A PROPOSED change of uniform at Okehampton College has angered some parents. A letter home from the college in January announced the changes to the current uniform which includes a move away from the current blazer, tie and tailored clothing, writes Sarah Martin.

The college, which was found to require improvement in an Ofsted inspection in May 2023 in its first inspection as an Academy Trust insists the change is needed, saying, “The move will simplify the uniform and make it more comfortable for students, and is a move that has been welcomed by parents with the vast majority of them agreeing after ‘extensive consultation’.

Parents like Kate Hooper however are arguing that the complete change of uniform at a time of austerity and a cost-of-living crisis is not what families need.

An online petition she started has attracted 207 signatures and is asking the school to allow a phased introduction of the new uniform from September.

She says the change will cause concern among parents and have financial implications for families.

“The survey of parents was very leading and it was a choice of which jumpers not whether we wanted new uniform at all.

“On top of that, by not allowing the uniform to be phased in, they are asking parents to pay for clothing for their Year 11s who only have one more year in school, and those that started new in 2023 to ditch the uniform that they bought last autumn. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

With school uniforms being one of the biggest expenses for parents aside from transport - 2018 data from The Children’s Society suggests parents spend an average of £340 each year on secondary school uniforms in the UK – Kate has asked local MP Mel Stride to intervene.

“How can the college claim this to be a cheaper and simpler route but is asking all parents to throw away perfectly good clothing that may have only have been worn for a year and buy new?” she said.

“We are being told to protect our environment and the planet but none of these items can be easily repurposed. It’s just not appreciative of the current economic or ecological climate and I would ask the school to rethink their stance.”

Okehampton College is part of the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust which was formed in 2018 and runs three secondary schools and 14 primary schools in Devon.

It said in a statement: ”While we realise a small number of parents have called for a gradual change to this policy, we hope that by agreeing this change now, there will be sufficient time for families to make this change ahead of the new academic year. Moreover, we want to make sure all students are in the same uniform, where possible, to ensure consistency.

“Though this new uniform will be cheaper than our current offering, and will not be implemented until the next academic year, we entirely appreciate changes to uniform can incur costs for families.”

The college said they will be sharing the survey results with parents and are encouraging parents to contact the school directly should they have further questions.