Students and staff protest over school’s ‘racist’ uniform policy

By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter

Sixth formers are protesting against their central London school’s uniform policy after it was branded “racist”.

Tensions between Pimlico Academy’s senior leadership and its parents and pupils began in August 2020 when a new uniform policy was imposed.

Among the new rules affecting all pupils were a ban on afro haircuts which could “block the views” of other pupils in class.

The new policy also required Year 12 and 13 students to sport “formal business suits”, whereas they were previously allowed to wear chinos and a collared casual shirt.

Parents previously told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that this placed a financial burden on them while many people had been put on furlough or been made redundant.

The Guardian newspaper reported yesterday that up to 30 members of staff are considering whether to leave the school.

Other elements of the new uniform policy that caused upset were a ban on headscarves that are any colour except black, and rules about whether pupils who wear them could have their hair showing.

Students also took issue with its history curriculum having a lack of recognition for Black History Month.

There are unconfirmed reports that staff who are members of the National Education Union were due to hold a vote of no confidence yesterday in the academy’s principal designate, Daniel Smith, who took over in July and prompted the uniform changes.

A spokesperson for Future Academies, which runs the school, said yesterday it was not aware of any official ballot and added: “Future Academies are based in areas of deprivation and disadvantage to enhance the life-chances of children.

“We have the highest aspirations for our students and are committed to ensuring that they all grow up to be respectful of others, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, age, disability or religious belief, and that each feels respected and safe.

“The current uniform and equipment policy has removed all gender-specific elements.”

Meanwhile, one parent, Christine Tuffin, said she has twice had rows with the school’s senior leadership over her Year-9 daughter’s shoes.

“My daughter missed a whole week of school because they wouldn’t let her come in with black trainers.

“She can’t wear hard-heeled shoes because she has short tendons on the backs of her feet.

“So the doctor recommends she wears trainers otherwise her feet don’t come out in blisters.

“I have twice had to show them doctor’s notes and the old principal refused to talk to parents about anything to do with uniform.”

Liza Begum, a former Pimlico Academy pupil  and Labour’s candidate for the upcoming Churchill ward councillor by-election, went to the protests this morning and saw children “demonstrating peacefully”.

She said: “I spoke to children this morning and they were upset about Black History Month being removed from the history curriculum, and subjects about ethnic minorities being removed.

“I was watching the demonstration today and it was a peaceful event. I’m proud of the students who have taken direct action.”

Roli Okorodudu, whose daughter is in Pimlico Academy’s Year 13 cohort, said: “My daughter is doing her A levels and it’s a tough time for them.

“With everything to do with sexual harassment cases in different schools, the young lady who was killed in Clapham Common, Black Lives Matter and all the lockdowns, it’s been really tough.

“The students don’t feel like they’re being listened to on these issues that have been bubbling under at the school all year. They feel frustrated and disempowered, and what does that do for them once they leave school?”

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