London school at centre of ‘discrimination’ row stripped of top Ofsted rating

London school at centre of ‘discrimination’ row stripped of top Ofsted rating
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Carl Bennett

By Carl Bennett

Published: 15/12/2021

- 19:05

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 11:28

Pimlico Academy in London went through 'a period of considerable turbulence' in an official report

A school embroiled in a row over uniform rules, which it is claimed discriminate against Muslim and black students, has been downgraded by Ofsted.

Pimlico Academy in London – which agreed to take down the Union flag from outside the school earlier this year after protests from pupils – has dropped one rating from “outstanding” to “good”.

The last full inspection of the school was in 2010 as it was previously exempt from routine inspections.

In the Ofsted report, inspectors concluded that leaders have “stabilised” the school after it went through “a period of considerable turbulence”.

Following an inspection in October, the report concludes: “Leaders and trustees have worked hard to win back hearts and minds with much success.

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

“Pupils said that sometimes bullying and the use of discriminatory language do happen. However, leaders take any incidents seriously. They act effectively to tackle this type of behaviour,” the report adds.

In May this year, Daniel Smith announced that he would step down from his position as principal.

It came after National Education Union (NEU) members in the school “overwhelmingly passed a motion of no confidence” in the headteacher in March and agreed to move towards a ballot for industrial action.

Scores of pupils chanted “we want change” and walked out of class early on March 31 in protest against the school’s leadership.

The Ofsted report, which was published on Wednesday, says: “Following recent instability at the school, leaders put in place a new communications strategy.

“This is helping many parents, staff and pupils to feel better informed about what is happening at school.

“However, some continue to express concerns about leaders’ approach to tackling agreed priorities.”

Inspectors called on leaders to “refine their communications strategy” so that all parents, staff and pupils feel that their concerns are being listened to.

The report adds: “Some staff and parents remain dissatisfied with the trust’s approach to improving the school.”

In April, Mr Smith said the Union flag would not be flown outside the school while it undertook a review into the matter and he said aspects of the school’s uniform policy had been revised following concerns.

A new uniform policy ushered in by Mr Smith last year, which said that hairstyles that “block the view of others” would not be allowed, and hijabs “should not be too colourful”, sparked protests.

The school’s redrafted uniform policy says hair must be maintained “in a conventional style”, but there is no mention of styles that “block the view of others”.

It adds that headscarves and turbans must be black or navy blue, but there is no mention of “colourful”.

Figures released this week found that nearly half of “outstanding” schools – previously exempt from inspections – have been downgraded this term.

Ofsted is inspecting schools previously judged as outstanding which are no longer exempt from visits following concerns that hundreds of schools given the top rating have not been inspected for years.

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