Bedford schoolboy removed from lessons because his haircut was deemed too short

MBTC Emmanuel Sackey Clarke
MBTC Emmanuel Sackey Clarke

A schoolboy whose hair was ‘a very standard cut for a black boy’ was removed from lessons for two days and made to face a wall because his hair was deemed too short.

Mum Celestine Sackey- Clarke is furious at Bedford Free School and claims her son Emmanuel, 15, was left ‘emotionally traumatised’by his treatment.

MBTC Emmanuel Sackey Clarke 2

MBTC Emmanuel Sackey Clarke 2

She says Emmanuel arrived at school on October 15, and was punished by being sent to study alone outside the staff room where work was periodically given to him.

The weekend before, Celestine had taken her son for a £12 haircut because he had been ‘having trouble managing his thick hair.’

Mum-of-three Celestine, from Bedford, said: “He says he felt lonely because he was made to sit by himself facing a wall in a lonely place.

“Once in front of the staff room facing the wall, away from all students and the second day he was sat facing a wall by the music room by himself.

“He has thick and hard to manage black hair, so the barber gave him a nice low haircut that is easy to brush.

“We were happy with it as he didn’t have to spend a lot of time on his hair until it grows out.

“But he got to school on Monday and was punished for the haircut. This is a very standard clean cut for a black boy but he gets punished for it.

“He does not have lines or colour in his hair – it is your standard good boy hair cut.”

Radiographer Celestine claims her son’s learning suffered those two days away from class.

She pulled her son from school on the third day because he was distraught at being left alone for so long.

Celestine, 44, added: “I just do not understand how keeping him out of lessons for a haircut is any benefit to anyone.

“He was brought work from some of the lessons but not all the lessons and he didn’t get the opportunity of having the work explained to him.

“It was just left for him to work through.

“After that I left a voicemail for them saying he wasn’t coming as he is emotionally traumatised.

“He was better off working at home where he is not staring at a wall.

“I let him go back to school the next day but I said that if he is kept out of class again then he must get up and leave the school.

“Thankfully he was let back in and allowed to continue learning.”

The school says it is unable to comment on specific cases but deny isolating children for their hair cuts.

The head teacher says the children are placed in a ‘nurture base’ when students do not wear the correct uniform.

The ‘nurture base’ is where children are taken out of lessons and made to study alone under supervision of a staff member.

Bedford Free School head Stuart Lock, said: “I’d clarify that we don’t put pupils into isolation for having the wrong haircut.

“Should pupils not follow our agreed standards of uniform, we do allocate resources to educate them in our nurture base so that we can keep our overall standards high while ensuring they still receive a high quality of education.

“The nurture base is where we ensure that pupils who are out of mainstream lessons are able to access the full curriculum and make progress, and are fully supervised. These pupils are not isolated.

“I can tell you that we have used the nurture base for the four terms that I have been at Bedford Free School for pupils that have infringed our uniform requirements.

“None have been in there for more than a couple of days and where the requirement has been because pupils cannot afford items of uniform, we have paid for these or lent them.

“All pupils and parents have been made repeatedly clear that this is how we keep our expectations high.

“This is as agreed in our home-school agreement, which every pupil and parent will sign before taking up a place at the school.

“This is an important element of the very high expectations we hold for all our pupils.

Emmanuel has since returned to lessons, and the school has been in contact with Celestine about the situation.