Hackney school eliminates bullying by banning football at breaktime

Hackney comprehensive school eliminates bullying by banning football at breaktime and introducing chess clubs, poetry recitals and quizzes instead

  • Hackney New School, in London, has banned games like football during breaks
  • Instead pupils at the secondary school take part in quizzes and poetry recitals
  • Head teacher says there have only been five reports of bullying in the last year 
  • Ofsted report had warned the school that its bullying levels were ‘unacceptable’

A Hackney comprehensive school has all-but eliminated bullying by banning football at breaktime and introducing chess clubs, poetry recitals and quizzes instead. 

Hackney New School in East London claims to have had only five reports of bullying in the last year – that includes cyber bullying, as many pupils will have been at home during various Covid lockdowns. 

The introduction came within months of an Ofsted inspection, which found ‘unacceptable’ levels of bullying in July 2019. 

Charlotte Whelan, head teacher at Hackney New School, says there have been just five reports of bullying at the secondary after she banned football and other games at breaktime in favour of structured activities like poetry recitals and quizzes

Head teacher Charlotte Whelan was hired after the damning report was published.

She told the BBC: ‘The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving  

‘It’s long been my belief that we could be doing more for pupils while they on their breaks, so often you see them aimlessly wandering the playground. We want every second at school to count.

‘We began by introducing the poetry recitals during break and lunch and the students really responded well. It evolved from there.’

Pupils aged 11 to 16 still exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but teachers have taken a more structured approach.

Chess and choir clubs have also been set up to give pupils more choice over what they do during their breaks from the classroom. 

The transformation comes within two years of Ofsted inspectors branding the school ‘inadequate’ – the lowest possible rating.

Bullying was highlighted as key problem at the school, with a report from July 2019 reading: ‘Across the school, pupils told inspectors that they feel bullied and intimidated by others.  

Hackney New School was branded ‘inadequate’ when Ofsted inspectors visited in July. A report warned there were ‘unacceptable’ levels of ‘racist, homophobic, sexist or other discriminatory behaviour’ 

‘These concerns are confirmed by parents. Examples include racist bullying and name-calling. 

‘The school’s behaviour logs record many incidents of racist, homophobic, sexist or other discriminatory behaviour. This is completely unacceptable.’ 

Efforts to promote students’ welfare was rated ‘inadequate’, as inspectors discovered ‘extremist, sexualised and homophobic graffiti,’ within the grounds, according to the report.

In 2019, footage surfaced of teachers appearing to drink and dance in a school changing room after reportedly sending students home early for the November half term. 

A former student who shared footage with MailOnline said at the time: ‘I remember seeing a teacher carrying wine in a Tesco bag into the school, and the next day this video was released.’

Today, pupils have memorised poems like Ozymandias by Percy Shelley and The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson, and can be heard reciting the lines as they queue up for lessons at the Dalston school. 

Footage obtained exclusively by MailOnline in 2019 appeared to show teachers at the Hackney New School dancing after reportedly sending students home early in 2017

One of the teachers appeared to be clutching a bottle as they sang and dance provocatively to the music, in footage that was shared with MailOnline in 2019

Linda James, founder of Bullies Out, told MailOnline: ‘We were really pleased to hear of Hackney New School’s plan to reduce bullying. 

‘Schools which put in place effective strategies such as this can really make a difference to the whole ethos of their school environment. 

‘Bullying behaviour thrives on unsupervised break and lunch times so introducing safe spaces for children with supervised activities can help them feel included and supported whilst eliminating the bullying behaviour that can take place.’

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