Uniform agreement reached in South Shields school dress row

Harton Academy in Lisle Road, South Shields.
Harton Academy in Lisle Road, South Shields.

A school in South Tyneside has come to a uniform agreement with parents after a rumpus over a new dress policy for pupils.

Harton Academy executive headteacher Sir Ken Gibson has agreed to vary part of proposals aimed at pushing up standards by making children smarter at the Ofsted ‘outstanding’ rated school.

Executive headteacher Sir Ken Gibson

Executive headteacher Sir Ken Gibson

His compromise follows a social media petition, signed by almost 250 parents and supporters who opposed elements of the plan.

They had claimed a lack of consultation and higher costs and questioned why a Newcastle-based supplier had been chosen.

Sir Ken introduced the uniform in response to a perceived drop in dress standards at the school, in Lisle Road, South Shields.

This included some pupils turning up for lessons wearing what he describes as inappropriate clothing.

Under the amended plan, trousers for boys and girls may also now be purchased from any supplier.

Current Year 10 pupils will not have to wear the new school blazer or jumper when they move into Year 11.

Alterations are also understood to have been made to payment plans to make them easier for poorer parents.

The number of planned ‘pop-up’ shops, where the supplier comes to the school, may also be increased.

Sir Ken has, however, stood firm on his demand that skirts, clip-on ties and blazers must still be bought from the supply outlet - and pupils entering Year 11 from September 2019 will not be able to escape purchasing the jumper or navy blazer.

He said: “Many parents have already been up to the shop or have bought the uniform online. There has been a counter balance to parents who objected to it. It’s all about raising standards further.

“The vast majority of our pupils look superb already, but it is the moment to change.

“This change was driven by the pupils and I predict that 95 per cent will like it come September.”

The 49-year-old mum-of-two who started the petition, who does not want to be named, said she was satisfied with the outcome and praised the headteacher for listening to concerns.

She added: “We didn’t get everything, but it was enough. I think the concessions are fair and will please everyone on both sides.

“I have received very good feedback from parents, and the supplier is also being very supportive.

“Sir Ken has listened and that is a good thing. It’s amazing what a bit of concerted effort can bring about.”

Sir Ken insisted a full consultation took place before his new plans were announced to introduce a uniform he estimates will cost £50 per pupil a year.

This included a meeting attended by around 500 parents and information emails and letters being sent to homes.

He also said a survey had shown 66.5 per cent of pupils and 91 per cent of staff at the 1,600-pupil school supported the switch to a uniform.