Statement March 2021
This morning at Pimlico Academy a student protest took place in the playground. This caused disruption to learning with students taking part in the protest not attending lessons but all students were at all times safe and supervised by staff. Students who did not take part in the protest were able to go to classrooms where they were supervised by staff.
The right to protest is a civil liberty which, in the United Kingdom, we all enjoy, one that was hard fought-for and which not everyone in the world is fortunate to have. Our students are bright, courageous, intelligent young people, passionate about the things that matter to them and acutely attuned to injustice. I admire them hugely for this though I regret that it came to this.
There was, naturally, press interest in this morning’s events and I wanted to write to you now to explain what happened at the academy today and to summarise the outcomes of discussions which took place with representatives of the student body.
The issue of the flying of the Union flag was discussed at length. We acknowledge that this symbol is a powerful one which evokes often intense reactions. We have listened to the concerns of students, parents and the wider community about it. After Easter, we will conduct a review of this and, as part of that, consult with all the academy’s stakeholders to elicit their feedback. In the meantime, and until that review is concluded, the Union flag will not be flown at the academy.
Students were vocal in their concerns about how they felt the PSHE curriculum was delivered. I, too, having reviewed the contents of that curriculum carefully, feel that now is the moment to begin long-overdue discussions that will lead to a significant updating of that programme. I look forward to working with students and external agencies to map out a new programme, one that will address contemporary issues and will ensure that students are better able to navigate the world safely and healthily. The ‘current affairs’ aspect of that programme, already in place, will likewise ensure that students are able to discuss issues that are, truly, current.
Sixth Form student representatives raised concerns about certain aspects of the academy’s Uniform Policy. I was able to reassure students that their previous representations on these points had been the motivation for reflection which, in turn, resulted in revision to the relevant polices taking place. These redrafted policies are the ones I shared with you this morning and remain available to download below.
The death of Sarah Everard has re-started a national conversation about women’s safety and sexual assault. Recent articles in the press and the foundation of the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’ have triggered all schools to reflect seriously on the processes in place when allegations of sexual assault are made by students. As I said in my letter this morning, I am confident that we have in place here rigorous systems for the reporting and handling of such matters. However, there is no room for complacency and so we will also review again our safeguarding procedures, working alongside statutory bodies to ensure they are as robust as possible. I am conscious though that concerns around women’s safety and sexual assaults are best handled by challenging toxic attitudes which often provide the conditions for such things. I will therefore, as part of the PSHE review, be ensuring that we teach students to recognise the equality, dignity and individual identity of all.
I want to conclude by apologising: to students who continue to inspire me daily and who have not always had their voices listened to closely enough; to my colleagues, the staff at Pimlico Academy, who continue to serve the students with such overwhelming dedication during difficult times; to parents and carers who, we know, always have the best interests of their children at heart and; to the wider community with whom we are committed to working positively with in the future. This is a moment for me and the Leadership Team to reflect deeply and to plan carefully so that, going forward, all who work and learn here can feel confident about doing so in a positive, scholarly, respectful environment.
The past twelve months have presented untold challenges to individuals, to communities, and to the world at large. I am privileged to lead an academic community that is committed to fulfilling its pledge that, regardless of the challenges which come our way, every child should attain freedom through education.
Daniel Smith, Principal