'It's so Victorian': Parents' fury over super strict school rules
- Credit: Danielle Booden
Parents are outraged at new classroom rules which they believe are more suited to a prison than a school classroom.
Hethersett Academy, which is part of the Inspiration Trust, has issued a rule book with 10 instructions for pupils to follow, as well as a number of additional verbal instructions.
Angry parents say the list of rules includes not being able to go to the toilet during lessons, complete silence when entering and leaving the classroom, having to wear specific socks and following painted lines in the corridor.
Another rule has meant pupils are unable to raise their hands with teachers picking out pupils to answer their questions.
Parents say this causes fears of embarrassment of not knowing the answer in front of the class.
Alison Pettitt, whose daughter is in year 10 at the school, said: "We need to move away from this regimented, military approach.
"Parents are going nuts about it. Things like if a child wants to go to the toilet during a lesson it gets noted.
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"The whole school seems to have been two days of living hell with pupils entering in silence and being frightened to ask a question."
Mrs Pettitt, who is a qualified teacher herself, and other parents have contacted staff at the Queen's Road site this week to express their concerns over the welfare of their children.
She added: "It all seems so Victorian. It feels like our children are in a prison camp. It’s particularly worrying for those children who are a bit shy or reserved."
In response to the concerns raised, the Inspiration Trust has said it fully supports the principal Jane Diver and her team for setting expectations and standards to bring success to the pupils.
A statement said the reviewing and reteaching of rules has "never been more important" after two years of disrupted education due to Covid.
But one mother with two children at the school, aged 14 and 12, and who does not want to be named, said her children have come home "deflated and upset".
She said the issue of boys not being allowed to wear school shorts, yet girls can wear skirts, has been raised by several parents.
The mother added: "The new 'Hethersett 10' book is a complete joke. Children should all have rules and boundaries, but this has gone too far.
"Hethersett Academy has unfortunately become somewhere the children fear and are treated like prisoners or animals."
Another anonymous mother, whose son is in year 10 at the school, said her child has felt extremely nervous about the rules in place this term.
She said: "My main gripe is that all the rules are almost like trying to catch the kids out.
"The level of rules have gone above and beyond what I believe is acceptable," another mother added.
"I am all for rules and standards but when my 12-year-old cries on the way to school because they have forgotten a green pen, meaning they will receive a detention, I am a bit concerned."
The Trust said: "As far as toilet usage is concerned, we do encourage pupils in our schools to use the toilet before school, at break times and at lunchtime because we want lessons to be disruption free as much as possible.
"We do know that some pupils will be ‘caught short’ during the day or may have a medical condition that means they need to use the toilet more often and expect our staff to allow them to leave the room when this is the case.
"We would never punish a pupil for needing the toilet. We will be making sure that this is clarified for all parents, pupils, and staff."
In a letter to parents, Ms Diver has written about an ethos which encourages each student to be a responsible and active member of both the school community and their local neighbourhood.
She has asked any parents with concerns to contact her for assistance and support.
Since the trust took over the academy the school has been judged to be 'outstanding' in all areas.
What has a national school expert said?
A super head has defended Hethersett Academy's policy, stating its the school's right to set out behaviour policies to ensure pupils can learn in an efficient and non-disruptive manner.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders, said the rules are a matter for the individual school and its governing bodies to decide.
Mr Barton said: "Schools work very hard on maintaining a standard of behaviour which is conducive to a calm and orderly environment that supports the learning of all of their students.
"There are sometimes occasions when parents or pupils do not agree with elements of a behaviour policy. Where this is the case then parents are best advised to take up the matter directly with the school concerned where their complaint can be properly considered.”