I support rigid, unbending uniform policies - and strict enforcement
PUBLISHED: 11:05 16 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:05 16 November 2018
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016
Some of the most love-hate stories that I have covered down the years have been about school dress codes.
You know the deal: disgusted dad and moaning mum are residing somewhere between Umbrage and High Dudgeon because their son was sent home for having lines shaved into his hair.
Or their daughter was put in seclusion for making herself up like Alice Cooper.
The examples could also include earrings, untucked shirts, stack-heeled shoes, shorts, dyed hair, ties oh-so-rebelliously done up with the thin end showing, and so on.
The latest example is at Woodchurch High School in Birkenhead, where pupils have been banned from wearing expensive designer coats by the likes of Moncler, Pyrenex and Canada Goose. Yeah, I’ve never heard of them either.
These coats cost as much as £1,000, so why on Earth would parents want to risk them being ripped or lost?
Some are - predictably - whining about the decision, which they say isn’t fair.
Actually, what isn’t fair is wearing them to school in the first place (it’s also pretty lame-brained to spend that much on a coat, when £50 does the job).
Schools should be among the few places where egalitarianism is enforced. Every pupil should walk through the gates with as much of society’s inequality of opportunity ironed out as is possible.
Children from poorer backgrounds have enough trouble swimming upstream to achieve equality without having wealth flaunted before them at school.
That’s why I support rigid, unbending uniform policies - and strict enforcement.
When I was a high school governor I helped to introduce a smart uniform with a blazer, shirt, tie, smart trousers and black shoes.
It replaced a frankly sloppy-looking fleece and polo shirt, which made the pupils look and feel demotivated.
Within days of wearing the new get-up, pupils were saying they felt better about themselves and more proud to be seen out of the school.
When I was a pupil at the same school, of course I did everything I could to defy and get around the uniform rules. But then I was a pain in the butt.
It’s up to schools to deal with the pains in the butt - including parents.
Ironically, many of the parents who foam at the mouth when schools ban certain clothing or crack down on uniform infractions would fulminate if their child were picked on for their choice of shoes.
They would call it bullying, which it is. But the fashion race is also bullying: it demeans and demoralises those youngsters whose family cannot afford high-end clothes.
There are so many opportunities for young people to express themselves through their appearance: outside of school hours and once they’ve left full-time education.
But school is about learning, not posing. Part of that is learning to respect the feelings of those who are less fortunate - or less shallow.
What I don’t understand is why some parents feel the need to push back against the authority of a school. They’re not helping their children at all - just preparing them for trouble when they become as antagonistic as their parents, and find life damned difficult.
Life is a series of things that we do not always want to do. It’s wise to get used to it while you’re still young.
No child should be allowed out of the house in the morning unless they are in perfect uniform. If that demands an inspection every now and again, so be it.
That’s the parents’ job done. After that, the school takes over. And the two should speak with one uniform voice.