Pimlico Academy: Students stage walkout over London headteacher’s ‘discriminatory’ uniform rules

A large group of students from Pimlico Academy in London have left their lessons to protest against "discriminatory" measures introduced by the school.

The walkout was prompted in part by new uniform rules, including guidance on hair and headscarves which pupils felt targeted black and Muslim students.

"We want change!" the pupils chanted on Wednesday, to onlookers from behind the central London school’s gates.

They were motivated to speak out against measures introduced by the academy’s new principal, Daniel Smith.

When Mr Smith took over the school’s leadership in September last year, he issued a new uniform policy.

It specified that "[hair] styles that hide the face or may block the view of others in class are not permitted", and "boys’ hair must be no longer than collar length and kept short on top".

The guidelines also stated "headscarves must look conventional and understated in style" and "must be black or navy blue".

This angered many students, including Zach Chady, who said the policies are "quite racist".

"They don’t allow afros and he’s put rules on hijabs as well, kind of taking away students’ identity," said Zach.

In response to the protest, Pimlico Academy adapted their uniform policy, sending out updated guidance with the contentious sections crossed out.

They also said in a statement: "The majority of students were in classrooms studying as usual throughout the protest.

"It is with regret that these matters have come to a head in such a public way.

"We want to take this opportunity to reassure parents that this is an isolated event, and we are working to resolve the issues raised.

"We apologise to all children, families and staff for the disruption today."

Some students also felt uncomfortable with the flying of the Union flag outside the school.

Last year they removed the flag and burned it, but the school replaced the flag.

The academy has now removed the flag and will conduct a review of whether it should be flown on its grounds.

But many students and parents felt the school’s actions came too late.

"The principal has burned his bridges," said Jan Williams, whose daughter attends Pimlico Academy.

Some parents and teachers at the school want Mr Smith to resign, while members of staff who belong to the National Education Union (NEU) have passed a motion of no confidence in his leadership.

An indicative ballot is scheduled to be held after the Easter break, which could potentially lead to strikes.

Mr Williams said he was proud of his daughter and the other students who came out to protest.

"I think it’s brilliant, I’ve got to admire them. It was restrained, peaceful and well organised," he said.

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