‘We are not child haters’: Charter Academy principal says school has been ‘reclaimed’

Principal at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy Barry Smith. Picture: Inspiration Trust

Principal at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy Barry Smith. Picture: Inspiration Trust - Credit: Archant

The controversial principal of a Great Yarmouth school has been described as having a 'bizarre genius' in an interview with a national newspaper.

Barry Smith, principal of Charter Academy, said the school was 'in chaos' when he arrived last year, with one child being excluded for breaking a teacher's finger, while 'three or four' were kicked out for consistent bad behaviour.

But in an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Mr Smith said the school had been 'reclaimed', and children were now reaping the benefits.

He had previously come under fire for a perceived 'no nonsense' approach to discipline, even saying in a letter to parents that ill children would get a sick bucket, rather than being sent home.

But he said his 'warm and strict' approach was proving successful, with teachers clawing back respect from pupils, and attainment growing - and insisted nothing would change.

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'I'm going to nag about shoes and haircuts,' he said.

'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.

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'The vomit bucket was a flippant, funny comment. The kids know me. We are not child haters. If a kid isn't well, we take them out of a lesson, take them to the office, give them a glass of water, he's fine.

'Remember, we had a culture at this school where kids were permanently out of the classrooms.

'I want the staff to be a force of nature with the kids, to be positive; I want the whole place to buzz with positive energy. That means high standards, that means good eye contact, good chinwags.'

The academy came under fire in July when it was revealed that 81 children had left in the academic year, although another 70 had joined in that time.

Mr Smith defended the numbers in the interview, saying the amount of pupils leaving was fewer than in 2016/17.

His methods are praised by staff in the article. One teacher is reported as saying they cried after his arrival because 'I knew that, finally, things were going to be OK.'

However, Mr Smith said that most teachers are 'praise junkies' who seek approval from regulators such as Ofsted.

He said: '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?

'I want teachers to have pride in their subject, pride in their delivery, pride in the kids – it's all combined.

'When I arrived here I thought I was going to inherit a bunch of dreadful people, but I haven't, I've been very lucky. They're great.'

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