Should wearing a school uniform be something that's insisted upon?
There is hardly a day goes by without uniform being an issue in Sheffield schools.
Pick whichever week day you want, and you’ll see hundreds of smartly dressed youngsters coming through the doors, looking ready for a day of hard work in their shirts, blazers and ties.
But there’s always one who gets caught out. Maybe their shirt isn’t tucked in. Perhaps they’re not wearing black shoes or have headphones trailing over their shirt. Or possibly they’ve forgotten their tie.
As teachers, keeping on top of the uniform is an essential part of the job. It’s not easy and so it’s vital that we have the support of parents. Uniforms alone are not going to bring superb results and they’re not going to eliminate all trouble from our schools, but they do create a more orderly atmosphere in which hard work is more like the norm.
Personally, I find it so disappointing when parents kick off and moan about the uniform. Sometimes, their concern can be legitimate. Parents might have issues with the price it’s costing – there should be money available in school to help them with the cost.
But sometimes parents just want to bend the rules as far as they can, pushing the boundaries for their kids as far as they possibly can. It frustrates me because it reflects a society that believes school rules are there to be broken, rather than to be followed.
Complaining about the uniform and in some cases encouraging children to be subversive shows a lack of respect for the school rules. Whether or not parents agree with the rules, they have a duty to stick to them. Not doing so can lead to real conflict within the school, the exact opposite of what happens when everybody is pulling together.
One mum complained to a school last week because her 15-year-old daughter was not allowed to wear false nails in lessons. There are also regular encounters with parents who insist their little treasure should be allowed in school with coloured hair, jewellery and a range of piercings.
Rules concerning uniform and appearance, of course, are not restricted to schools.
I know hotel chains that won’t employ staff if they have facial piercing and tattoos on display.
You wouldn’t expect to go into a bakery and see people wearing false nails; this is a health and safety rule followed by all companies working with food.
Having school rules is no different from adopting rules people have to stick to at work. They are designed to give a good impression of the organisation and achieve the maximum productivity.
As a teacher, I am expected to turn up at school in a suit, with a tie. I have to wear have a lanyard with my school photo on it. The whole image has to be smart.
So, to the parents who want to send their daughter to school with false nails, I say this: “You can’t”.
Firstly, she’s going to school so she can learn, enable herself to pass exams, get a good set of GCSEs and move on to the next stage of her life.
It’s not a fashion parade. It’s not a night out on the town. There are no glossy magazines taking pictures of her in lessons. It’s a Sheffield secondary school, not high school in Beverley Hills.
If her teachers say it’s not acceptable or appropriate to go to school in false nails, just accept it. Don’t go around shouting it from the rooftops and demanding attention like it’s a huge crime against humanity.
Far worse things are happening around the world. Just take the nails off and have done with it.
False nails are not going to get the city’s 15-year-old girls into employment, sixth forms or university. They are a distraction from what is important in her life. By focussing on the distraction, parents are guiding her away from far more important things and introducing a sense that she is right and school is wrong. Rather than trying to push the system until it breaks, it’s time for the subversive uniform refusers to back down and stick with the vast majority by following the school rules.