A secondary school in the St Austell area has been accused of implementing overzealous new rules including uniform checks that involve students removing their coats outside in sub-zero temperatures.

Brannel School in St Stephen has been the subject of social media fury since students returned from the festive break on Monday.

Parents were urged to join the Facebook group Parents of Brannel School, and a parents’ meeting is due to take place on the morning of Tuesday, January 16 at St Stephen Community Centre “to assist parents and create a positive plan of action”.

And St Austell Steve Double MP requested an urgent phone call with Brannel's executive headteacher following complaints from numerous constituents.

Over 130 people have signed a petition on the website change.org, calling for Brannel School to establish an “open dialogue” with parents/guardians.

A post written by 15-year-old student Sophie Commons was widely shared on Facebook in parent and community groups within the school’s catchment area, which includes Roche, Bugle and other Clay Country villages.  

“Everyday I feel like I’m waking up to go to a prison,” said Sophie. “I go to school wearing tights underneath my trousers, socks over the top, a vest a jumper and a coat as extras to the regular uniform.

“Temperatures have been -1, -2 degrees when I’ve gotten to school but yet we are still made to stand outside for ages. On the first day, we spent 25 minutes outside, coats hats scarves off, so they could assess our uniform.

“We have to stand in register order, single file and in silence whilst being individually checked; those whose uniform that isn’t ‘acceptable’ sent away with a member of SLT [Senior Leadership Team] to be dealt with.

“The way we get spoken to is horrible, and the problem is, they don’t even give us a chance to explain ourselves.”

She continued: “Coats have to be taken off before we enter the building, yet teachers can walk in with theirs on and proceed to get angry with us if we haven’t already taken ours off.

“One student asked why the teacher had their coat on in the building and the teacher replied, ‘Because the rules don’t apply to me.’ That’s not okay … teachers should set an example by not wearing their coats.”

The post also complained about students being forced to spend break times outside, and having to walk outside the building between classes, even at risk of being late.

Sophie’s mother, Karen, who runs a business in St Stephen, kept her daughter off school for three days following the incident on Monday. “The first day was matter of principle, but after that she was so anxious about going in, she was being sick,” she said.

“I have had four children at that school. My eldest is 30, so I have been going there for 20 years. It’s so sad, the way it’s going up there.

“The school is trying to say we were aware of the new rules, but we didn’t know it was going to be like this. I’ve heard children have to use a ruler in group reading, or are being frogmarched off for having a slightly wonky tie. It sounds like a boot camp.”

Of Sophie, she said: “She was tapping away about how she felt, for herself as much as anything, and I said I would send it to a Brannel parents’ group. From there, someone asked if they could share it anonymously.

“It’s quite a big deal for her to speak up. Sophie is a good student – she has won an award for having no behaviour points last year. She’s never in any trouble and a high achiever. The school should be pleased to have her.”

Sophie said: “On Monday, I was crying to my mum because I felt I wouldn’t be heard, so for this to happen is quite a big thing for me. I feel really happy to be heard.

“I think it’s really important for school to hear it from a good student’s point of view. I enjoy school, but it got to a point yesterday where I couldn’t go in.”

She added that she was “very much prepared” for negative feedback on Monday. “I have seen comments online from people saying kids need to grow up,” she said.

“Others have said things like ‘When I was that age, I was outside in shorts and T-shirts in -18 degrees’. It’s overdramatic, and times have changed.”

A spokesperson for the school, which is part of Cornwall Education Learning Trust, said: “Our behaviour and uniform expectations align with the values and high standards we uphold as a school. These have been introduced to help students strive for excellence in every part of school life and have been embraced by the vast majority of our school community.

“As part of this, students are expected to spend break and lunchtimes outdoors except for when eating in the school canteen, taking part in indoor enrichment clubs, or in circumstances of extreme weather conditions. This is to help maintain energy levels and promote mental wellbeing, greater productivity, and focused learning.

“We continually encourage students to bring coats to school, particularly in periods of colder weather, and do not expect them to remove outdoor wear until they have re-entered school buildings. However, it is of course up to individuals as to whether they choose to wear them while outside.”

Steve Double MP said he had discussed these issues with executive headteacher Lucy Gambier. “Whilst there are limits as to what action I can take as the local MP, as the running of schools are rightly the responsibility of the governors and staff, I will continue to ensure that the concerns of parents are addressed,” he said.

“As I understand it, these rule changes have been brought in to come into line with the rules that apply across the whole of the CELT Academy Trust. I have been informed that parents and pupils were told about this change several months ago and there have been a number of opportunities to discuss them,” he said.

“These rules are being brought in to raise the standards of behaviour and ultimately education outcomes for all pupils. Whilst I support this, I also agree that any changes need to be applied with common sense and with the ongoing support of parents.

“It is also important, however, that the school are able to enforce their policies, particularly when pupils refuse to comply and become rude or abusive towards staff.

“The Executive Headteacher has also informed me that they have already had meetings with parents over the past week and are happy to meet with any parents who have concerns about these issues. As such I would highly recommend parents who have concerns to contact the school to arrange such a meeting if they have not already done so.”

Read more reaction in the St Austell Voice in Wednesday.