School at centre of student discrimination protest rated ‘good’

Pimlico Academy has 'stabilised' after pupil and staff walkouts, but lost its 'outstanding' rating

Pimlico Academy has 'stabilised' after pupil and staff walkouts, but lost its 'outstanding' rating

15 Dec 2021, 16:28

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A prominent London academy embroiled in a discrimination row has been rated “good” after Ofsted concluded leaders had “won back the hearts and minds” of students and staff.

However it still marks a downgrade from the previous “outstanding” rating for Pimlico Academy, part of the Future Academies trust founded by former academies minister Lord Nash.

Its last full inspection was in 2010. But an emergency monitoring visit in June following the fallout concluded “standards may no longer be as last reported”, and Ofsted brought forward its next inspection.

In a report published today, inspectors said leaders have “stabilised” the 1200-pupil secondary after it faced a “period of considerable turbulence” over the past academic year.

The school made national headlines after significant changes to school policies under new principal Daniel Smith, who took over in September last year.

A student petition against its uniform rules secured more than 1,500 signatures, and included claims some measures were “discriminatory”.

The policy allowed pupils to choose any colour suit, shirt or blouse, but hijabs should “not be too colourful” and jilbabs should be black. Pupils also complained about hair policies, and the cost of buying new uniforms.

Students even walked out in protest, and were reported by the Guardian to have burnt a Union Jack flag previously flying outside the school.

Earlier this year staff walked out too in their own row over changing policies.

An Ofsted monitoring visit in June reported a “breakdown of communication” between leaders and staff, who said they were not properly consulted or listened to.

It said some staff had left since 2020, and a “large number” had announced plans to quit at the end of the last academic year, including leaders, teachers and support staff.

The principal himself resigned in May. Twenty-four new staff members joined in September.

The inspectorate’s latest report ranks the school in Westminster “outstanding” for personal development and sixth-form provision, and “good” for education quality, leadership and management, and education quality.

After inspectors’ visit in October, they noted: “Leaders and trustees have worked hard to win back hearts and minds with much success.”

New headteacher Tony Oulton was praised for working “collaboratively” with staff, and inspectors noted uniform policies had been changed.

A new communications strategy has helped many parents, staff and pupils “feel better informed”.

On behaviour, it notes: “Pupils mostly behave well in lessons and around the school. They know the rules and can explain why they exist. Pupils said that sometimes bullying and the use of discriminatory language do happen. However, leaders take any incidents seriously.”

Teachers enjoy “excellent professional development” and most pupils “recall key ideas and knowledge fluently in most aspects of the curriculum”.

At sixth-form, curriculum leaders’ well-organised subject plans give students strong subject knowledge, preparing them “exceptionally well for life beyond school”.

But it noted some pupils “struggle to understand what they are reading”, and Ofsted told leaders to ensure “sufficient breadth” of texts in English.

The report stated “some pupils struggle with the exceptionally challenging books they study at school because they do not have the language, reading skills and knowledge to access these texts”.

Some parents and carers also “remain concerned about aspects of the school”, including leaders’ work to secure further improvements.

Future Academies has been approached for comment.

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