Controversial headteacher removed from school after ‘restraining pupil’

A controversial headteacher known for his “army-like” behaviour rules has been moved out of his school after an incident involving restraining a pupil.

Barry Smith, known as one of the strictest headteachers in the country, has not been in charge of day-to-day activities at Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, in Norfolk, since early December.

Sources told Schools Week he was moved out of the school following an incident involving the restraint of a pupil.

Inspiration Trust refused to comment on the reasons behind the exit, but insisted Smith had not been suspended.

A spokesperson said: “He is working centrally on a curriculum project.

“The school is being overseen by the executive principal, as usual, and while the principal is out of school, the deputy principal is taking over the day-to-day operations.”

Smith, co-founder and former deputy head at the Michaela Community School in London, dubbed the country’s strictest school, did not respond to a request for comment.

He became principal at Great Yarmouth in 2017. At the time it had some of the worst GCSE results in the country – with just one in three pupils achieving a pass in English and maths – but had been recently taken over by the Inspiration academy trust.

Smith implemented a strict behaviour and uniform policy, including urging pupils to go to bed at 9pm and get up at 6.30am.

The school also banned mobile phones from its site. An internal document circulated around the school revealed if a phone was confiscated within the last two weeks of a term it would be kept until the start of the following term.

Smith faced vitriol from some parents, who called his rules “army like” and falsely branded him a paedophile on social media.

In a blog post last year, Smith said: “Last week there were lies circulated about me on Facebook saying I take photographs of Year 10 girls on my phone and that, on another occasion, I had to be forcibly escorted off a junior school site for photographing children.

“All these accusations are completely without any foundation. We’re accused of permanently excluding kids for dropping pen tops or wearing trainers. None of it true.”

He also made national newspaper headlines following incidents including warning pupils they will be given a bucket to throw up in if they feel ill in class and banning “meet me at McDonald’s’ hairstyles.

But schools minister Nick Gibb, speaking in Parliament in 2018, praised Inspiration and Smith for their work at the school, adding: “Within a year, the school had been transformed.”

Last year Smith was also praised by Ofsted during an inspection for having “successfully established a culture where there are high expectations”.

The watchdog judged the school to be ‘good’ and commended Smith’s actions which improved behaviour and attitudes to learning.