High school can be tough for anyone, and students from poor backgrounds have the added anxiety of struggling to keep up with their wealthier peers when it comes to clothes and accessories.
A high school in northwestern England is attempting to level the playing field for disadvantaged students by banning expensive Canada Goose and Moncler coats.
In a letter to parents at the beginning of November, the headteacher of Woodchurch High School in Birkenhead explained that the ban was coming in after Christmas as the school was “mindful that some young people put pressure on their parents to purchase expensive items of clothing.”
“These coats cause a lot of inequality between our pupils,” headteacher Rebekah Phillips told CNN. “They stigmatize students and parents who are less well off and struggle financially.”
The blacklisted coats sell for as much as $1,200 — a cost many parents will struggle to afford. “There has been feedback from children, who say ‘Gosh, that is our rent for the month,'” Phillips said.
She said her attempt to “poverty-proof” the school, which has students between the ages of 11 and 16, has been well-received by parents.
Phillips added that a former student wrote to her praising the move and saying that school should not be a place where students’ “economic background is rubbed in their faces and distracts them from learning.”
Parent Andy Treanor, who is a civil servant, said the ban “did not matter” to him as “he would not spend that much on a coat” for his daughter anyway.
Around 46% of the 1,427-strong student body comes from a disadvantaged background and the school has introduced other measures to prevent social inequality from affecting children’s performance.
Two years ago, it introduced a compulsory school bag to reduce costs, after parents complained that their children were demanding branded rucksacks. The school has also cut down non-uniform days — days when students can wear their own choice of clothes to school — to once a year, after complaints of children “being put down” for the clothes they wore, the headteacher added.
In line with a growing movement
The school also provides free sanitary products to students, a measure put in place after the headteacher noticed a drop in girls’ attendance at certain times of the month.
The ban on expensive coats is in line with a growing movement in British schools to protect poorer students. Initiatives have included banning expensive pencil cases and discouraging primary school teachers from asking students what they did on the weekend, so children whose families couldn’t afford to do anything wouldn’t feel embarrassed.
Campaigners say these initiatives have led to better school attendance by poorer children and improved the behavior of all students by tackling the forms of bullying associated with inequality.
“Poverty-proofing enables schools to identify and overcome the barriers to learning that children and young people from families with less financial resources face,” Jeremy Cripps, Chief Executive of Children North East, a nonprofit organization that provides poverty-proofing audits for schools, said in a statement to CNN.
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