The students at Pimlico Academy in London are also demanding a change to uniform rules they describe as racist as well as a review of the curriculum. The academy has been at the centre of a mutiny by students and teachers this week over new head Daniel Smith’s “back to basics” regime. His changes have been overseen by the school’s parent chain, chaired by Conservative peer Lord Nash, 72.
Hairstyles that “block people’s view” and hijabs that are “too colourful” have been banned since Mr Smith’s arrival last September.
Critics claim the changes are discriminatory against Muslims and those with Afro hairstyles at the school, where three-quarters of children are from ethnic minorities.
The growing student protest has extended towards other policies said to be discriminatory, including changes to the history curriculum to make it more chronological. Protesters said it emphasised white kings over black and minority ethnic figures.
The British flag was initially removed and burned by pupils in September before it was put back up. But over the weekend, anti-flag graffiti appeared on the school walls saying, “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack”, “White schools for brown kids are u mad” and “Pimlico Academy…run by racists… for profit”.
However, Mr Smith’s decision to remove the flag “pending a review” has drawn widespread criticism from Tory MPs. Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, said: “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 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.
“To tear flags down is divisive and not what we’re looking for at this moment in time.”
Last night, Mr Smith said: “The right to protest is a civil liberty which we all enjoy. 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 it came to this.”