Students praised as ‘heroes’ after protests cause headteacher to change school’s uniform policy

Kate Plummer
Thursday 01 April 2021 13:36
news

Students at a London secondary school have been praised as “heroes” after a protest prompted the headteacher to change a series of policies which were accused of being discriminatory against Muslim and Black students.

Pimlico Academy’s uniform policy, introduced last year, included a ban on hairstyles that “block the view of others” and guidance that headscarves had to be “conventional and understated in style”. The first policy triggered complaints from students and parents this this resulted in a ban on Afro haircuts, while the second was said to have caused upset among Muslim students.

Students walked out of the school early on Wednesday morning in protest over a range of issues, including the uniform policy, chanting “we want change”.

A statement purportedly on behalf of students railed against “racism, Islamophobia and transphobia” and said pupils were angry at a lack of recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Police officers were seen at the school grounds during the protests, which led the academy to end the term early for Easter.

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After the protests, the measures were stripped from the dress code. The school also removed the union flag from outside the building and said a review would take place.

In a letter sent to parents, headteacher Daniel Smith said: “We acknowledge that this symbol is a powerful one which evokes often intense reactions. We have listened to the concerns of students, parents and the wider community about it.

“After Easter, we will conduct a review of this and, as part of that, consult with all the academy’s stakeholders to elicit their feedback. In the meantime, and until that review is concluded, the Union flag will not be flown at the academy.”

He added: “Our students are bright, courageous, intelligent young people, passionate about the things that matter to them and acutely attuned to injustice. I admire them hugely for this thought I regret that it came to this.”

Reacting to the policy change, Labour MP Zarah Sultana called the students “heroes”. She said:

And others shared her sentiments:

The protest, which came on the same day as the publication of a controversial race report, came after the school’s walls were covered in graffiti over the weekend due to student concerns about changes to the history curriculum and a lack of recognition for Black History Month. Messages included: “Ain’t no black in the Union Jack”.

Students also started a petition against the uniform changes, which garnered over 1,200 signatures.

It said: “We as students have the right to express ourselves however we choose, and also have the right to have our natural hair.

“We should be able to wear any coloured Hijabs we want as its part of a lot of people’ religion.”

Kudos to them for making it happen, we say.

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