The headteacher of a secondary school where more than 250 girls were allegedly taken out of lessons because their skirts were too short has claimed several were under peer pressure to wear inappropriate uniform. Dr Rory Fox, headteacher at Ryde Academy on the Isle of Wight, published a letter to parents today on the school's website responding to questions he said had been put to the academy about its policy on school uniform.
Teachers sent girls, aged between 11 and 18, whose skirts were deemed to short home, or took them out of classrooms to be placed in an isolated hall, according to The Telegraph. Others were sent home to change because their trousers were "too tight" and did not fit with the school's strict new policy, and boys were turned away if they arrived at lessons without leather shoes, the newspaper said.
But a letter addressed to parents said the school's uniform policy was being enforced as a matter of fairness. Dr Fox said: "We are preparing students for the world of work so it is important that we teach students about the importance of managing their appearance and working to a dress code.
"Dealing with uniform issues helps us to improve general attitudes of co-operation and the skills of following instructions. This helps us to improve behaviour and learning in classrooms. A significant number of teachers have already commented on how much better behaviour in lessons has become, as soon as we started dealing with uniform issues."
He continued: "We would normally deal with uniform issues at the beginning of September. However, we have a number of female students who have recently said that they are coming under peer pressure to wear their skirts shorter than they feel comfortable.
"It is not fair that girls should be made to feel uncomfortable when they are just following the uniform policy. We have therefore decided to act at this point in time, to correct uniform issues."
He said the school had issued uniform guidance to parents on several occasions during the year and that there was a gallery of photos on the academy's website showing the interpretation of uniform rules. Dr Fox said he had written to parents on June 9 warning them that there would be a focus on uniform yesterday and teachers would "send students home, or educate them apart, if their uniform was not right".
Dr Fox said the current uniform policy had been in place for three years and that the school would only send home older pupils who were told to change and return to the school as quickly as possible. He said other pupils wearing inappropriate uniform would be educated away from the mainstream academy but that if the numbers swelled to more than 30 they would be sat in the hall and work under exam conditions.
He said: "We have received a number of phone calls and requests for meetings over the last few days. We will be aiming to get back to parents over the next few days, but I hope that my summary of matters here provides useful interim information."
Helen Smith, from Ryde, Isle of Wight, told The Telegraph her 14-year-old daughter Jade had been sent home twice on the same day, for having a skirt that was too short and then trousers that were too tight.
She said: "It was an absolute joke. It has been a nightmare. I just can't understand why the school have decided to do it five weeks before the end of the year."
It is not the first time Dr Fox's strict rules on school uniform have hit the headlines. In September 2011, as headmaster of Basildon Academy in Essex, he sent home 109 pupils on the first day of his new job for wearing the wrong uniform. The Daily Mail reported that Dr Fox also sent scores of pupils home, or gave them after-school detention, for wearing trainers with Velcro, the wrong trousers, an unsuitable school bag and, in one case, a gold hairband, as well as for failing to bring a pencil, paper, rubber and ruler with them to class, while dozens were put in an isolation centre for disrupting lessons.