RACHEL MOORE OPINION: Great Yarmouth Charter Academy head gets my full marks in behaviour battle

PUBLISHED: 07:19 14 September 2017 | UPDATED: 21:40 14 September 2017

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture; David Hannant

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture; David Hannant


Great Yarmouth academy principal Barry Smith is right to make a stand on good behaviour, says our columnist Rachel Moore.

If babies came with an instruction manual from birth to 18, what a wonderful world it would be.

A step-by-step guide to bringing up decent, polite and considerate individuals - with strict penalties for parents who failed to follow the basic foundations - would make parenting, the hardest job, so much easier, and life just a breeze.

I read this manual yesterday. The collection of behaviour rules and expectations of students at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy could be marketed and make a mint as The Essential Guide to Creating Well-Behaved Young People.

As Norfolk’s worst-performing school this summer, where less than a third of young people achieved GCSE passes in English and maths, and apparently found saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a challenge, new principal Barry Smith is getting tough and going back to basics.

MORE: Great Yarmouth Charter Academy parents to meet principal in meeting over strict new rules

But, instead of thanking him for doing his damnedest to give their children a chance in life, some parents were furious he had turned to discipline as the answer.

Some parents couldn’t have been more angry if head Barry Smith was ordering daily snorting of cocaine and packing them off to people traffickers.

How dare he try to instill manners and positive behaviour into a place so disrespectful and disruptive?

How dare he insist on respect for each other and his staff, for his pupils to say please, thank you, smile, have eye contact, open doors for people, be kind and help people?

MORE: Inspiration Trust’s Great Yarmouth Charter Academy softens its stance on tough behaviour rules after dividing opinion

Social media was filled with outrage that Mr Smith should expect their children’s sentences in class to end with the ‘full stop” of Sir or Miss.

“Charter is built upon mutual respect,” the rules state. “ We say “sir and miss” to teachers. We say “thank you”. We say “excuse me”. We say “please”. We smile when we greet people, both inside and outside school.”

Some were outraged by the zero tolerance on mobile phones in school, the suggestion that children should be in bed by 9.30, and some of the sanctions.

“If we allow you to hold on to old habits of laziness, selfishness, rudeness, excuse-making, sulking, and feeling sorry for yourself, we are not helping you grow up into responsible, successful adults.” Quite. Growing into employable adults who know how to behave.

MORE: Investigation launched into Great Yarmouth Charter Academy’s exclusion policy

Confiscation of phones is theft, they shouted, ignoring the fact that mobile phones in the classroom are the biggest distraction and barrier to learning.

These parents need the rules as much as their children.

Rude, ill-behaved children are everywhere. Staff on a ferry to Ireland shut up the duty-free shop last month because of rampaging children. A PA announcement reminded parents they were responsible for their unruly offspring noisily racing around the decks. It happened on most crossings, staff said.

The parents seemed surprised. But we witness this behaviour and parental negligence every day.

Children are turning up to reception class at four ruined before they start, still in nappies because parents haven’t bothered to potty train, never having eaten using cutlery, with stunted communication skills, no manners nor consideration. Feral but entitled, knowing all their rights but no responsibility.

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

I’m a teacher’s daughter – a strict teacher’s daughter who cringed as my father tolerated no bad behaviour, disruption or rudeness within the school gates.

I’ve lost count of his former pupils, now in their late 50s and 60s, who credit him for shaping an attitude that prepared them for the real world.

One, a long time national business leader credits him with instilling discipline and application in him – by threatening not to pick him, the star striker, for his football team if he didn’t perform in his subject. He went on to get an O level in it - and score regular hat tricks.

But children-taming has increasingly become a teacher’s responsibility, with dreams of passionately sharing their subject with attentive eager-to-learn pupils smashed by having to play crowd control bouncers, babysitters and peacekeepers in the classroom.

MORE: Parents outraged over ‘army like’ schooling rule at new Great Yarmouth Charter Academy

Children learn from their parents’ behaviour. We see rudeness, lack of self-control, a sense of entitlement, aggression, confrontation, bad language and laziness every day.

Mr Smith is simply trying to give those students a better chance than their parents have given them. Guilt and exposure as a parent of a badly-behaved child fuels the attacks.

“Charter teachers are tough on bad choices because we want to make you a better person in the long run. We teach you to break your old habits and learn new empowering habits that will make you successful in life. Charter teachers care enough to be strict,” the rules say.

Parents have been invited to the school to meet Mr Smith this evening to hear his vision for the school.

I wonder how many will turn up?

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