‘Smarter’ school uniform plan sparks backlash as hundreds campaign against the change

Kepier School, Houghton.
Kepier School, Houghton.
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Hundreds of people have backed a petition against a school changing its uniform in a bid to create a smarter new look.

Kepier School in Houghton is smartening its look with the launch of a new uniform for boys and girls - although some students have staged a fight against the change.

The school is planning to bring in the navy blazer and charcoal grey trousers in from the start of the next academic year.

It comes after students said they felt their existing black sweatshirt and trousers and white polo shirt made them look like primary school pupils and not as smart as other schools when they attended events in the community.

A consultation project saw the 1,000-strong group of students, parents of both current and prospective children, staff and governors asked what they made of a series of suggested outfits.

But after the final look was put together from a series of options, a Facebook campaign and online petition has been set up, stating students believe the “colours look ridiculous and will make the children feel self-conscious.”

Images of how the new girl and boy uniform for Kepier School could look.

Images of how the new girl and boy uniform for Kepier School could look.

The change.org page, launched by one of the girls at the school and signed by more than 200 people, adds: “If a girl starts their period the grey trousers will form no protection against marks and stains from the blood, and many other stains from food or pens will be easily visible.”

But the school’s leaders say this point, nor others raised in the posts, were not made when views were gathered from students, with two-thirds backing the proposed designs.

Principal Nicky Cooper said: “Given the lengths we went to, it was a bit of a shock really.

“I have talked to the learner in question and said ‘I really appreciate your efforts, and explained we had just finished the consultation, politics are politics and democracy is democracy’ and she understood it from our point of view as well.

Over the years we’ve had a lot of complaints from our learners and parents that they don’t feel suitably dressed when they go to events.

Nicky Cooper

“As far as the issue around monthlies of girls, my personal view is why should it let it stop you wearing what your want?

“The trousers are a dark grey, so I don’t see it as an issue.

“Over the years we’ve had a lot of complaints from our learners and parents that they don’t feel suitably dressed when they go to events.

“We are graded as a good school with outstanding features and we want to put that view right across our community.”

Kepier School principal Nicky Cooper.

Kepier School principal Nicky Cooper.

Shaun Van-Lindon, senior pastoral leader, said: “We wanted to make it affordable for parents and cost implications were a big consideration.

“We want to create a culture of aspiration and to reflect that we want to support our students as they achieve the best they can achieve.”

The school says it has been told by parents of prospective pupils they have thought about sending children to other schools because of the current uniform.

The new blue school tie will each have coloured strip on to show which year group the pupil belongs to, which will travel with them through their time at Kepier.

The school has worked with Sunderland firm Total Sport on the plans, with a tailored-leg trouser for the girls to follow current styles.

The cost drawn up for students is £42.99 for a pair of trousers, a blazer and tie, compared to £37.99 as it stands, with an ‘adult version’ for older and taller students £48.99 compared to £39.91 for today’s outfit, although the current price does not include trousers.

Kepier School, Houghton.

Kepier School, Houghton.

The new uniform must be worn with sturdy black leather shoes.

While this year’s Year 10 group were consulted, they will continue to wear grey jumpers and black trousers next year to save parents the cost of forking out for an entirely new uniform.

It will also set them out against the rest of the school in the same way the different sweatshirt does for has for previous year groups.

The existing Year 11 was also asked what its students made of the idea, even though they will not wear the new uniform.

The petition can be viewed via http://bit.ly/2pzXCla