Great Yarmouth Charter Academy principal vows to turn around school after controversy over new rules

PUBLISHED: 18:20 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:24 18 September 2017

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

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


The new principal of Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, which made headlines over its strict new rules, has invited parents with concerns over discipline to visit the school and insisted his approach is about compassion.

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.
Picture: David HannantGreat Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: David Hannant

Barry Smith said if he’s given time to turn the former high school around, the pupils will “learn, learn, learn, like they’ve never learned before”.

The school been the subject of national debate after its tough behaviour policies were revealed at the weekend. They included confiscating phones for up to four months, sick buckets in classrooms for unwell children and a suggested bedtime of 9.30pm for pupils.

They divided opinion and sparked a national debate - and, on Tuesday, the school softened its stance, releasing new rules which omitted many of the more controversial points.

Pupils are still told to walk in single file, track the teacher during lessons and make eye contact whenever speaking to staff, while mobile phones can still be taken for up to six weeks if seen or heard.

We spoke to new principal Mr Smith about the approach.

How confident are you the new approach can turn the school around?

I’m 100pc confident. I’m 100pc - and I’ll tell you why. I’ve got cracking staff behind me. I never imagined in a million years I’d get teachers of this quality, they are amazing. Their commitment, their endeavour.

Principal Barry Smith.
Picture: Inspiration TrustPrincipal Barry Smith. Picture: Inspiration Trust

I’ve asked them to do things and said ‘I can’t make you, because you’ve got your contract and so on, but if you could eat with the kids at lunch time it does make a big difference’. I ask once, they’re there every day. These staff are cracking, they really are.

All the stuff we do is about Charter - ‘that’s Charter that is’. When [kids] go to job interviews, people are going to go ‘he’s Charter he is, he’s special’.

I give them the tales my dad gave me - it saved me. The council estate I was brought up in, the squalor I could have ended up in, the crime I could have ended up in. But me and my family escaped because my parents gave me something special - they told us we were top of the pyramid and that’s exactly the message I give these kids... Yarmouth kids can.

MORE: School softens its stance on tough behaviour rules after dividing opinion

What would you say to parents who believe in discipline, but feel these rules have gone too far?

Come to school. Come in, look at the lessons, meet the kids, see their happy faces - and give me time to turn this place around. These kids are going to learn, learn, learn like they’ve never learned before.

Also, talk to my teachers - some of them have been here for donkeys years and have given so much of their life to these kids. Talk to those teachers - you know them and hopefully you trust those teachers - you should.

So many parents have come in, a little tear in their eye, can’t believe the order because they knew what it was like when it was a war zone. Now it’s a very, very different place. Now, we’re going up and up and up. It’s onwards and upwards, all the way.

What have been the main issues you need to address at the academy?

[Behaviour] has been a huge problem. Staff tell me all the time how they were abused on a regular basis, that they were spat at, sworn at, physically attacked. Staff have had a long history of that, they were on their knees - that has to stop.

No teacher deserves that, no kid deserves that. You know what the examination results have been, for years and years and years.

No parent in their right mind could turn around and go ‘we want the school to stay as it was’. You are worried, they’re your kids, you love them - come in and see what we do and you’ll walk away reassured.

Contrary to popular belief I’m not Attila the Hun. I’m a man who’s spent his entire career working with kids because I love working with kids and I’m not about exam results solely and purely - though I want those exam results for the kids for their future.

I’m about compassion, I’m about raising model citizens. I’m about courtesy, I’m about raising kids to speak with confidence.

MORE: Phones confiscated for weeks and sick buckets in the classroom - tough new rules at Norfolk school

Do you accept that this is a particularly tough approach?

I would say that it is a compassionate approach. It’s cruel to allow a child to misbehave. It’s cruel to tell a child ‘you arrive late, fine’. You’re rude to teachers fine, you don’t work, fine, you swear at teachers, fine, throw missiles at teachers fine. That’s cruel.

What are we breeding if we allow children to do that?

Those kids deserve so much more than that.

What are your thoughts on the rules? Leave your comments below.

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