A south London independent school has vowed to end hair discrimination for students of all racial, ethnic and cultural identities.
Sutton High School has become the first independent girls’ school to adopt the Halo Code – a school uniform framework created by the Halo Collective, a group of young Black activists which champion Afro-textured hair and hair styles.
Beth Dawson, head of Sutton High School, which is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, invited Kaisha Wade, one of the five founding members of the Halo Collective, to Sutton High School before Christmas.
Wade outlined her own experiences of hair discrimination and talked about some further initiatives outside the code which the school might want to include (for example, Sutton High is now permitting the wearing of bonnets to school and ensuring the availability of a range of sizes of headbands for students who need to tie their hair up for science, as well as welcoming specialist swim hats for long braids).
Last year, a case of a student in Hackney, repeatedly sent home for violating school uniform rules because she had an afro, was settled out of court in the student’s favour for £8,500. In 2018, the mother of a student at Fulham Boys School launched a campaign, supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to protest an instruction from the school to cut her son’s dreadlocks off.
The Halo Code is an important and exciting step for us, signalling our commitment to celebrating diversity, inclusion and real change within our school community – Beth Dawson, Sutton High School
Dawson said: “Every student should feel that they belong at school and should be able to express their individuality and celebrate their identity. Our uniform policy was already broad and encompassed a range of hair styles, but the Halo Code is about not just allowing a range of Black hair styles but celebrating Black hair openly and publicly.
“The Halo Code is an important and exciting step for us, signalling our commitment to celebrating diversity, inclusion and real change within our school community.”
The code’s adoption was “universally welcomed” by staff, students, parents and governors, Dawson added.
Wade said: “We believe that schools have a duty to promote racial cohesion and equality. For too long, schools have neglected this duty, and stifled the expression of their students’ individuality through their hair – a part of us which represents our heritage and culture as well as an extension of our personality.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Sutton High, a school that promotes equality and encourages all students to be themselves no matter what. We strongly believe that all schools should follow in the footsteps of Sutton High and adopt the Halo Code to ensure that no Black student ever feels like a target due to their hairstyle/texture and instead, can display their hair with pride.”