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

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: David Hannant

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture: David Hannant - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk academy which divided opinion with a strict set of behaviour rules has relaxed its stance in a new policy.

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.
Picture; David Hannant

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. Picture; David Hannant - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, formerly the high school, hit headlines this week after its new principal Barry Smith wrote to parents setting out his tough expectations for the struggling school.

Mr Smith, cofounder of the notoriously strict Michaela Community School in Brent, said he would not allow the previous 'indiscipline' of the school - which became an academy in August - to continue.

The school's tough behaviour rules were then revealed, which included suggested bedtimes of 9.30pm, the threat of mobile phones being confiscated for up to four months and a sick bucket in the classroom if pupils felt unwell.

Now, the school, which is run by the Inspiration Trust, has released a new behaviour guide and written to parents to 'set the record straight'.

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy's logo. Picture: Inspiration Trust

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy's logo. Picture: Inspiration Trust - Credit: Archant

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The rules remain firm, and set out that pupils should address teachers as sir and miss and have an 'attitude of gratitude'.

Principal Barry Smith.
Picture: Inspiration Trust

Principal Barry Smith. Picture: Inspiration Trust - Credit: Archant

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But some of the most controversial points - including the threat of confiscating phones over the summer holidays - have been relaxed.

It says mobile phones will still be confiscated if seen or heard, and will be kept until the following half term, which could be up to six weeks.

It also sets out uniform requirements - including the colour of school bags - which had caused confusion for many parents.

While the new rules call the teacher the 'expert', previous references to them as the 'unquestioned authority' have been removed.

The part of the previous document which said a sick bucket may be provided if pupils felt unwell has also been removed.

Pupils are still asked to 'track the teacher', by keeping their eyes on them whenever they are talking.

'You never turn around - even if you hear a noise behind you,' it says. 'You don't look out of the window. You don't lose focus.'

Toilet breaks during or between lessons are still not permitted and pupils must still walk in single file in corridors.

In the original document, pupils were told to get up at 6.30am and to go to bed at 9.30pm. Much of this section has been removed, but pupils are told that 'as a guide, you should be asleep for 9.30pm at the latest'.

They are also told that 'homework takes priority over any hobbies you may have'.

The trust says that tough rules are necessary to improve performance at what was a struggling school - in August, just one in three pupils gained a pass in English and maths.

The approach divided parents - while some said it was too far, others welcomed a tough stance.

On a poll on our website which has been taken by 5,800 people, 54pc said the rules were appropriate, while 46pc said they were too strict.

MORE: Outrage over army-like schooling at new Norfolk academy

The letter to parents says: 'You no doubt will have seen there has been much press attention on our new Charter academy rules, and a great deal of rumour and speculation on social media.

'I want to set the record straight and hopefully put your minds at rest. We have today published a behaviour and rules guide for parents and pupils on the academy website.

'This sets out the behaviour we expect pupils to follow in a clear and concise manner.

'We ask that pupils are polite and pay attention in class. They call teachers Sir or Miss. They always say please and thank you. They do as they are told - first time every time. These are simple requests, and should not give you or your children any cause for concern.

'We take a strict approach on behaviour so that we do not allow the bad behaviour of a few pupils to disrupt their classmates, and so we can focus on the most important thing: your children's education.

'There are a few particular items that have caused confusion:

'Shoes should be flat black leather-type shoes with enclosed toe and heel; they do not have to be lace up.'

'We recommend pupils have a sturdy backpack. This should ideally be black or navy without logos or branding, but where parents have already purchased bags these can continue to be used.

'I would like to invite you to meet with me on Thursday, September 14, at 5pm, where I will be leading a session to explain my vision for the school, and how you can best support your child's education.

To help the meeting go smoothly, please arrive promptly at 5pm. We also ask that wherever possible you do not bring your children to the meeting, particularly young children and babies.'

The letter, and link to rules, can be found here.

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