Schools

Schools hit by uniform and toilet policy protests

Police were called to several schools after protests this week and last, with one force issuing a dispersal order

Police were called to several schools after protests this week and last, with one force issuing a dispersal order

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One in five secondary teachers say pupils in their schools have protested in the past fortnight over issues such as skirt lengths and toilet policies.

Schools Week has seen social media videos of youngsters pushing shopping trolleys into closed school doors, children climbing over fences with others staging mass walk-outs.

Police were called to several schools after protests this week and last, with one force issuing a dispersal order.

New Teacher Tapp figures, shared exclusively with Schools Week, reveal that 20 per cent of teachers reported being aware of protests in their school.

When broken down by type of disruption, 10 per cent said they were about policies relating to using the toilet during lessons, while 7 per cent said they were over skirt lengths.

The trend seems to have been sparked by a protest at Rainford High School in St Helens over rules for girls’ skirts to be knee length. One video of the disruption has had more than seven million views.

Teacher Tapp found ‘requires improvement’ schools were three times more likely to have protests than ‘outstanding’ schools.

Schools in the north and east of England were most likely to have disruption, with year 8 and 9 pupils most likely to be involved.

Protests more likely in deprived schools

Protests were also twice as likely in the most deprived schools compared with the most affluent.

In a separate survey of 900 teachers in affected schools, 9 per cent said more than 100 students were involved. Fifteen per cent said up to 100 students, 23 per cent had up to 30 and 20 per cent had up to ten students.

The Department for Education said it was “concerned” and would “be in touch” with all schools and councils to ensure they were supported.

A spokesperson said they would “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”.

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 last Friday, the Telegraph and Argus reported. Pupils were protesting over behaviour and uniform policies.

Pupils protest toilet closures

Pupils refused to go to lessons at Farnley Academy in Leeds on Friday following the school’s decision to close all but one toilet block during lessons.

Chris Stokes, the school’s head, said the decision followed “two very serious safeguarding events”.

In a letter, Stokes opened up about the “highly abusive, upsetting and frankly abhorrent comments” from adults.

“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.”

In a video posted on Monday, a person in mufti can be seen pushing a shopping trolley into the doors at Kingswood Academy in Hull, which is run by Academies Enterprise Trust (AET). According to reports, the protest was over school uniform policies.

Police were called to the school and the nearby Winifred Holtby Academy.

Pupils should raise concerns through ‘normal channels’

A Humberside Police spokesperson said a group of children “were reported to have engaged in antisocial behaviour and a dispersal order was issued”. Officers were now reviewing CCTV.

An AET spokesperson said the “vast majority” of students continued with lessons as normal.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the heads’ union ASCL, said that some pupils had protested, although no rules had changed in their schools.

If pupils were unhappy, he said, “they should raise this through the normal channels, rather than staging protests that are inevitably disruptive and the last thing that schools need at any time, but particularly when they are facing such a range of pressures as is currently the case.”

The union has issued advice about how schools can report TikTok posts that breach community guidelines.

Ofsted said that if a protest happened during inspection, the inspector would make a “judgement call” on whether to continue.

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.

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  1. John Davies

    Teachers are there to teach . IIf the children don’t want to listen then they should be excluded. I have said this before but i think it is worth saying again-NON OF THE EXPERTS TEACH IN A CLASSROOM . We are all experts on other peoples’ children, it is our own we have problems with.
    One of the best heads i worked for said “We must prepare our pupils for the outside world”.