A struggling school which brought in ‘Britain’s toughest headteacher’ to improve discipline has come under fire for hardline tactics such as branding children in detention ‘detainees’.
Hackney New School in inner-city east London has issued more than 7,500 detentions since the start of the year – 80 a day.
On one day last year, more than 150 pupils were given detentions – half the school. But teachers at the secondary have complained that discipline has become excessive, and that they are encouraged to keep children behind for minor infringements such as not smiling or shuffling as they walk.
In February last year, the trust hired controversial teacher Barry Smith, pictured, in a consultancy role to help tackle poor behaviour
The Dalston secondary was taken over by the Community Schools Trust in November 2019 after a damning Ofsted report which raised ‘concerns about behaviour and safety’
Pupils also say they feel oppressed by the ‘toxic environment’ which has been created.
The Dalston secondary was taken over by the Community Schools Trust in November 2019 after a damning Ofsted report which raised ‘concerns about behaviour and safety’.
In February last year, the trust hired controversial teacher Barry Smith in a consultancy role to help tackle poor behaviour.
He was labelled the country’s toughest headteacher in 2017 for his methods of teaching at a school in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.
Parents there criticised his ‘army-like policies’, which included pupils being warned they would be given buckets in class if they needed to be sick.
Mr Smith’s methods have not gone down well in Hackney either, according to ITV News, which has seen leaked emails sent by the teacher calling pupils ‘detainees’.
Four present and former staff have complained, claiming the approach is damaging pupils’ mental health.
One said: ‘We’re encouraged to scrutinise their facial expressions.
‘If they’re not smiling we’re encouraged to give them “demerits” or detentions.
‘Quite frequently they have been described as being lazy, and if they’re shuffling on their feet they can be given demerits.’
Another said they had seen pupils ‘just start sobbing’.
Two pupils also spoke to ITV News. One, who wished to remain anonymous, said a ‘toxic environment’ has been created, while Temilola, 15, said: ‘If we don’t say good morning or good afternoon to a teacher, it’s being rude. It’s oppressing.’
Simon Elliott, chief executive of the Community Schools Trust, said he accepted some of the language being used was ‘completely unacceptable’.
But he added: ‘I must stress to parents that we do have a very fair and strict behaviour system that helps children to achieve.’
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