Parents frustrated as Raunds school clamps down on ‘inappropriate’ school shoes following uniform list error
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Parents of pupils at Manor School, Raunds have expressed their frustration as the school has enforced a zero-tolerance policy on inappropriate footwear after a mistake on the conforming uniform list caused confusion.
Ahead of the 2023/24 academic year, the school sent a guide which incorrectly stated that Nike Air Force One shoes would be acceptable footwear for the forthcoming year, but despite the error being corrected, many parents were already purchasing them under the impression that they would be suitable.
The situation has recently been referred to by parents as ‘Shoegate’.
One parent bought the shoes at the start of the year for £110, purchasing a half a size up to ensure they fit throughout the year.
They said: "We’re not prepared to change them.
“They’re durable, they last the whole year, you don’t have to buy separate trainers for PE, they cover everything.
“You don’t have to replace school shoes as they’re even sturdy in the winter.”
They elected not to replace the shoes in time for the November 1 deadline, because they insist the trainers are ‘leather, polishable, and not untidy’, and argues that they should be accepted for the academic year.
Another parent purchased the now-unsuitable Air Force One shoes because they are ‘hard wearing’ and ‘have previously lasted the whole school year.’
The school’s policy on footwear now states: "Shoes must be plain black and have no visible markings. You must be able to polish the shoes. Shoes made of a fabric material eg canvas/suede are not permitted due to health and safety concerns in practical subjects."
Manor School principal, Dr Louise Newman, said: “While everyone is entitled to their view and opinion, the leaders of the school have a full picture of all the components that lead to creating a positive environment and successful school.
“We have let parents and carers know that we can provide a £25 contribution in way of support for them to purchase appropriate school shoes, which fit the description featured in our policy and examples of which were included in the school newsletter, featured on our website (dated 2 – 6 October).
“The vast majority of other local secondary schools already have similar uniform policies to ours in place. The smart and correct wearing of uniform is directly linked to raising standards of behaviour and therefore standards of learning.
“The school leaders continue to create visibility over various matters at the school and in its fullness understand this may create debate and opinion.
"The Nene Education Trust fully supports the ambitions of the school leadership.”
A parent added: “My daughter is the youngest of three siblings and her older brothers both wore Air Force Ones while they were at Manor and they were well behaved, well presented, did well in their GCSEs and A-levels, and both are now at university.”
In August, the school penned a letter to parents noting that, while it had ‘fallen short of the standards’ it intended, it would temporarily honour the original uniform list. However, parents were required to purchase new, suitable shoes by November 1, the first day of the second half-term.
In that letter, principal Dr Newman said: “Please understand and support us, making it clear to your child that we are not relaxing our high standards, but showing our humanity and empathy for everyone within this situation.”
Now, parents have expressed their disappointment at the zero-tolerance policy being implemented so close to Christmas, and several have proposed that September 2024 is a more suitable time for it.
A third parent said: “I feel November 1 was still pointless as parents do not buy school shoes for one month and a bit.
"Change it from September 2024, then parents that have bought Nike Air Force One shoes will get their money’s worth and it gives plenty of time for kids that have for years been allowed to wear them to get used to the idea.”
Per the aforementioned newsletter on Manor School’s website, it has already ‘considered whether it would be best for the students to wait until later in the year to make this adjustment’, citing reasons against moving the date of the policy change.
It adds: “If we make the adjustment for 1 January 2024, this would put an additional financial burden onto parents/carers at Christmas time when money is even more tight.
"If we make adjustments at February half-term, some parents/carers will argue that the trainers should still be worn as they have been OK for half a year.
“If we make adjustments at Easter, many parents/carers will not want to buy shoes which will have one term of use, as children may then grow out of them over the summer.
"Parents/carers will be under pressure from their children to replace the trainers with more trainers. As these new trainers are likely to be still wearable in September 2024, some parents/carers will argue that they should allowed to continue to wear them until they wear out.
"Therefore, the cycle continues.
"There is no good time to make change which suits everyone. That is why we are putting the welfare and success of the children first and making the change for 1 November 2023.”
The school has urged parents unsure of which footwear meets the standards to contact them, and have insisted they will respond within 48 hours.
Examples of suitable shoes are shown on Manor’s website, as well as footwear that does not conform, with the school noting that all of the examples can be bought for under £25 per pair.
The newsletter continued: “We sincerely hope that you will work with us to ensure every child feels safe, free from bullying, and smartly dressed in appropriate shoes from 1 November.
"We know as professional educators that this standard is needed for learning to be good, benefiting all students and their future life chances and choices.
"We will always make thoughtful decisions and do what is right, even if sometimes these decisions are hard and unpopular.
"To do any less would be to let your child, all children and the community down and we cannot and will not do this.”
A letter, which one parent called ‘hostile’, was sent to them by the school.
It said: "Correct and correctly worn unform (sic) has a significant and direct impact on learning and therefore your child’s achievements.
“Whilst it would be regrettable to use school funds to solve this issue rather than parents taking this responsibility (expect (sic) in those circumstance (sic) in which families need support, which we are happy to give) we will have no choice but to put teaching and learning first and provide them for your child.”
The letter added: "We are doing this with their interests at heart and using our extensive knowledge as professional educators.
“It is normal at this school that all students do as they are told by adults first time, and this is a message that all students hear regularly and all adults here at Manor fully agree to.
"This is what we expect, we are in loco parentis whilst your children are here at Manor School.
“Failure by them to wear the shoes therefore is a matter of defiance.”