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Response to press article

posted 4 May 2017, 05:38 by Karen Bricknell   [ updated 5 May 2017, 03:38 ]
Students at Sandown Bay Academy wish to express their concern over the article in the local newspaper on Friday 28th April. They want to share their views:

Letter from School Council

We at the school council of the so-called “Academy of misery” were both confused and upset over how the press reported on Sandown Bay Academy’s current state. We feel that not only does it over dramatise the situation but it also doesn’t correctly show what Sandown Bay is or represents.

Firstly, in the report not once did it have the opinions or views of any student and even worse it only ever mentioned the students of our school in a negative light. We feel that by doing this the County Press are painting all students at Sandown in the same way, “out-of-control” and violent. The report fails to mention all of the successes of students and instead treats them as assets or simply the problem. At any school the students are number-one priority, Sandown is no different.

Secondly the County Press blows out of proportion the opinions of one, unnamed, member of staff who stated “the school was not safe” and “classroom violence was commonplace” both of which are simply not true. There are many members of staff who are happy to work with and educate the students here at Sandown.

Finally, throughout the report there was no sign of hope or positivity for Sandown Bay, we feel that this shows the school in a negative light and even makes newcomers nervous about joining. We do not want to send out these false, negative feelings about Sandown because that simply isn’t our school. Sandown Bay is no different to any other school, there will be bullying and poor behaviour at every school just as there is hope and outstanding students at every school. We at the school council wish to deal with and help those who need it and show our amazing achievements to newcomers and parents. Reporting on only the negatives of our school isn’t right as we take pride in being pupils of Sandown Bay Academy, we are not just an “Academy of misery”.

Written by Isaac Lethbridge on behalf of Sandown Bay Academy’s school council.   

Comments from students

 “I think the article in last week’s press was both ridiculous and unacceptable. This is why I am writing about my experience at Sandown Bay Academy. Firstly in my two years here at Sandown I have not come across any bullying. As far as I know the school maintains a friendly and safe atmosphere which is essential in any school to ensure the best grades.

Secondly, our behaviour department is exceptional. Personally I am offended how they called my friends, classmates and I out of control. I am in mixed sets and in all of them the behaviour is great. Of course there are always one of two students that have to be dealt with but that happens in every school. Within 5 minutes the behaviour team would be there and would have dealt with the student.

Lastly, I just want to say Sandown Bay Academy is a place that I love being at. If I have any trouble I feel like I could talk to any one of the caring staff.”


“Students have read your article and believe that most of it is not true, we are angry and question why you only highlight bad things. This school has amazing opportunities, for example, the success in Global Rock, the sporting opportunities and fantastic facilities. We have a successful rowing team who recently competed at the National Indoor Rowing competition with students in Year 8 and all the way up to Sixth Form. This school is thriving and it needs to be recognised.”


“No school is perfect, but to me, my school is great.”


“The press comments about SBA are outrageous. There are not fights, we are friendly and helpful to other students and teachers. Every day I’m smiling because our students are so nice and helpful, no one is left without help or a friend.”


“This is my last year at Sandown, having started in year 8 and now completing my second year in sixth form. Throughout my time here, and especially whilst at sixth form, I have been incredibly grateful for the fantastic teachers and staff that put so much more effort into teaching than anyone should expect them to. They are clearly passionate about their subjects, and nothing is ever too much to ask. For all the negative press that Sandown receives, the one thing that should always be stressed is that the hard work of the teachers must never be underestimated. I would not be where I am now, without the skills and attitude of the teachers here.”


"Throughout my years at Sandown, there have been many inspiring teachers, they have gone beyond the curriculum to support and encourage my interest in all fields and help develop skills beyond just what I require for my future path.”


“There have been so many amazing things happening at our Academy, for example, our Global Rock team (thanks to the Performing Arts department) came 3rd for the first time in a long while. We have been having sporting success for a long time now. The teachers are wonderful, i'm not bragging here but every teacher I have had has always been nice and kind and understanding.”

“Having had issues with illness recently my performance in school was greatly affected - and I found teachers to be very compassionate, with the sixth form team helping me wherever they could. My lessons are well taught. It is not fair to the school to suggest that there are "unruly students" or that there is little behaviour management, which seemed to be a message in the recent media article. Stories like this, which do not appear to be based much on fact, could be very detrimental to the Academy.”


“As a sixth former, the teaching quality in my subjects is brilliant.”


“I have been part of Sandown Bay Academy since year 7 and I am currently studying in Year 12, I have had unwavering support and attention from both teachers and support staff”.


“SBA has so many opportunities for students to get involved in. Our school is about sport and in sport you have good teamwork, that is what our school big team. Global Rock is a great team. We have an amazing library and sports.”

Members of staff have also expressed concern over the article...

“I am absolutely appalled at the terrible reporting on the front page of the County Press. The whole headline was based on one letter from a member of staff without investigating the feelings of the other 180 staff who work here. As a school we are here for our students and the headline has a damaging impact on staff and students who are about to embark on exams which will affect the rest of their lives. As a member of staff I do not see fights every day, behaviour is dealt with appropriately and I have had nothing but support from the leadership team in the school”.

“I am horrified at how poor Sandown Bay Academy is being portrayed in the press. It is no different from any other secondary school on the Isle of Wight. Our staff work tirelessly to help students achieve their best”.

“I feel saddened that one person's inaccurate view of Sandown Bay Academy has made front page news. I feel saddened that a community newspaper reported this view without a counterbalance argument. Sickness absence, student behaviour and funding cuts affect all schools, these are not unique to SBA, and these issues are nowhere near as reported. The students and staff are working hard as we approach the exam season. Sandown Bay Academy should be recognised for the students many achievements.”

“Never have I had the pleasure of working with such committed staff and students under such extraordinary conditions. The will and enthusiasm of the staff to engage the students over rides any apprehension any student has, whatever the subject. I am proud to call myself a member of Sandown Bay Academy”.

“I along with many other staff were heartbroken to read the County Press article last week; the front page of a newspaper describing a school that I did not recognise”.

“I produce the Academy newsletter and manage the social media pages; I am never short of a success story to share, there is so much going on at Sandown and so many opportunities for our students. In the last couple of weeks alone we have come third in the southern regional final of Global Rock, our Young Enterprise team are through to the regional finals of the Young Enterprise competition, 2 Year 9 students are through to the regional finals of the Create & Cook competition, over 150 students took part in Inter house cross country, Year 13 students have offers from top universities all over the country, we were successful at the Inter School Show jumping competition, students completed a Duke of Edinburgh expedition and over £900 was raised for Comic Relief through Red House Mufti Day. These opportunities for students are provided by the dedicated staff who go above and beyond what is expected of them in the classroom, they give up their evenings, their weekends and their holidays to give students these opportunities which enrich their school life.”

“ I am saddened that an article could firstly be written by a member of staff which in my opinion is so far removed from the truth about SBA. I feel very let down by the County Press in publishing the article but i guess 'false news' is nothing new and if it shifts papers who cares. The reality at SBA is that our students historically and today are overwhelmingly kind, helpful and pleasant students. All staff work hard and even with the threat of redundancies (again) endeavour to deliver quality education to the students in our care.”


“I was very angry to read the false picture the County Press gave about Sandown Bay Academy. I love working here and I feel I am treated very well. We have many excellent staff, teachers and many fantastic students”.


“Many SBA staff work hard and sacrifice their own personal time to provide the best they can for students. The unprecedented circumstance set by suffering a major cyber attack at the start of this academic year, has again only reinforced the quality within the staff body, to continue operating in situations less than ideal. The article, was based upon one individuals biased perception.”


“As a teacher, ex-pupil and parent of two children currently at Sandown Bay Academy, I was disappointed to read the article. The picture painted by the article is as different from the reality as Picasso's self portrait drawn in 1965 was from the real image. There were of course elements of reality but these elements could be applied to anyone of the number of schools in which I have taught and indeed to the majority of schools in the country. On a daily basis I see positive students working hard, contributing to the school community in sport, art, music and drama, working collaboratively, showing respect to their peers and members of staff and just generally getting on with their education. Occasionally things go wrong but this is the exception and most definitely not the rule. The term 'fake news' seems to be commonplace but unfortunately this 'fake news' has gone one step too far and will only succeed in damaging the opportunities and outcomes for students who deserve so much better.”

“I have been teaching here for 8 years, I was a pupil at the school and was inspired to become a teacher by my own teachers, many of whom are now my colleagues. I have had experience teaching in two other secondary schools on the island, both of which do not even come close to exceeding the community spirit, the extra-curricular opportunities and talented, inspirational teaching than Sandown has to offer. I am surrounded by committed teachers and enthusiastic students who love our school and what it stands for. What Sandown has to offer with regards to its house system and extra-curricular opportunities is only something the other schools can look up to and try to emulate. With regards to bullying, poor behaviour and violence within our school I can confirm that I have never been a witness to this. I only see positive behaviour, motivated pupils and dedicated staff in this school. I wake up every single day looking forward to coming to work at Sandown. I am proud to be part of this school.”

“Being brand new to SBA and coming from an "outstanding" school, I was horrified to read the article in the paper as that has NOT been my experience of the school. I have found the staff to be exceptionally friendly, welcoming, helpful and above all dedicated to the students. Being experienced in a number of schools, I feel that one would be hard pressed to find a head of faculty who works harder that those I have met at SBA. I am concerned that a newspaper can print something that is so obviously untrue, poorly researched and biased. What a terrible example to set for the young people of the island and how damaging to the children who attend the school. It is only down to the excellent relationships between staff and students that students are not taking on board the negativity caused by this article, again showing the good in the school. Some of the lessons I have been privy to have been amazing and a visit to catering would have proved this to the journalist. I have not experienced daily fire alarms, fights or out of control students at all and feel that SBA is ahead of the game in a lot of areas including paperwork and behaviour management. Perhaps if the community and newspapers got behind the staff and students, we could work together to improve outcomes for the youngsters.”

“In terms of sport - we are one of the leading schools on the Island. We have an excellent track record of winning leagues or finishing runners-up. Rarely do we finish any lower than that. Playing for teams instills many positive attributes amongst students. Our students are ambassadors for our academy and go out and work in local primary schools. Despite the report in the paper - schools have contacted me this week to check that it is still ok for our students to go out into their schools to help coach and run their sports days. The local schools have faith in us... and they see it from "the shop floor". The report identifies a significantly small % of SBA's population, and when weighed up against the positives makes the report not worth taking notice of. Some people will only ever want to see the bad in something.”

“I have worked in 3 schools on both the mainland and Island - my first school for 5 years, my second for 5 years, and I have been at Sandown for 7 years. I am a good teacher, with a good track record, and lead a department that have results inline or higher than the national average. If the school was as bad as this person has made out, would I still be here after all this time? The school, students and staff have so much to offer, and that is why I am still there - to release this potential from students and staff alike.”

“Firstly - these are the views of what, one staff member? They are certainly not the views of the majority. The school is safe - where is the evidence for "classroom violence being commonplace"? There isn't any because classroom violence is extremely rare and infrequent - I have taught at SBA for 7 years and have not witnessed violence. Equally - I have not witnessed "fighting on a weekly basis". Yes, I've seen the odd scuffle - that is surely to be expected in a school environment, but that said it is not tolerated and it is dealt with. I would question the percentage of sick leave at SBA... is it any higher than other establishments? Are broken computers being reported? I don't feel that this is the reason behind "IT lessons not happening" - but as a result of the cyber-attack and staff not being replaced swiftly enough. There used to be two IT technicians, now only one.”

“I do not think it is an academy of misery, I love working at Sandown even if the staff have not been treated very well, the team I work with are fantastic students are lovely.”

We were also copied into a complaint from an official contractor who works on occasions at SBA

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my disgust about the reporting on the front page of Friday the 28th Aprils County Press titled "Academy of Misery".

I am a building contractor who works on occasions for Sandown Bay Academy.  I have worked on site whilst the school is open as I am DBS registered.  During my visits I have not witnessed any of the behaviour described in the report, I certainly don't feel unsafe working there.  All members of staff are extremely pleasant, friendly and approachable.  The staff at the school seem to always have the best interests of the children in their care, going above and beyond for them.   I am an assistant football coach for the local Sandown and Lake team and we use the Astro at the sports centre one evening a week, leaving at 7.30pm, I still see members of staff at school putting time in for the students.

Sandown Bay Academy staff, students and parents alike do not deserve the badly written press that adorned your front page and I think that it is your duty to make sure that a formal apology be made on your front page in this weeks County Press

Yours Sincerely

Mike Shiner