Parents welcome head teacher's departure after 'racist uniform' row

‘He should have been sacked before he resigned’: ‘Glad’ Pimlico Academy parents welcome head teacher’s departure after rows over ‘racist’ uniform policy, curriculum changes and the Union Flag

  • Daniel Smith revealed he was stepping down as Pimlico Academy head teacher 
  • Members of the Pimlico Academy Parents’ Group today said they were pleased
  • One parent said she was ‘glad’, adding: ‘We wanted him to be sacked, not resign’
  • Mr Smith had sparked fury over uniform policy and history curriculum changes 

Parents at Pimlico Academy say they are ‘glad’ to see the back of the troubled school’s head teacher after he announced he was quitting following protests by students and staff over ‘discriminatory’ uniform policy and curriculum changes. 

Members of the Pimlico Academy Parents’ Group today said they were pleased that principal Daniel Smith was leaving the London school – where three quarters of children are from ethnic minorities.

Mr Smith had introduced a ‘back to basics’ uniform policy which banned hairstyles that ‘block people’s view’ and hijabs that are ‘too colourful’, after starting at the school in September 2020. Critics claimed the changes he sought to bring in were discriminatory against Muslims and people with Afro hairstyles. 

Mr Smith also sparked fury by changing the history curriculum to make it more chronological, which protesters said emphasised white kings and queens over BAME figures. 

The embattled headteacher had seemingly sought to compromise with protesters in April by agreeing to revise the uniform policy and removing the school’s Union Flag, after protesters chanted ‘Ain’t no black in the Union Jack’.

But despite this, he yesterday announced he will ‘step down’ from his role before the end of half term.

One parent, Emma, today said she was ‘glad’ Mr Smith was going, but added: ‘We wanted him to be sacked, not resign’.  

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

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

She went on: ‘We just want parents to be heard, unless the parents get their demands and it’s written down in black and white we’re not backing down.

‘Removing Daniel Smith is a step in the right direction, however questions must be asked why Lord and Lady Nash thought it was okay for a head teacher to implement a discriminatory uniform policy, and why they thought it was okay to remove black history month from the curriculum – in a school as diverse as Pimlico, teachers should reflect the diversity of the children.

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.

‘As parents we have demands which we would like implemented to ensure a safe learning environment for our children.

‘We want a more inclusive curriculum and a more diverse senior management team that understands the diversity of the children.’

Commenting on the change of leadership at the school, members of the Pimlico Academy Parents’ Group were not hopeful for the future.

Shaima, who also did not want to give her surname, said: ‘It’s going from bad to worse. My daughter used to love going to school and now she hates it. We want a parent governor, we don’t get to have a say.’

The parents also made allegations that the school had replaced old staff with trainee teachers.

Emma said: ‘We were informed that teachers had left and more are due to leave. All the ones that were here and made the school left.

‘They are using assistant teachers.’

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

Mr Smith yesterday sent an email 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.

‘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 Future Academies, 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.   

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.

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

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

But the Union Flag was no longer flying at Pimlico Academy in London on April 1, the day after a revolt by pupils

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.’ 


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

The sign outside the school, which was defaced with stickers during the protest, was cleaned up the next day 

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

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.

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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