Back-to-school season has resulted in heightened drama, particularly when it comes to school uniforms.


Recently, over 80 pupils at a school in Stoke-on-Trent were put in isolation for not having the right trousers, according to Birmingham Live.


The last thing parents want is for children to miss out on educational opportunity, so it is important to know what students' rights are.


Hannah Parsons, Principal Associate Solicitor at DAS Law, has spoken out on the subject, telling parents what schools are legally permitted to do when uniforms clash with school policy.


Do children have to abide by the school uniform?


Each school has their own policies when it comes to uniform discipline. Make sure to check the school’s home-school agreement, which usually requires signing upon enrollment and lays out the discipline policy.


Although they have the right to punish uniform misconduct, they are expected to be reasonable and consider uniform variations. They are not allowed to discriminate in any way.


The Department for Education’s guidance strongly encourages schools to have a uniform, and the views of parents and pupils should always be taken into consideration.



Can the school really send children home for not sticking to strict uniform rules?


Yes. The school has the right to discipline children according to their uniform policy. Whenever this policy is breached, either a head teacher - or someone authorised by the head teacher - can ask a pupil to go home to remedy the uniform breach.


The school is expected to consider carefully whether this would be appropriate taking into account the child’s age, vulnerability, the ease and time it will take the pupil, and also the availability of the child’s parents.


This is not an exclusion but an authorised absence. Because the Secretary of State’s statutory guidance on exclusions provides that pupils should only be excluded when they have committed a serious breach of the behaviour policy, only students who consistently break this rule will be excluded.


What are my rights to appeal a school’s decision on school uniform?


A school is expected to consider reasonable requests to vary the policy when the request is made to meet the needs of individual pupils to accommodate their religion or belief, ethnicity, disability or other special consideration.


Disputes about school uniform should be resolved locally and in accordance with the school’s complaints policy.   


Usually, complaints are addressed initially to the member of staff responsible, then the head of department, and then the head teacher. The next step would be to put the complaint in writing to the chair of governors. Only after that process can the Department for Education follow up with complaints about the school.



What are the legal implications if a child has changed their appearance during school holidays such as hairstyle etc.?


Schools are entitled to have rules regarding appearance provided the rules are reasonable and ensure equality. When pupils change their appearance in the school holidays they need to be aware that on returning to school they will be expected to adhere to the school’s appearance policy.


If a child has had their ears pierced and cannot remove the earrings for 4-6 weeks but the school makes the students take them out for PE. What does the law say here?


The school may require the jewellery to be removed. Such rules are likely to be considered reasonable. However, many schools provide for children to be given an alternative to any PE activity that could result in injury to the child’s ears for those required weeks.


So, make sure to check out the school's behavioural, disciplinary, and dress code policies. But most of the time, try talking with staff about your complaint first. Most of the time schools are fairly reasonable when it comes to slight alterations of school uniforms.