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Controversial headteacher steps back from running Norfolk school

PUBLISHED: 12:21 21 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:21 21 January 2020

Barry Smith, principal at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, run by the Inspiration Trust. 
Picture: Angela Sharpe

Barry Smith, principal at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, run by the Inspiration Trust. Picture: Angela Sharpe

Angela Sharpe

A notoriously strict Norfolk headteacher has stepped back from running a Norfolk school.

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

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy headteacher Barry Smith has not been involved with the day-to-day running of the school since early December.

Following a report by Schools Week, a spokesperson for the trust denied Mr Smith had been suspended from his role.

They said: "Barry Smith has not been suspended. He is working centrally on a curriculum project.

"The school is being overseen by the executive principal, as usual, and while the principal is out of school, the deputy principal is taking over the day-to-day operations."

Minister for school standards Nick Gibb visiting the Inspiration Trust run Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Nick Gibb (centre) with headmaster Barry Smith and director of standards Claire Heald. Picture: Angela Sharpe PhotographyMinister for school standards Nick Gibb visiting the Inspiration Trust run Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Nick Gibb (centre) with headmaster Barry Smith and director of standards Claire Heald. Picture: Angela Sharpe Photography

The trust refused to add to the statement and would not allow this newspaper to speak to Mr Smith about his new role.

In July, the school was praised by Ofsted inspectors, who rated the academy as good in all areas and highlighted "high expectations" around learning and behaviour. The report was a stark transformation from when Smith was appointed in 2017, with the school receiving some of the lowest GCSE results in the country.

Inspectors praised Mr Smith's decisive actions to improve behaviour and attitudes to learning, saying that staff, pupils and the very large majority of parents believed that both had improved as a result.

Yet the stricter policies which came with him haven't always been well received in the town.

Members of the school's uniform supplier were called out to check the length of girls' skirts in October 2018, while a schoolgirl was banned from wearing a knitted poppy for Remembrance Day the following month. In February last year, a year 11 pupil was told his "meet me at McDonald's" haircut was unsuitable for school and was put in isolation.

In a letter after his arrival, he warned parents he would not tolerate the "indiscipline, disrespect, bulling, truancy and the lack of parental support," in a move which saw parents hit out at the 'army-like' rules.

Mr Smith is co-founder and former deputy principal at Michaela Community School in London, which has built a reputation for being one of the toughest schools in the country.

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