Schools

‘Concerned’ DfE vows to back heads after school policy protests

Wave of protests over uniform and toilet policies see police called in, with a girl arrested at one school and TikTok video urging pupils to ‘trash classrooms’

Wave of protests over uniform and toilet policies see police called in, with a girl arrested at one school and TikTok video urging pupils to ‘trash classrooms’

The Department for Education said it is “concerned” after a spate of school protests over toilet, uniform and behaviour policies – but vowed to “always back” heads “taking action” to keep classrooms calm.

Police were called to several schools last week after protests, including one teenager being arrested.

Protests seem to be arranged over popular social media sites TikTok and Snapchat, with videos of disruption attracting millions of views.

One video encouraging action at an Essex school urges pupils to “trash classrooms”.

Protests are also spilling out into the community, with an adult threatening in one case to “blow up the school with staff within it”.

TikTok posts seen by Schools Week, and viewed thousands of times, also suggest more school protests are organised for this week by students. 

The DfE said it is “concerned at the reports of disruption” and will “be in touch” with all schools and councils “to ensure they are supported”. 

“We will always back headteachers to take the action required to maintain calm and supportive classroom environments as they are best placed to work with their teachers, parents, pupils and local communities when developing and implementing policies.”

‘Violence towards staff’

A 14-year-old girl was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence after police were called to Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College Academy in Bradford on Friday, the Telegraph and Argus reported. Pupils were protesting over behaviour and uniform policies.

Pupils refused to go to lessons at Farnley Academy in Leeds on Friday, Leeds Live reported, in response to plans to close all but one toilet block during lessons.

Chris Stokes, headteacher, said this followed “two very serious safeguarding events”. 

In a letter, Stokes opened up about the “highly abusive, upsetting and frankly abhorrent comments” from adults in the school’s community, too.

“Freedom of speech does not extend to threats of violence towards members of staff, myself included, nor does it extend to a desire to, in one case, blow up the school with staff within it. All such comments will continue to be reported to the police.” 

At Richmond School and Sixth Form, in north Yorkshire, a fire extinguisher was let off in school grounds and police were called, according to Richmondshire Today

Meanwhile, hundreds of pupils at Rainford High School, in St Helens, protested over enforcing uniform rules for girls’ skirts to be knee length. One video of the disruption has had more than seven million views.

The Warriner School, in Banbury, has also seen protests over changes to make uniform gender neutral, the Banbury Guardian reported. 

In a statement, executive headteacher Annabel Kay said they have “listened” and “committed to engaging further on our uniform policy”. 

school protests
One TikTok post

Farnley Academy ran extended form time this morning to give “all students the opportunity to write down their views”, Stokes wrote in the letter to parents.

“The student leadership team will then take the time to review all responses and discuss with me their collective views on how we can improve things.. I hope you will agree that the above approach is sensible and will allow appropriate and constructive dialogue to take place.”

More protests planned

Meanwhile, Schools Week has seen a TikTok video issuing instructions for protests this week at an Essex school.

One account claims to be a year seven pupil at the school. Another account posted a video two days ago, viewed nearly 10,000 times, saying “make posters and stick them around the school whilst the protest happens … start in groups and start shouting at teachers whilst the protest happens trash classrooms”. It adds “bring stuff in to annoy the teachers”.

It is not yet clear if this went ahead. Schools Week has contacted the school. 

Schools Week revealed in November 2021 how teachers were being attacked in “abhorrent” TikTok videos – with the social media giant accused of failing to act in taking down offensive content.

Meanwhile, we reported in May how a new “Guess Who” trend left tormented pupils reluctant to attend school, with leaders again “banging heads against a brick wall” trying to get videos removed.

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