The chair of the trust which runs Pimlico academy, the London secondary school at the centre of pupil protests over allegations of race discrimination, has written a letter to parents warning that any future disobedience by pupils will result in disciplinary action.
Hundreds of students took part in a demonstration outside the school last month that attracted huge media interest, in protest over changes to the curriculum, uniform policy and the siting of a union flag outside the academy building.
In a letter before pupils’ return to school on Monday after the Easter holidays, Lord Nash, who chairs the Future Academies trust and is a former schools minister, urged parents to talk to their children and warn them of the consequences of any further protests.
“Any repeat of the actions on the final day of term would jeopardise students’ education,” he says. “We all need to work together to ensure that this does not happen again and learn the lessons from it.
“We must particularly ensure that our students, your children, understand the consequences of any future disobedience, which will undoubtedly result in disciplinary action.
“Whilst I appreciate some feelings may still be running high and these conversations may not be easy, I hope I can depend on you to discuss this with your children before the beginning of the next term.”
The letter described the last day of term when the mass protest took place as “disappointing” and the media coverage that followed as “disheartening”, but made no mention of any of the issues pupils and parents have raised and which prompted the action.
One parent with a child sitting GCSEs at the academy, described the letter as “utterly outrageous” and said it had sparked anger among parents. “None of the issues raised have been addressed. Parents are absolutely aghast.
“They’re putting the onus on parents to get their child to behave or else get out. I can’t tell you how angry and livid parents are. It shows the disconnect and total lack of understanding the trust has.”
The letter, dated 13 April, was strikingly different in tone from one sent by the academy principal, Daniel Smith, immediately after the protest, in which he expressed regret, but also admiration for his students who were “passionate about the things that matter to them”.
He said the flag would not be flown above the academy for the time being, pending a review involving all stakeholders, and offered reassurances about the uniform policy and curriculum concerns.
In September 2020, students took down and burned a union flag that had been erected outside their school. Four weeks earlier, pupils started a petition in response to the academy’s strict new uniform policy, which stated that hairstyles that “block the views of others” would not be permitted and hijabs should not be “too colourful”. The pupils accused the school’s management of racism, saying that the new policy would penalise Muslims and those with afro hairstyles.
Future Academies did not respond to requests for comment.