School uniforms row - frustration as pupils break strict rules and get sent home

By Rebecca Cook

School students are returning to classrooms this month after their summer break - but some after coming home again pretty sharpish.

Dozens of families are speaking of their frustration after children are being penalised for wearing the wrong items or skirts which are too short.

Parents have been flocking to the supermarket aisles to get back to school gear for their children, from new socks and clean shirts to pencils and water bottles.

However, the beginning of a new academic year has also created a heated debate among parents. School uniforms and the punitive rules around them are being enforced and students are being sent home.

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A mum in Wales slammed her daughter’s school after she was threatened with detention because her skirt was deemed too short.

Tammy Humphreys' daughter arrived home from the first day of school at Ysgol Eifionydd in Porthmadog on Monday (September 6) with a note from the school saying she would be sent to detention if she wore the same outfit again, Wales Live reported.

Her daughter's black skirt was said to be too short as it was above the knee rather than being knee-length as the school's uniform policy states.

Yet Ms Humphreys said it was the same type of skirt her daughter had worn the previous year, only a size up.

It was a similar story at a school in Reading, where a secondary school sent two sisters home on the first day of term for wearing the wrong shoes, classifying them as "boots".

Their mother, a single parent who wished to remain anonymous, bought them two pairs of school shoes for the new term and said she will only be able to afford to replace the shoes next month, Berkshire Live reports.

She said: “I'm self-employed and I don't earn a lot of money. The shoes I bought my girls cost a fair bit.

"The school skirt alone cost £25 but if I'd gone to Tesco's I could've bought one for £10."

Another pupil sent home for their shoes, within 15 minutes of arriving at school for her first day back, was a year 11 girl in Manchester.

Julie Oakman said her daughter's shiny Kickers were deemed inappropriate under Rayner Stephens High School's uniform policy, but claimed she didn't know about a change in uniform rules introduced last month unti it was too late, Manchester Evening News reports.

Elsewhere, a 12-year-old girl was been removed from classes for wearing the wrong type of skirt, with her mum saying her hips are "too wide" for the one the school requires.

Shylah Johnson was moved into isolation at her school, Brookvale Groby Learning Campus in Leicestershire, after her mum, Daisy Johnson, spent the entirety of summer trying to find her a pleated skirt that would fit, Northants Live reports.

Shylah Johnson has been removed from classes for breaking the school's uniform policy (Andy Baker)

Due to sizing issues, Shylah and her mum found the high street black pleated skirts did not fit properly, after trying a number of different versions from shops such as Marks & Spencer, New Look, Next, Matalan, and Primark over the holidays.

Ms Johnson was forced to send their daughter to the school in a plain black skirt, instead of a pleated one, which resulted in her being removed from classes and placed in isolation.

Ms Johnson said: "She's being discriminated against, really, because she doesn't have a body shape for their uniform policy. The school even gave us one of their skirts for her to wear and it doesn't fit at all around her waist."

A number of supermarkets have come under fire from parents due to gender-based discrepancies in uniform lengths, the Daily Record reports.

Parents who bought their latest batch of school uniforms from Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury's have accused the retailers of "sexualising" girls by selling skirts and shorts that are significantly shorter than boys' clothes.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Asda were selling girls' shorts that were 8cm shorter than a similar boys' garment for children aged 7-8.

Francesca Mallen, from the activist group Let Clothes Be Clothes, said that the choice of uniform at the supermarkets often leaves girls with no choice but to wear "impractical and rigid clothing."

The financial burden of school uniforms

This comes as a campaign group has said all school uniforms should be tax-free to help families that are struggling to afford the high annual cost.

Families in England are paying £9million a year in VAT on school uniforms, despite the levy only applying once the child turns 14, a report by The Schoolwear Association found.

Since 1973, clothing and shoes for young children have been tax-free, in line with EU regulations.

However, clothing and school uniforms for children 14 years old or older, or taller or larger than the average, are subject to the full standard rate of 20 percent VAT, The Mirror reports.

Abolishing VAT on school uniforms would help families to meet the cost of secondary school uniforms, with the average parent paying £90 to kit their child out for school, The Schoolwear Association said.

Chief executive, Matthew Easter, said: “The Schoolwear Association is committed to providing excellent value, long-lasting school uniforms to young people who spend on average 195 days a year in these clothes.

“However, with the current tax system unfairly penalising some families over others, there’s clearly more to be done. Now that the UK is no longer tied to EU rules on VAT, this is a fantastic opportunity for the Government to intervene and make school uniforms even more affordable for hard-pressed families across the country.

“As an industry body, we are publicly committing to passing any savings from a VAT cut directly onto families, and will continue to work with schools to ensure their uniform policies are as proportionate and reasonable as possible.”


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