There’s been an unusually rapid turnover of senior leadership staff at the Oasis Arena Academy in South Norwood, as GENE BRODIE reports
A secondary academy that opened on its new site in September 2016 is already on to its third school principal.
And Oasis Arena Academy, built at a cost of £22million to the taxpayer to be a six-forms-of-entry school, currently has just 357 pupils.
The new school is operating with just three year groups at present, but that ought to mean 540 pupils – meaning that it is currently operating well below the capacity. Oasis Arena Academy was built to accommodate 900 pupils once fully operational.
In a statement to Inside Croydon this week, Oasis Community Learning, the multi-academy trust which runs the school, said, “The Academy is opening gradually, filling year by year until we offer our full provision in September 2019. We currently have 357 students on school roll, across three year groups.”
Oasis claims that applications for Year 7 places in September “are up”, though they fail to specify by how many.
The Oasis chain, which has its head offices next to a church (but which maintains that it does not have a “religious ethos”), is the country’s third largest, running 49 state schools in England and Wales, with five of them in Croydon. It has recently been reported that OCL’s chief executive, John Murphy, has had his pay hiked to more than £200,000 per year.
The Arena Academy, which was given planning permission to be built on a compact site, using supposedly protected Metropolitan Open Land, also appears to be having some issues over its school leadership.
Tom Raymond was revealed at the start of this term as the school’s third principal in less than two years.
Craig Griffiths, the school’s original principal, left in something of a rush last summer, due to “personal reasons”, according to an Oasis spokesperson.
Griffiths was initially replaced by “experienced executive principal” Di Morgan, who Oasis’s press office says, “has overseen a swift improvement in standards across the school while ensuring continuity for our students, bolstered by the recruitment of two new deputy principals and three assistant principals…”.
Mere teachers are clearly not quite good enough for Oasis academies. There are no fewer than nine members of staff listed on the academy’s website with the word “principal” in their job title. Perhaps Oasis follows the Peter Principle?
“We are now pleased to confirm that Mr Thomas Raymond, an experienced school leader who has a track record of driving up progress and standards for all students, has been appointed as Oasis Academy Arena’s new permanent principal. Oasis is committed to providing our young people and the local community with the ‘Outstanding’ school that they deserve, and thanks to Ms Morgan and Mr Raymond the Academy is in an extremely strong position moving forwards,” the press officer assured.
Senior staff from Oasis Arena Academy were this week due to meet with council officials to discuss the school’s decision effectively to sub-let part of its taxpayer-funded facilities to a private gym operator, 3D Leisure. Council lawyers have been poring over the community use agreement line by line.
As Inside Croydon reported last week, local residents, sports clubs and community groups have experienced difficulties in hiring or accessing the new facilities built in the school. When planning permission was granted for the school, originally proposed under the previous Tory administration at the Town Hall, it was supposed to offer “Olympic legacy” facilities for South Norwood.
The churn of senior management at the school may have been, in part, a cause of this access issue. The introduction of 3D Leisure to operate a private gym business, and notices offering the multi-use games area for hire that have recently appeared, seem to indicate a shift in position.
“Oasis Community Learning refutes the accusation that there has been an ‘abuse of public property’ with regards to 3D Leisure’s operation of a gym at Oasis Academy Arena, and is satisfied that the community use agreement is being fulfilled,” the spokesperson for the academy chain said this week.
For his part Raymond (described as “Teacher of Maths” by the school’s website, rather than the rather mundane, perhaps old school “maths teacher”), says,that the school is “dedicated, unswervingly, to serving our children, our families, and our local communities”.
Raymond says, “We believe that every parent is entitled to expect the school that they have chosen for their child to provide their child with a first-rate education, and at Oasis Academy Arena we shoulder this responsibility profoundly, with pride and determination.”
And in the new principal’s case, hopefully for more than a year.
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