Do chil­dren have to abide by school uni­form?

Hinckley Times - - LETTERS -

SCHOOL uni­form rules can be hard to ne­go­ti­ate for a fam­ily.

How long, or short, does a skirt have to be and can you get away with wear­ing train­ers?

Just this week, over 100 stu­dents at one school were put in iso­la­tion af­ter stricter rules were im­posed re­gard­ing dress.

So can school uni­form rules be en­forced and what pun­ish­ments are ac­cept­able? Han­nah Par­sons, prin­ci­pal as­so­ciate solic­i­tor at DAS Law tells you what you need to know.

Do chil­dren have to abide by the school uni­form?

A school is en­ti­tled to have rules re­quir­ing pupils to wear a school uni­form. Many schools will have a home school agree­ment, which is en­tered into on join­ing the school, where parents and pupils agree to com­ply with the school’s be­hav­iour and ap­pear­ance pol­icy.

The school can dis­ci­pline pupils for not com- ply­ing with the school uni­form rules al­though they are ex­pected to con­sider a rea­son­able re­quest to vary the uni­form pol­icy and must take care to en­sure that any pol­icy does not lead to dis­crim­i­na­tion, par­tic­u­larly on grounds of gen­der, race, dis­abil­ity, re­li­gion or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion guid­ance strongly en­cour­ages schools to have a uni­form and in its guid­ance it rec­om­mends gov­ern­ing bod­ies should take into ac­count the views of parents and pupils as well as costs when mak­ing de­ci­sions.

Can the school re­ally send chil­dren home for not stick­ing to strict uni­form rules?

Each main­tained school has a be­hav­iour and dis­ci­pline pol­icy. The pol­icy will pro­vide for pupils to be dis­ci­plined if they breach the school’s uni­form and ap­pear­ance rules. Any pun­ish­ment should be in line with the pub­lished be­hav­iour pol­icy.

Guid­ance states that where there is a breach of the school uni­form pol­icy ei­ther a head teacher or some­one au­tho­rised by the head teacher can ask a pupil to go home to rem­edy the uni­form breach. The school is ex­pected to con­sider care­fully whether this would be ap­pro­pri­ate tak­ing into ac­count the child’s age, vul­ner­a­bil­ity, the ease and time it will take the pupil and also the avail­abil­ity of the child’s parents.

This is not an ex­clu­sion but an au­tho­rised ab­sence un­less the pupil con­tin­ues to breach the pol­icy to avoid school by be­ing sent home or takes longer than nec­es­sary to make the change.

The Sec­re­tary of State’s statu­tory guid­ance on ex­clu­sions pro­vides that pupils should only be ex­cluded for breaches of the schools be­hav­iour pol­icy when they have com­mit­ted a se­ri­ous breach of the pol­icy. School uni­form breaches are usu­ally con­sid­ered mi­nor dis­ci­plinary mat­ters though in some cases of re­peated and per­sis­tent fail­ures ex­clu­sion may be jus­ti­fied.

What are my rights to ap­peal a school’s de­ci­sion on school uni­form?

When­ever a school uni­form pol­icy is in place, a school is ex­pected to con­sider rea­son­able re­quests to vary the pol­icy and in par­tic­u­lar when the re­quest is made to meet the needs of in­di­vid­ual pupils to ac­com­mo­date their re­li­gion or be­lief, eth­nic­ity, dis­abil­ity or other spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion.

Dis­putes about school uni­form should be re­solved lo­cally and in ac­cor­dance with the school’s com­plaints pol­icy. School gov­ern­ing bod­ies must have a com­plaints pro­ce­dure to deal with is­sues about school uni­form. Gov­er­nors are ex­pected to con­sider rea­son­able re­quests for flex­i­bil­ity to ac­com­mo­date so­cial and cul­tural cir­cum­stances.

Of­ten school pro­ce­dures for deal­ing with com­plaints pro­vide for the com­plaint to be ad­dressed ini­tially to the mem­ber of staff re­spon­si­ble and then the head of depart­ment and then head teacher. The next step would be to put the com­plaint in writ­ing to the chair of gov­er­nors.

Once the in­ter­nal com­plaints and ap­peal process has been ex­hausted the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion can deal with com­plaints about schools.

What are the le­gal im­pli­ca­tions if a child has changed their ap­pear­ance dur­ing school hol­i­days such as hair­style etc.?

As well as hav­ing rules on school uni­form, schools are en­ti­tled to have rules re­gard­ing ap­pear­ance. Pro­vided the rules are rea­son­able and don’t in­fringe equal­ity leg­is­la­tion the school is en­ti­tled to en­force the rules in ac­cor­dance with its dis­ci­plinary pol­icy.

Where pupils change their ap­pear­ance in the school hol­i­days they need to be aware that on re­turn­ing to school they will be ex­pected to ad­here to the school’s ap­pear­ance pol­icy.

If a child has had their ears pierced and can­not re­move the ear­rings for 4-6 weeks but the school makes the stu­dents take them out for PE. What does the law say here?

It is com­mon for the school to make rules re­gard­ing wear­ing of jew­ellery in school and in par­tic­u­lar in PE lessons and the rules may re­quire the jew­ellery to be re­moved. Such rules are likely to be con­sid­ered rea­son­able.

Many schools set out a spe­cific pol­icy for deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion where re­cently pierced ear­rings can­not be re­moved for PE lessons and make pro­vi­sion for chil­dren to be given an­other re­lated task. The school’s pol­icy will of­ten draw at­ten­tion to the re­quire­ment re­gard­ing ear­rings sug­gest­ing that any ear pierc­ing takes into ac­count the school pol­icy.

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