Parents have accused a city secondary of "trying to be a public school" after it announced pupils would have to wear royal blue ties and blazers from September.

The row has flared at Varndean School, in Balfour Road, Brighton, after new headteacher William Deighan announced it would be getting rid of the white polo shirts and navy sweaters currently worn by children.

Parents have accused the school of forcing an unnecessary cost on them, making their children wear uncomfortable clothes and trying to create a different image to what the school had when they chose it for their youngsters.

Emma Funnell, whose daughter Jade, 15, will be joined at Varndean by her son Rhys, 11, in September, said: "They are trying to make the school something it isn't. It makes it seem like a private school. The children will be targets for abuse, they will be the only ones in the city with ties and blazers."

At each of the other eight secondaries in Brighton and Hove pupils wear polo shirts and sweaters.

Other parents said they were unhappy at the £20 cost for each blazer and tie, which would be on top of the price of trousers and shirts and suggested a vote among pupils about the new uniforms had been deliberately rigged.

One mother, who asked not to be named, said: "My eldest is in his final year there and voted in favour of it, and said his friends did as well, to try to stitch up everyone who'll have to wear it.

"My youngest will have to wear it and all of his friends voted against it."

Varndean said it would be cheaper to buy the blazer and tie than two of the current polo shirts, at £7 each, and two sweatshirts, at £9.

It will be sold at cost at the school and shops in the city. They said the uniform had been supported by a small margin in votes among pupils, parents and staff.

Mr Deighan said the change had been made to distinguish the school from others in the area.

Its current uniform is almost identical to the one worn by pupils at neighbouring Dorothy Stringer, in Loder Road, and staff said there had been having identification issues.

Mr Deighan said: "Our students are proud of their school and want to be identifiable in the local community.

"The new uniform is clear and simple, if slightly more traditional than Varndean is used to and will make a clear distinction between clothes for school and home life.”

Despite the opposition, some parents have supported the change.

Phoebe Oliver, from Preston Park, whose daughter goes to the school, said: "It looks absolutely brilliant. I think if you dress up for work or school your concentration levels are better."

Several Sussex schools have shifted back to ties and blazers in recent years. There was fierce opposition to the move at Seaford Head Community College in 2007 but others at Durrington High in Worthing and Ringmer Community College, near Lewes, have proved a success.

Amanda French, from Ringmer Community College, said: "It's had a huge impact. The children were all for it and they have really embraced it."