‘Expel the racist headmaster!’: Walls outside Pimlico Academy are vandalised with hateful graffiti as demonstrating pupils are threatened with expulsion after school’s Union flag was torched and protests over ‘racist’ uniform policy

  • Pimlico Academy in London has been vandalised with hateful graffiti amid the fallout from a school protest
  • Messages which read ‘They want to expel the students’ and ‘Expel the racist headteacher’ have been covered
  • Pupils accused the academy of racism, Islamophobia and transphobia during a demonstration last month
  • Headteacher Daniel Smith removed the Union flag and agreed to revise his ‘back to basics’ uniform policy

A London secondary school rocked by allegations of racism, Islamophobia and transphobia has been vandalised with hateful graffiti for the second time in a month while students who demonstrated against the academy on March 31 have been reportedly threatened with expulsion. 

Pupils at Pimlico Academy walked out of class and torched the Union flag during a protest last month over changes to the school curriculum, the flying of the national flag outside the building and a uniform policy which allegedly discriminated against black and Muslim students.

In a bid to quell the uprising backed by the National Education Union, new headteacher Daniel Smith removed the flag and agreed to revise his ‘back to basics’ uniform policy. However, rebellious students are now allegedly being threatened with expulsion amid a clampdown by senior management.

Yesterday morning hateful graffiti appeared on the walls of the embattled school calling for the expulsion of Mr Smith. The messages, which read ‘They want to expel the students for speaking out’ and ‘Expel the racist headteacher’, have since been covered over by Pimlico Academy.

Male staff members in suits were allegedly ‘frantically walking around when they saw the graffiti’ and have been ‘stationed outside to stop the kids from revealing what lay under the paper’, a passerby told the Independent.

However, it is not yet known who graffitied the school, when they vandalised the walls, or how long the graffiti was visible before it was removed. MailOnline has approached Pimlico Academy and Ebbsfleet Academy and Futures Academy, which runs the London secondary, for comment.  

Hateful graffiti appeared on the walls of Pimlico Academy yesterday calling for the expulsion of Mr Smith

The messages, which read ‘They want to expel the students for speaking out’ and ‘Expel the racist headteacher’, have since been covered over by Pimlico Academy

Headteacher Daniel Smith (left) welcomes pupils back to Pimlico Academy in Westminster on April 19, 2021

Now: The Union flag was no longer flying at Pimlico Academy in London on April 1, the day after a revolt by pupils

The Union flag that usually flies outside the school all year round was still up before the protests

Daniel Smith, whose students staged a walk-out at the London school in a rebellion against his ‘back to basics’ policies, was head of Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe, Kent, from 2013 to 2017

A statement purporting to be from the pupil protesters breaks down their ‘demands’. 

An extract from this document is shown below, with changes that headteacher Daniel Smith has agreed to marked by an asterisk and italics. 

DISCRIMINATION  

We believe the school has unfairly targeted groups of students. The school should protect marginalised races, religions and other groups instead of target them.  

*CHANGE, UNION FLAG – Mr Smith has agreed to take down the Union Flag pending a review. Protesters at the school, where three-quarters of pupils are from ethnic minorities – had claimed it was ‘antagonistic’ and did not represent them. 

RACISM

The academy placed new rules that would punish students with Afro hairstyles, clearly discriminating against Black students.

*CHANGE, HAIR POLICY – The new wording still demands that hairstyles are ‘conventional’ but no longer includes the term ‘understated’ or references to styles that ‘block the view of others’.

Students were outraged that there was no recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement or Black History Month.

*CHANGE, PSHE CURRICULUM – Mr Smith said the school will change the PSHE syllabus to include a discussion of ‘current affairs’ – a likely reference to BLM.

ISLAMOPHOBIA

The academy has faced further accusations of discrimination for saying hijabs must be black but other clothing can be any colour. This challenges young Muslim girls’ identity.

The new uniform policy includes that ‘if students choose to wear a headscarf, it must completely cover the hair’. This is harmful and insensitive towards girls who have just started to wear the hijab or are struggling with it. It is a personal choice which shouldn’t be decided by authorities who haven’t experienced this. 

*CHANGE, HEADSCARVES: References to headscarves being ‘conventional and understated in style’ are removed – although the school reinforced its policy that hijabs must be black or blue, in keeping with the school’s colours. 

TRANSPHOBIA

We believe the idea of gendered uniform for all students is a ridiculous, backwards ideal. This ostracises non-binary and gender non-conforming students, or those who are struggling with their gender identity.

Pupils, staff and parents alike rallied outside the school on March 31 in protest against changes introduced by Mr Smith after his arrival last September, including banning hairstyles that ‘block people’s view’ and hijabs that are ‘too colourful’.

Critics claimed this was discriminatory  against Muslims and people with Afro hairstyles at the school, where three quarters of children are from ethnic minorities.

The outcry at the school was extended to include other policies which were allegedly discriminatory – including changes to the history curriculum to make it more chronological, which protesters said emphasised white kings and queens over BAME figures.

The Union flag was removed and burnt by pupils in September before being put back up. However, it was taken down after the March demo and will not be flown again until a review has been concluded – a move condemned by local MPs. 

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, a former teacher, said Pimlico pupils needed to ‘be taught that disrespecting the flag disrespects us all’. He told the Times: ‘The British flag represents all Britons, regardless of age, background or heritage.’ 

MP Tom Randall, a former editor of the Flag Institute’s quarterly journal, added: ‘[The Union Flag] should be a uniting symbol and in that sense those in the school who are calling for it to be hauled down have completely misunderstood what it should stand for and perhaps should be back in the classroom to learn something.’ 

MP for Harrow East Bob Blackman told MailOnline the situation at Pimlico Academy was ‘bizarre and ridiculous’, adding: ‘It is totally unacceptable to have a position whereby the flag of our country is not allowed to fly above public buildings.’ 

Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield, said: ‘At a time when we are trying our very best to bring the country together after the problems with Brexit and coming out of the pandemic, it is very sad to see that this school feels it appropriate not to support the Union Flag.

‘It is a symbol of the UK. It brings all four nations together. We should never forget that. To tear flags down, to say you don’t want the flag flying on your building, is very divisive and it is not what we’re looking for at this moment in time.’

And Craig Mackinlay, representing South Thanet, added: ‘The Union Flagshould be flown with great pride, with what the country has brought to the world in freedom and democracy. In the US the flag is flown all over the place. I find it very sad that we want to denigrate that in this country.’

Mr Smith’s new regime was overseen by the school’s parent academy chain, which is chaired by the Conservative peer Lord Nash, 72.  

MailOnline previously revealed that headmaster Mr Smith is a ‘disciplinarian’ who once had portraits of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher as well as a Union Flag above his desk, according to a former colleague.

Mr Smith was vice head of Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe, Kent, from 2013 to 2017. One ex-colleague, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline: ‘He is very strict, a head who stands for no-nonsense, but he gets very good results. He had a little man syndrome in his approach.’

During his time at Ebbsfleet, Mr Smith insisted that all shoes should be black, and no labels, coloured stitching or laces would be allowed. ‘Anyone who’d inadvertently bought shoes such as Kickers before the new term had to cut off the labels and colour in the stitching with a felt-tip pen,’ said the source.

‘There was absolutely no leeway and anyone who transgressed was internally excluded and sent home for the day.’

The former colleague said that Mr Smith ordered that lines of adhesive tape be stuck along the centre of the school corridors to make them ‘one-way’ and pupils were banned from speaking to one another during class changes.

‘It was very militant, but didn’t really take into account the kind of children who were at the school,’ said the colleague. ‘There weren’t really issues around race at Ebbsfleet, as it’s a predominately white working class area, but Mr Smith didn’t show much interest in the family backgrounds of his pupils, he was only interested in discipline and exam results.’


Students packed out the school playground for the protest on March 31. Many filmed it on their phones

The British flag had been removed and burnt by pupils in September before it was put back up. Anti-flag graffiti previously appeared on the school walls saying, ‘White schools for brown kids are u mad’ and ‘Pimlico Academy…run by racists… for profit’. Another slogan used by the protesters ‘Ain’t no black in the Union Jack’ was notoriously used by National Front racists to suggest that people from ethnic minorities were not truly British

The sign outside the school, which was defaced with stickers during the protest, was cleaned up the next day 

Parents and police wait outside the gates of Pimlico Academy on March 31 as school children demonstrate in the playground


During his time at Ebbsfleet, Mr Smith (left) insisted that all shoes should be black, and no labels, coloured stitching or laces would be allowed. Pictured right: A poster for the March 31 protest 

A sit-down protest was held at the school against changes introduced by Mr Smith since he arrived in September 

The source did acknowledge that results improved ‘markedly’ during Mr Smith’s tenure, and the same uniform rules are in force there today, according to Ebbsfleet’s website.

Tory peer Lord Nash, who founded Pimlico Academy’s parent group Future Academies, angrily hit back at claims the school is racist.  He told MailOnline: ‘You cannot accuse Pimlico of being racist. It is the most non-racist school. It is so lovely there when you see mixed friendships groups.’ 

Asked about changes to the uniform policy that some pupils had claimed was racist, he said: ‘I don’t want to comment on these types of details. A lot of this has been blown up out of proportion.’ 

He said he had worked to support people from ethnic minorities including the setting up of a school in the inner London area of Brixton. ‘It has taken ten years, but we are very pleased to have opened a school in Brixton.’

Another slogan used by the protesters ‘Ain’t no black in the Union Jack’ has historically been used by National Front racists to suggest that people from ethnic minorities are not truly British. 

The rebellion is a significant challenge to traditional Conservative education reforms emphasising discipline and academic rigour similar to those promoted by Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary. 

Several protesters have specifically credited the Black Lives Matter movement for inspiring the protest, and some of the hundreds of pupils and parents who gathered outside the school on Wednesday carried BLM banners amid chants of ‘we want change’.   

Officers stand outside the gates of the school on the morning of March 31 during the demonstration

Students chanted ‘we want change’ as they protested against their head teacher’s policy banning Afro hair and ‘colourful’ hijabs

Mr Smith marked his arrival with a punchy open letter to parents, in which he repeated the phrase ‘it is your responsibility’ three times in one paragraph while discussing the need for parents to ensure their children complete homework, dress properly and support the academy leadership

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