A quick turnaround of a failing school? Norfolking way

19th October 2018, 12:00am
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A quick turnaround of a failing school? Norfolking way

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/quick-turnaround-failing-school-norfolking-way

"I don't have the highest regard for most teachers."

It's not a phrase you'd expect to hear coming out of the mouth of most headteachers. But then again, Barry Smith is not most headteachers.

The controversial leader of the Great Yarmouth Charter Academy has garnered a number of headlines during his time at the Norfolk secondary. Among them were a ban on so-called "Meet me at McDonald's" haircuts, and a memo warning that kids should not be allowed out of lessons if they felt unwell, but instead be handed a sick bucket.

"I'm going to nag about shoes and haircuts," he explains about the controversies. "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.

"The vomit bucket was a flippant, funny comment. The kids know me. We are not child haters."

Smith took over the school at a time when its reputation was at rock bottom. Behaviour was poor, and results were dire.

His techniques, he says, while demanding, were aimed at transforming the school.

And, he adds, it's not a case of "no excuses". Instead, he says the school's approach is "warm and strict".

"If you have 100 kids in a school, 10 kids will be fantastic: whatever happens, they will do well. Eighty kids could step into the dark side given the opportunity, but we're going to reclaim that school for those 80 kids. Then there are the 10 naughty kids who will come on the journey if they want to, but you can only take a horse to water."

Despite the controversy that his approach has had, perhaps the biggest vindication comes from an unsolicited comment from one of his teachers, who was in post at the school before he was appointed: "The day after Smith arrived, I had to stop in my car on the way home for a cry. I knew that, finally, things were going to be OK."

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