Dad blasts 'prison camp’ school as son threatened with isolation in trainers row

-Credit: (Image: Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)
-Credit: (Image: Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)


A dad has called his son’s Stoke-on-Trent school a ‘prison camp’ after the 14-year-old was threatened with isolation for wearing black trainers. Craig Walters, 43, says his son was caught in torrential rain as he walked home from Ormiston Horizon Academy, in Chell, on Wednesday afternoon (May 22).

Craig, from Sandyford, said his Year 9 son’s shoes, bag and coat were ‘absolutely soaking’ when he got in, and that the boy’s shoes remained wet on Thursday morning, despite attempts to dry them out. The Walters wrote a note to the school explaining the situation and that their son would be wearing black trainers that day as it was all he had.

Craig’s wife took their son to school, where they were told the boy would be put into isolation — known as ‘reflect’ at the school — for the whole day for wearing trainers to school, Craig said.

Craig said: “My wife wrote a letter to the school explaining that he is wearing black trainers and could they please excuse that for the day because his shoes were soaking wet from yesterday, which you think they would make an exception for, but the school would prefer he not be in lessons than to wear trainers.

“It’s disgusting,” said Craig, adding in ‘reflect’: “They have to sit on their own in isolation writing lines all day. The school is like a prison camp; they only have to breathe or drop a pen on the floor and they’ve got a detention.”

Craig said his son was offered a “pair of dirty old shoes” by the school, but he and his mother refused before returning home with the pupil. Ironically, on Friday (May 24), the school hosted an ‘alternative footwear day’, during which all students were permitted to wear ‘trainers, converse, crocs’ and other footwear to school.

In an email seen by StokeonTrentLive, the school explains students will be asked to pay £1 towards a Marie Curie fundraiser in exchange for wearing the ‘alternative footwear.’

“It’s a joke,” Craig continued. “He’s missed a lot of education from not being able to go to school because he’s got wet shoes.

“He’s worn black trainers, not white or fluorescent or anything like that, and we’ve written a letter explaining we couldn’t let our child come to school in wet shoes. They won’t hear it.”

Mr Walters said he had called the academy’s headteacher three times this morning, leaving answerphone messages, but has not yet received a response. Craig said: “He needs to change school policies so it’s not like a prison camp. If a parent has written a letter explaining why their child cannot wear full school uniform that day, there should be some leeway. It’s disgusting.

“He’d have to spend a full day in isolation, writing lines and doing work that is nothing to do with his education.”

Craig said there was a sustained pattern of unreasonable behaviour on the part of the school, saying he felt his son had been ‘singled out’ by staff on previous occasions. He added that students are sent to isolation after being sent out of class for misdemeanours including “dropping a pen on the floor or turning around in class when someone calls their name,” Craig explained.

Craig added that the school was causing his son to miss out on education, despite warning the family that the student’s attendance must improve after he attended two funerals on school days last term.

Craig said: “They sent out a letter saying his attendance was 93 per cent last term. We had two funerals during that term and he had covid, and they were saying he was missing a hell of a lot of his education, and that if it dropped below 92 per cent they would be inviting me in for a meeting.

“But, it’s okay for them to send him out of lessons and he misses education that way.”

A spokesperson for Ormiston Horizon Academy said: “As an academy we set high expectations in every part of school life, so that our students can achieve their full potential. This is reflected in our uniform policy which is widely communicated, understood, and adhered to by the vast majority of students and families.

“In the small number of instances where these expectations are not met, we seek to work with students and families to provide the necessary support and identify alternative arrangements, whilst remaining consistent and fair in our approach.

“Whilst it would not be appropriate to discuss individual cases, the welfare of our students is of utmost importance to us. We offer an array of pastoral support for students, which is delivered bespoke for everyone’s needs, and in communication with families.

“Having clear standards and expectations enables us to build and maintain our core values as a school of resilience, responsibility, and respect. We strive to do this in close collaboration with students, families, and our wider community.”

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