Cambridge school pupils claim 'draconian' rules shame them for having wrong socks or a button undone

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Joanna MacKenzie

Parents have launched a petition against a school's “draconian” discipline rules where pupils are punished for having their top button undone and were reportedly made to chant “silence is my natural state”.

Almost 100 parents have signed a formal complaint against Coleridge Community College in Cambridge over its behaviour policy, saying it is harming their children's mental health. 

A petition with almost 300 signatures is also calling for the college to “ease the rules and stop shaming pupils”. 

Coleridge Community College, which is run by the trust United Learning, said its behaviour policy was the most effective way for students to progress without disruption, and catch up on lost learning, and that the policy had proved successful in its other schools.

Some students compared the school to a prison after strict uniform checks were imposed after the first coronavirus lockdown.  

An example of a behaviour card carried by students Credit: ITV News Anglia

Parents said students were told off for not wearing a jumper, having their top button undone and even wearing the wrong colour socks. Others claim that pupils were made to chant "Silence is my natural state" to encourage good behaviour.

The school has also been accused of wasting the children’s time with line-ups, chanting, repeated walk-in to assemblies and equipment checks.

They have submitted a collection of complaints to the schools, which include claims:

  • A Year 7 student regularly suffered panic attacks at the prospect of going to school due to the strict nature of the behaviour policy;

  • One student was described by a teacher as looking "homeless" because his shirt was untucked;

  • Another child was made to wear her jumper when temperatures reached 25C to prove she had it with her.

Shadi Blaga is a former pupil at Coleridge Community College Credit: ITV News Anglia

Shadi Blaga, 13, said she became so unsettled by the draconian school rules at Coleridge Community College that she moved schools earlier this year.

"It made me really anxious because whenever you were going to school you always felt like you were doing something wrong," she said.

“They would walk down the line and check our uniform and tell us off for not having our top button done up, jumper not on, shirt not tucked in, wrong colour socks.”

The school has also been accused of not allowing students access to the toilet during class time and making students carry around behaviour cards - three marks on the card means time in the reflection room.

Yasmin Faghihi, Shadi's mum, said: "They were obliged to carry those cards and show them when asked. It was like being in some kind of camp of some sort. And of course they were not used to it because this didn't exist before."

An official complaint is calling for the school to stop using 'time out' of class room as a punishment for anything other than the worst form of genuinely disruptive behaviour, stop "wasting time" with line-ups, chanting and equipment checks, and to make students feel they have a voice and are being listened to.

Parent and student concerns have now reached the Labour MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner. He said: "I found some of the attitudes of the trust hard to take. It was very much 'this is United Learning’s approach and that's the way it is'. 

“This is a school in Cambridge, it's our school, it's taxpayers' money. And I want to take back control of those schools away from a multi-academy trust."

Coleridge Community College has been accused of having draconian school rules Credit: ITV News Anglia

Coleridge Community College is run by United Learning who took over in 2019 just after the school had received a 'Good' Ofsted rating.

In response a spokesperson for the college said its behaviour policy had been "successfully put in place" across its other schools "where it has been widely supported by parents and students"

"It is also in line with behaviour policies widely adopted by schools across the country including those chosen by the Department for Education as best practice Behaviour Hubs.  

“After nearly two years of interrupted schooling due to Covid-19, addressing behaviour that prevents students from learning is very important. Every student deserves to be able to learn in a disruption-free environment."

It said it was focused on helping students catch up on learning lost during the pandemic, and was doing everything it could to minimise further disruption.

"A robust behaviour policy is part of that alongside high standards of teaching and learning and good attendance," added the spokesperson.

“This very vocal group of parents does not agree with the behaviour policy and they are, of course, fully entitled to complain about it.

"But we believe that it is the most effective means of ensuring all students are able to progress in the school without the disruption that low-level behaviour issues can cause".