Pimlico Academy protest: why vote of no confidence has been held against school headteacher

Hundreds of students from Pimlico Academy have protested outside their London secondary school amid allegations of racism.

A union jack placed outside Pimlico Academy in September 2020 angered students, who felt their demands over "discriminatory" uniform policies were not being listened to.

On Wednesday, March 31, the students walked out of their lessons and gathered in the main grounds of the school in protest against “discriminatory” policies at the institution.

Why are students protesting?

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Students have accused Pimlico Academy of racist and discriminatory policies after changes were made to school uniform rules and the curriculum.

The school’s new uniform policy took aim at hairstyles which “block the views of others” as well as “colourful hijabs”.

Students say the policy unfairly targets black students with afro hair as well as muslims who wear the hijab.

Changes to the school curriculum also angered students, with a lack of recognition for Black History Month of particular concern.

In a letter published online, students behind the protests said students were “outraged” that Black History Month and the Black Lives Matter movement were not recognised in school through assemblies or the curriculum.

“Instead, students were told to form a club to discuss their experiences, rather than uplifting the voices of Black students”, read the letter.

In September 2020, the placement of a union jack flag outside the school also infuriated students, who felt that the flag had “become a symbol” of their concerns around uniform policy not being listened to.

They subsequently burned the flag in protest.

What are students demanding?

Wednesday’s protest was accompanied by demands from students which included removing the union flag and introducing policies to make black and ethnic minority students feel more welcome in the school.

Pimlico students also want an end to the “discriminatory” uniform policies recently introduced at the academy.

Have there been protests prior to this?

The protest held on Wednesday was planned by students, and went ahead in spite of school leaders asking students not to participate.

It followed a weekend in which the school’s walls were marked with graffiti accusing the school of racism.

The graffiti has since been removed, but comments included “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack”, “White schools for brown kids are u mad” and “Pimlico Academy … run by racists … for profit!!!”

Anger has been brewing at the school for some time, with students especially disappointed by a lack of recognition for the Black Lives Matter protests taking place in summer 2020.

What have staff and the headteacher said?

Students are not the only ones unhappy about new policies at Pimlico, with a number of teachers reportedly demoralised by the changes.

It’s reported that the school may now be facing mass resignations as a result.

The controversial changes took place under the leadership of headteacher Daniel Smith, who only recently joined the school.

On Tuesday evening, the National Education Union (which represents the teachers) overwhelmingly passed a motion of no confidence in Daniel Smith and will now be looking at a ballot for industrial action.

Neither teaching staff nor current headteacher Daniel Smith have commented publicly about the controversy, but the Guardian reports that Smith, deputy head Tony Oulton and CEO of Future Academies Paul Smith met with six pupils after the protest.

A student told the paper that the three men agreed to the pupils’ demands with the union flag already removed.

It was agreed some of the other changes would be implemented following the Easter holiday.