As I stand in a queue waiting to hand my prescription in at the chemist, I can’t help but notice the adults have got an aura of calm around them that they didn’t have last week. The reason for their good mood? No, it’s not a sale on at Next, or a bank holiday weekend. It’s quite obvious that the light in these women’s eyes is simply bewilderment and panic as they are able to hold a 3 minute conversation with a fellow parent without hearing the “Mum! Mum!” chorus and being pulled in the direction of the toy aisle. No they haven’t left their children at home or in the car, the kids have gone back to school. The nation all took a big sigh of relief as we waved the kids off on the bus and put the kettle back on for a much-needed brew after running around crazy, trying to find the last few bits before school starts. Wave, sigh, tea, relax.
But for some parents, the relaxation and free time wasn’t to last. Little did they know that their children were being ridiculed and their appearance criticised severely as they passed through the school gates on their 1st day of school.
It has been all over the news and on social media about a Headmaster sending children home because their attire didn’t conform to school uniform policy. Some of the pupils from Hatsdown Academy in Kent who had the wrong shoes on or skirts which were too short were refused entry to the school and told to go home to return later in the proper attire. I thought it was just this school, but soon I was reading about similar experiences in other high schools, including an academy in my town.
After seeing some of the pictures relating to these news pieces, I can understand why the parents belonging to these children were unhappy. Why they were confused and demanding answers from the Headmaster. These children all looked very smart, presentable and seemed to represent the Academy very well.
In my secondary school, we didn’t have blazers (it was before all the Academies started popping up everywhere!) but we did have a tie and not a clip-on one. So that tie had to be tied to perfection and shirts were tucked in, top buttons fastened. I’m pro-uniform and would’ve loved a blazer (just for the inside pocket which I would rename as my ‘snack pocket’). With that in mind it’s safe to say I’m an advocate for children learning discipline and respect. I love a good uniform for either work or school; I’d hate to have to get up each morning and pick out an outfit, something fashionable and appropriate. In both situations, uniforms are great for uniting the pupils and creating a level playing field for the children, theoretically reducing bullying behaviour.
However, what I don’t agree with, is the manner in which this Headmaster criticised his pupils. The children, especially the new Year 7s, would have been nervous, anxious about attending a new school, meeting new teachers, dealing with a lot of new information. During what is surely a stressful time, the teachers are there for guidance and support, being someone the children can go to for help with their problems.
This move by the Headmaster has just cancelled all of that out. Looking the children up and down, criticising their appearance. Telling them they can’t come in because there is a gold buckle on their shoe, I can’t imagine what these pupils were thinking. I’ve never heard anything like it. Is that gold buckle or that hair cut going to make much of a difference? Are these trivial things really going to damage a child’s concentration? Probably not. However picking faults and highlighting their flaws publicly, could have serious repercussions. Children struggle with bullying when it’s a fellow-student, how do they feel when it’s a teacher pointing his finger?
And what is the outcome of this little spat over uniform? The Headmaster has flexed his muscles and shown his staff, the pupils and their parents that you mean business. Great. The parents all hate you as you’ve humiliated their children and they are a further £20 out of pocket as they’ve had to buy another pair of shoes. The pupils are scared of you, and probably won’t approach you with a future problem, which could have serious consequences. And the other teachers all agree it was blown out of proportion and feel sorry for the pupils, but smile and nod when you ask for their opinion. All in all, not a bad start to the new term.
You could have achieved the same result with better side effects had the Headmaster dealt with this on a smaller scale. Teachers could have checked pupils’ uniforms whilst they are in the classroom, in form time, popped a note in their planner, sent a letter home. Any of these would have been a preferable alternative to being rejected at the school gates.
I think the children will have plenty of time to learn about rejection and conformity, about criticism and responsibility. But not when they’re feeling so vulnerable on their first day in a new environment, surrounded by new people.
People have been very vocal of their opinions on this situation. You will either agree with the headmaster and applaud his stand against wishy-washy uniforms or you will side with the pupils and parents: Surely, if the pupil has on black trousers, shirt, tie, blazer and black shoes, he/she is in uniform. End of.
But hey, what do I know? I don’t even have children. But I have graduated with a degree in psychology and my dissertation was focussed on anxiety within adolescents.
What do you think?
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