Students and teachers have been protesting over a school’s strict new uniform policy, claiming it is discriminatory and racist.
The Pimlico Academy in Westminster, central London, introduced a new policy. It includes banning hairstyles that “block the views of others” and colourful hijabs.
Students chanted “we want change” during a mass walk-out today.
As well as the uniform upset, students say Black Lives Matter and Black History Month were both ignored.
To show their unhappiness, students staged a sit-in to start in the morning, before pupils were sent home for the day at about 1.30pm.
This isn’t the first protest, either. Last year, students took down a union jack outside the school and burned it.
One student said this week: “We believe the school has unfairly targeted groups of students. The school should protect marginalised races, religions and other groups instead of target them.”
“Previously, Pimlico may not have been the best school but we were represented and we felt we were heard when we raised issues but now that’s not the case.
“The flag has become a symbol of us not being listened to. It’s strange but feels like we are being colonised.”
A female student added: “[The new policy] is racist. It implies afros.”
The school sent a letter home to inform students and their parents of the new uniform policy in September last year.
Included in the new rules, is a ban on hairstyles that “block the views” of other students and hijabs should not be “too colourful”.
Students insist the policy is “racist”, saying it targets Muslims and those with afro hairstyles. They previously launched an online petition against the new rules.
The policy also required male and female pupils to wear “formal business suits”.
Before the change, chinos and a collared casual shirt were acceptable.
New principal designate Mr Smith took over in July last year and put the changes in place
Staff are also unhappy with teaching and the rules. The school is run by Future Academies and many teachers are said to be considering resigning. There is also the potential for a vote of no confidence in headteacher, Daniel Smith.
The entire geography department handed in their notices in solidarity with a colleague who was dismissed.
Graffiti scrawled across the school says: “Headmaster Smith should get the sack.”
Elsewhere, other graffiti says “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack”, “White schools for brown kids are u mad” and “Pimlico Academy … run by racists … for profit”.
Parents have been reporting clashes with the school too.
One mum, Christine Tuffin, had had arguments about her Year 9 daughter’s shoes.
She told MyLondon: “My daughter missed a whole week of school because they wouldn’t let her come in with black trainers.
“She can’t wear hard-heeled shoes because she has short tendons on the backs of her feet.
“So the doctor recommends she wears trainers otherwise her feet don’t come out in blisters.
“I have twice had to show them doctor’s notes and the old principal refused to talk to parents about anything to do with uniform.”
Liza Begum, Labour’s candidate for the upcoming Churchill ward councillor by-election, visited the protest. She’s a former pupil of the school.
She said: “I spoke to children this morning and they were upset about Black History Month being removed from the history curriculum, and subjects about ethnic minorities being removed.
“I was watching the demonstration today and it was a peaceful event. I’m proud of the students who have taken direct action.”
The Guardian reported that one teacher, who has handed in her resignation, predicted a “mass exodus” of staff. They say that up to 30 members are due to leave at the end of the year.
She also claims staff feel demoralised and disagree with the choices made.
The National Education Union was due to hold a vote of no confidence on Tuesday night in the academy’s new principal designate.
A spokesman for the central London school said:“The rationale for this is self-explanatory and doesn’t relate to any specific hairstyle.”
He insists that the school was keen to create a “professional environment”.
Image via Alamy