Haircut and uniform violations being punished by schools as severely as drug and weapons, MPs warn

Posted on: 2018-07-24 23:00:00

Haircut and uniform violations are being punished by schools as severely as drug and weapons, MPs say

Haircut and uniform violations are being punished by schools as severely as drug and weapons under “zero tolerance” policies, MPs have warned.

Pupils are being “punished needlessly” for minor offences under strict behaviour codes and this is fuelling the escalating number of expulsions across England, according to a new report published by the education select committee.

“Zero tolerance” behaviour policies have become a popular among headteachers as they seek to instill discipline and improve results.

But such policies have been criticised by MPs who say they are leading to more students being temporarily or permanently excluded from school.

“We have heard that there is an increase in zero-tolerance behaviour policies, contributing to the rise in exclusions and increase in pupils attending alternative provision,” the report said.  

“While it would be reasonable of schools to take a zero-tolerance approach to drugs or weapons, a school culture which is intolerant of minor infractions of school policies on haircuts or uniform will create an environment where pupils are punished needlessly where there should be flexibility and a degree of discretion."

The committee found that the rise in “zero tolerance” behaviour policies “is creating school environments where pupils are punished and ultimately excluded for incidents that could and should be managed within the mainstream school environment”.

MPs said schools should be given incentives to be more inclusive, and urged minister to issue guidance for schools, reminding them of their responsibilities towards children. Between 2006/7 and 2012/13, the number of permanent exclusions reduced by nearly half. However, since then it has increased and over the past three years it has risen by 40 per cent.

Robert Halfon, the Tory chair of the Education Select Committee, said that this high number of exclusions is a "scandal" adding: : "It really shames our country."

He told The Daily Telegraph: "Often we focus on improving academic standards but sometimes we forget about the social capital. 

"If you have a hardcore, draconian zero tolerance policy, the impression given by our witnesses is that it can have an effect [on exclusions]. It is not just zero tolerance policies and I understand why some do it. But it needs to have flexibility."

Earlier this year, the headmaster of Charter Academy in Great Yarmouth wrote to parents to explain that the “Meet Me at McDonald’s” haircut, among others, is banned at the school.

Barry Smith, who was drafted in to turn the previously failing school around,  threatened to send home or put in isolation pupils who fail to change their hairstyle. 

Parents criticised the ban, but Ofsted backed Mr Smith and praised improvements at the academy following his introduction of a strict behaviour policy.

Mr Smith instigated a raft of new rules at the school, including a ban on chewing gum. If any pupils are found chewing up in school, they would be placed in isolation, he told parents.

Merchants Academy in Bristol also has a strict uniform policy dictates that shoes must not be “patent” and must have no buckles or decorations.

It says that “low level issues” such as an untucked shirt, a top button undone or sleeves rolled up on blazers will result in a warning, but repeat offenders of “significant uniform issues” could be put in isolation.

“Students that are not wearing the expected uniform and do not have a note from the Medical Welfare Officer will be sent to the Isolation Room if their uniform is not improved within 24 hours,” the school’s policy says.

“Students that have incorrect uniform need to wear a pass, if this is not on show they will be sent to the Isolation”.

Headteacher Mr Short said that the strict behaviour code allows for “higher levels of engagement and more progress to be made by all students”.

Source: The Telegraph 

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