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25 suspended by new hardline headteacher at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy
The new head of a city academy is at the centre of a row after a discipline blitz saw dozens of pupils suspended in less than a week.
The crackdown has seen more than 25 pupils disciplined at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) for offences since term began on Monday.
The Argus understands scores more pupils have been sent home to smarten up.
The move coincides with the appointment of controversial interim principal James Fox, who replaced Stuart McLaughlin.
It came as the academy’s first Ofsted report, released this week, highlighted some staff struggled to deal with the “most challenging” PACA students.
Mr Fox’s disciplinarian approach has led to several parents and teachers contacting The Argus with concerns over the tough measures.
One man who said he was a teacher at the academy stated: “The reasons range from skirts being too high to wearing nail varnish and bright lipstick.
“We are not happy about it. He’s an ex-military man so he thinks he can run the school like the army.”
One parent said: “He has gone over the top.
“We’ve spoken to other parents and they are up in arms over this.
“The students being taken out of their classrooms while the principal deals with them and it is affecting their education.”
The academy’s chairman of governors, Honor Wilson-Fletcher, said the blitz was simply an “emphatic implementation” of the rules.
She added: “It is not about not wearing the right uniform but for refusing to do anything about it.
“It will settle down now as everyone knows about it.”
A spokesman for PACA added: “The uniform policy is not new in any way, and is the one that has been in force since the academy opened in September 2011.
“Any students who came in on Tuesday not in correct uniform were spoken to by teaching staff and most issues were easily resolved.
“However, six students refused to take action, having been given the chance to, and were subsequently suspended for two days because of that refusal.”
The spokesman confirmed that more than a dozen other pupils had also been suspended since then over their behaviour, including using abusive language towards teachers.
Mrs Wilson-Fletcher said she had received praise from some parents about the appearance of students since the start of term.
She also said the governing body and sponsors had confidence in Mr Fox.
The headteacher left his last post in a cloud of controversy after introducing a new uniform and restructuring the senior management team at Abbeyfield School in Wiltshire.
At Abbeyfield he announced a swathe of redundancies but after concerns were raised by the unions, Mr Fox was put on gardening leave while council officials investigated.
He resigned shortly afterwards but a legal agreement means the exact reasons behind his departure remain secret.
The governors at PACA were aware of this but said they were “struck by the quality of Mr Fox’s references and by endorsements from both students and parents at his former schools” when they decided to appoint him.
Ofsted highlights problems with behaviour
The Ofsted report released this week suggested staff were struggling to manage the behaviour of the “most challenging students” at PACA.
Inspectors also said pupils had performed worse than they should have, especially in maths, as a result of the poor standards in the classroom.
The sixth form was criticised for not giving students the best advice about their choice of courses.
But the academy’s rating of “requires improvement” was better than the “inadequate” description handed to the school it replaced, Portslade Community College.
Inspectors praised the governors for identifying strengths and weaknesses and working hard to improve the situation quickly.
They also said teaching in maths had improved significantly and progress in English was highlighted.
Chairman of governors Honor Wilson-Fletcher said: “We are pleased that the report states that the quality of teaching is improving and that it shows the real progress that has been made.
“The report has reinforced the challenges we face in ensuring that we continue to improve faster, but PACA’s staff and governors are determined to do that and to take on board all of the inspectors’ comments.”
Talking point: To what extent should headteachers crackdown on uniform and other rule breaking by pupils? What do you think should be done to improve pupil behaviour?
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