Spot the difference

August 30, 2010 at 8:50 am (Uncategorized)

This week’s prompt on the Poetry Bus is to write about school. When I lay thinking about it last night I thought about just keeping my head down so as to avoid the temptation to make sarcastic comments about the nostalgic sentimental claptrap that is likely to be spouted by growups who’s memories have glossed over the harsh reality and think back to it as a time of freedom before the evils of wage labour. But the anger I continue to feel at the destruction of my daughter’s self-confidence and esteem during her time in school brought me back to the day she was allowed to leave (you can pop back here to one of my early Poetry Bus efforts to see how angry). We had just got back from spending £42 at the ‘uniform event’ because the new Head had decided to stamp her mark on the place by going back to the 1950’s, complete with blazers, ties, those knitted jumpers with the stripy trim … and knee length skirts.

An extra three inches of skirt

An extra three inches of skirt

will make us all better learners,

will increase our sense of belonging,

will be more ladylike, modest and demure.

Do that tie up

Tuck that shirt in

You’ll never pass your exams

dressed like that.

Go now

and remove that makeup,

we all know it hampers learning.

Take off

that badge

that necklace

that headscarf

You’re not here

to express your personality.

Cut your hair

Grow your hair

You can’t come in here

with hair like that

it’s provocative

and distracting to your classmates.

You are not here to make you mark

but to learn what’s what.

Homogeneity is the order of the day.

Those extra three inches of skirt

are so you know who’s in charge.

(My only consolation is that the kids still resist … I love to see the girls at the bus stop in their too short skirts, like two fingers to the system.) (And oh yes, my son was removed from class for shaving his head!)



  1. Martin H said,

    This strikes a chord. Teachers, too, are hampered by ridiculous rules, largely made by those who don’t teach. Most, do what they can within the confines of an out-dated system.

    Eleven years in academia confirmed to me the ‘sausage machine’ theory, though. Individuals, in – neatly parcelled graduates, out.

  2. Enchanted Oak said,

    I’m sorry they’re still doing this to children. Your rant says everything I want to say about it as well. I vote that you give this to the new Head.

  3. NanU said,

    Ah, yes. I had teachers like that, though thank goodness not entire schools. A real impediment to larning! Well said.

  4. Argent161 said,

    We had those old-fashioned uniforms at school. These days, the kids wear trousers and school sweatshirts. I’m not actually against uniforms – I think they can look smart and cut down on the ‘my clothes are better than yours’ thing. I could really feel the heat burning away in these words though. Great job.

  5. Doctor FTSE said,

    We had to await the Head’s permission to take our blazers off however hot the day. Well observed.

  6. Pete said,

    Yes! Yes! Yes!!! Bloody uniforms. What my mother had to do to get the money together for it and you could only buy them in one shop at hugely inflated prices! (And it didn’t help having someone like me who played football in it all the time)

  7. Peadar TotalFeckinEEjit O'Donoghue said,

    Yeah feckin uniforms! And the price of them!
    Amazing how kids still manage to customize them to show their individual personalities.
    We had to wear a tie ALWAYS, or else! And in the summer on suitably hot days we were given special dispensation to open the top button of our shirt under the tie!? WTF!

    It was all about power as your last few lines so eloquantly describe. Nice strong poem, go you! I likes!

  8. Peadar TotalFeckinEEjit O'Donoghue said,

    Sorry miss that should be’ eloquently’ Am I in detention, again?

  9. jinksy said,

    We were even forbidden to eat a sweet if we were out in our school uniform, as it might lower the tone of the school! And the punisment would have been worse than death if we’d removed out beret, complete with its metal badge, before we’d got home, Those were the days, eh?! Your words brought it all back…

  10. karen said,

    We didn’t have uniforms, but we had to wear, and the test for us was if they reached the floor when we got onto our knees. AND they actually made us do this! Jeez. No wonder kids hate school.

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