Ofsted has backed a school that made international headlines after it banned pupils from having a "meet me at McDonald’s" haircut.
Great Yarmouth Charter Academy in Norfolk introduced a controversially strict behaviour policy in September, when it became an Inspiration Trust academy.
It is led by Barry Smith, previously of the Michaela Community School in Wembley, north-west London, which is often dubbed England’s strictest school.
Ofsted carried out a no-notice inspection of the school on 21 February – the day the academy's haircut policy first hit the headlines – because chief inspector Amanda Spielman “was concerned about the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school”.
Today, the school published a letter from HMI Jason Howard that concludes: “Safeguarding is effective."
The letter says that before the new behaviour policy was introduced, a large number of pupils told the inspector that “they often felt unsafe at school”.
They said that “very often, serious disruption during lessons prevented them from learning anything at all”, while teachers said they also sometimes felt unsafe.
The letter says: “During this unannounced inspection, all of the large number of pupils who spoke with inspectors said that they now feel safe at school.”
'Decline in disruption'
The school’s records show a “considerable decline in the incidence of repeated disruption”, although “the incidence of permanent or temporary exclusion from school, or of internal isolation, though falling, remains too high because the behaviour of a small number of pupils has not improved”.
The letter says that all staff who completed an Ofsted survey said overall behaviour at the school was now positive, and it adds: “Staff and pupils attribute the improvements to leaders’ introduction of a new behaviour policy at the start of the current academic year.”
Mr Howard said that some parents were concerned that a rigid application of the rules might unfairly punish pupils with special educational needs and disability, or that pupils with medical needs would not be allowed to visit the toilet during lesson time.
However, his letter says the text of the behaviour policy “makes clear to staff that they must be flexible when applying it”, and teachers and pupils told inspectors it was “applied with due regard to individual needs”.
The inspector said the school's priorities for further improvement should be to “continue to reduce the incidence of unacceptable behaviour, so that the number of internal exclusions from lessons, and external exclusions from school, falls further”, and increase the overall attendance of pupils.
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