Headteacher of Pimlico Academy who sparked race row revolt QUITS

Headteacher of Pimlico Academy who sparked race row revolt QUITS

05/18/2021

Headteacher of Pimlico Academy who sparked race row revolt QUITS after school was rocked by mass pupil protests over ‘racist’ uniform policy, changing of curriculum, and the Union flag was torched

  • Daniel Smith will ‘step down’ as Pimlico Academy head before end of half term
  • Thanked staff for ‘ongoing commitment to our students’ in an email to the faculty
  • Mr Smith introduced ‘back to basics’ uniform policy after starting in September
  • Included banning hairstyles that ‘block people’s view’ and ‘too colourful’ hijabs 
  • Critics claimed this was discriminatory against Muslims and people with Afro hairstyles at the school

A London secondary school headteacher whose policies sparked a race row has quit.

Daniel Smith will ‘step down’ as headmaster of Pimlico Academy before the end of half term.

He thanked staff for their ‘ongoing commitment to our students’ in an email to the faculty today.

‘Disciplinarian’ Mr Smith introduced a ‘back to basics’ uniform policy after starting at the school in September 2020. 

This included banning hairstyles that ‘block people’s view’ and hijabs that are ‘too colourful’. 

Critics claimed this was discriminatory against Muslims and people with Afro hairstyles at the school, where three quarters of children are from ethnic minorities.

The outcry had also extended to include other policies claimed to be ‘discriminatory’, including changes to the history curriculum to make it more chronological, which protesters said emphasised white kings and queens over BAME figures.

Daniel Smith (pictured) will ‘step down’ as headmaster of Pimlico Academy before the end of half term, as he thanked staff for their ‘ongoing commitment to our students’ in an email to the faculty 

‘Disciplinarian’ Mr Smith (pictured in April) introduced a ‘back to basics’ uniform policy after starting at the school in September 2020 

Hateful graffiti appeared on the walls of Pimlico Academy in April calling for the expulsion of Mr Smith

The messages, which read ‘They want to expel the students for speaking out’ and ‘Expel the racist headteacher’, have since been covered over by Pimlico Academy

Mr Smith caved to the protesters in April by removing the flag and agreeing to revise the uniform policy after pupils and staff alike staged a mass mutiny in March.  

But senior management are said to have since taken a hardline approach by threatening to expel students who mutinied. 

In April, the school was vandalised with hateful graffiti reading ‘expel the racist headmaster’ as pupils returned to class after the Easter holidays.

Earlier today, Mr Smith sent an email around to staff at the school informing them that he was quitting his post.

The message, seen by MailOnline, read: ‘I informed the trust earlier this term of my intention to step down from my position as Principal of Pimlico Academy. 

‘The Trust have agreed to this and I will leave the Academy at the end of this half term.

The Union flag that usually flies outside the school all year round was still up before the protests

Now: The Union flag was no longer flying at Pimlico Academy in London on April 1, the day after a revolt by pupils

Protesting pupils’ list of demands presented to the head – and what he has already agreed to

A statement purporting to be from the pupil protesters breaks down their ‘demands’. 

An extract from this document is shown below, with changes that headteacher Daniel Smith has agreed to marked by an asterisk and italics. 

DISCRIMINATION  

We believe the school has unfairly targeted groups of students. The school should protect marginalised races, religions and other groups instead of target them.  

*CHANGE, UNION FLAG – Mr Smith has agreed to take down the Union Flag pending a review. Protesters at the school, where three-quarters of pupils are from ethnic minorities – had claimed it was ‘antagonistic’ and did not represent them. 

RACISM

The academy placed new rules that would punish students with Afro hairstyles, clearly discriminating against Black students.

*CHANGE, HAIR POLICY – The new wording still demands that hairstyles are ‘conventional’ but no longer includes the term ‘understated’ or references to styles that ‘block the view of others’.

Students were outraged that there was no recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement or Black History Month.

*CHANGE, PSHE CURRICULUM – Mr Smith said the school will change the PSHE syllabus to include a discussion of ‘current affairs’ – a likely reference to BLM.

ISLAMOPHOBIA

The academy has faced further accusations of discrimination for saying hijabs must be black but other clothing can be any colour. This challenges young Muslim girls’ identity.

The new uniform policy includes that ‘if students choose to wear a headscarf, it must completely cover the hair’. This is harmful and insensitive towards girls who have just started to wear the hijab or are struggling with it. It is a personal choice which shouldn’t be decided by authorities who haven’t experienced this. 

*CHANGE, HEADSCARVES: References to headscarves being ‘conventional and understated in style’ are removed – although the school reinforced its policy that hijabs must be black or blue, in keeping with the school’s colours. 

TRANSPHOBIA

We believe the idea of gendered uniform for all students is a ridiculous, backwards ideal. This ostracises non-binary and gender non-conforming students, or those who are struggling with their gender identity.

‘I am pleased to announce that Mr Tony Oulton will take up the post of Acting Principal from the start of next term. 

‘I will be working with Tony to ensure a smooth transition in the coming weeks.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing commitment to our students in what has been the most challenging of times.’

The National Education Union – which supported the March 31 demonstration shortly before the Easter holidays – said 32 members of staff have handed in their notices since September. 

Changes brought in by Mr Smith were overseen by the school’s parent academy chain, which is chaired by Conservative peer Lord Nash, 72. 

On April 13, Lord Nash told parents: ‘Any repeat of the actions on the final day of term would jeopardise students’ education. 

We all need to work together to ensure that this does not happen again and learn the lessons from it. 

‘We must particularly ensure that our students, your children, understand the consequences of any future disobedience, which will undoubtedly result in disciplinary action.’

A letter on April 15 sent by Mr Smith thundered: ‘Any repeat of the actions on the final day of term would jeopardise students’ education. 

‘I need to be very clear that if any students take part in a repeat of such actions, they will undoubtedly face disciplinary consequences.’

He also wrote to some parents saying they would need to attend a disciplinary meeting with their child on April 19 – ahead of students’ return to school after the Easter holidays. 

According to the Guardian, it said: ‘Following [child’s name] disruptive behaviour on the last day of term, she is required to attend a disciplinary meeting … The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the nature of [child’s name] disruptive behaviour on the last day of term and to give [child’s name] the opportunity to reflect on their actions. 

‘You should be aware that if [child’s name] is found to have committed a serious breach of the academy’s behaviour policy and if it is deemed that [child’s name] remaining in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of others, consideration will be given to permanently excluding [child’s name] from the academy.’

MailOnline previously revealed that headmaster Mr Smith is a ‘disciplinarian’ who once had portraits of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher as well as a Union Flag above his desk, according to a former colleague.

Mr Smith was vice head of Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe, Kent, from 2013 to 2017. One ex-colleague, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline: ‘He is very strict, a head who stands for no-nonsense, but he gets very good results. He had a little man syndrome in his approach.’

During his time at Ebbsfleet, Mr Smith insisted that all shoes should be black, and no labels, coloured stitching or laces would be allowed. ‘Anyone who’d inadvertently bought shoes such as Kickers before the new term had to cut off the labels and colour in the stitching with a felt-tip pen,’ said the source.

‘There was absolutely no leeway and anyone who transgressed was internally excluded and sent home for the day.’ 

The former colleague said Mr Smith ordered that lines of adhesive tape be stuck along the centre of the school corridors to make them ‘one-way’ and pupils were banned from speaking to one another during class changes.


Students packed out the school playground for the protest on March 31. Many filmed it on their phones

‘It was very militant, but didn’t really take into account the kind of children who were at the school,’ said the colleague. ‘There weren’t really issues around race at Ebbsfleet, as it’s a predominately white working class area, but Mr Smith didn’t show much interest in the family backgrounds of his pupils, he was only interested in discipline and exam results.’

The source did acknowledge that results improved ‘markedly’ during Mr Smith’s tenure, and the same uniform rules are in force there today, according to Ebbsfleet’s website.

Tory peer Lord Nash angrily hit back at claims the school is racist. He told MailOnline: ‘You cannot accuse Pimlico of being racist. It is the most non-racist school. It is so lovely there when you see mixed friendships groups.’ 

Asked about changes to the uniform policy that some pupils had claimed was racist, he said: ‘I don’t want to comment on these types of details. A lot of this has been blown up out of proportion.’ 


During his time at Ebbsfleet, Mr Smith (left) insisted that all shoes should be black, and no labels, coloured stitching or laces would be allowed. Pictured right: A poster for the March 31 protest 

A sit-down protest was held at the school against changes introduced by Mr Smith since he arrived in September 

Officers stand outside the gates of the school on the morning of March 31 during the demonstration

He said he had worked to support people from ethnic minorities including the setting up of a school in the inner London area of Brixton. 

‘It has taken ten years, but we are very pleased to have opened a school in Brixton.’

Another slogan used by the protesters in March was: ‘Ain’t no black in the Union Jack’.

This has historically been used by National Front racists to suggest that people from ethnic minorities are not truly British. 

The rebellion was a significant challenge to traditional Conservative education reforms emphasising discipline and academic rigour similar to those promoted by Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary. 

Students chanted ‘we want change’ as they protested against their head teacher’s policy banning Afro hair and ‘colourful’ hijabs

Mr Smith marked his arrival with a punchy open letter to parents, in which he repeated the phrase ‘it is your responsibility’ three times in one paragraph while discussing the need for parents to ensure their children complete homework, dress properly and support the academy leadership

Several demonstrators specifically credited the Black Lives Matter movement for inspiring the protest, and some of the hundreds of pupils and parents who gathered outside the school carried BLM banners amid chants of ‘we want change’. 

Commenting on Mr Smith stepping down, Pimlico Academy said in a statement: ‘Mr Daniel Smith has informed the Trust of his intention to step down from his position as Principal of Pimlico Academy. 

‘Mr Smith will leave this role on the 31st May 2021.

‘We thank Mr Smith for his unwavering commitment during this time which has been very difficult due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

‘We are pleased to announce that following his secondment as Senior Vice Principal, Mr Anthony Oulton, will take up the post of Acting Principal from the start of next half term. 

‘Mr Oulton, who is well known to staff and students at the academy, will be working with Mr Smith to ensure a smooth transition in the coming weeks.’   

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