A headmaster from Kent has made headlines across the country by reportedly turning away around 50 pupils at the school gates for wearing incorrect school uniform.
Children wearing the wrong shoes, the wrong socks, the wrong trousers and no blazers on their first day back to secondary school were sent home.
Reports say the police were called - and furious parents whose children’s uniform did not adhere to uniform rules have spoken out about the school’s handling of policy enforcement.
Many parents with children at the school in question (Hartsdown Academy in Margate) said rules had changed from last year. Black trainers had been permitted (or maybe just overlooked), but were now a send-home-able offence.
And parents and relatives of Year 7s - who would’ve been attending secondary school for the very first time - claim that some children were ‘reduced to tears’ over the incident.
Whereas Matthew Tate - the new headmaster - says parents were properly informed about the school’s uniform policy before term-time and had previously warned that children would be sent home if they weren’t wearing the right kit.
He argues that since the school is under-performing, it’s important to enforce rules and improve behavior:
"This is a school that has been underperforming and we are determined to do the very best by the children of Thanet, this is part of raising expectations and standards so that every child has a fantastic education," he said.
"A small minority of parents were not happy but we have had emails and phone calls from other parents to express their support and they said this is a good thing, that it is good to set standards and they want the best for the children.
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"I have had feedback from teachers that behaviour was much better and if we can improve behaviour by 10% then that gives children another 19 days school, so a small amount of time out of school is a price worth paying."
He also told Good Morning Britain that he would send teachers home if they did not stick to the relevant teacher’s dress guidelines.
Mind, it’s not 100% clear whether the families of Year 7 children, who were just starting at the school, received the same warnings as families of older children prior to the first day.
And while Kent police were aware of a disturbance, they visited the school and said “no offences were disclosed".
Is this a growing issue?
The story coming from Kent is obviously quite a dramatic crackdown - and will of course be related to the fact the school has a new headteacher with new priorities.
But the enforcement of uniform rules is something we’re noticing happening more and more.
More stories have come out today about children being sent home for uniform breaches all across the country, from Gateshead and Lincolnshire to Reading.
Rules are made to be broken, right?
We can sort of see why some mums and dads might be annoyed about how things were handled.
One mum named Lucy claims her daughter was made to take off her white socks (the dress code stated black socks were allowed).
"I didn't even know they weren't allowed to wear them,” she said, according to The Mirror. "When she put her shoes back on, they tore the back of her feet up and she had to go in on tip-toes with her feet bleeding, before getting plasters put on them.”
One mum claims on Facebook that a 12-year-old couldn’t get hold of her parents, and as a result, begged her husband to drive her home.
Which echoes another (unnamed) mum's claim to The Guardian that: "anything could've happened to those children... The school has a duty of care."
A woman named Latasha Whiting also argued that unclear and inconsistent uniform policy made the situation unfair.
She was told her daughter’s shoes were fine by some teachers, but not by others, and that she can’t read minds when it comes to an ‘appropriate’ length for her 5’10” tall daughter’s skirts.
These scenarios certainly are not ideal - and it’s definitely not a nice way to kick off the school year.
Unless the uniform policy was super airtight, and came with suggestions of acceptable lengths for skirts and trousers etc, perhaps these mums do have a point.
You could also argue the importance of uniforms and whether they really impact behaviour - as studies often show mixed results.
Regardless, it is a tiny bit unfair making kids miss their first day of school, for something that isn’t really their fault.
Or do you prefer 'rules are rules'?
On the other hand, we totally get this headteacher’s approach. It’s tough, yes, but we’re guessing most kids will show up in the standard uniform from now on.
If the rules are clear and the consequences of breaking them are explained (with adequate notice) then there’s no excuse for not following them. The school's uniform policy does appear to be quite detailed on the school's website.
Whether we like it or not, it is our responsibility to make sure we get this right. Even if uniform shopping (and especially shoe shopping) is a complete pain in the neck.
We also know there’ll always be exceptions to the uniforms rule - but it makes sense to call the school and discuss it in advance to check it's OK, right?
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