Put It Away

On Friday evening I was invited to be part of a discussion on  the BBC Radio 5 Live Stephen Nolan Show. The topic was school uniform, and in particular girls shrinking interpretation of it.  Every secondary school in the vicinity of my house could be renamed The Britney Spears Academy because the majority of the girls going in and out are all legs and cleavage. It would be hard to distinguish between some of these school girls and the working girls who gather on street corners after dark. A sad and shocking comment, I know – and that’s not my age talking – it’s my conscience.

Unusually, myself and the other guests on the programme, a headteacher and classroom  teacher  were  on the same side of the debate.  All of us agreed that the trend for micro school uniforms amongst girls was worrying. and only a handful of listeners disagreed and they mostly argued that skirt lengths and necklines should not be policed in case  self expression was in any way stifled.

If schools in 2009 are such meccas of self expression why don’t the boys let it all hang out, too ?   Or teachers  ?  I’ve worked in schools and seen girls wearing skirts short enough to make my eyes water – but I’ve never seen a boy with his shirt unbuttoned to his navel. If women teachers rocked up to school in  micro mini skirts and push up bras under skin tight blouses, or male teachers wore contour hugging trousers and worked in open chested shirts –  both the students and parents would surely be appalled by such inappropriate clothing choices.  Picture a headteacher in his or her office meeting the governors in a Rocky Horror Show basque, suspender and stiletto ensemble – could that ever be OK ?  Yet vulnerable young girls are dressing like junior pop tarts to go to school and their clothing style goes  unchallenged by their parents or teachers.

I went to a school where uniform was prescriptive right down to the size and colour of knickers I was allowed to wearn underneath my ankle length woollen kilt. The length of said skirt was decreed  and monitored somewhere in Vatican City. The wearing of a purple skull cap was compulsory. It had a gold tassel  that was a foot long and always flopped the wrong way. I saw the world through it’s gold fringing for five long years.  Extreme, but character building. Wearing that uniform taught me how to punch because I was picked on every day on my way home  by kids from other schools with less outre schoolwear  Today students don’t suffer indignities, they get to choose their uniforms through school councils. And they are mostly comfortable and workplace (isn’t that what school is, after all?) friendly.

This current generation of mini Lolitas need an education fast – in self worth and sisterhood – and a good place to get it is in a safe school environment wearing  a compulsory uniform of sweatshirt and trousers or a knee length skirt.    The hello boys bras, platform shoes and microminis can come out  at the weekends when the girls can self express for all they’re worth until Monday morning and the start of another school week.

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