Tapton School Head Teacher Personal Statement

A school refused to display a student's breastfeeding artwork because the room was being used by Muslims to pray during Ramadan.

Sixth form student Martha Armitage, 18, is furious about the treatment of her intricate piece which took her 15 hours to make.

The painting of a woman's naked breast feeding her child is being displayed elsewhere in Tapton school in Sheffield instead.

Bosses say the decision was about "tolerance" and not "censorship".

But Martha said even Muslim friends have told her the artwork would not offend them and accused the school of being "overly sensitive".

She said: "As usual breastfeeding is being depicted in a sexual way. Why are people thinking it is sexual?

"My school should see my paintings as normalising breastfeeding. The more it is seen then the more acceptable it will be."

"I was breastfed as a child, as were my three brothers, and I don't see anything wrong with it.

"It was only a couple of years ago, when my brother and sister-in-law had their first child, that I realised there seemed to be a lot of fuss about it.

"In my family breastfeeding is normal, I'm flabbergasted people disagree."

Martha, who works part-time in a cafe, chose her subject of Mother and Baby after being given four choices for her A Level finals.

Her sister-in-law, Kim Houton, 20, had given birth to her second child, Ivy, who is now five months old.

Martha took photographs of Kim and Ivy together, with Kim happy to take her top off to show the intimacy between a mother and her newborn baby.

Martha, who lives in Sheffield, then took the photos into the exam room with her, where her work was produced over four three hour exam sessions.

Her family, including her dad, Alex, 44, who is an art teacher, and is head of his department, and mum, theatre nurse Mandy, 43, are immensely proud of what she has produced.

Martha says was not even informed by the school of the decision, instead she noticed her work was not on display when she went to the school to collect her prom tickets.

She said: "I went to speak to the art technician because I wanted to see my artwork, I hadn't seen it since I'd submitted it for my A-level.

"The technician told me the artwork wasn't going on display at all because it includes breasts and it's Ramadan.

"I was just really, really shocked. I didn't know what to say. I left the school and when I went home I told my mum about it, she sent an email to the school.

"In their reply, they spoke about not having the artwork on display in the conference room which was going to be used as a prayer room.

"But I was told by the technician that my artwork wasn't going to be displayed anywhere.

"In any case, I don't understand why it's offensive. Muslim pupils at my school have told me they're not offended by it.

"I don't understand why the school were jumping to conclusions - they're just being overly sensitive.

"The school think it's respecting the tolerance of Muslims during Ramadan because my pictures show nipples, but if I showed a baby being fed by bottle it would be fine, they are promoting the wrong thing.

"They are censoring my work because it involves a bit of nudity.

"Why are they looking at the painting for the nipple? And not the concept of a mother bonding with her baby?"

Martha's mother Mandy sent an email to the school complaining and received a reply from the Art and Design subject leader.

It read: "Martha was not told that her work was not being displayed.

"She was told that her work was no longer in the conference room because the room is, during Ramadan, being used as a prayer room; this does not display (in my view) censorship, but rather respect and tolerance."

Martha's four paintings show a mother cradling her baby, another breastfeeding from front-on, another breastfeeding from the side, and another shows a mother holding her child to her naked breast - something that is crucial in the first months of baby bonding.

She said: "I have Muslim friends who are also outraged. They say it has nothing to do with Ramadan.

"If it was about distraction there should not be any artwork displayed in there.

"The pieces that don't have nipples are allowed to be displayed."

Martha took A Levels in art, theatre studies and English language.

She is a keen artist with an interest in artists and galleries, she hopes to go on to do an art foundation course and then on to art college.

For now, she would like the school to change their decision.

She said: "I would like my work to be displayed. My friends at the school are really supportive and want to see my work.

"I feel disheartened because I put a lot of time and effort into it.

"They're making decisions on behalf of a culture they don't understand. The Muslims I have spoken to are not offended by what I have created.

"It's a shame this has happened. I have had a great time at the school and I like the art department and the teachers and to leave on this note is quite sad."

A statement from Claire Tasker and David Dennis, joint heads, said: "Tapton School is an inclusive school. "Our mission statement is 'Value everyone, care for each other and achieve excellence'.

"Martha's work is beautiful and she is rightly proud of it.

"Equally, we teach our students to be strong, articulate and to stand up for what they believe in so we admire her tenacity but there is some misunderstanding and misrepresentation in what she is sharing via social media. "

"We have 45 students studying post 16 Art. This amounts to a huge number of finished pieces that we display all over the school.

"We do not limit subject matter choice or censor finished pieces. We do not have the space to display all pieces at all times.

"Pieces by five students are currently displayed in our small conference room (located on the administration corridor in school).

"The room is used for meetings, as an exam space and also as a prayer room at lunchtimes. "We made the decision (as it was during Ramadan) to not put the images of breast feeding into this room.

"The pieces are actually on display in the Finance Office which is frequented by far more staff and students on a daily basis.

"Before that they were on display in our Art rooms and admired by all. We have invited Martha to come into school to discuss her concerns - this is always the better way forward.

"Furthermore, we are proud to be an inclusive school for both students and staff and are somewhat frustrated by the misrepresentation of Tapton as a place of work in this story.

"For example, we actively support mothers who have returned to work but wish to continue to breastfeed."

Tapton Secondary School is a secondary school with academy status located in Crosspool, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. It is sited next to another secondary, King Edward VII School, and near to Lydgate Junior School, Lydgate Infant School and Notre Dame High School. Tapton School has approximately 1,650 pupils, aged between 11 and 18 years old.[2] Tapton officially opened in 1960, however in 2000, the school was rebuilt under the Private Finance Initiative.[3] Students and faculties officially moved to the new building in September 2001.


Tapton Secondary School opened in 1960 with 660 pupils. The pupils came from three local schools who lost their senior school to provide the pupils. These three schools, Springfield County, Nethergreen, and Crookes Endowed became Junior schools.

The original 1950s school was knocked down and replaced by new premises under the private Finance Initiative in 2001 and is rented from its landlords, Interserve PLC.

After April 2011 the school was affected by changes in the funding of 6th formers and the removal of specialist school status from all schools. As a result of this funding change, Tapton governors sought academy status, which was approved, the changeover date being August 2011.

School site[edit]

New buildings include 15 science laboratories, a technology block with 10 classrooms, a music block with dedicated practice rooms, a drama studio, and a gym and sports hall. Outside, there is also a floodlit astroturf and tennis court, used by local organisations and other schools for a range of sports. In October 2015, a new building opened, with 4 new geography classrooms and a quiet area dedicated to the study of poetry.


Academically, Tapton is one of the most successful state-funded schools in Sheffield. Results at A level and GCSE are consistently above the National average. In the academic year 2009-10, GCSE results placed Tapton 1st in the whole city and A level results were equally good. The Times best schools list 2007 puts the school around 200th in the country, second in Sheffield, though results at GCSE and A level in 2007 would put Tapton first. In recent years, various pupils have excelled in sports with badminton teams and the 6th form basketball team winning national competitions and one pupil running in the Sheffield Marathon.[citation needed]

The school obtained "Specialist Science College" status in the 2003-04 academic year. This enabled the school to form links with several Junior Schools and with a Specialist School. Tapton pupils are successful at science A levels, and at GCSE, most pupils take "triple", that is, separate, sciences, the remainder taking "dual" science as in all secondary schools. Pupil teams have won or placed highly in several national science quizzes.[citation needed]

In December 2007 the school obtained a status in Arts, enhancing the school's reputation and facilities in three departments - Art, Drama and Music. Members of successful bands such as Def Leppard attended the school.[citation needed]

The school was inspected by Ofsted on 29 January 2007 and rated as "outstanding".[4]

School students have attained places on the Prime Minister's Global Fellowship programme. The school achieved its first student in the inaugural year of the programme, 2008, and in 2009 had another successful applicant.[5]

Tapton Youth Brass Band[edit]

Tapton Youth Brass Band' is a brass band formed in 1994 as the Tapton School band. Its musical director is Pat Phillips. It now attracts interest from outside the School.

Notable former pupils[edit]

  • Kate Bottley, Anglican priest, TV personality, and journalist
  • Sebastian Coe, British politician, former athlete
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick, golfer, winner US Amateur 2013
  • Philip Hensher, novelist and critic [6]
  • Paul Kirby, Feature film Production Designer. Credits include Captain Phillips, Kingsman. The Secret Service and Death Wish. Brother of Carlton Kirby. [7][8]
  • Becky Lyne, athlete [9]
  • Richard McCourt, better known as Dick from Dick and Dom,[10]
  • Jared O'Mara, Suspended Labour MP
  • Rick Savage, Pete Willis and Tony Kenning, three of the founding members of Def Leppard[11][not in citation given]
  • Charlie Webster, sports TV presenter. [12]
  • James Whitworth, cartoonist (Sheffield Star, Sheffield Telegraph, Private Eye) & writer (DCI Miller novels & journalism)
  • John Woodcock, Labour MP
  • James Woods, freeskier[13]
  • David James Richards, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and technology executive[14]


External links[edit]

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