Headmaster defends decision to send 50 pupils home on the first day of school over uniform debate

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  • A headmaster has hit back at criticism from parents over his decision to send home around 50 pupils on the first day of school for wearing the wrong uniform.

    Matthew Tate began his first term in the role of headteacher at Hartsdown Academy in Margate, Kent, yesterday, and sparked a protest from parents after strictly enforcing the clothing policy – eventually resulting in police being called.

    This morning, 20 pupils were also turned away for the same reason, but Matthew stands by his ruling. Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, he explained, ‘This is about setting standards for this school.’

    Image: ITV/Good Morning Britain

    ‘This school, for a long time, has been a school that many people have been ashamed of, and a school that people haven’t wanted to go to. We’ve set out yesterday that actually this is a school that’s going places, this is a school that’s going to be an amazing place for children to have a great education, and actually, we’re going to create a school where children are proud to be here, and that the community is proud of this school. This was a first step to doing that.’

    Some parents went as far as to deem Matthew’s actions ‘draconian’, to which he responded, ‘The vast majority of my parents have actually communicated that they’re pleased that we’re doing this.’

    ‘What I’ve been told is that we’ve got Year 11s, and older students, who in the past were victimised because actually they were wearing the perfect uniform, they were doing the right thing.

    ‘I’ve had parents saying that they’ve stood up to their children’s hassle power when they were getting the uniform, and then they get to school and the majority of children they feel are not wearing the right thing.’

    ‘So I was standing up for those parents – if you do the right thing for this school, you will be rewarded, it will be a great place to be.’

    During another segment of the show, Matthew told hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid that the issues were across the board, not just with new Year 7 pupils, and although it was the first day, he felt strongly that he wanted to ‘send a clear message’.

    ‘[It would be] really unfair that those children who came in the right uniform, those parents have stood up to their children and made sure they were doing the right thing – [would be] undermined by the school by not taking a strong stance,’ he added. ‘We will continue to not allow children into the school unless they’re in perfect uniform.’

    Image: ITV/Good Morning Britain

    Susanna then raised the issue about shoes, which were the problem for many pupils, and the distinction between regulation black shoes and black trainers.

    ‘The uniform policy has always said that no trainers are allowed at this school,’ Matthew replied – and when Piers Morgan asked if a similar rule would be enforced for teachers, saying ‘If a teacher comes in in trainers you’ll send them home will you?’, he simply answered, ‘yes I will.’

    The school has already stated that parents were informed of the changes to the previous uniform policy last July, but many parents say they did not receive the correspondence.

    One parent, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘I think this has been handled badly especially the head teacher being so strict with the children. I saw a lady having to help some young children and take them home.’

    ‘They were sent away from the gate without a phone call. The school has a duty of care – anything could have happened to those children.’

    Parent Lorna Bristow continued, ‘I didn’t receive a letter and I know of other parents who haven’t either. My son was turned away this morning because he was wearing shoes that looked like trainers. They were ok last year, so why aren’t they now?’

    Another mother, Latasha Whiting, took to Facebook to express her ‘disgust’ over the action.

    ‘Shocking no children’s welfare was being thought about this morning, just the headmaster trying to make an impact on his first day! Sorry wrong kind of impact in my mind!!’ she wrote.

    Despite the backlash, Matthew insisted at the time that ‘The majority of our parents are pleased. They feel the school needs to be better for their children and I’ve had several parents tell me how pleased they are that they can see that actually we want to be different.’

    ‘There is a minority of parents who are not happy with that and I understand it has inconvenienced some. A few have lost their temper.’

    ‘The parents who have been here protesting for two hours when they could have popped home and got things sorted.’

    Executive head teacher Paul Luxmoore agreed, ‘Hartsdown has previously been viewed in the community as a scruffy school, Matthew is right to ensure that changes and he has my full support.’

    Do you think the headmaster is right to enforce the school’s uniform policy, or has it been taken too far? Let us know in the comments below