Pupils clash with school over hair colour

Joseph Bulmer

Some parents call the measures ‘petty’ while others back the tough stance on standards

PUPILS at a Barnstaple secondary school have been warned to change their hair back to its natural colour or face expulsion.

About 10 teenage girls at Pilton Community College are understood to have been given the ultimatum on the first day of term earlier this month.

Girls were also ordered to remove all traces of make-up on the opening day of the new school year as part of an apparent crackdown on standards by head teacher Louise Miller-Marshall.

The school has even offered to foot the bill for those pupils needing to visit a hairdresser.

Some parents who spoke to the Gazette called the measures “petty”, while others have rallied to support the principal’s efforts to improve standards at the school.

Tammy Brook said her daughter Dominique’s “burgundy” coloured hair turned bright orange when she tried to change it with a colour stripper.

“In the end I had to take her to a hairdresser to change it back to the original brown colour,” she said.

“The hairdresser said that if she puts any more colour in her hair it will fall out. It cost a fortune although the school has offered to contribute towards the cost.”

Lara Sharp said her daughter Eden was told she would be excluded if she refused to change her “red” hair.

“She had it done last term and no-one said anything to her about hair colour,” she said.

“Eden is an A-grade student and while I don’t want her to be excluded in her final year, I’m not prepared to pay for her to have it changed.

“I am not prepared to buy a hair colour stripper either as it will ruin her hair but the school has now agreed to pay the �50.20p to have it done at the hairdresser.”

Rebecca Gammon, mum of Collins said her daughter Kelsi had tried to remove a “plum” colour using a wash-in dye but had made it worse.

“I find it really petty. The school should be concentrating on bigger issues like bullying,” said Mrs Gammon.

“Kelsi has a nice simple cut and it’s not like it sticks out all over the place. It’s just the fashion.”

Mum Kelly Hawkins, said her daughter Rachel had her hair dyed last year and it wasn’t a problem.

“This year she’s been told it’s a ‘distraction’. I can’t understand it; it’d be different if it was coloured blue or green.

“She’s had a warning and I’ve rang up the school to talk to them about it but they’re not budging.”

According to the school website, hair colour should “fall within the natural range and should not be extreme”.

Principal Louise Miller-Marshall, who took over at the school last September after leaving her post as deputy head at a girls’ school in London, said the rules about hair colour had not changed.

“Students who have had extreme hair colour in the past have been asked to rectify it, and want to ensure that the rules are being followed,” she told the Gazette.

“We firmly believe that high expectations lead to improved performance and our approach to uniform and smart appearance is entirely in keeping with the norms and expectations of other schools in North Devon.

“The vast majority of our parents and pupils support our stance on uniform and on high standards in general. In fact I am regularly approached by students who want the uniform to be smarter than it is.”

Ms Miller-Marshall said the school was already considering re-instating school ties and shirts in place of the polo shirts currently worn.

“We will be consulting with students and parents to see what the uniform will look like going forward,” she said.

The head teacher also added that the school had achieved its best ever GCSE results last year (54 per cent A to C, including English and maths) and was expecting to do even better this year.

“Those improvements come about as a result of a general focus on excellent learning and teaching, with the highest expectations of all our students in relation to all aspects of their school life,” she said.

In the past few days, many parents have contacted the Gazette to register their support of the school’s stance on discipline and standards.

One mother of two, who asked not to be named, said: “I am really pleased the head teacher has taken a stance because children do need to have standards and boundaries.

“My teenage daughters are fashion conscious and are by no means paragons of virtue but they don’t like it if fellow pupils dress wildly inappropriately for school. And they get really angry if some children are perceived to be getting away with things that others are not.”

Mark Thake, speaking as a parent and community director at the school, said: “While we all want children to express their individuality, there is a time and place for everything.”

Mum Sue Denham said rules about dress code and appearance were important lessons that pupils would take with them into the world of work.

Parent Paul Ryder, also a parent director at the college, said “having ground rules at that age is the right thing to do”.

Mum Caroline Welch said: “The discipline at Pilton is very good and the behaviour seems to be exceptionally well enforced.”

Sharon Barnes, head teacher of Ilfracombe Arts College, also contacted the Gazette in support of Pilton. “We take exactly the same stance on brightly coloured hair,” she said.

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