A headteacher has scrapped rules banning long or bleached hair, afros or man buns and says pupils no longer have to wear a blazer and tie and urged other schools to rethink their uniform policies.
Students at all-boys Verulam School in St Alban’s still have to dress smartly but no longer are required to wear a blazer and tie.
In the past students could have been sent home from the school in Hertfordshire if their hair was ‘extreme in style, colour or length.’
But Julie Richardson has relaxed hair and dress code policies at the school since she took over as its first female headteacher last September.
She says the rules are outdated and do not fit with modern ideas on dress as well as unfairly targeting students of colour.
Julie Richardson, (pictured centre) headteacher at all-boy’s Verulam School in St Alban’s says big afros, long hair, cornrows and man buns are acceptable at her school
Ms Richardson has relaxed hair and dress code policies at the school since she took over as its first female headteacher last September
Students have welcomed the changes. Wasif Rashid, 15 said: ‘The changes have allowed students to be free to express themselves, embracing who they are.
‘We feel accepted and included in the school community and decided to wear our thobes to show this.
‘Being able to wear one in the Sixth Form is something that makes me feel I can be myself and that my faith is being respected.’
Sixth form business attire has also been removed from the policy, allowing students to dress professionally but with greater choice
Sixth form business attire has also been removed from the policy, allowing students to dress professionally but with greater choice.
It includes cultural and religious dress such as ankle length thobes which are commonly worn in the Middle East.
Ms Richardson added: ‘If business men and women in the City are no longer wearing suits and ties why should teenagers in sixth forms?
‘It’s about having the choice from a list of things deemed professional rather than insisting on one type of clothing.
‘Most schools insist on this strict uniform policy but cultural or religious dress is rarely mentioned as being acceptable.
‘They have vision statements claiming to be inclusive yet their policies are anything but.
‘It is about having helping students have a positive self-image and mental health. This is what is important for us.’
Lealan Hague, 14, (left and right) was told that teachers had ‘an issue’ with him putting his hair in plaits at Exmouth Community College
Her policy change comes after it was reported in December that a 14-year-old boy was removed from class and put into isolation after he went to school with his hair in plaits at Exmouth Community College.
Lealan Hague, 14, was told that teachers had ‘an issue’ with him putting his hair in plaits.
The pupil regularly plays rugby at the school in Devon and had put his hair into plaits to keep it out of his face.
His mother Kirsty branded the uniform policy ‘an absolute joke’ and believes the 14-year-old has the same right to wear plaits as the girls at the school.
Lealan had also been put into isolation in March 2021 as the school said a haircut he had was ‘extreme’ and ‘too short’.
Principal at the college Andrew Davis said that the school had strict rules surrounding hairstyles.
He said that when a student arrives at college with an extreme haircut they are placed in isolation to do schoolwork until parents and carers are contacted and the issue resolved.
Now, Ms Richardson is urging other schools to rethink their uniform policy. Pictured: Students at Verulam School
After her policy change, Ms Richardson is now urging other schools to rethink their uniform rules.
She said: ‘It is utter madness to be taking children out of class, away from learning just because their hair style does not fit in with archaic ideas on dress.
‘It is my view these rules, inadvertently or not, target students of colour, and are as such are not inclusive and discriminatory.
‘This is not the type of school I would like to attend, work in at or lead which is why we have removed all reference to hair in our uniform policy. We want our boys to embrace how their hair grows.
‘That means afros, long hair, man buns, cornrows, bleached, dyed, whatever way our boys choose to express themselves is ok by us.
‘Too many young people feel that they need to look a certain way and conform. This is fuelled by social media. We want our students to know it is ok to be themselves.’
Pictured: Verulam School in St Alban’s. Ms Richardson said it is ‘utter madness’ to take children out of class