Teachers on ‘riot’ alert as more school protests planned by students this week
Teachers are on alert that more demonstrations could be held this week in protest against toilet break and school uniform changes.
Inspired by events shared on TikTok, students around the UK were filmed refusing to go to class, gathering on the school fields, setting off alarms and spraying fire extinguishers.
Many secondaries have implemented a ban on students going to the toilet during lesson time, even going as far as putting locked gates outside facilities. There were also protests around uniform changes that included gender neutral options and skirt lengths.
The actions have led to calls for phones to be banned during the school day, echoing something school standards minister Nick Gibb said in 2019.
It is unclear if there has been a mass policy change across all schools around the toilet restriction or if it was an existing policy that is now being opposed en masse. Some schools have said children can go to the loo during lesson time but will need to obtain a pass.
In at least one case police were called in during a day of mass rallies on Friday.
On Friday, the headteacher of Haven High Academy in Boston, Lincolnshire, wrote to parents: “As you may be aware, a small group of students decided to imitate a trend relating to school protests that has been trending on TikTok within school today.
“Such school protests have happened in numerous schools throughout the country and unfortunately a number of students decided to engage in a protest relating to certain school rules.”
Pupils are planning to hold more protests on Friday, the Times has reported, and teachers will be wary that others could follow.
Weston Secondary School in Southampton sent an email to parents discouraging further acts after 200 students staged an uprising last week.
The email read: “These protests presented a significant risk to safety as students crowded in areas around the school, failed to listen to instructions whilst chanting, crowding, climbing fences and videoing each other and staff.
“As a result of this behaviour, some of our students have suffered panic attacks, property has been damaged, and members of staff have been injured.”
It added that year 11 students were also sitting a mock GCSE exam and this was interrupted when a student “maliciously” set the fire alarm off.
“These behaviours caused all students to miss two hours of learning,” it added. “Students come to school to feel safe, and staff do not come to school to be assaulted, videoed or harassed.”
Preventative measures have been started by schools, including searching pupils’ bags before allowing them in.
In Oxfordshire town Banbury, The Warriner School, a co-ed secondary with 1,500 pupils aged 11 to 18, was forced to close after angry protests from parents and a mutiny by students over a ban on girls wearing skirts and a ‘gender neutral’ PE kit led to police being called. The school has now backed down and reversed its decision with the headteacher saying it did not realise the “strength of feeling”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The protests appear generally to be about rules on uniform and the use of toilets, although in a number of cases there hasn’t actually been any changes in the rules.
“Protests are inevitably disruptive and the last thing that schools need at any time, but particularly when they are facing such a range of pressures as is currently the case.”
He said discussions have taken place with schools as to how they can report concerning TikTok posts. The video sharing platform has, meanwhile, said it will not allow posts showing violence, aggression, harassment or bullying.