Is your child wearing the ‘wrong’ school shoes?

Parents are getting their kids into trouble by buying the wrong footwear - but what exactly is a suitable school shoe?

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These days, school footwear is not just about being affordable, comfy and long lasting. It’s about whether shoes could get your child in trouble, or in extreme cases, even excluded. 

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It sounds ridiculous that the humble shoe can cause so much fuss, but many schools are clamping down on what shoes your children can and can’t wear. Which makes it especially hard when Kickers, Nike, Converse, Vans and other desirable brands are creating shoes that might meet the school rules, but then again might not.

“They’re not trainers, they’re shoes, Miss”

It’s tempting to believe what we’re told in high street stores; that all the shoes in their Back to School ranges will pass inspection. But every school sets its own standards.

Fast disappearing are the traditional ‘sensible’ brogues, Mary Janes or T-bar styles. In their place come chunky shoes with DM-style soles or all-black trainers that your child will hotly argue are shoes, not trainers.  

The problem is that your school might not like them as much as your child does.

So how do you choose suitable shoes?

Best advice is to check the school guidelines, not other children’s shoes. Ignore the pleas of “but everyone else has them”.

Read any info carefully. If it doesn’t mention trainers, Kickers or Vans, then the likelihood is they’re not permitted.

Of course, with so many pieces of paper, emails and texts being sent from school, it’s easy to miss something. But if you see something a bit like the pic below, save it. It’s a really handy checklist to have on you when you’re doing the shoe shop run. 

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However, not all schools have a visual checklist. Some will just specify ‘suitable black shoes’.

So what is suitable? It’s a question that pops up in our forum. One of our MFMers posted the picture below of a pair of pumps in our forum and asked the question: “Would you consider these daps/pumps as school shoes? My son 12 wants to wear them as his school shoes, should I let him? My eldest daughter, 15, wears Vans.”

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Given the high cost of school shoes, you may feel it’s best to play it safe. Think basic black. No logos, stripes, canvas or trainer styles that could be considered rule-breakers.

So what happens if my child turns up wearing the ‘wrong’ shoes?

This is a grey area and it varies from school to school. The official line from the Department of Education is: “Teachers can discipline pupils for breaching the school’s rules on appearance or uniform.

“A head teacher, or a person authorised by the head teacher, may ask a pupil to go home briefly to remedy a breach of the school’s rules on appearance or uniform if the pupil continues to breach uniform rules in such a way as to be sent home to avoid school, or takes longer than is strictly necessary to effect the change, the pupil’s absence may be counted as an unauthorised absence.

“If a school is considering excluding a pupil in response to breaches of uniform policy then this must be in line with the legal requirements for exclusion.”

When shoes go wrong…

The ‘shoe police’ were on patrol at Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham on the first day of the term and more than 50 pupils were sent home for wearing inappropriate footwear. That said, some of those children were wearing flip-flops. Still, it shows that eyes are firmly on feet, as well as the rest of the uniform.

Many parents at Saddleworth School in Oldham reacted when new uniform rules meant that some children’s shoes – mainly the boys – were no longer acceptable. The parents were issued with letters withdrawing the child’s social time if they didn’t wear the correct shoes the following day and a threat of exclusion if they didn’t have correct footwear within a week.

If that feels harsh, Saddleworth’s head teacher, Matthew Milburn was quick to defend the decision, stating that he’d given parents plenty of notice about the new uniform policy and had sent out pictures of 12 styles that met the guidelines. “At the end of the last academic year we wrote to all parents detailing which shoes were appropriate for school. We also had a series of assemblies on the issue, prior to the summer. Parents have had 7 or 8 weeks to get appropriate school shoes for their children.”

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Why are some schools stricter than others?

Uniform enforcement is up to the discretion of the school and the head. The Department of Education’s guidelines give a lot of room for headteachers and those in charge to implement their own rules – within reason of course.

Can I challenge the school’s shoe (or uniform) policy?

You can appeal, but you need to have a justified reason as to why you’d like the school to revisit their guidelines. For example, a real bugbear for some parents is when their children play football daily in all their breaks.  Standard school shoes can quickly get worn or come apart, whereas trainers may be more durable for constant kicking activity.

The Department of Education recommends you talk to the headteacher, school governors or parent/teacher association if you’d like the school uniform changed. If you can get a few parents supporting your case, you’ll be in a stronger position.

Have you struggled to get the right shoes for school?

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