Parents launch petition over uniform changes

Lead campaigners Hannah Patterson & Abi Skinner

A petition has been started by parents concerned about a uniform change at King’s Oak Academy (KOA) in Kingswood from September.

The petition – Keep King’s Oak uniform affordable and accessible for all – has been set up on and has over 100 signatures.

KOA, part of the Cabot Learning Federation is changing from a primary and secondary school to having a lower, middle and upper school.

Parents say that with the steep rise in the cost of living, KOA should introduce a transition phase for the new uniform to allow more time for it to look into a logo patch alternative to branded items, and for ‘hand-me-downs’ to be re-used and not thrown away.

The school is also being urged to keep non-logo items acceptable in the lower and middle school for all uniform and PE kit “as it’s a precedent that’s been set and to change it now flies in face of Government guidance which advises all schools to do all they can to reduce costs of school uniform, not increase them”.

The new uniform includes three different polo colours for different age groups. The school initially said the uniform would include black trousers (as currently worn) but has switched to charcoal grey.

Principal Katherine Ogden has said the new uniform is cheaper when taken across the school as a whole but lead campaigners Hannah Patterson and Abi Skinner say that doesn’t take into account the hand-me-downs that families currently use. They also say that the only skirt option is branded and that parents of children going into Year 11 are unhappy about having to buy a new uniform that their children will only wear for seven months.

The petition also calls on the academy to find a more reliable, accessible and local supplier to save parents the “constant stress” of having to hope that items are even available from supplier Monkhouse as parents are unhappy with the current service and quality of items.

In response KOA says it consulted extensively with parents, carers, pupils and staff more than 12 months ago about the changes: “Our new, inclusive uniform has been designed to ensure we are both raising aspirations in our school community and prioritising the comfort and needs of all of our pupils.

“The only core branded items required for purchase from the designated supplier are a school jumper and a PE top – all other items can be purchased unbranded from alternative sources. If pupils wish to wear a skirt, or a KOA rugby top, both of which are non-core or optional, for quality and assurance purposes these must also be purchased from the designated supplier.

“We are very mindful that some families may need support to transition to a new uniform, which is why we encourage anyone with concerns to contact us. We are able to offer financial support to those families most in need. We have also purchased significant numbers of uniform items that we can supply to pupils at no cost at the beginning of term if required.”

Miss Ogden explained that the switch to charcoal grey trousers is that they tend to be available in more tailored versions, unlike the variety of styles of black trousers available.

She said the school is still exploring options for an optional iron-on branded logo patch. KOA is also liaising with Kids Just Recycle and South Gloucestershire Council about setting up a uniform recycling scheme.

She added that the school has been told by Monkhouse that items will be ready in time for the new term and assured parents that pupils would not be penalised if they are not available.

This week Hannah Patterson said the uniform issue is causing some families great distress and that parents “want affordable uniform, not handouts”.

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “The approach to school uniform is a matter for each multi-academy trust and their schools and, as a local authority, we do not play a role in making those decisions.

“We do expect that schools are mindful of costs in making any requirements of or changes to uniforms, particularly where this will have an impact on low-income families. We understand that the school has communicated with families in relation to alternative suppliers, for example, and we operate a school clothing grant to support those with exceptional needs.”

Those needs include homelessness, death of a parent or “conditions of extreme poverty” in addition to being on benefits.