Headteacher backs down over uniform row
PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 July 2012 | UPDATED: 10:02 13 July 2012
A HEADTEACHER has reversed his decision to allow only John Lewis uniforms at his school after the move was branded ‘outrageous’ by mums and dads.
Churchill Academy was set to introduce tough new rules on pupils’ dress, favouring the high-end national retailer over local shops Deanes and Sons in Cheddar and Browns of Weston, which have been supplying uniforms for years.
School leaders say they want to improve the quality and appearance of Churchill’s uniform, and initially told parents that only John Lewis attire - at around £55 for boys and £66 for girls, if parents choose a skirt - would be accepted.
A letter to parents last week said the aim was to ‘avoid the trap’ of students interpreting uniform rules differently, and to prevent ‘tension and misunderstanding’ arising from ‘unacceptable’ outfits.
But mums and dads responded by setting up a Facebook protest against the decision, as well as an online petition, which had nearly 200 signatures on it as the Mercury went to press yesterday (Wed).
They claimed the cost of John Lewis uniforms is ‘outrageous’.
Mother-of-three Linda Seabright, who has one child in year seven and another set to start in September, said the new policy could have seen children from poorer families being punished for their parents’ financial situation.
The Weston College student, who lives in Coronation Road, Banwell, said about John Lewis: “Sizes are an issue. They do not supply very small sizes or anything over a 34in waist.
“Ill-fitting uniforms will affect the children’s self-esteem.
“If families cannot afford to purchase uniform from John Lewis and get it from elsewhere, it will lead to other children being aware of their family’s financial situation and may lead to bullying.”
In response to news of the page and petition, Churchill headteacher Dr Barry Wratten branded social networking ‘simplistic, instantaneous, often lacking in thought or consideration’ and said it is something he does not ‘particularly value’.
He also told the Mercury that, as a historian, he is ‘sceptical’ about petitions but would ‘accede’ to parents’ concerns over availability of the uniform - though he insisted standards must be maintained and girls in years nine and above will still be banned from wearing skirts.
Dr Wratten said: “Of course children grow. Children and their parents replenish their wardrobes of designer clothes pretty regularly, paying quite a lot for their leisure clothes.
“We wish them to value their uniform at school also. In the past some children have not appeared to buy new uniform very regularly. At times it appears worn to a frazzle and this is our challenge.”