How a turnaround head gave rising hemlines short shrift

By Simon Rocker, July 17, 2014

The acting head of a troubled high school has wasted no time in stamping his authority.

Paul Doherty, 67, sent 100 girls home because their skirts were too short, at least for King Solomon High School uniforms.

Most returned properly dressed almost immediately but it took a week to get everyone to comply.

We had a little bit of push and shove with what I call the 'five per cent'," he said.

"In every school, 95 per cent of students are delightful, they want to learn. However, there are five per cent in every school, who are basically anarchistic and find it difficult to accept discipline in any form.

"The children I had real difficulty with uniform over were later sent to me during the school day for challenging behaviour."

Dr Doherty was parachuted in by the local council in May to run the state-aided Orthodox school in Redbridge, Essex, after head Jo Shuter was banned by the Department for Education for abusing expense claims while head of her previous school.

Dr Doherty, who is head of a local Catholic school, has pledged to "relight the torch" and raise standards.

King Solomon will increase from five to six forms of entry this autumn and applications to its sixthform have been "encouraging". The school lost its official "good" rating last year but he believes the foundations are there for academic progress.

"King Solomon is a good school," he said. "It could be outstanding."

He has introduced new arrangements for assessing teachers, monitoring homework and establishing "zero tolerance" for disruption in class.

Over the past four years, King Solomon has had to cope with a dramatic increase in intake of children from other faiths: its 863 pupils include 150 Muslims and 126 Christians, while Jews remain a majority at 52 per cent. But all take Jewish studies and Ivrit and parents of non-Jewish children are "very supportive" of the school's Jewish character, he said.

The school will balance its books next year, in contrast to a £400,000 deficit this year.

Last updated: 2:32pm, July 17 2014