Parents go to war with school uniform: Fury over 'overly strict' policies that force pupils to wear shoes that give them blisters, tights in the heat and expensive branded clothing

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  • Does your child’s school have overly strict uniform policies? Email elizabeth.haigh@mailonline.co.uk 

Parents have expressed fury this week after the start of the new school year saw a crackdown on ‘overly strict’ school uniform policies which have left students being sent home on their very first day.

Students have been forced to wear spare shoes which are too small, leaving them with blisters, heavy black tights and trousers in 30C heat and expensive school-branded clothing which has set parents back by hundreds of pounds.

Strict uniform policies have come under fire in recent years over allegations they lead to children missing valuable time in school and are too severe amongst the climate crisis.

Back in June Toni Hurst from Stockport said she was baffled when Hazel Grove High School told her that Tom Foster, 13, would be put in isolation if he wore shorts. Tom was eventually given permission to wear shorts due to eczema.

The school told MailOnline that in hot weather ties and blazers are not required and that ‘slight adjustments’ may be made to uniform if medically necessary. 

Now an expert psychologist has joined a fresh wave of parents in criticising policies which have been described similar to being ‘in the Army’, arguing they can cause extra stress and anxiety to students worrying whether they will be punished for an unwitting infraction. 

Does your child’s school have overly strict uniform policies? Email elizabeth.haigh@mailonline.co.uk 

Toni Hurst from Stockport says she was baffled when Hazel Grove High School told her that Tom Foster, 13, would be put in isolation if he wore shorts

Toni Hurst from Stockport says she was baffled when Hazel Grove High School told her that Tom Foster, 13, would be put in isolation if he wore shorts

One mother has been fighting a legal battle after being forced to fork out £200 per year for new pieces of branded uniform

One mother has been fighting a legal battle after being forced to fork out £200 per year for new pieces of branded uniform

Melissa Pope said her 11-year-old daughter Layla Thomson was sent home during her first day of secondary school for her shoes (pictured) and will not be going back

Melissa Pope said her 11-year-old daughter Layla Thomson was sent home during her first day of secondary school for her shoes (pictured) and will not be going back

Yesterday a Gateshead school was facing accusations it has ‘lost all touch with reality’ after a 15-year-old girl was left with blisters when she was told to wear too small shoes, as multiple students were sent home for breaching its strict uniform policy.

The teenager returned to Grace College in Gateshead for her first day of Year 11 on Tuesday, only to be told by staff that her plain black ballet-style shoes, which covered her toes but not the top of her feet, were unsuitable.

The year 11’s father claims the school told her to wear a spare pair of size seven brogue style shoes or be sent home – despite the 15-year-old explaining she was a size eight. 

The 43-year-old, who lives in the Bensham area of Gateshead, said his daughter wore the smaller shoes, as she did didn’t want to be sent home, and was left with blisters on both feet.

On Wednesday, she attended school in Low Fell in the same ballet style shoes, having ordered some new shoes which had not yet arrived, and was sent home.

Her father said: ‘I think they have lost touch with reality completely. It just seems to be a very poorly managed school.’

A string of angry parents were shocked to find their children sent home from the college on Tuesday, multiple cases of which were for wearing black shoes that did not comply with the schools restrictive rules. 

Among those threatened with being sent home were a year 10 pupil, who was wearing a pair of Nike walking boots which were entirely black, a year nine student who was wearing ballet pumps and an 11-year-old on her first ever day at secondary school.

The teenager returned to Grace College in Gateshead for her first day of Year 11 on Tuesday, only to be told by staff that her plain black ballet style shoes, which covered her toes but not the top of her feet, were unsuitable

The teenager returned to Grace College in Gateshead for her first day of Year 11 on Tuesday, only to be told by staff that her plain black ballet style shoes, which covered her toes but not the top of her feet, were unsuitable

Grace College in Gateshead has a hefty list of uniform rules and will send students home for breaching them

Grace College in Gateshead has a hefty list of uniform rules and will send students home for breaching them

A year 10 student was sent home from Grace College for wearing Nike walking boots which were completely black

A year 10 student was sent home from Grace College for wearing Nike walking boots which were completely black

A year nine student was also sent home for wearing black ballet pumps

A year nine student was also sent home for wearing black ballet pumps

What are Grace College’s strict uniform rules?

Shoes

  • Must be black and sensible
  • Must be able to be polished 
  • Must cover the whole top of the foot 
  • No patent leather 
  • No distinctive fashion features 
  • No buckles
  • No coloured stitching
  • No tags or logos 
  • No boots
  • No training shoes 
  • No ballet pumps 
  • No heel higher than an inch 
  • No open shoes

 Socks and tights

  • With trousers, socks must be black or dark grey, no ankle socks
  • With skirts, only black tights or white ankle socks allowed
  • Socks must be plain 
  • Tights must be 40-70 denier 
  • No logos

 Bags

  • Students must have a bag
  • Rucksacks only 
  • No handbags
  • No shoulder bags
  • No objects to be placed in blazer pockets instead of bags 

 Accessories

  • No jewellery permitted, including body piercings
  • Subtle make up only
  • No fashion accessories
  • No nail extensions
  • No hair extensions
  • No eyelash extensions
  • No nail polish
  • No hair bobbles or elastic bands on wrists
  • Only clear lip may be used, and only outside of class
  • Simple watch only
  • No smart watches 

Other 

  • No dental retainers, even clear ones
  • Only black belts permitted
  • No rolled skirts
  • No ‘unmodest’ lengths
  • Ties must cover all shirt buttons
  • Shirts must be fully tucked in
  • All buttons must be fastened
  • Blazers to always be worn
  • Blazers can only be removed in class with express teacher permission
  • No rolled up sleeves
  • No personalised items e.g. pin badges, charity wristbands 

 

Hair

  • Must be smart, business-like and safe
  • No unnatural hair dyes
  • No hair not tied back (if long enough)
  • Navy, grey or black hair ties only
  • Plain metal grips only
  • No other hair accessories allowed
  • No colourful ties or grips 
  • No ‘extreme’ differences in hair length
  • No tattooing of hair
  • Fringes must end above the eyebrow 

Coats

  • Only permitted outside during the cold weather
  • Must be removed once inside the college building 

 

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Melissa Pope said her 11-year-old daughter Layla Thomson was sent home for wearing the popular Vivienne Westwood slip on shoes.

The 37-year-old, from Car Hill, Gateshead, said her daughter spent the day in isolation before being picked up by her grandmother and now does not want to return to the school.

She added: ‘I think it’s just a power thing. There were so many girls sent home today.’ 

The school has a strict dress code for all its students which includes bans on wearing dental retainers, hair bobbles on wrists and placing items in blazer pockets. 

Grace College’s policy states students must wear ‘black, sensible shoes which can be polished’.

It explicitly bans patent leather, ‘distinctive fashion features’, buckles, coloured stitching, tags, logos, boots, training shoes and ballet style shoes.

Shoes may also not have a heel higher than one inch, measured where the heel meets the instep. It adds that the top of the foot must be fully covered due to ‘safety reasons’.

According to its uniform policy, ‘inspections’ of students take place each morning and any uniform ‘breach’ that cannot be remedied immediately will result in a student being sent home.

READ MORE: Pupil, 15, is left with blisters ‘when she was told to wear school shoes which were too small for her’ – after her black ballet-style footwear was deemed ‘unsuitable’

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Psychologist Bayu Prihandito exclusively told MailOnline after reviewing Grace College’s uniform policy: ‘The specificity of some rules, such as the type of leather for shoes, tights, and even the length of fringes, highlights the intense scrutiny students might feel on a daily basis and the potential stress or anxiety that might follow from trying to comply.

‘These aren’t just about maintaining a uniform appearance, but they go deep into one’s personal territories, like hair dyes and extensions, which are often ways teenagers choose to express their always-evolving self. 

‘Additionally, rules like not allowing dental retainers, which can be medically advised, seem to prioritize aesthetics over student well-being. Which is ironic compared to the above being forbidden!’

Schools are also coming under fire over inappropriate rules for the weather, as some ban boys from wearing shorts and say girls must wear thick black tights, even specifying the minimum denier.

This week has seen temperatures reach more than 30C, yet many schools around the country either do not allow their students to wear shorts or no tights, or only allow it during the summer term.

Millfield Science and Performing Arts College in Thornton, Lancashire only allows its students to wear full-length trousers or a knee-length skirt with black tights that must be at least 100 denier.

Just before the summer holidays an email was reportedly sent out to parents reminding them that 100 denier tights must be worn, with parents claiming their children would be handed tights to put on if they went to school without them.

However, the school does allow shorts in PE. 

The rules are similar at Pontypridd High School in Wales where only trousers or skirts are permitted.

At Pontypridd school in Wales, students are not permitted to wear shorts

At Pontypridd school in Wales, students are not permitted to wear shorts

Croesyceiliog School was also the centre of anger for parents this week after refusing to let students wear shorts or skirts without tights

Croesyceiliog School was also the centre of anger for parents this week after refusing to let students wear shorts or skirts without tights

Carla Hayman was left frustrated after being told her son was not allowed to wear shorts at Pontypridd

Carla Hayman was left frustrated after being told her son was not allowed to wear shorts at Pontypridd

One frustrated parent, Carla Hayman, wrote on Facebook: ‘Ponty high – full uniform to be worn again tomorrow but boys are welcome to wear a skirt if wanted as that is part of the school policy!’

She added her son had been placed in seclusion from 8am in the morning for coming into school in shorts, despite the hot weather.

When she arrived at the school she found the seclusion room ‘full, as was the school reception, with boys with shorts on.’ 

Others replied to the mother-of-two, with one writing: ‘I said [to my son] they all should [wear a skirt] to prove a point. It clearly doesn’t affect their learning ability, what they’ve got on. Its bonkers!’

Another added: ‘Absolute joke isn’t it.’

One of the Pontypridd parents said online they planned to send their son into school in shorts regardless of the policy.

That prompted one mother to say: ‘My son told me today he was too warm but won’t wear shorts now as he will have to stand in a line for three hours.’

Another Welsh school received backlash for the same policy. Croesyceiliog School in Cwmbran shared a message from headteacher Ms Richards on Tuesday which made clear exceptions for hot weather would not be accepted.

She wrote: ‘Dear parents and carers, we hope that your child is looking forward to returning to school this week.

‘We as a school want to set the highest standards of uniform as we return to school this September and we are writing to clarify that all students are expected to attend school in full uniform (not summer uniform) as per our uniform policy on our school website.

‘We will continue to monitor the weather for this week however the current predicted temperatures do not indicate a need to implement summer uniform policy.’

The school limited who could comment on the post on social media, but parents still made their feelings known.

One said: ‘Bet the teachers aren’t dressed for winter either!’ 

Another said: ‘Well this is absolutely ridiculous! it’s absolutely roasting and the hottest it’s been all year.’

One mother added that she had received a call on Wednesday evening from the school, confirming the policy is not going to be changed. 

Gill Long from Merseyside was horrified after she had to splash out £200 on branded school uniform before the start of the school year at Heckmondwike Grammar School

Gill Long from Merseyside was horrified after she had to splash out £200 on branded school uniform before the start of the school year at Heckmondwike Grammar School

She recently won a legal fight with Heckmondwike Grammar School which will have to reduce the cost of its uniform

She recently won a legal fight with Heckmondwike Grammar School which will have to reduce the cost of its uniform

She said her daughter came home ‘drained’ from the heat, in which students must wear a knee-length skirt with black tights or trousers. They also claimed not all teachers were allowing their children to take off their blazers despite the heat.

Psychologist Mr Prihandito told MailOnline such strict measures will cause students extra stress and anxiety, impacting on their wellbeing.

He said: ‘Having an overly strict school uniform policy in place, especially one that sends students home for minor infractions like ‘unsuitable’ shoes, can lead to heightened stress and anxiety among students. 

‘This can divert their attention from the primary purpose of school: learning. The constant worry about adhering to the rules and the fear of repercussions can overshadow their views on school.

‘Besides, these policies can inadvertently strain the relationship between students and the school administration. Instead of viewing their educators as guiding and supportive figures, students might begin to perceive them as adversaries. This perception can negatively impact their interpersonal relationships moving forward.

‘While uniforms promote a sense of community, they should also allow room for more personal expression. 

‘By strictly regulating personal choices, like shoes, schools might unintentionally send a message that conformity is more valued than individuality. This could influence how students view themselves in the broader world as they grow up.’

Elsewhere, Gill Long from Merseyside was horrified after she had to splash out £200 on branded school uniform before the start of the school year at Heckmondwike Grammar School.

She is fed up with buying branded blazers, trousers and PE kits – only to have to replace them a year later as her child grows.

The mother realised she was paying between £150 to £200 a year on the bare essentials at Heckmondwike Grammar School, saying she could save more than £100 by buying unbranded items.

She has recently celebrated a personal victory in court after a year-long against Heckmondwike Grammar School. Ruling in her favour, the court decided that the cost of the clothing should be reviewed and reduced in conjunction with government guidelines, but felt branded items were important to maintain standards and consistency.

Money Wellness, an organisation that offers free help to families in debt, told MailOnline that mandatory branded uniform pieces are especially troubling amidst the cost of living crisis.

‘For the families we speak to the cost of school uniform is one of the largest outgoings they’ll have to cover, with some cutting back on basics like food and electricity or falling further into debt to pay for everything that’s needed.

‘We called on the government earlier this year to look again at reform for mandatory uniforms as, despite guidelines in place, some schools remain unrealistic in their expectations at a time when families are already struggling with the cost of living.

‘Equally, we’re hearing stories of children being bullied or feeling socially excluded because their parents can’t afford every piece of uniform, and that’s not acceptable.

‘In the current economic climate, schools need to be supporting families and working with them to find a solution that ensures children are neat and tidy and most importantly not missing out on their education.’

MailOnline has contacted all the schools in this article for comment.




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