Hannah Lynes

School uniform and road safety – part 2

This is an update to my original post on school uniform and road safety. After hearing from a parent in another part of the country who had found my page useful and is complaining to her local school, I’ve decided that it’s time to restart my campaign which I had begun before COVID.

I am publishing below the relevant text from my communication with the Government (via my MP) on this subject:

My original email, sent on 3rd February 2020 (pre-COVID):

“I’m concerned that my child’s school … requires black/navy coats and bags as part of school uniform policy. The children also wear black trousers and shoes. I think this makes it harder for the children to be seen by drivers and increases their risk of being involved in road accidents. I don’t think (the school’s) uniform policy is unusual – I know that some other local schools also require dark coats and bags, and I think this is probably common amongst schools across the UK.

The Highway Code says “Help other users to see you. Wear or carry something light-coloured, bright or fluorescent in poor daylight conditions.” School uniform policies are making it difficult for children to follow the Highway Code’s advice. Many families will not buy their children more than one winter coat, so the dark coat will be worn by children not only on school days but on weekends and holidays too. I’m aware that hi-vis jackets can be worn over coats, but I think teenagers are unlikely to wear those.

I think it would be good if the Government could issue some guidance to schools to say that children should be encouraged to have bright coats and bags. I would be very grateful if you could ask the relevant Government minister to make a statement on this subject.”

Reply from Nick Gibb MP dated 24th February 2020:

“I am replying as the Minister of State for School Standards. As you may be aware, it is for the governing body of a school, or academy trust in the case of academies, to decide their school’s uniform policy. The Department has published non-statutory guidance on school uniform to help support schools when developing their policy.

While the non-statutory guidance on school uniform does not explicitly state that governing bodies should take the visibility of children travelling to and from school into account when formulating their uniform policy, it does not prohibit them from doing so should they feel that it is a valuable consideration given their specific circumstances. As school uniform is set by the school’s governing body, Ms Lynes may Wish to share her thoughts about the visibility of her child’s uniform with her child’s school in the first instance.

Our guidance on school uniform recommends that when making changes to their policies, school leaders should take into account the views of parents and pupils. The guidance is available at: tinyurl.com/PQcLGkh.”

My response to the Government, sent on 24th September 2021 (delayed as I chose not to write during the emergency COVID restriction period):

“Mr Gibb has suggested that I contact my child’s school to make them aware of my views on their uniform policy. However, I think the issue of school uniform and road safety is a national issue and so it would be more appropriate and effective for the Government to consider taking action nationally. This is definitely not an isolated local issue. I have previously been told by Bright Kidz that “every now and then this has been an issue raised in the press by parents of a particular school.” Since blogging about this subject in May, I have actually been contacted by a parent from … who is complaining to her child’s school.

I can’t see any reason why this should be a locally determined issue requiring parents to run campaigns around the country. Surely there is road traffic and darkness everywhere? The Government could immediately solve the problem for all by issuing some guidance to schools to say that they should not discourage children from wearing bright coats and bags. I believe this simple measure would save children’s lives.

I think that leaving this for local negotiation can only exacerbate existing inequalities. I would expect that parents in more affluent areas are more likely to run local campaigns. Meanwhile I’m concerned that the risks of wearing dark clothes at dusk may be greater for black and Asian children, who are more likely to live in deprived areas.

On this basis I would like to ask the Government if they would consider taking national action by issuing guidelines to the effect that schools should allow bright coats and bags.

I would be very grateful if you could forward this email to the relevant Government minister.”

I will provide an update on this site as and when I receive a response.

Please get in touch if you are concerned about this issue. I am always interested in collaboration and would love to hear from you.

4 comments on “School uniform and road safety – part 2

  1. Avatar photo Sue Ellar says:

    Hi Hannah

    I’m glad to see someone talking about this issue.

    My kids go to Cardiff High School and the uniform is all black with a dark coat. It seems ridiculous all these kids barely visible during these winter months.

    I doubt the school will change the policy until a kid gets hit by a car.

    I fully support you in this campaign.

    1. Avatar photo Hannah Lynes says:

      Hi Sue. Thanks for getting in touch. Maybe we should get together and plan the next steps for this campaign. I haven’t really made any progress with lately so it would be good to reinvigorate it.

  2. Avatar photo Tal says:

    Hi Hannah
    I have a son moving to secondary in September and he will be walking to and from school. The school that he is most likely to get into (we will hear on Friday) asks for ‘a coat of discreet colour and a plain bag’.
    This concerns me and led me to search and I found your campaign for which I am grateful.

    I agree that it is a national safety issue and goes beyond individual school policy.

    I will start by asking the school about it once it has been named as his school.
    I think reflective coats can be plain and are reasonably discreet when not in the headlights, so perhaps that will be acceptable.

    Let’s see what they say.
    I could then write to my MP as well.

    Best wishes

    1. Avatar photo Hannah Lynes says:

      Hi Tal. Since I wrote this post, the Government has issued new guidance on school uniforms https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-uniform/school-uniforms. The guidance says that school governing boards should “ensure that their uniform is suitable and safe for pupils who walk or cycle to school, for instance, by allowing pupils to wear a coat which they could be visible in when it is dark going home”. This might be helpful if you want to raise this issue with the school. Please share here how you get on if you decide to contact the school and/or your MP.

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