Uniform Referendum

Dear Parents

Consultation on options for School Uniform change

I am writing to you regarding the student referendum, the parental survey and the staff survey on the 2 options for the change of our school uniform from September 2019.

Why have the vote? Why change uniform? The plan for a change to school uniform was included in the Governor’s School Improvement Plan for 2018-19 as part of the implementation of our new House system to promote the sense of house identity; House badges were only intended to be a temporary measure for this year!

How was the decision taken about options? The School Council (led by the Senior Prefects) discussed our school uniform in their monthly meetings in the Autumn term, ensuring that they had sought feedback from all tutor groups before making a final decision on the options to be taken forward for the vote. School Council decided on 2 distinct options; one being a blazer & tie option, the other a polo-shirt and jumper option. Our Senior Prefects prepared a power-point presentation for tutor groups outlining the main strengths of each of the two options. They also organised and ran the referendum itself, which was held in the Drama Studio on Thursday 17th January during both break-times and at the end of the school day. Votes were counted later that day by Senior staff and myself, under the watchful eye of a student adjudicator to ensure that the counting was done accurately and checked carefully.

Why have a student vote? The whole process surrounding the uniform referendum is an excellent way for us as adults to educate our children on how democracy works in our country and the importance of their engagement and active participation in having their views heard and accepting the outcome of any democratic process with grace. This was also a concrete example to all of our students that they genuinely do ‘have a voice’ in how their school operates. Admiral Lord Nelson School has always been a student-centred school and staff here work hard to ensure that students are encouraged to express their views and suggestions constructively and appropriately to help their school (and themselves) to continue to grow and develop.

What did students want? I am absolutely delighted with the response from our students who conducted themselves in a respectful manner throughout this process. Only year 7-10 students were eligible to vote, as the decision affects next academic year, although year 10 students will still also retain the option of wearing a different year 11 uniform to the rest of the school next year. Overall, turnout was high with 618 students (74%) voting, fairly evenly spread across all four Houses. Of the students who voted, 391 students (63%) voted for the polo-shirt & jumper option and 220 students (36%) voted for the blazer and tie option; 7 voting slips were incorrectly completed. Therefore there is a clear student majority in favour of the polo-shirt & jumper option.

What did parents vote for? I would like to thank the 399 parents who responded to the parental survey this week; Mrs Holness and I appreciated reading your feedback in the comments that you raised and hope to ensure that we address all of your points as we plan the implementation of this change to our uniform. 329 parents (82%) voted for the polo shirt and jumper option and 70 parents (18%) voted for the blazer & tie option. Therefore the vast majority of parents prefer the polo shirt & jumper option.

 What do staff think? 48 staff responded to the staff survey which is about one third of our staff. Of those staff who voted, 40 staff (83%) were in favour of a blazer & tie option and 8 staff (17%) voted for the polo shirt and jumper option. Therefore the staff survey showed a significant majority of staff preferred the blazer & tie option.

 What is the decision? Having considered all of the feedback, it is clear that there is a strong preference amongst our community for retaining the polo shirt and jumper format of our uniform. Therefore the polo shirt and jumper option is the one we will proceed with for our new uniform from September 2019.

 Focus on wellbeing & learning? I was pleased to read parental comments and to hear similar views expressed by students that they like having a uniform that is comfortable and relaxed to wear; that they like the fact that our uniform bucks the current trend for blazer & tie uniforms across Portsmouth secondary schools; that they value Admiral Lord Nelson School’s commitment to making its own decisions based on what its community wants and not just follow ideas from other schools that do not necessarily enhance students’ wellbeing or learning!

 What next? Staff and student leaders will now work with uniform stockists to finalise the changes to our uniform for September. We will have new polo shirts for years 7-10 with the House colours on the sleeves and collars. Jumpers, cardigans & sweatshirts will remain the same. There will be new House T-shirts available for PE too as part of the new uniform. Our uniform will be gender neutral. Black school skirts with school logos will be the only skirt option for any student who chooses to wear a skirt as part of their uniform. Year 11 will have additional polo-shirt options to choose from, in either black or white with their house badge on the sleeve of the polo shirt.

What about the financial impact of this decision for families on lower incomes? I would urge any parents who are worried about the financial impact of this uniform change to make contact with their Head of House to discuss their concerns in confidence.

Could there be another uniform vote again next year?  I can advise parents that the last uniform referendum took place 2 years ago during the Spring term 2017. At that time, the outcome of the vote was much closer across the whole school and in fact, many students who were in the younger year groups then, and are now in years 9 & 10, voted for a change to a blazer & tie option. However, in this vote we have a very definite mandate from students and parents that we should keep our informal polo shirt and jumper uniform for the future, so I do not anticipate the need to revisit this decision for many years. A slight caveat to that is that we strongly believe in having an empowered School Council and IF they should request uniform changes in future, then their arguments for proposing change will always be listened to and considered on their merits by the Leadership of the school.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs N Hardingham