So what if some kids go to school in £100 trainers?

After parents complained they felt pressured into buying must-have black Nikes for their little darlings, along came the inevitable ‘school shoes only’ diktat. And with it more grief for hard-pressed parents, despairs mum-of-two Charlotte Cripps

Wednesday 24 April 2024 15:49 BST
Why should mums be told off for their children wearing black trainers at school?
Why should mums be told off for their children wearing black trainers at school? (Cornish Guardian /

Why should mums be told off for their children wearing black trainers at school? A secondary school has stopped students wearing trainers in a uniform crackdown – after some parents complained they were under pressure from their children to buy Nike Air Force 1s costing £69.99.

Nike, like many other high street brands, have a long list of “Back to School” black shoes – one bestseller is the Nike Air Max Plus, which will set you back £109 a pair. Yet despite the eye-watering costs, parents at one high school in East Sussex are expected to fork out on another pair of shoes, as well, after being told they weren’t “smart” enough.

Now, I know what it’s like to try and bend school uniform rules – it always ends badly. You hear the dreaded words “correct footwear” and you know the headteacher is on the war path. But the standards and expectations (not to mention the price tag) placed on parents is preposterous.

To be honest, when it comes to my kids, I simply can’t keep up with the endless emails about school uniform policies. I end up in expensive shops like Trotters buying classic, old-fashioned Start Rite shoes in navy as they are sold out in other places – that’s how desperate I am not to get into trouble at the school gate.

They cost about £60 a pair –it’s shocking. And, so they last longer (and make the price-tag worth it), I buy them a few sizes too big – my kids can barely walk in a straight line until they grow into them.

The school uniform policy is the bane of most parents’ life. At my daughters’ primary school in West London, they are forbidden from wearing their PE kit into school. As much as we lobby the headmaster – because changing into it takes up half the lesson – he won’t let us. It’s as if he is constantly on the alert for an Ofsted inspection. It’s all about appearances.

My children’s school also expects uniforms to have been bought from costly official suppliers with the school’s logo on cardigans, jumpers and PE shirts. Yet other parents get away with buying the rest of the uniform off the supermarket shelves – so why can’t we?

The rules are endless: white socks in the summer term, navy tights in the winter. There can be no summer dress and navy tights mix-ups – even though most of us mums are in a constant state of fight or flight during school drop-offs. And due to the constant threat of nits, long hair has to be tied up, or you are accused of being a potential carrier and given dirty looks after an infestation.

I accidentally sent my children to school wearing reindeer jumpers on the wrong day thinking it was Christmas jumper day, and was told to go home immediately and fetch their proper school uniforms – or they would look out of place.

Yet this is nothing – absolutely nothing – compared to Wetherby in Notting Hill Gate – Prince William and Harry’s old Notting Hill prep school, where mums are given a chart for the fridge to remind them about the daily uniform policy.

One busy working mum told me that as well as the endless school uniform list, they are also required to wear different shoes on different days: “White plimsoles Mondays and Wednesdays, white trainers on Fridays and black shoes Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

It sounds like hell. Unless you have an army of nannies at your disposal, it can feel more stressful than putting your child through the eleven-plus.

I went to a private secondary day school in London where we didn’t wear a uniform – my mum liked the idea of individuality. But these days, with private school fees costing an arm and a leg and kids turning up to school in Mini Rodini or Gucci, it’s a blessing my children don’t have to keep up with the Jones’ with fashion in the classroom.

I also think the basic principle is completely wrong! We are expected to dress our children for school like they are potential Stepford Wives – all looking neat and perfectly the same. Why?

How far will schools take their strict school uniform policies? What about the kids who have £50 watermelon-flavoured water bottles? Should they be banned along with designer trainers?

Aren’t there more important things to worry about than “correct footwear”, anyway? My friend, whose son is at a secondary school in Guildford, tells me that their school has a “no school shoe policy”. “It’s great!” she tells me. “They don’t even have to be black.”

And for those who point out that uniform is to keep all kids the same and reduce competition... consider this: even if my kids could wear trainers to school and if another child was wearing a more expensive pair than the ones I bought – that’s life! Get used to it.

Who cares if the gingham print is the “wrong blue” or I packed Lola’s pink light-up weekend trainers for PE as I lost one of the white school ones? We’ve all got bigger fish to fry – like making sure they are happy and literate. Give us a break – I think most mums would agree that this should be the new school policy.

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