A TRAINEE teaching assistant was asked by a school to cover up her tattoos when she turned up to start a new placement.
Charlotte Tumilty arrived at St John Vianney’s Primary School, in Hartlepool, to attend a training placement.
But the 26-year-old claims she was told by a member of staff that her tattoos were “inappropriate” and that she should go home.
Bosses at the school insist that Charlotte was not told she could not work in the school, but that she was asked to consider covering up her tattoos and return to her placement later this week.
But Charlotte, who also has purple hair, and admits her look is “alternative”, said: “It ticks me off.
“They said I could maybe start on Wednesday, but I don’t think it’s going to get anywhere because you can still see bits of my tattoos.
“They prejudiced me because they could see a few tattoos.”
Charlotte, of Bruntoft Avenue, is on a level two teacher training course at Hartlepool College of Further Education (FE) and was due to undertake the teaching assistant placement twice a week for a year.
But her teaching dreams could be shattered as she says there are no other school placements available.
Charlotte has full “sleeves” of tattoos on her arms and legs, as well as small ones on her fingers and a cross on her hands, ones on her back and chest and an eye emblem on her neck.
She said when she went for an interview at the school to secure her placement, staff could see some of her tattoos, though she was smartly dressed, and she promised to take her piercings out during the placement.
“They said ‘that will be perfect’”, said Charlotte, mum to RayGan Collier, four, and Willow Tumilty, who turns one next week.
But she said it took a while for the school to confirm her placement and other students on her course had already started theirs when she rang to inquire about starting training.
She went to the King Oswy Drive-based school on Monday, and spent around £25 on a new outfit, ensuring her arms were covered.
But Charlotte said: “They showed me to the Class 1 was working in.
“But a woman asked to speak to me in the office and said ‘what we need to discuss is you can still see a bit of your neck tattoo peaking out of your top’.”
Charlotte said she suggested wearing a higher-necked top.
“The woman said ‘that’s not the point, it’s a strictly Catholic school and tattoos are forbidden’.
“She said they do have teachers with tattoos, but they cover them up.
“I said ‘yes I have covered mine up’, but the woman said ‘to be honest I don’t think it’s appropriate’.
She said she offered to pay to get the ones on her hands removed, but claimed she was told that would mean her “going out of her way”.
St John Vianney’s deputy headteacher Martin Boagey said: “The school expects all members of staff to project a professional image and we have a code of conduct, part of which requires members of staff with tattoos to cover them up.
“We do have members of staff with tattoos and they are happy to abide by the code of conduct.
“On her arrival at school to take up her placement, Charlotte Tumilty was informed of the school’s code of conduct.
“She was politely asked to consider how best to cover up her tattoos and it was suggested that she should begin her placement later in the week.
“At no point was she ever told that she could not work in the school.
“The school regularly offers placements to students to help them develop their careers, and to date dozens have been welcomed and supported.”
Union officials say there needs to be a “balance” between the rights of the individual and the needs of organisations over tattoos.
Mike Hill, of Unison, which supports teaching assistants, said: “The unions recognise that most workplaces have dress codes, and that includes such dress codes which would accommodate the covering up of tattoos.
“Unions will stand by anybody who is subject to disciplinary action or discrimination as a consequence of them having tattoos.
“But we will also encourage the strike of balance between the needs of the organisation and the individual’s choice.
“In this instance it looks as though efforts have been made to resolve the matter entirely.”
A spokeswoman for the Tattooing & Piercing Industry Union said: “Members of the public should think carefully about tattoo placement because it can impact on your employment prospects.”
The FE college said it is down to individuals to arrange their placements and school guidelines should be followed, but they would support Charlotte as much as they could.