How hard is it to spot a logo on a pair of shoes? Or ensure your child has the correct hair cut for school? Very hard it appears for some parents.
At the start of this academic year some boys were sent home from school for wearing shoes with logos and sporting haircuts deemed unsuitable – the style with shaved sides and a gelled quiff on top – and girls for using make up or having the wrong type of school bag.
Ebbsfleet Academy in Kent has been re-named by parents as Colditz Academy because the new head has clamped down on uniforms and sent 30 out of 600 children home.
One parent whose daughter was sent home complained bitterly: "I think the Head was just trying to make a point on the first day."
Too right she was. The point being that parents need to ensure their child is sent to school in the correct uniform. But far from being supportive of the school, these parents feel it's all 'unfair'.
Given that these children are still only 12 or 13 years old, the blame lies surely with their parents who took their child shoe-shopping or to the hairdressers. How can a parent allow a hairdresser to be razor-happy when they know the style is not allowed by the school, or hand over their credit card for the wrong kind of shoes or school bag? And then say the rules are 'unfair'.
As a former teacher I saw children wearing the wrong uniform on a daily basis. I'm not talking about the wrong colour socks (in my days at grammar school we had to wear big green knickers and woe betide you if during PE you were found to be wearing anything other) but expensive items like shoes, coats and bags. Parents have bought these fully aware they do not comply with the uniform regulations.
If the uniform dictates black shoes, then why buy brown? Ebbsfleet's rules are: 'Footwear should be 'plain, black, sturdy leather shoes with wide flat heels. Coloured stitching, labels and laces are not permitted.' How unclear or unfair is that?
As did Alice, who bought her son the wrong colour shoes. He's only in Year 1, so perhaps he doesn't realise he – or rather his Mum- is flouting the rules. Or maybe he does and it will give him the confidence to rebel when he's older.
Alice explained, "I will not buy my son black shoes for school. The boys' styles available are clumpy and ugly. He doesn't need two pairs, which would be an expense, so I always choose dark blue or grey. His current pair has orange dinosaurs on the sole and a flash of orange on the heel. It makes me feel a bit rebellious but I quite enjoy that."
Yes, but will Alice be happy if her son inherits her rebellious streak when he's 15 and sent home when he should be working towards his GCSEs?
Even Gemma who says she fully supports her 15-yearoold daughter's school's uniform policy admits that she ignores the friendship bracelet Harriet wears, "Because I think she hides it up her sleeve when teachers are around. And she rolls her skirt over but I think the school has given up on that."
What your child does to their appearance once they have left for school each day is outside your control: they can apply make up, wear earrings, roll up their skirts, gel their hair, knot their ties any which way and you wouldn't know.
But you do know what the reaction is going to be if you take them along for the wrong kind of haircut the day before term starts.
Is it any wonder that schools have had to become more dictatorial over uniform when parents put their own interpretation on the rules? For instance, if girls have to wear a white blouse this doesn't mean any white blouse which – as I often found in my classes- shows acres of cleavage to distract pubescent boys.
If your daughter has red talons on Sunday evening is it not your responsibility to remind her to remove the polish? It seems not. When I used to challenge girls about these things they'd shrug: 'My mum doesn't mind'. Or worse, 'My mum likes them like this.' Yes, I could and did send a child to the toilet to remove nail varnish or make up, but not their blouse or shoes.
The battle that needs to be won is not with the pupils, as Jamie Oliver discovered when he tried to encourage healthy eating, but with the parents who fed their children burgers through the railings.
But what message does it send out to the children and the school if parents flout the rules? Simply that they are not 100Slideshow-164750%