Children left 'freezing' after school confiscates their coats and demands branded clothing

13 January 2022, 15:40

Parents have complained about the school's stance on coats
Parents have complained about the school's stance on coats. Picture: Google Street View

By Stephen Rigley

Children were left wearing just jumpers in winter weather while teachers looked on in thick overcoats after a school demanded parents pay up to £100 for officially branded items.

Photos show staff at Bishop Heber in Malpas, Cheshire wearing warm winter outfits while some pupils are just in jumpers having had their coasts confiscated.

Some parents have slammed the school claiming their children became ill due to the winter weather and the problems have got worse as classrooms have doors and windows open due to anti-Covid measures.

Bishop Heber pupils are expected to wear a branded polo, sweater, fleece and anorak at a cost of almost £100 per child.

One mother told MailOnline she wasn't able to purchase the school's official garments because they are 'repeatedly' out of stock.

Subsequently, she bought her child a £45 smart black coat from a supermarket - but they are not allowed to wear them on school grounds.

Her children have since been given "detentions and demerit marks on their school records".

She said: “The branded windbreaker jacket that Heber insist on children wearing are not made any more as the company discontinued them. Kids are supposed to wear them over their fleece - which mine did until they grew out of them. Then we couldn't replace them as you can no longer get hold of them.

“The branded fleece is great but not in cold weather. I think they were £25 each when I bought them. We have since had to purchase a smart black coat from a supermarket to go over the fleece so they can wear them to and from school, but only because the school one is not available anymore. We spent about £45 on each coat however my children are not allowed to wear them on school grounds.

"We have had some serious problems getting hold of the uniform as the kids grew. They're only available from one shop and they are very slow at getting items in stock. Meanwhile my children receive detentions and isolation and demerit marks on their school records."

Another mother said: 'It was bitterly cold, freezing all day, and his hands were so cold that he couldn't hold his pen in English. When he came out of school he was absolutely frozen.

'These children are freezing outside, then they're going into a classroom with the windows all open - they need to be warm.

'If we've got to have this rule, if that's what the headteacher wants, then please can he ditch his padded coat and can the teachers lead by example by all standing outside without their coats on? Because I think that would set a good example for the children.’

In an email to the parents of Year 9 students, head teacher David Curry explained the rationale behind the coat ban.

Mr Curry said that he was "aware that there's been some discourse on social media about coats and why students cannot wear their own in school"

The email reads: "I'd like to take this opportunity to state that students are allowed to wear coats to and from school as some have long journeys and have to wait for parents and/or buses in the morning/afternoon.

"However, once they arrive at school after registration period, we expect that an undergarment (e.g. vest/t-shirt/base layer) along with a school polo shirt, jumper, fleece and optional jacket (windcheater) would be sufficient to keep them warm and conversely allow them to take layers off when in warmer classrooms.

‘In essence, the four/five layers of clothing we suggest should be more than ample to ask them to go out at break to get a blast of fresh air and withstand almost all weathers.

"We are fortunate at Heber that students almost always understand this and so usually it works really well.

"If we allowed non-uniform coats, we believe strongly that it would erode the great relationships we have with the students day to day as inevitably students would push the boundaries and wear hoodies and other coats (inc. styles and colours) that undermines the high standards we have.

"More importantly, I also believe that it would become a status issue for us and possibly make some students feel vulnerable.

'Many of the most expensive coats (e.g. North Face and Canada Goose are upward of £200-£300 even £1,000) and wearing/owning the 'right' coat could become the motive rather than its thermal properties which I feel, could undermine what we stand for as a comprehensive school and put pressure on students in school and families to conform to a set of norms/expectations that aren't healthy, marginalising some students and putting at risk that sense of belonging which we work so hard to achieve at Heber.

“I hope our rationale makes sense and that our drive to ensure every child can be the best they can be is central to the decision."

An Act of Parliament designed to reduce exorbitant school uniform costs was passed this year, and is set to come into force from this September.

Cheshire MP Mike Amesbury who championed the bill said: "'What is being reported by parents is clearly against the spirit of the Act. To hear about coats being confiscated in the middle of winter because they are deemed non-compliant with uniform policy, is plainly ridiculous."