PUPILS who turn up at school with missing or dirty school uniform should not be punished, according to a leading parent body.

Connect said poor pupils were often those who struggled with the correct uniform and disciplining them would add to their problems.

The call followed a survey of nearly 400 Scottish parents by Connect which highlighted a range of suggestions to help disadvantaged families.

These include having a washing machine and dryer on the school premises to use for cleaning uniforms or sports kits and fundraising events to pay for a stock of spare clothing.

In 2015 a UK-wide survey found nearly 800,000 pupils go to school with poorly-fitting, damaged or dirty uniforms.

The report by the Children’s Society highlighted examples where pupils had been sent home for wearing “incorrect” uniforms while others had been bullied.

In Scotland some schools operate a “demerit” system for pupils who don’t wear the correct school dress code, where they can be prevented from taking part in trips or activities.

On average, families spend more than £300 a year on uniform for a child at a state secondary and more than £250 for a pupil at a primary, the survey found.

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Eileen Prior, executive director of Connect, said: “When pupils arrive at school without the expected uniform, it would be great if teachers took the time to have a discreet conversation to ask if there are underlying issues.

“What is perceived as non-compliance may actually be a flag for a raft of other difficulties, from problems at home to a sense of not feeling part of the school community. This conversation with the child or young person could make all the difference.

“Children may be disciplined for not wearing the right uniform when it is an issue of cost, not behaviour and parents rightly don’t want their children to be penalised for wearing the wrong clothes or shoes.”

Ms Prior said overall the survey highlighted how important it was for parents of all backgrounds to ensure schools provided equality of opportunity for all children.

Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, said the view on school uniform varied considerably between schools.

He said: “All headteachers are acutely aware they cannot impose the wearing of uniform and even more aware there will be young people who cannot, for a variety of reasons, turn up to school in full regulation uniform.

“Often refusal is a mask for not possessing so headteachers understand that any policy on uniform needs to be taken forward on the basis of reasonableness and a genuine willingness of the young people and their parents to support and promote the school ethos.”

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Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes, which represents the primary sector, said the standard approach would be to welcome all pupils regardless of what they were wearing.

He added: “Where there is no uniform or it is in bad condition schools tend to offer the child a uniform to use and raise the issue sensitively with parents.”

The wearing of school uniform is a controversial issue with a growing trend for traditional blazers in state schools over the past decade.

Some schools take the issue very seriously because they believe it engenders a spirit of identity and pride as well as introducing equality. Pupils are also safer, they argue, because they can be easily identified.

In some extreme cases in England hundreds of pupils have been punished with mass detentions for flouting strict uniform rules.

Read more: School uniform 'creates inequality'

However, there is little evidence school uniform improves results and some of the highest achieving countries such as Finland have no school uniform.

Critics argue it undermines individuality and can lead to teachers spending time and energy policing the policy.