'Detentions for not smiling': Ex-Norfolk head under fire in new role

Barry Smith, principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: Archant

Barry Smith, principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A former Norfolk headteacher's controversial methods have come under fire again in his new role.

An ITV investigation uncovered emails sent by former Great Yarmouth Charter Academy headteacher Barry Smith, who called pupils "detainees" when handing out detentions in his new role at Hackney New School, in London.

One teacher, speaking anonymously, told ITV they were "encouraged" to give detentions or demerits if pupils were not smiling or "shuffled" when they walked.

Mr Smith began a consultancy role at the Trust in February 2020 after leaving his role in Norfolk.

Shortly before his departure, the school denied he had been suspended, but said he had stepped back from day-to-day operations and was working "centrally on a curriculum project", although they refused to say more.

Former Thetford Academy and East Point Academy principal Kevin Blakey filled the vacancy in Great Yarmouth from September.

The ITV investigation claims an average of around 80 detentions are handed out each day, with more than 7,500 since the start of the new year, while leaked emails show half the population of the school were given detentions on one day last year.

They also claim teaching staff were given a handbook containing apparent sexist language to instruct their teaching.

It allegedly states following rules is considered "feminine" and "boys really, really don't want to be perceived as feminine."


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The Community Schools Trust, which manages the London school, defended most of its practices to ITV, saying stricter measures were needed after they inherited a "broken school", adding pupils behaviour had significantly improved.

They did, however, admit calling pupils "detainees" was inappropriate, and some of the language used in the staff booklet was "unacceptable."

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy has been judged good in all areas by Ofsted inspectors. Picture: Arch

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy has been judged good in all areas by Ofsted inspectors. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Mr Smith's methods, although controversial, were praised by inspectors in July 2019, when Ofsted rated the Great Yarmouth Charter Academy as good in all areas.

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At the time of his arrival, the school was receiving some of the lowest GCSE results in the country, and inspectors praised Mr Smith's decisive actions to improve behaviour and attitudes to learning.

Some of the stricter policies, however, were criticised by parents, including calling out members of the school's uniform supplier to check the length of girls' skirts, while a schoolgirl was banned for wearing a knitted poppy for Remembrance Day.

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