Teachers are being "worn down" in a battle to enforce school uniform rules in live remote lessons – yet it's a battle they shouldn't be fighting in the first place, it has been claimed.
With remote learning the norm under the latest coronavirus lockdown, Tes has been made aware that some schools are insisting on school uniform being worn for live online lessons.
For example, a secondary school in the Midlands says on its website that students “must” attend all live lessons in school uniform and must have cameras on until their teachers decide they can be switched off.
Headteacher Simon Kidwell, of Hartford Manor Primary, in Cheshire, described the idea as "ridiculous".
But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools should be supported in making decisions about remote lessons that work best for their context.
Mr Kidwell said: “How do you police it? How do you know pupils are not wearing the right colour shoes, for example? It’s ridiculous.
Coronavirus: Pupils being asked to wear school uniform for online lessons
"The same sort of zero-tolerance behaviour isn’t going to work online because if you ask a kid to show their shoes, they’ll just say, 'Sorry, I’ve got wi-fi issues.'
“Teachers and parents have already got enough to think about, rather than having to police uniform online.”
A headteacher, from a different Midlands secondary, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s just another battle for teachers to fight, and it’s absolutely exhausting and really wearing.
“I personally don’t know anybody [other than headteachers] who has done it because it does seem like a battle that's a bit bonkers.
"It could be that in different school contexts it makes sense, but I personally don’t know of anywhere where it would make sense at the moment. If our kids had to wear uniform for remote learning, they just wouldn’t log in – they’d stay in bed instead."
However, Mr Barton, said: “We support schools in making decisions about remote lessons according to what works best in their context.
“Schools have worked very hard to establish procedures for remote lessons to encourage good pupil engagement in these difficult circumstances, and if their experience is that school uniform supports this process then that’s a decision for the school’s leaders.”
Dan Morrow, chief executive of the Woodland Academy Trust, in Kent, said his MAT wasn't putting any "onerous expectations" on staff to enforce uniform rules but was just asking that pupils to be "appropriately dressed".
He said: "This isn't about reducing standards, it's about acknowledging that control and compliance are not our prevailing approach when we must be focused on motivation, engagement and wellbeing."
Meanwhile, teachers on Twitter have expressed their views, including @StephenDrew72, who tweeted: “I am reading tweets about schools demanding strict controls over students engaged in online learning such as uniform, no bedrooms or an adult present at all times. I think some schools need to remember that students are in their own homes and schools are guests there. Priorities?”
He received more than 1,300 “likes” and dozens of comments, including from @UkHumphreys, who said: “If my pupils are completing the work and are engaged in my lesson then I couldn’t give a hoot what they wear or where they are. Onesie or no onesie.”
I am reading tweets about schools demanding strict controls over students engaged in online learning such as uniform, no bedrooms or an adult present at all times. I think some schools need to remember that students are in their own homes and schools are guests there. Priorities?— Stephen Drew🔸🇪🇺 (@StephenDrew72) January 5, 2021
And @Unicornwoman195 tweeted: “The home (for the vast majority of pupils) is their safe place so shouldn't have such restrictions to make them feel uncomfortable. I'm delighted when my pupils engage in my lessons and don't care if they are in their PJs or not.”
@Emmabumblebee5 tweeted: "I don’t agree with uniforms, but I do think they shouldn’t be in their pjs. Some would if it wasn’t pointed out."
@Jarbo92592799 said: "I just say if you are in pjs keep your camera off."
I don’t agree with uniforms, but I do think they shouldn’t be in their pj’s. Some would if it wasn’t pointed out— Emma Bumblebee (@Emmabumblebee5) January 5, 2021
@KnightbusSci said “Uniform should be encouraged but not beyond that” and @ChidgeyJoanna said: “Having read through 3 schools' guidelines for remote learning (own Yr6 child, own Yr10 child and my place of work), these are guidelines, rather than demands. Majority there to protect children and ensure robust safegaurding measures remain. Realistic SMTs will not be making...”
Tes also asked teachers for their views on Twitter, with @DogLady2020 responding: “Uniform is a ridiculous expectation IMO. Our school is rural. Lots of our pupils are from farming families and, when not in school, are expected to work. Many struggled with live lessons due to this or poor signal. Asked for prerecorded lessons they could listen to when convenient."
@letslearnmfl said: “Kids have cameras and mics off as standard so the uniform thing doesn't really matter.”
However, virtual school @YOLOschools tweeted: “It’s to ensure students consider remote learning as no less than school environment.”
Question for teachers: We’ve noticed some schools have strict rules for remote learning in live lessons e.g. pupils must wear full uniform, and only unmute when asked by a teacher. Is it reasonable to expect teachers to enforce this? How do they cope?— Dave Speck (@Specktator100) December 9, 2020
The DfE said it was up to individual schools to decide and said it would not be commenting on the matter.