Pupils lined up in rain to check supermarket school uniform

Pupils at an English school were forced to 'line up in the rain' while teachers colour-matched their trousers to make sure they had been bought from the right shop.

Pupils lined up at Houghton Kepier. Picture: Contributed
Pupils lined up at Houghton Kepier. Picture: Contributed

Children at Kepier School, in Houghton, Sunderland, who failed the match test were then placed into isolation or sent home.

The “outrageous” moment was captured on camera as pupils had their clothes checked.

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Parents contacted The Scotsman’s sister paper, the Sunderland Echo, in fury after their children were punished for not wearing the exact grey trousers supplied by the school’s sanctioned uniform provider, or for wearing shoes which could not be polished.

They argued that, although they understood why blazers and ties with the school logo on must be bought from the same supplier, they didn’t see why they were being forced to buy the plain trousers for £15.99 from Sunderland firm Total Sport.

That is despite the same style of trousers being available for less than half the price in supermarkets.

‘It’s like a prison’

Principal Nicola Cooper said the school is “very proud” of the new uniform and “almost all of our learners are in full school uniform”. But one parent compared the school’s stance to that of a prison.

Deb Pearson, whose daughter Nikki, 12, attends Kepier, said: “My daughter was turned away at the gates because she was wearing boots rather than shoes.

“I had difficulty finding a pair which fit her, but it’s not like she was wearing trainers or anything like that.

“When she told them she had nowhere to go, they put her into an isolation room.

“The whole thing is ridiculous. “It’s like the children are in a prison.

“They were checking their clothes for tags, which is just a disgrace.”

‘They had no right’

Another parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “They had no right to line up the children like that in the rain and inspect them. “It’s outrageous, and like something you’d expect in the Army.

“The headteacher went down the line with a swatch of clothing to check the children were wearing the correct uniform.

“Many parents are up in arms about this and can’t believe the way the school is going on.”

Donna Morris’ son Aaron, 14, is about to start Year 10: “I got a text message from him saying ‘They are not letting me in’, so I rang him and he said they would not let him in because his trousers were not from Total Sport,” she said. “I spoke to his teacher who said he had to give Aaron a letter to send him home. They said it would not affect his attendance but Aaron would not be allowed back into the school until it was resolved.

“I went down to the school and spoke to one of the teachers who actually loaned him a pair of trousers from Total Sport so he could go into class.

“I just think it’s disgraceful.”

‘They don’t want to follow rules’

But not all parents were angry. One mum m One mum messaged the Echo’s Facebook page to defend the school: “The school gave more than enough warning of the uniform policy before the six weeks holidays,” she said.

One mum messaged the Echo’s Facebook page to defend the school: “The school gave more than enough warning of the uniform policy before the six weeks holidays,” she said.

“Grey trousers are grey trousers and you can buy similar ones from the likes of Asda for families who have money issues etc, however, the school do provide low income families with vouchers to be able to purchase these particular ones, and the same for blazer and ties etc.

“Children who got sent home were the children who did not follow the rules. These children and their parents is what is wrong with this world today. They don’t want to follow rules nor act as they should because they put themselves above the rules.

“Out of nearly 1,500 pupils in this school over 90% were dressed appropriately yet the other 10 per cent went against a fair school policy. There may be 10% of parents unhappy but there are 90% who agree with the school and have done what it takes to ensure their children respect the school’s rules and wishes for children to be in a particular uniform.

“I believe the school should reimburse low income families who are on free meals also and provide the vouchers for the uniform as I don’t think anyone was aware of this option from the off.

“Regards from a parent who had to tighten her belt to pay for the uniform and is still here to tell the tail and who respects school rule.”

‘We’re proud of our new uniform’

The school’s policy drew heavy criticism in May after it announced it was to introduce a new uniform, with navy blazers and charcoal grey trousers.

Hundreds of people backed a petition campaigning against the change, which argued that the “colours look ridiculous and will make the children feel self-conscious”. Plain grey trousers – very similar to those provided by Total Sport – are available for £7 at supermarket Tesco. Kepier Principal Nicola Cooper said: “We are very proud of our new uniform and learners look extremely smart. “Almost all of our learners are in full school uniform and we have appreciated the support of their families.” No-one was available for comment from Total Sport.

• This article first appeared on our sister site, the Sunderland Echo.