How principal John Cavadino is using three P’s to turn around the fortunes of one of Kent’s largest schools

Words: Nick Peet

When John Cavadino took over as principal at Oasis Academy on the Isle of Sheppey 18 months ago he was facing a task unlike any other in the UK. Not only did he have to tackle an under performing secondary school shackled with a hit-and-miss reputation, but as a school split across two locations it was almost as if he had double the workload.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, and early in 2017 the new head introduced a Pupil Passport system, based on three P’s: prepared, polite and productive. It was a way teachers, pupils and indeed parents could monitor a child’s daily effort, attitude and work.

Naturally, like many new ideals, the passport concept was initially met with concern, yet not so much by faculty, more by parents. An initial backlash made the Kent regional press, with parents complaining of punishments for indiscriminate offenses. Yet now six months on things have settled down and Cavadino believes the new passports are playing a significant role in the school’s future fortunes.

He tells HWRK: “I came into the job full of ideas. When I first arrived at the school in 2013, as deputy principal, I had always hoped to one day take over the reins here as I immediately felt like I could do great things with the school and for the community.

“That chance arose provably a little out of the blue when the former principal left last year, but I knew the moment he announced his departure that I would be committed to taking over here.”

Yet with two sites to wrestle with, two miles apart, turning around the academy’s fortunes was never going to be a straight forward task. “The biggest challenge is taking on not only the running of a huge academy across two sites, but serving the community as a while,” he says “I feel a personal responsibility to the people on the Isle of Sheppey to provide their children with the very best education possible.

“And yes, we aren’t where we want to be right now, but we are moving in the right direction and I’ve managed to do that through the support of the staff, parents and administrators.

“The biggest challenge I’ve first in my first year was developing relationships and trust with the parents. That’s where a lot of my focus had been, especially with the introduction of things like the Pupil Passport system. And, of course, another tough area is aiming for a good OFSTED report. The school has struggling but we know the work we are doing with the pupils deserves more and we intend to prove that.”

PUPIL PASSPORT

In a nutshell, the 3 P’s Passport concept may sound like putting an entire school on permanent report, but Cavadino insists it’s also a great tool to ensure pupils are positively rewarded for their efforts on a daily basis. The passport works on a point scoring system, positively and negatively.

The principal explains: “By scoring behavioral points the pupils can score negatives, of course, but they can also achieve positive point scores which is instilling confidence and responsibility across the school.”

But he admits it’s hardly been plain sailing. He was surprised, at least initially, by a backlash from some parents. Cavadino says: “Pupil Passport was met with resistance, but not from teachers. Across the board, they’ve supported the initiative fully. Some parents were upset that the controls over the passport system with strict. But they’re strict for everybody and now things have settled down I’d like to think the parents are appreciating the fact they can monitor their child’s performance on a daily basis.

“I made sure to try to speak to as many parents as possible. I met with every one that requested a meeting with me, and I hope I put their minds at ease. Yes, it’s taken some time to be fully implemented and be accepted by some. But it’s a process I believe is working, both for teachers and parents and most importantly the pupils themselves.”

The initiative has also caught the attention of other 47 Oasis Academy’s across the country. Cavadino believes while Sheppey may be the first, they’re unlikely to be the last that take up the performance tracking concept. He adds: “We are the only Oasis Academy using the passport system I introduced, but we may not be the last.

“We have a site in South Bank that’s actually scoring excellent on the OFSTED chart, yet they have taken an interest in the system we’ve introduced here.”

TWO SCHOOLS

Meanwhile, as for working across two sites, John has become adept at travelling the two-miles between the two schools over the past 18 months, but is quick to praise the faulty who do the same – and the performances of the department heads who successfully run the rule over two sets of pupils at once.

“It can be challenging running two sites. It’s like being principle of two schools at once, with 11–18 year olds based at two sites two miles apart. There’s also two sets of staff, with only a handful of teachers working out of both facilities, like psychology for instance.

“But the heads of each department have autonomy over both sites, so the pupils are working at the same pace and on the same topics from the curriculum.”

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey has struggled to hit its performance standards in recent years, dogged by a souring reputation across the south coast. But Cavadino believes the tide has turned back in his favour, and is confident of greater things to come from the dreaded OFSTED report in the future.

“OFSTED is very important, I believe that. It’s important to have a scale that schools can aim to climb,” he states. “We have had our challenges but I believe we’ve turned the corner and we are aiming to achieve a ‘good’ in the future, which would signify that we are doing great work with the pupils at our academy. It would also be a just reward for the staff, who work and commitment is matched by my own.”

One area in which the school, and indeed John, have already excelled is with their work with Teach First. The academy has become a standout location for the teacher training enterprise and has produced many excellent new members of staff from which the school and pupils are now greatly benefitting from.

Cavadino finished: “I am very proud of the work we’ve done in conjunction with Teach First, yes. We’ve become something of a centre of excellence for them due to the fact we’ve taken trainees and made them an integral part of the school.

“We now have staff who came through the Teach First process with us working here full-time, and, in fact, Teach First have asked me to speak at their next conference.”

Living proof that hard work, fresh ideas and perseverance will pay off in the end. John Cavadino is doing great things for the Kent community on Sheppey and for that every parent and child should be very grateful.

JOHN CAVADINO’S PRINCIPAL ADVICE

if you’re new to the headmaster’s chair

  1. Listen… to teachers, parents and to pupils.
  2. Stay Resolute… it can be challenging at times but you have to believe in your decisions and see them through.

Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey

Head Office: East Campus – Minster Road, Minster on Sea, Kent ME12 3JQ

West Campus – Marine Parade, Sheerness, Kent ME12 2BE

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