Parents are being bullied by schools with threatening letters over uniforms and shoes 2 years ago

Parents are being bullied by schools with threatening letters over uniforms and shoes

All secondary schools students across the country are due to go back to school this Monday, after having been learning remotely (again) since January.

As we are all still in Level 5 of coronavirus restrictions, this means that during this time, no clothing – or shoe shops have been open. However, as we know, kids grow, and after four months with no shops open, many are no doubt in need of new clothes and shoes that fit.

A parents support group has now appealed to schools to be flexible, after a number of parents reported receiving letters warning students will be sent home if they're not wearing the correct uniform on Monday.

Spark Ireland, which supports single parents, shared a letter which was sent out by a Dublin secondary school, which said, ahead of the return of all pupils to school this Monday, that students may be sent home for not wearing the appropriate school uniform.

The letter also said the school appreciated the challenges this presented "in terms of budget and laundry as well as the closure of shops”.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Louise Bayliss, co-founder of Spark Ireland, said it wasn't right for schools to adopt such a stringent stance at a time when many parents are under financial pressure and clothing and shoe shops have been closed for four months.

“It's one thing at the start of September saying parents need to have the right school shoes and uniforms, but in this case, there are six weeks left of term, there's no shops open, and so many people have lost their jobs.”

“School teachers have had their full pay throughout the pandemic, and I don't think they understand the privileged position they're in, because for many parents, they haven't had a salary or wage in 14 months," she said.

Ms Bayliss said school shoes are not "even practical" and for parents struggling, it isn't pragmatic to fork out for new school shoes given there's only six weeks left of the school year.


“If parents are struggling, they're going to buy a pair of shoes that they will wear outside school," Ms Bayliss explains. "Buying a pair of school shoes that they'll get maximum 30 days wear out of, and that's not taking out PE days and that's if the schools remain open.”

Bayliss also wants schools to remember that if school shoes bought in September no longer fit, it is difficult for parents to know what size shoes their child now requires, with shoe shops closed.

“The letter came out on a Wednesday evening, the children are back to school on Monday. How in those two days do you practically organise to get a pair of shoes with no shoe shop open?”
Another letter sent by a Dublin secondary school, seen by the Irish Examiner, stated:

“Students who arrive to school in non-uniform and/or breach the code of behaviour in any other manner are giving a clear message that they cannot be trusted to abide by any of the school's Covid-19 protocols. They will be sent home immediately.”

Equating not wearing the school uniform and breaching a code of behaviour in this instance, instead of seeing the practical realities is just wrong, according to Bayliss.

“I don't see how not having a pair of shoes or the wrong skirt is proof that you can't adhere to the rules."

"I don't know how intelligent people can make that link, taking into account the financial realities for some parents, taking into account the practical realities, and even more so that children aren't responsible for any of that, that's in their parents' remit. During the course of the current pandemic, they should be offering flexibility for families,” she said, adding that parents shouldn’t have to individually go to the school to explain their personal circumstances."

The Irish Examiner states that they have reached out to both secondary schools in question, but are yet to receive a response, with a spokesperson for the Department of Education explaining that any decisions on school uniform policy are a matter for the school’s board of management at local level.