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

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

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

Parents have been left divided by a new Norfolk's academy's strict behaviour rules – which include confiscating phones for up to four months.

Great Yarmouth High School became the Great Yarmouth Charter Academy at the start of August, having been taken over by the Inspiration Trust.

A new principal was announced after the high school received the lowest GCSE results in the county in the summer, with just one in three pupils achieving a pass in English and maths.

Barry Smith, who takes over from Louise Jackson, has now taken the lead at the school. He is cofounder, and former deputy principal, at the notoriously strict Michaela Community School in London, which has built a reputation for being one of the toughest schools in the country.

Mr Smith told parents in a letter that would not tolerate 'the indiscipline, the disrespect, the bullying the truancy and the lack of parental support'.

Now, a series of behaviour rules in an internal document at the school have been revealed - an approach which the trust says is key to improve both behaviour and results.

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It includes confiscating mobile phones if they are seen or heard until the end of the next half term - or, if they are taken in the last two weeks of any term, until the following half terms.

It means, the document says: 'If we confiscated your phone in the last two weeks of summer term we will keep your phone until mid-October. That's almost four months. If your phone accidentally goes off or accidentally falls out of your pocket we confiscate it.'

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Pupils who hesitate to hand it over will be put in isolation.

It also says that pupils must walk in 'single file' between lessons, not talking to other pupils or turning around.

Elsewhere, it tells pupils they must 'only ever look at your teacher or where your teacher has directed you to look' and that they must 'never get out of [their] chair without permission at Charter'.

MORE: Parents concern over new schooling approach at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy

It also warns students to not make excuses to get out of learning.

'You never lie and make excuses like, 'I just wanted to put something in the bin'. We all know children say things like that to get out of work. You never pretend to be ill to get out of work because we expect you to work through it. If you feel sick we will give you a bucket. If you vomit - no problem! You've got your bucket. That's probably all your body wanted - to vomit. If you are really ill we will make sure you get all the attention you need.'

There's also instructions for pupils out of school, including 'as soon as you finish school you go straight home', a 9.30pm bedtime and a 6.30am alarm.

Teachers are referred to as the 'unquestioned authority' in the classroom.

The rules are likely to leave parents divided - with many in support of a tough new system, and others concerned.

Kelvin Seal, who set up the Facebook group for worried parents, said some children had been left in tears on their first day.

'No-one is against discipline at the school – I am quite a strict parent and I do think the school needs discipline, but I was shocked to see the children crying on their first day,' he said. 'We're not talking four and five-year-olds, it was 11-year-olds who had been quite excited about their first day.'

He claimed one girl, who was 'a bag of nerves', had been told if she did not look teachers in the eye when greeting them, she could leave.

But for some parents, the new rules were a timely solution.

Commenting on our website, one person said: 'Good for him. Clearly all was not well in a school where only three in 10 pupils managed to pass maths and English GCSE.'

And Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said: 'The pupils in the school deserve to have the best opportunity to get a great education.

'The new leadership at the school has a track record of doing just that and seeing a new approach to take the school forward can only be in the best interest of all the pupils and their families and our wider Great Yarmouth community.'

The Inspiration Trust said Charter had now developed a stricter approach - but that it was needed to drive up performance.

Spokesman James Goffin said: 'This summer Great Yarmouth High returned the lowest GCSE results in the county, and for many years has underperformed compared to other schools in the borough. We don't believe this is good enough, and we don't believe it is because our pupils are any less able. What they need is the right environment to learn and succeed.

'Children can't learn in unruly classrooms. Charter has a stricter approach to things like behaviour and uniform so that everyone gets the chance to learn. Our teachers cannot do this alone: we need families to back the school 100pc so pupils get a consistent message at home and in school.

'Unfortunately there has been a lot of rumour and inaccurate information spread on social media that has understandably concerned some parents and pupils.

'Mr Smith has already met with several parents individually, and the academy will be holding a meeting for all parents in the coming days so they can hear first hand what Great Yarmouth Charter Academy is really all about.'

He said while there is an over-arching trust-wide policy on behaviour, behaviour and rewards procedures can vary between schools.

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