Head of Pimlico Academy who quit over race row stayed at school

Pimlico Academy head who was forced out by pupils who demanded the Union flag be torn down in race row revolt IS still at academy chain and now oversees Ofsted inspections

  • EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Smith’s sparked mutiny at Pimlico Academy and quit in May
  • ‘Back-to-basics’ policies included flying a flag and enforcing strict uniform rules
  • Stayed employed at academy chain as its ‘Head of Standards and Effectiveness’
  • Parent said the fact Mr Smith was still employed felt like a ‘huge slap in the face’  

A London headteacher who was forced out by pupils who demanded the Union flag be torn down in a race row revolt is still employed by the academy chain that runs the secondary school and now oversees Ofsted inspections, MailOnline can reveal. 

High-flying Daniel Smith was hailed as a talented leader with 15 years’ experience of senior positions in teaching when he arrived at Pimlico Academy, before being driven out by a wave of opposition whipped up by social media agitators. 

He sparked fury for his ‘back to basics’ policies, which included introducing a traditional chronological history curriculum and banning hairstyles that ‘block people’s view’, in addition to hijabs that are ‘too colourful’.

Critics claimed this was discriminatory against Muslims and people with Afro hairstyles, and a major backlash saw pupils and staff protesting outside the school gates and daubing hateful graffiti demanding ‘out with the racist headmaster’. 

There was even anger at the presence of the Union Flag outside the entrance, with activists chanting ‘Ain’t no black in the Union Jack’ in a bizarre echo of a racist National Front slogan suggesting non-whites cannot be truly British. 

After failing to appease protesters by removing the flag from outside the school’s entrance in April, Mr Smith decided his position was untenable and stepped down before the end of the May half term. He had started as head in September 2020. 

But in a blow to his critics, it has now emerged that he remained employed at academy chain Future as its ‘Head of Standards and Effectiveness’. The chain is run by Tory peer Lord Nash and his former stockbroker wife.

Daniel Smith (pictured) will ‘step down’ as headmaster of Pimlico Academy before the end of half term

Hateful messages reading ‘expel the racist headmaster’ appeared outside Pimlico Academy as part of the backlash against Mr Smith  

Daniel Smith immediately made an impression when he took over at Pimlico Academy in September last year, with colleagues describing how he had portraits of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher in his office. 

The Oxford graduate has held senior positions at schools for nearly 15 years, starting off as assistant principal at Westminster Academy in September 2007.

Mr Smith then took on the same role at The Quest Academy in Croydon in 2010 before moving to The Ebbsfleet Academy in Kent in 2013.

His first headteacher position was at Harris Garrard Academy in Thamesmead which he held from 2017 until 2020, when he moved to Pimlico Academy.

Introducing himself to parents in a letter in July 2020, Mr Smith said the academy would be ‘characterised by the highest expectations of conduct and achievement for all’.

He urged parents, teachers and children to all ‘row together’, and quoted the academy’s motto of ‘Libertas per cultum’, which means ‘Freedom through education’.

He took a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University in 2007, before taking a master’s in political theory at the London School of Economics.

Mr Smith also took a graduate diploma in law at the BPP Law School, then did an MA in education management at King’s College London.

The school is run by Future Academies, a multi-academy trust which was set up by Conservative peer Lord Nash, who is on the board with his stockbroker wife Caroline.

They are both on the local governing body for Pimlico Academy along with Paul Smith, Sarah Richardson and Daniel Woodruffe.

The school was last inspected by Ofsted in December 2010 when it received an ‘outstanding’ grading.

This report also revealed that the majority of pupils live in areas that are amongst the most socially deprived in Britain, and the proportion of those who are known to be eligible for free school meals is twice the national average.

Nearly one quarter of all students are of white British heritage and the number of students who are advanced bilingual learners, or at early stages of acquiring English as an additional language, was said to be ‘high’.

The largest minority ethnic groups were Black Caribbean and Black African, while one third of students have moderate learning difficulties, dyslexia, behavioural, emotional and social needs and/or disabilities, which is above the national average.

Among the former pupils are Chelsea footballer Tammy Abraham, PR executive Matthew Freud and comedian Mo Gilligan. 

A spokesman for Pimlico School in Westminster told MailOnline: ‘In May this year Daniel Smith stepped away from the role of Principal at Pimlico Academy, part of Future Academies Trust.

‘Since then he has worked as part of the school improvement team for the Trust as acting Head of Standards and Effectiveness.’  

The move will infuriate rebel parents, teachers and pupils who sought to paint Mr Smith as a racist. 

His new role includes responsibilities for safeguarding and child protection, according to a document seen by MailOnline. 

He is also believed to be responsible for overseeing Ofsted inspections, a parent said. 

The parent- who asked to remain anonymous – said: ‘This feels like a huge slap in the face to all of us after we called off the strike because we trusted the word of Paul Smith [Future Academies CEO] who assured us that Daniel was gone and he wanted to build bridges. 

‘It shows how little regard Lord and Lady Nash hold for the pupils and parents of Pimlico.’  

The outcry at ‘disciplinarian’ Mr Smith’s policies extended to include a range of policies claimed to be ‘discriminatory’, including changes to the history curriculum to make it more chronological, which protesters said emphasised white kings and queens over BAME figures.

In April, the school was vandalised with hateful graffiti reading ‘expel the racist headmaster’ as pupils returned to class after the Easter holidays.

In May, Mr Smith sent an email to staff at the school informing them that he was quitting his post.

The message, seen by MailOnline, read: ‘I informed the trust earlier this term of my intention to step down from my position as Principal of Pimlico Academy.

‘The Trust have agreed to this and I will leave the Academy at the end of this half term.

‘I am pleased to announce that Mr Tony Oulton will take up the post of Acting Principal from the start of next term.

‘I will be working with Tony to ensure a smooth transition in the coming weeks.

‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing commitment to our students in what has been the most challenging of times.’

The National Education Union – which supported the March 31 demonstration shortly before the Easter holidays – said 32 members of staff have handed in their notices since September. 

Changes brought in by Mr Smith were overseen by the school’s parent academy chain Future Academies, which is chaired by Conservative peer Lord Nash, 72. 

On April 13, Lord Nash told parents: ‘Any repeat of the actions on the final day of term would jeopardise students’ education. 

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.’ 

‘Disciplinarian’ Mr Smith (pictured in April) introduced a ‘back to basics’ uniform policy after starting at the school in September 2020 

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

But the Union Flag was no longer flying at Pimlico Academy in London on April 1, the day after a revolt by pupils

On the last day of term in April, hundreds of pupils staged a mass walk-out in protest at Mr Smith’s policies. 

This prompted him to send a letter to parents in which he thundered: ‘Any repeat of the actions on the final day of term would jeopardise students’ education. 

‘I need to be very clear that if any students take part in a repeat of such actions, they will undoubtedly face disciplinary consequences.’

He also wrote to some parents saying they would need to attend a disciplinary meeting with their child on April 19 – ahead of students’ return to school after the Easter holidays. 

According to the Guardian, it said: ‘Following [child’s name] disruptive behaviour on the last day of term, she is required to attend a disciplinary meeting … The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the nature of [child’s name] disruptive behaviour on the last day of term and to give [child’s name] the opportunity to reflect on their actions. 

‘You should be aware that if [child’s name] is found to have committed a serious breach of the academy’s behaviour policy and if it is deemed that [child’s name] remaining in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of others, consideration will be given to permanently excluding [child’s name] from the academy.’

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 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.

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

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

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

‘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.’

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 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.’ 

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 

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

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 in March was: ‘Ain’t no black in the Union Jack’.

This has historically been used by National Front racists to suggest that people from ethnic minorities are not truly British. 

The rebellion was 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. 


Students chanted ‘we want change’ as they protested against their headteacher’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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