here on the Guardian Web site, with video.
Police were called to a school in the Kent seaside resort of Margate on Tuesday after about 50 pupils were sent home for wearing the wrong clothes.
Parents and pupils protested about the start-of-term crackdown at Hartsdown academy, where children were sent home for breaches of the uniform code including having the wrong shoes, the wrong trousers, no blazer, a gold buckle on a shoe and frills on socks.
Parents said there were year 7 children, just starting at secondary school, who were reduced to tears after being turned away.
“I understand there are rules about uniform,” said one mother, Sian Williams, whose year 7 daughter managed to pass the uniform check, “but to be so strict and allow children to feel that way on their first day of school must have been petrifying for them.”
Another parent, Phillipa Turner, wrote on Facebook: “My niece was one of these children sent home today, first day of a new school and she didn’t even make it into the school gates.
“Apparently wrong trousers (they were too stretchy) what a load of crap because she looked really smart and tbh I’ve seen a lot worse going into that school.”
The uniform crackdown on the first day of term is becoming a ritual in schools up and down the country, as headteachers increasingly favour a strict dress code which they say improves classroom behaviour.
The new headteacher of Hartsdown, Matthew Tate, who was also marking his first proper day as head at the school, explained: “This is a school that has been underperforming and we are determined to do the very best by the children of Thanet.”
The school wrote to pupils and their families at the end of last term reminding them of the uniform policy and warning that if it was not adhered to at the start of the new term children would be sent home. Of those sent home on Tuesday, about 20 pupils returned to classes wearing the correct uniform.
“This is part of raising expectations and standards so that every child has a fantastic education,” said Tate, who joins the school from Trinity Free School in Sevenoaks. “A small minority of parents were not happy but we have had emails and phone calls from other parents to express their support.”
In his welcome message on the school’s website, Tate says that part of the school vision is “excellent uniform, a commitment to perfect uniform”. He continues: “And a ‘no excuses’ culture where excellence is the norm.”
Police were called by a member of the public shortly after 11am after reports of a disturbance outside the school in George V Avenue, where a number of parents and pupils had gathered. There were reports of “tension” but no charges were brought.
Allison Hopper’s daughter, who is in year 9, was turned away for not wearing a blazer or the correct shoes. “I rang the school, who were extremely rude, and they said she’s not allowed in because of unacceptable uniform, which I might add cost me a small fortune. The secretary agreed she was allowed to go home to get her blazer, but she’s not allowed in due to her shoes.”
Sian Williams added: “There were 11-year-old children on their first day at school in tears because they were being sent home. There was one girl who was sent home because she had a gold buckle on her black shoes.”
Another parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “I think this has been handled badly especially the head teacher being so strict with the children. The school has a duty of care - anything could have happened to those children.”
Hartsdown, which is rated “good” by Ofsted and is sponsored by the Coastal Academies Trust, is a challenging school with a large number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, including unaccompanied asylum seekers and eastern European children with English as an additional language.
The executive head of the Coastal Academies Trust, Paul Luxmoore, said: “Hartsdown has previously been viewed in the community as a scruffy school. Matthew is right to ensure that changes and he has my full support.
“We’re bound to have a bit of a sticky period at the start as there are a small number of parents and pupils who are unhappy.”