I have written in this blog before about the value of uniform and why I believe it plays an important role in a child’s sense of place. Most important of all, a school uniform is a great leveller, enabling young people to thrive and excel through their talents and their character. The distraction of what to wear is a significant one for all young people and, when they have no real choice on that matter during a school week, it means that they can focus on matters of greater importance. That is my personal view and it is the school’s firm position on uniform.
Uniform, however, also extends to matters such as jewellery, piercings etc. It is a common point raised by students, and some parents, often sadly with the assistance of low-quality media, which asks, ‘what has my hair colour got to do with my learning?’ At face value, it is a reasonable question and one that we seek to answer for students as we can understand where it comes from.
We answer it thus; your hairstyle is a personal choice and, for many young people, it is a way of expressing their personality or may be an important element of their faith or ethnicity. When these choices are made within a range of what is acceptable, they provoke very little comment and are personal to the individual. However, if we permit young people to choose any form of hair style or accessorisation then this becomes a distraction from learning. It becomes a discussion point and, in some cases, it becomes something that other children seek to copy, placing a burden on parents. Collectively, the staff at Hessle have worked across a very wide range of educational settings and we have seen schools which adopt a more relaxed approach to uniform, hair styles, jewellery and so on. In the vast majority of cases, the staff in these schools spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with issues arising from bullying, peer disputes, damage to personal property, parental complaints and other non-learning matters. I hope that you feel our uniform policy promotes high standards. Each day, I stand near the front gate and am delighted to see such high standards of dress and compliance with our uniform policy. Our students are smart, comfortable and, most important of all, ready to learn without distractions.
When it comes to uniform, we therefore have several aims. Ensuring that we maintain those high standards and, if and when we do change it, making sure that we communicate early and clearly. Equally, we want to ensure that it is affordable.
Recently, legislation was passed in Parliament to ensure that schools paid strict attention to the costs of school uniform. This was slightly misreported as an attack on uniform in some parts of the press. The target of this legislation are the small number of schools which insist that uniform is bought from one monopolistic supplier or that most items of uniform are branded. The consequence of this is often extremely expensive outlay for parents which can deter some families from choosing such schools. We believe that the cost of uniform should never prevent a parent from choosing to send their child to our school and, in my time at Hessle, I have never heard that has ever been the case.
We know that several schools in Hull and the East Riding have introduced branded trousers and/or skirts. Whilst I understand the reasons for doing so, we decided that the cost of these items for parents would be prohibitive. We have, therefore, maintained our uniform expectations for next year which prescribe a branded blazer, tie and sportswear, but allows parents the choice of using alternative suppliers for shirts, trousers, skirts and shoes.
Prior to this, we undertook a review of the cost of our uniform for 2022-23. Using our approved supplier for branded items (blazer, tie, sports kit and hoody) and a supermarket for other items that may be required throughout the year (six shirts, four pairs of trousers or skirts and two pairs of shoes), the cost would be approximately £145 for a boy and around £152 for a girl wearing a skirt (although they may choose to wear trousers instead).
For an entirely unbranded school uniform (i.e. blazer bought from a supermarket with no badge, no branded sportswear etc) the cost would be £95 for a uniform with trousers and £101 for a uniform with a skirt.
The maximum overall difference between the branded and unbranded uniform for a boy or a girl is therefore £51. While we recognise that this still may present a challenge for some families, we believe that, providing our uniform expectations are presented to families in a consistent and reasonable time frame, it is possible to budget for this cost. Importantly, the cost of a uniform is significantly lower than no uniform at all, which would place parents at the mercy of whatever fashions were of the moment.
Furthermore, each year we work closely with our uniform supplier and families to support those that struggle to provide uniform for their child. In addition to the support offered by Rawcliffes and the school, I have also known of some of our staff personally buying uniform for some children or laundering it to help families out. This kind of support happens up and down the country in schools and is sadly not reported when the media wish to portray schools as profiting from uniform sales.
We are living in a time where the rising cost of living is affecting everyone and this will hit those on the lowest incomes especially hard. We stand with those families and will do everything we can to support them with the costs of uniform whilst also ensuring that every child can arrive in school smartly dressed and ready to focus on their learning and development.
As always, your support with uniform on a daily basis is hugely appreciated. Thank you.
Finally, this week we were overwhelmed with applications for places on our Key Stage 3 Geography trips. Thankfully, we were able to offer additional dates and more spaces for those that wished to participate. This shows the pent-up desire for students to get out and explore wider learning opportunities. Unfortunately, in underestimating the demand, we caused some anxiety to families who felt that they were going to miss out on this opportunity and I apologise for that.
Normally, for popular trips (as this turned out to be) we operate an ‘expression of interest’ system which allows for a window of time in which people can register their interest in attending a trip. This allows all families the chance to receive, open and process the initial letter from school, rather than just those that have easiest access to a PC. Once the expressions of interest window is open it enables all families an equal chance of obtaining a place on the trip. As I said, we did not give advance notice of this process on this occasion, we should have done and I apologise. In the event, we hope that all Year 7 and Year 8 students who wish to go on the trip will be able to.
Some of you got in touch to ask me how my daughter’s first visit to a Super League game went last Saturday and I have to tell you that she loved it, especially the bouncy castles in West Park and meeting the Airlie Bird mascot. She was attending because my son was recovering from an operation and so we had a spare season pass. The upshot of all of that is that I now need another season pass and my Saturday afternoons spent with my pals have become something quite different altogether!
Enjoy the weekend