based at either of the two sites will transfer to one of the two new schools via a TUPE process. The exact nature of this process will be discussed with employee representatives and trade unions as part of the overall consultation.
More information about Leigh Academies Trust:
LAT is a large, local and successful multi academy trust which started in Dartford in 2008. It is responsible for 31 academies (primary and secondary) in Kent, Medway, Bexley and Greenwich. All LAT academies inspected so far by Ofsted are at least “good” with nearly 40% judged “outstanding” overall compared to 16% nationally. LAT provides high-quality education for over 20,000 pupils aged 2-19, employs over 3,000 staff and receives an annual income of circa £170m.
More information about EKC Schools Trust:
EKC Schools Trust is responsible for 6 academies, including the Island’s only “outstanding” primary school at Queenborough. Working in partnership with its sister organisation, East Kent Colleges Group (recently judged “outstanding” in all areas, including Sheppey College), the core purpose of the Trust is to bolster and enhance its communities, harness the transformative power of education, unlock the potential of every learner, and enrich the curriculum through collaboration and partnership.