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Thursday 8 September 2016

Press School Uniform Hypocrisy

[Update at end of post]

In the days of the Coalition Government, education was a subject much discussed by the tabloid press. And the conclusion of most discussion was that standards were not good enough. Britain was allegedly slipping down league tables, doing less well than other European countries, and faring especially badly in comparison with the Far East. Anything that raised standards in schools was therefore A Very Good Thing.
And nothing makes a clearer statement that a school is determined to raise standards than enforcing its uniform code. This, too, was A Very Good Thing - until those same tabloids realised there would be some parents who were not just foolish enough to complain about such matters, but also to prostrate themselves before the press in doing so.

So it came to pass that, as the Autumn term began this week, some schools enforced their uniform code - as every one of them had told parents they would before the end of the previous school year - and there were the tabloids ready to play both sides of the field. Their primary target was Hartsdown Academy in Margate, where new head teacher Matthew Tate excluded around 50 students on Monday - and 20 the following day.

The Police attended, but only because they were passing. “Half the school” had been excluded (50 out of 1,100). The whining from parents was matched only by the lameness of the excuses. One parent protested “if the policy hasn’t changed, how were they to know?” to which the answer is that they ought to have known, as every parent was not only made aware of the uniform code, but also left in no doubt that it would be enforced.

But instead of standing behind the head teacher’s decision, both the Sun and Mail have decided to exploit it to get more sales and clicks. The Mail even slips in that Tate previously taught at a Christian school, which is a bit rich, given the paper is usually up for defending Christians and telling readers how their religion is “under attack”. The Sun has even run film of one ill-advised parent who decided to confront Tate outside the school, vowing that his child would be transferred to another school.

Terms such as “Gestapo” are being casually bandied about. Parents telling that Tate has “lost respect” and offering insulting nicknames for him are eagerly reported. This morning, the Sun has moved its shock horror convoy to a school in North Wales where the head teacher, once again, is enforcing a uniform code which parents were told about well in advance - and which the vast majority of them endorsed.

Of course, after the protests have died down, the tabloid outrage machine will move on to the next source of cheap copy and marginal revenue. Parents who allowed themselves to be used by the Sun and Mail will be left to make their apologies to Matthew Tate and other head teachers, and otherwise repent at leisure. They will discover that the tabs couldn’t give a stuff about them and their kids, but the damage will have been done.

Their faux outrage over schools enforcing uniform codes shows once again that the tabloid press cares about one thing, and one only: Themselves Personally Now.

[UPDATE 9 September 1150 hours: I appear to have an ally this morning in the unexpected shape of the loathsome Toby Young, who has been given a platform by the Murdoch Sun - the same paper that has been playing both sides of the field on this story - to tell readers that schools enforcing their uniform code is indeed A Very Good Thing.

Moreover, the schools that the paper has homed in on have told parents what they were going to do, and they then did it. Tobes' stance should not be too surprising, as his West London Free School has taken a similar stance from Day One. Standards should be improved? Enforcing the uniform code is a no-brainer place to make a start.

Where Tobes and I diverge is that I concede there are many instances where rules are imposed, and should be followed, for the benefit of all. Like temporarily banning "walking up on the left" at central London tube stations in the rush hour, to clear station platforms at really busy times.

That's the problem with being a little too libertarian - you set a poor example to the next generation when telling them to wear the uniform and do as they're told. Just a thought]


Ms Mensch said...

This article is obviously about brexit.

It can't be denied...

Arnold said...

It's an annual tradition like jumping in the air waving your A-Level results.
Some Heads do seem to be nitpicking though. When I was young, the school uniform was a blazer plus school badge and a school tie. Surely enough to give a sense of identity. Why reject black shoes from Clarke schools range?
There's no evidence that an obsessive approach to school uniform improves academic progress.

Anonymous said...

Is there any reason why North Wales shouldn't get the Murdoch lying treatment?

The rest of the country has been getting it for over thirty years.

But the answer is simple: Don't buy any of his "products." Drive him into bankruptcy. Drive his jobsworth employees into the dole queue.

Anonymous said...

@Anoymous 13;21

Do you know what, for a minute I considered your bankruptcy theory and though, nah, he's too rich but then I thought Hang on, I wonder how many pele his organisation have intruded on or upset (some without knowledge of intercept)and you have a good point.

Maybe when the truth is all said and done he might only be left with a penny to scratch his arse with.

A penny for the guy?

Ha ha!