Students at one United Kingdom school can no longer wear Canada Goose, Pyrenex and Moncler jackets over fears the apparel may perpetuate inequality among students.
Woodchurch High School in Birkenhead, a town in northern England, sent a letter home with students recently telling parents about the ban.
The letter urged mindfulness that “some young people put pressure on their parents to purchase expensive items of clothing” — even if parents can’t afford it.
Toronto-based company Canada Goose sells jackets at several price points, but their products cost at least several hundred dollars. Some of the pricier jackets are well above $1,000.
In an interview with BBC News, the school’s headteacher Rebekah Phillips explained the school’s reasoning.
“We are very concerned as a school about poverty-proofing our school environment and, as such, we met with groups of pupils and made the decision in consultation with them,” Phillips said.
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Phillips noted that some parents asked for the school to ban the jackets.
The school, which has children aged 11 to 16, said the response to its move has also been largely positive.
Phillips told CNN that a former student wrote to her, saying students’ “economic backgrounds” should not be “rubbed in their faces.”
The plan to minimize the differences among children is particularly important for this school, where about 46 per cent of students come from low-income households.
This also isn’t the first step Woodchurch has taken in this direction. About two years ago, the school created a rule that children must carry the same backpack. It also cut down on uniform-free days, because Phillips said some students were being picked on for their clothing.
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Woodchurch also isn’t the first school to take such steps. Several schools and school boards in the U.K. have guidelines on “poverty-proofing” classrooms.
In May, another U.K. school banned expensive pencil cases.
A charity called Children North East is behind the U.K. initiative. It’s CEO, Jeremy Cripps, told BBC News in May that the small changes have led low-income students to be more engaged in school.
“The government is constantly saying that the way out of poverty is educational achievement, and by that they mean doing well in school exams and, ideally, going on to further education,” Cripps said.
He added: “But if you’re not engaging with it to start with, you really haven’t got a chance to take advantage of all that education.”
While the school may have the right intention with these fixes, University of Victoria professor and child psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts says she doesn’t agree with the approach.
Roberts told Global News she doesn’t believe in banning certain clothing.
“Each child should have the freedom to choose what they want to wear,” she said, noting there are obvious exceptions, such as clothing with racist or inappropriate slogans.
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Rather than banning products, Roberts said there are more meaningful ways to deal with inequality.
“I think it would be a good idea for the school to talk about ways of helping their communities,” she said.
Roberts said one way schools can do that is by organizing a coat drive for the homeless or a holiday toy drive for children of low-income families.
The child psychologist noted that inequality can be a tough situation, but it can also be a learning opportunity for students.