Plea after school punishes girl over wrong shoes

Charlotte Owen says her daughter Lauren was treated unfairly

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Families struggling to afford school uniforms should be treated better, an AM has said, after a teenager was punished for wearing the wrong shoes.

It follows the case of a Wrexham pupil who was made to study in a "cupboard" for wearing the wrong shoes while her mother was waiting to be paid.

AM Llyr Gruffydd said children should not be punished at school if families cannot afford the right clothes.

The Welsh government said uniform policy was a matter for the school.

Start Quote

There's an issue here around basic human rights in terms of pupils finding themselves a victim for something that's quite frankly beyond their control”

End Quote Llyr Gruffudd North Wales AM

Mr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales, has taken up the case of Charlotte Owen and her 15-year-old daughter Lauren, a pupil at Ysgol Rhiwabon in Wrexham.

Ms Owen, a single parent of four on benefits, claims she sent a note to school via Lauren explaining her daughter would be without the regulation shoes for a short time until she could afford to buy a new pair.

She plans to formally complain to the school after her daughter said she was put in "isolation" - a room where children work in silence - for a full day because she did not have the right shoes.

When the "isolation" room was full, she was forced to work alone in a storage cupboard for an hour, she said.

Lauren said: "The cupboard is about a metre by 1.5m and it's got a little desk, a chair ... and they had shelves."

Although she said the door was wide open, she said: "I didn't like it very much. It was very cramped and very lonely."

the wrong shoes Ms Owen said she could not afford to replace the wrong shoes immediately

She said she "found it very unfair because it wasn't my fault, so I shouldn't be getting the punishment for it".

Charlotte Owen said she was "absolutely disgusted," adding: "You don't put a child in a cupboard."

She said she visited the school the following morning, saw the cupboard, and said the school was "very apologetic".

However, she said: "The rules and regulations that they seem to have, they don't give much leeway at all, and I think it's extremely unfair.

"Lauren's a good student. She's in all the top sets. She attends school all the time... and you're doing this to her for a pair of shoes? What sort of message is that going to send out?"

She added: "Of course it's not Lauren's fault. Far from it. At the end of the day they're punishing children for something that's totally out of their hands."

'Genuine circumstances'

In a statement, the school said: "This is a private matter between the school and the parent and we feel we are unable to comment on individual students.

"We are currently awaiting a formal complaint from the parent, which if received, will be dealt with in accordance with the school's formal complaints' procedure."

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No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply for admission or attend a particular school”

End Quote Welsh government

Mr Gruffydd said: "There's an issue here around basic human rights in terms of pupils finding themselves a victim for something that's quite frankly beyond their control.

"There are genuine circumstances, at times, when they are not at fault."

He called for clarity "about what guidance the Welsh government is giving education authorities about how to deal with situations - increasingly now of course - where families find it economically difficult maybe to meet some demands in terms of rules and school clothes etcetera and how they advise education authorities about how to deal with those situations.

"And then, obviously, how education authorities make sure that that's reflected in the way that they operate."

Nobody from Wrexham council was available for comment.

The Welsh government said in a statement: "School uniform policy is ultimately a matter for the individual school and its governing body, but Welsh government guidance is clear that cost considerations should be a priority.

"No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply for admission or attend a particular school."

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