Protest at harsh rules that turn children into 'zombies'

Parents are protesting against the strict regime at a new academy that they claim is turning their children into "zombies".

Trinity academy, near Doncaster, is sponsored by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation which has previously attracted controversy for teaching creationist theory in its schools. But this time it is the school's no-nonsense disciplinary code that is making waves.

A group of parents, whose children attended the school that Trinity replaced in September, say they are shocked at the tough punishments for what they see as minor offences. They have formed a support group, which has already attracted the backing of parents of 40 pupils.

Pauline Woods, one of the founders, said: "There are 1,500 pupils in that school but you can go in there and hear a pin drop. I think it is very strange."

She said her daughter Catherine Hodgson had never had a detention in the previous school. But last term the 15-year-old had received up to two hours a week for minor offences such as speaking out in class.

"It is as if any child that has got any sort of spirit or is prepared to speak out about things there is being slammed down straight away," she said.

"I think parents are afraid their children are going to turn out like little zombies."

Janet Barwell, another founder, is appealing against her son's permanent exclusion for being caught smoking three times, the last occasion outside the school grounds.

She said that Chris, 15, had never been in trouble before and last summer received an award for his good behaviour, manners, attendance and attitude to learning.

"I am disgusted," she said. "They are there to educate not to destroy a good lad's future over a cigarette."

Ian Brew, Trinity principal, says he makes no apology for creating the good behaviour and order necessary to raise standards. The figures for exclusions were in line with those for the school which the academy had replaced, he said.

There had been only two permanent exclusions in the first term and around 100 temporary ones "The vast majority of parents are delighted with the discipline, order and calm which exists in the academy," he said.

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