School bans pencil cases to stop pupils from poor families being stigmatised

A school in Northumberland has banned pencil cases in a bid to stop pupils from poor families feeling stigmatised.

Head teacher of St Wilfrid’s Primary School in Blyth, Pauline Johnstone, has begun providing stationary to pupils after banning pencil cases ‘so there’s no comparison on the tables and children are learning’.

‘There was a culture within the school, within pupils, that noticed those children who were never in on PE days for example,’ head teacher Pauline told BBC News.

‘Part of our uniform policy is a standard backpack so we don’t have any designer goods.’

Teaming up with charity Children North East for The Poverty Proofing the School Day project, St Wilfrid’s is among more than 100 schools in the project, which aims to stop poorer pupils being stigmatised.

The project encourages teachers to look at ways in which some pupils might feel excluded, and has led many to cut down on the number of dress-up and fundraising days.

Children North East has ‘poverty proofed’ schools across Teesside, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, as well as schools in Grimsby and Brighton, which have requested the project.

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Pupils at Burnside College in Wallsend, North Tyneside, said that since the ban on ‘designer goods’ has been put in place, school life has become a better place.

One 15-year-old told the BBC: ‘There was a real big issue with some people, it really got to them. There was a really big social expectation to have the best things and it was affecting school life for a lot of people.

‘There was groups created around who had the best things but I think that has been taken away. That’s not an issue anymore.’

Chief executive Jeremy Cripps said the project had improved behaviour and helped more pupils take part in extra-curricular activities.

‘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,’ 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.’

Schools taking part in the project so far have hailed it a success, agreeing it has led to higher attendance and better results.

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