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Great Yarmouth High School was the worst-performing school in Norfolk, with only 30% of its pupils so much as passing their Maths and English GCSEs this summer.
And now, according to an alarming letter sent by its new headteacher to parents of the school, Great Yarmouth High School no longer exists. It is now Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, having been taken over by the Inspiration Trust, who immediately installed a brand-new headteacher.
The new head is Barry Smith, formerly the deputy principal and co-founder of the Michaela Community School in Wembley – a school with a reputation for being one of the strictest in the country.
Now he is doing everything possible to improve the prospects of Great Yarmouth High – attempting to crack down on children’s behaviour both in and outside the classroom.
Mr Smith’s new rules include supplying buckets for children who are sick instead of letting them leave the classroom and, extraordinarily, demanding parents send their children to bed by 9:00PM at the very latest.
A public group for concerned parents has been created on Facebook, calling the school’s policies “army like”.
The group, “Yarmouth High Worried Parents”, was set up after parents of children at the school received letters from Mr Smith, outlining his extreme expectations and a new set of Academy standards, such as “you never get out of your chair without permission at Charter.”
The Inspiration Trust’s spokesperson James Goffin believes that these outlandish measures are justified, stating that “Children can’t learn in unruly classrooms”. However, certain other rules – such as the fact that traditional black leather or leather-like shoes must be worn and the banning of phones even outside of lessons – show that making classrooms less “unruly” is not the Academy’s only concern.
Indeed, Mr. Smith’s letter even blamed parents for the school’s incompetence, stating that “pupil indiscipline was commonplace and many parents simply did not support the school.”
Students who fail to obey any of the new rules – which include a total ban on chewing-gum – will be immediately sent to isolation.
A Spreading Concern
Great Yarmouth High isn’t the only school in the county stepping up its strictness in attempt to improve its reputation. Tim Gibbs, headteacher of Reepham High, hopes the school’s new ban on mobile phones will allow teachers to focus on learning.
While it cannot be doubted that the use of mobile phones in classrooms can be distracting (and if you do have any doubt, a report by the Centre for Economic Performance proves it), there is also evidence to suggest that playing games on phones during breaktimes can improve pupils’ concentration and boost results in class.
If a school wants to improve their results, first and foremost it must improve their facilities and, more than anything else, the standard of teaching. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be achieved alongside a Tory government who have been constantly slashing school budgets for years.
While James Goffin asserts that pupils need “the right environment to learn and succeed“, an oppressive environment which forces students to wear a specific type of shoe will in no way improve learning.
Parents of students at Great Yarmouth High have hit back at the headtacher’s demands, with Steven Holmes saying his daughter came home in tears after her first day of high school. “This isn’t about discipline”, he said. “It’s bullying.”
The Academy will hold a meeting for all parents “so they can hear first hand what Great Yarmouth Charter Academy is really all about.”
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