Academy head leaves after riot

5th December 2008 at 00:00
'Uneasy calm' returns to troubled Oasis school

The headteacher of an academy from which 30 pupils were excluded after they "went on the rampage" has left the school less than a term after it opened.

Ruth Johnson, the head of the Oasis Academy Mayfield, in Southampton, stepped down after a series of disputes with students and staff.

In the most serious, dozens of pupils were reprimanded after a protest about the school spiralled out of control. Five pupils were permanently excluded and 25 Year 11 students were suspended following the incident in October.

John Denham, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills who is the local MP, questioned whether Oasis, the Christian charity sponsor, had sufficient experience to run the school. But Oasis is in line to become one of the country's biggest academy sponsors. It already runs nine schools and is in talks about opening a further three.

Educational consultants were drafted in to the Oasis Academy Mayfield to help sort out problems. But Ms Johnson, who was criticised by local union representatives for failing to listen to staff, left the school last week. The headship has now been taken over by John Toland, one of the consultants.

This followed a meeting the previous week between Mr Denham and up to 100 parents, who expressed concern at the way the school was being run.

Pupils and staff were unhappy with the timetable, which meant teachers being bussed between two sites. Staff had threatened industrial action if that was not resolved.

The problems at Mayfield, one of two Oasis academies in Southampton, come as an independent report by the consultancy Pricewaterhouse Coopers criticised the national programme. It said that although results had improved, performance varied from school to school.

Ron Clooney, the local NASUWT representative, said the union's main concern was with the running of the Mayfield academy, rather than with the position of Oasis as a sponsor. "After what was a tempestuous raging storm, there is now an uneasy calm at the school," he said. "But there's going to have to be a tremendous rebuilding process. Lots of children have had their education disrupted."

Mr Clooney said that a number of parents had applied to move their children to a neighbouring school, even though it had lower exam results than the academy's predecessor schools.

Oasis said that nine teachers had quit this term. Pete Sopowski, the NUT representative, said he hoped the new leadership team would encourage staff to stay.

Steve Chalke, the chief executive officer of Oasis, said he expected pupils "will benefit enormously" from the new team.

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