Hoveton school's uniform crackdown

A Norfolk school's clampdown on policing uniform standards with a range of “carrot and stick” sanctions has angered some parents and reignited the long-running debate on children's smartness in the classroom.

A Norfolk school's clampdown on policing uniform standards with a range of “carrot and stick” sanctions has angered some parents and reignited the long-running debate on children's smartness in the classroom.

Defiant students who flout the new rules at Broadland High in Hoveton could face exclusion, while those who regularly dress smartly will get chocolate treats as part of a controversial incentive scheme.

One parent has branded the crackdown as “pathetic” and like being in the army, while school food campaigners said handing out sweets to reward good behaviour was “inappropriate” and could undermine the fight against childhood obesity.

But the head teacher has defended the tough stance, saying it was designed to free up teachers to concentrate on lessons.

In a letter sent to parents, head Carol Dallas said all students would be made to carry a “uniform card” which would be marked by teachers if youngsters were caught with short ties, un-tucked shirts or high-heeled shoes.

Those pupils who received three or more crosses would face sanctions - beginning with a 20-minute detention for the first offence and building up to a meeting with parents and discussions about exclusion for the sixth offence.

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One parent who received the letter last week said she thought the system was a waste of time. She said: “I think it's absolutely pathetic. Have the teachers got nothing more important to do?

"A uniform is supposed to unite a school but this is going too far - this is not the army.”

The mother, who has a 14-year-old child at the school, said she saw no need for such a strict system after student behaviour received an “outstanding” grade during a recent Ofsted inspection.

She said: “How can you improve on outstanding? They've got their focus all wrong.”

However, when the EDP visited the school on Friday afternoon the majority of parents said they were in favour of the uniform policy.

Samantha Curtis, 38, of Rackheath, whose 11-year-old daughter Amy studies at the school, said: “I think it's great, I went to the school and left in '87 and it was a lot more relaxed then. Now on hot days they have to ask to take their blazer off.

“It's teaching them responsibility from a young age and teaches them self respect.”

Another parent who has two sons at the school aged 11 and 15, but wished not to be named, said: “It's good and bad - it's a good idea but I think the punishment is a bit severe. It's good for the ones who are not dressing as they should.

“But I was a bit shocked when I got the letter through. It's definitely a bit heavy-handed.”

Ms Dallas said the scheme would give teachers more time to focus on students and their learning, rather than dealing with a few disruptive teens.

She said: “Teachers do remind students all the time - it's constantly happening anyway. This is going to be very quick and precise. I want staff to concentrate on learning, not on tucking shirts in.”

The good behaviour of students meant the most serious sanctions, like exclusion, were unlikely to be used and would never be brought in simply to punish a student with too much make-up.

The head, who admitted a few parents had contacted the school, said: “It would have to be a serious deterioration in the student's behaviour. It's persistently defiant behaviour - not just uniform. It's not about not tucking your shirt in.”

Ms Dallas said the uniform cards were just one of a number of changes at the school which aimed to raise its already high standards, including schemes to stretch its gifted and talented pupils.

For some parents, it is not just the strict punishment, but the prospect of chocolate rewards - given to students who maintain a clean record all term - which is cause for concern.

Broadland High has the “healthy schools award” and it is feared the system gives out a mixed message.

Ms Dallas said chocolate was just one type of reward and added: “The idea is that it's not something for every day. It's something special. They don't have it every day because it's not healthy.”

A spokesman for the School Food Trust, which campaigns for a healthy diet in schools, said: “The trust understands that schools want to incentivise and reward pupils.

“However the use of chocolate or other sweets we don't feel is appropriate as it's likely to lead to these products being considered as treats for good behaviour.

“Schools should seek to minimise the provision of these products if they want to promote a healthy lifestyle amongst their pupils.”

Last year Dr Andrew Sheppard, head of Redcastle Furze Primary at Thetford, said there had been no exclusions from his school in the three years since he started rewarding pupils with chocolate for good behaviour.

In September 2005, Dr Sheppard pledged to give all 240 pupils a bar of chocolate if they made it to the half term break without any exclusions.

Critics said he was contributing to childhood obesity and dental problems.

But Dr Sheppard said: “It has improved behaviour, they are polite and they have a sense of responsibility.”