SCHOOLS across Barnsley are having to deal with scores of complaints from parents amid strict uniform policies that have reportedly seen pupils lined up for inspections and some items of clothing ‘defaced’ to meet guidelines.

At Horizon Community College, on Dodworth Road, reports of children having parts of their shoes cut off because they didn’t meet a school’s dress code have been categorically denied by the principal.

While the policy has not changed since last year, some types of footwear - such as all-black trainers - have been completely banned in favour of black smart shoes.

But some parents, including Leanne Kowacz of Honeywell Lane, claim that their children’s footwear, which was not explicitly prohibited, had been deemed unacceptable.

Leanne had bought her son a pair of Kickers shoes which were plain black but had a coloured tag on either side, and when he came home from his first day at school she found the tag had been cut off - with her son claiming he was ‘made to do it’.

In Text Promo Image

“He came back from school and it sounds like he was given an ultimatum to either cut the tags off, wear the school’s shoes or go into isolation,” said Leanne, 38.

“He said it was like a conveyor belt, the way children were forced to go through checks on their way into school.

“We knew they were having a clampdown and weren’t allowed shoes that were allowed last year, but the information sent out didn’t say anything about Kickers.

“I’m all for following rules, but they’ve got to be reasonable rules.”

Kev Travis said his son had been warned after wearing the same shoes, but he’d decided to colour the tags in with black pen.

“One of the reasons we bought Kickers is because they were within the guidelines, and they’re well-made,” said Kev, 34, of Bluebell Bank, Barnsley.

“If you ask 100 parents, 99 people would name them as a typical school shoe.

“My son even picked them up a few times and said they would be all right when we bought them.

“I think they’ve misled people in the leaflet sent out.”

Executive principal Nick Bowen said parents were notified of the adjustment in March - and it had been motivated by suggestions from parents following confusion around last year’s policy.

“Our policy is the same as it was last year, but we’ve tightened up,” added Nick.

“Last year we moved away from trainers, but we did allow black trainer-style shoes.

“But parents were saying it wasn’t clear, so why don’t we just say wear black shoes and that’s that.

“We have 2,000 children here and 1,990 have complied after receiving all the information ages ago.

“We don’t have a different policy to any other school.

“We always get into these debates about what constitutes a school shoe, and there’s always going to be a grey area. We are not trying to stop kids going to school.”

Nick added the school had a number of shoes for pupils whose dress didn’t comply with the uniform policy.

He also denied allegations that any children had had tags cut off of their shoes or had been forced to do so.

“The kids have chosen to cut them off,” he added. “Some have done it anyway.

“It’s a small number of kids have done it off their own back, they’ve certainly not been told to do that.

“When kids leave school and go to work they have to dress accordingly and show professionalism and standards.

“Staff have a dress code as well for the same reason.”

MP investigates reports of ‘Draconian’ new rules

OTHER schools have been blasted for uniform policies that are ‘nothing short of draconian’.

Alongside Horizon Community College, Darfield’s Netherwood Academy and Wath Academy also saw reports of children being singled out due to their uniform upon returning to school after the summer holidays.

One grandparent of children at Wath Academy, who did not wish to be named, told the Chronicle they had visited school to bring home their ‘distraught’ grandchildren to find other children were ‘wearing similar footwear but going to their lessons’.

“The policy is unreasonable and for some unaffordable, but the way it has been implemented has been inconsistent and nothing short of draconian with a refusal to see logic and with no leeway given to parents to source suitable afforded alternatives,” they said.

A spokesman for Wath Academy downplayed the allegations, saying only 18 pupils - one per cent of the school’s total 1,800 capacity - had been educated outside of normal classrooms.

“Improving the consistency of uniform is one of many strategies of school improvement which we are using to improve the school,” said the spokesman.

“All parents and carers received a letter before the summer holiday clearly stating our new uniform expectations. We have also introduced a new staff dress code.”

The spokesman clarified that students in incorrect uniform were given the opportunity to address this, with a stock of new uniform available free of charge.

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey responded to the reports, and others regarding new shoes having ‘bows and tags’ cut off of them, writing a letter to head teacher Jon Taylor which was later made available on social media.

“Whilst both I and parents appreciate the need for strict rules, the issues reported to me seem to centre around the inconsistency, heavy-handedness and the way in which it was done - having children line up ‘down the street’ due to the length of the line and children then being singled out,” he wrote.

Similar reports of children not meeting uniform guidelines being ‘made to stand at the front of assemblies’ came from Netherwood Academy.

A spokesman for Netherwood said the school would ‘work with individual students’ who did not meet uniform guidelines.

“We are very clear about our expectations on uniform. This means pupils wearing shoes to school, not trainers,” said the spokesman. “Our new policy has been explained to parents and pupils in some detail.

“Last term, we wrote to parents twice, held a parents forum, and ran assemblies for every year group to make it absolutely clear about what types of footwear are acceptable in school, and those which are not.

“We were pleased to see that the vast majority of our pupils turned up for the start of the new school year looking very smart and wearing the right footwear.”