A major controversy is brewing at The Ellerslie School over the sudden change of the uniform for students attending the Black Rock, St Michael educational institution.
In fact, former student Rodney Garnes has started an online petition in a bid to pressure the Ministry of Education to reverse the decision.
The petition, titled Don’t Change My Ellerslie Uniform, had attracted over 800 signatures up to the time of publication.
Barbados TODAY understands that a number of disgruntled parents and members of the school’s alumni also plan to stage protest action tomorrow outside the school compound.
When students return to school in nine weeks time following the summer holiday they will have a brand new uniform, which critics say is much too similar to that worn by students of Combermere School.
Instead of the traditional khaki shirt and pants in the junior school, the boys will wear white shirts with the school crest, and khaki pants, while the girls will wear a khaki overall, as opposed to brown.
Senior boys will continue to wear white shirts, but the brown trousers will be replaced by khaki pants and the school crest and tie will replace the epaulettes.
A number of upset old scholars, including Terry Clarke, took to social media to vent their opposition to the change.
“I stand in solidarity with my past and present colleagues of The Ellerslie School by signing this petition as my disapproval for the change in a new design of the school’s uniform,” Clarke posted.
He said the new uniform would change the school’s identity and put a dent in the pockets of already struggling parents.
“I am convinced that similar to other organizations both military, paramilitary and NGOs [non-governmental organizations], Ellerslie has become a brand where the uniform has affectionately attracted the name of ‘Brown Cows’ to the institution and throughout various social networks.
“Also, major consideration must be given to those parents who have invested heavily previously, and last school year, and who, because of the bleak economic conditions domestically and nationally, cannot afford to purchase any further new uniforms,” he said.
Another member of the school’s alumni, Judith Prescod, also gave the uniform change a failing grade.
“As a past student I do believe that the uniform should not change. There are too many uniforms that already look similar to that, and besides the design is awful. Whoever did it needs to go back to needlework class. We are known as ‘Brown Cows’, let it stay that way,” she said.
However, when Barbados TODAY visited the school just as students were dismissed around 1 p.m. today, Randall Stevenson, who will be entering his final year come September, was fully in support of the change in uniform.
“To be honest, I really agree with the change in the uniform. I like it. The junior school uniform, when you look at the boys, one, it looks like Lester Vaughan slightly, and the girls look like Combermere just because it is an overall, but to me it isn’t that close,” Stevenson said.
“The only thing that I’m not supporting is that we will now have no choice but to wear brown shoes. I don’t like that because to me brown shoes are harder to source and they are expensive.”
Equally happy with the change was fourth year student Denzil Lockhart, although he said he was concerned that it had caused inconvenience to parents and guardians who had purchased the old uniform, only to be told it was being replaced.
“At first I told myself it didn’t really make any sense because we could wear the fourth form uniform both in fourth and fifth form. It didn’t make a difference because it was the same thing.
“So now students’ parents who aren’t that fortunate will now have to buy a fresh set of uniforms. So it will definitely be harder on them. It is not easy . . . because the uniforms aren’t cheap,” Lockhart said.
The senior student surmised that parents were upset because of the additional expense thrust upon them at short notice.
“Most parents would have already bought material for the old uniform because we wear the same in fourth and fifth form. So now that they hear the outfit changed they will have to get new material and shoes, and the money may just not be there.
“Some parents may buy uniforms and put down for the next year so their children will have two new shirts or pants. I have some new ones that I never wore yet so I don’t know what I will do now,” he stressed.
Principal Major Errol Brathwaite declined to comment on the matter.