Barry Smith is proving a point. He leads me around the corridors of his school at a manic pace, bursting into classrooms seemingly at random. And once he has thrown himself in front of the pupils and their teacher, he begins to chant poetry – Invictus, Oziemandias or the like. Remarkably, the teenagers then all put their hands on their chests and bellow the words back in unison. Tes reports.
If you know Great Yarmouth Charter Academy (GYCA) in Norfolk, or rather if you know the reputation of the school on social media since Smith took over, this may not surprise you: he was once deputy head of London’s notorious Michaela Community School, which is known for no-nonsense behaviour management and routines of chanting of the kind on show here.
Until last summer, this was a school in a mess. Behaviour management had completely failed, and had been failing for almost as long as anyone in the town could remember; perhaps inevitably, the results were rock bottom. They were among the very worst, in fact, in Norfolk and Suffolk – an area already renowned for underperformance.
He has not kept his head down in his first headship – quite the opposite. Since his arrival, GYCA has become a regular in the news pages. Most famously, he issued a diktat banning so-called “meet me at McDonald’s” haircuts. And then there was the memo warning that kids should not be allowed out of lessons if they felt unwell, but instead be handed a sick bucket.
The controversy reached such a crescendo that regulator Ofsted ordered a special inspection in February. In Great Yarmouth, if they thought this was to be the end of what they believed to be a bizarre, trippy nightmare, they would be disappointed: the inspection exonerated Smith and his team of any wrongdoing – and even praised its improvements.
The impression you get is that this is a quietly organised school in which respect, not discipline, is the number one priority.
But what about all the stories? The haircuts, the sick buckets?
“I’m going to nag about shoes and haircuts,” he replies. “I’m going to nag about skirt lengths and I’m going to nag about great big eyebrows on girls. I like one haircut, one head.”
“I do want absolute silence when I’m teaching. But a kid happy at school is one who is made to work hard, but has a head that is buzzing with ‘wow, I’ve learnt lots’. That’s what a school should be.”
“I don’t have the highest regard for most teachers. Too many teachers are praise junkies. They’re observed and get appraisals and they give people what they want. But teachers need to think for themselves; what if Ofsted said we want you to hit children with sticks?”
Read the full article Welcome to the most controversial school in Britain…
Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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