Britain's highest-paid head triples school's exclusions

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The Independent Online

A report on the West London Academy in Ealing, one of the Government's new education institutions, which also permanently expelled a further 20 pupils, voiced "serious concerns" over education standards. It said the exclusion rate was "extremely high" and sanctions were applied inconsistently, adding the "defiant attitudes" of some pupils was a cause for concern.

The inspectors added that "a significant number of senior managers" had expressed a lack of confidence in the principal, Alastair Falk, who was appointed on a salary of £120,000 a year in 2003. The academy, for three to 19-year-olds, has £2m in sponsorship from Sir Alec Reed, founder of Reed Recruitment Services. It will move into a £37m new building in September.

Mr Falk hit back at criticism of his school's behaviour policy last night, arguing that it had been told by the Government to have "zero-tolerance" of poor behaviour. "The Government can't have it both ways," he said. "It preaches 'zero tolerance' and then we are rebuked for exclusions. There needs to be some joined-up thinking."

As revealed last week by The Independent, the damning report - the result of a visit by Her Majesty's Inspectorate - criticised Mr Falk's management style. It said: "There are crucial areas of the principal's leadership and management that are unsatisfactory."

Boyd Gunnell, the senior inspector on the team, said: "Punctuality to school is unsatisfactory: approximately one in seven pupils [at the 746-pupil academy] is late each day. Many pupils saunter into the academy 10 minutes after the start of registration. Systems for addressing lateness have been ineffective."

Poor teaching at the academy - exacerbated by difficulties in attracting staff - was blamed for behaviour problems.A third of lessons were good but five out of 22 seen were "unsatisfactory" or "poor", which was "significantly weaker than the national profile.

Mr Gunnell added: "The curriculum lacks breadth and balance. There is currently no coherent personal and social education for pupils and no provision for modern foreign languages."

The report, hot on the heels of another academy, Unity in Middlesbrough, failing its inspection, is a blow to Tony Blair's cherished programme. The Prime Minister wants 200 academies by 2010, but has been criticised for going ahead with expansion plans before the first have been assessed.