Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Uniform Thought

HALF the wonder of motherhood is watching a child learn it's way into the world - "I stand up, I fall down... I stand up, I fall down ... Ah, I stand up and I don't fall what do these feet things do?" - but at no point during my children's milestone learning did I worry about what clothes they were wearing.

State education though has not the time for the indulgence of a mother watching her precious offspring realise that this-thing-does-that-thing whilst wearing a feather boa, a pair of pants and a sock. State education, in general, likes its recipients fully dressed and preferably dressed in the designated uniform.

I appreciate the point of a uniform, not only does it eradicate the difference between the have and have nots (uniform... see?) but also you don't have to spend three hours every morning talking a 5 year old out of going to school dressed in pyjamas AND you can blame the teachers for it.

But with the invention of Academy schooling, or perhaps more particularly, the Academy secondary schooling my teen twins are experiencing, the uniform has gone beyond the mere, forgive me, uniform. Each and every item they wear... blazer, shirt, skirt and jumper, even the PE kit.... must feature the stitched in purple whirl logo of Outwood Academy. Not for me a quick trip down to Asda to stock up on BOGOF school skirts and a crate of white blouses for 3.99, it has to be the proper stuff from the proper school suppliers who charge proper money. Somebody, somewhere is making a mint out of this.

But that would be for naught if there was even a remotely sensible attitude to the wearing of it. In the deepest depths of  winter only the specified flat black sensible shoes were tolerated in school...the school, might I add, being a collection of buildings separated by expanses of ground; large frosty, icy, sometimes treacherous, ground. It was only when the snow was literally feet deep, the school informed pupils they could come to school in more weather appropriate footwear. Then, of course, the school promptly shut because of burst pipes and snowbound teachers.

And it's summer now, some of the hottest glorious sunshiny days of the year and still the girls trudging to Outwood Academy of a morning are in the blazers that have to be worn at all times (though I have heard tell some teachers have an element of discretion when class members start to pass out) and wearing the regulation 40 denier black opaque tights as specified in the school rules. What exactly is to be achieved by inflicting year round 40 denier tights on the coming generation I'm not entirely sure but inflict it they do without regard for the prevailing weather conditions or, indeed, common sense.

Uniforms should be about inspiring unity within a school and making the classroom classless but when the uniform rules cite that even the wearing of brightly coloured hair-bobbles in a punishable offence, it is being used more to repress individualism than inspire.

Modern education has over passing years changed its emphasis from nurture to control. Petty rules about bags, bobbles, tights and shoes alienate pupils as the cost of over-priced (badly made) uniforms is also alienating parents but as any teenager will tell you it's not the clothes you wear, it's the technology you carry that marks social standing in the playground these days.

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