Secondary school was always a time I wish to re experience. Although my school wasn’t always considered the best, I went to St Georges RC in Maida Vale where our headteacher Philip Lawrence was stabbed by a student from another school. This obviously meant our school always had a shadow looming over it, that is until a new headteacher came in and completely turned it around. I’m slightly going off topic, but my overall point is school was always something I loved. The friends I had, the teachers, the lessons – I always left at the end of the day having laughed at least once. That meant, when it came to the time where we have to sign up for future colleges or sixth forms, me and all my friends chose to continue our education in the school we were in.
Fast forward a few years and my sister is in year 9 whilst I am in my first year of university. My mum receives a phone call informing her my sister cannot return to school until she re colours her hair back to its normal colour. Now, if she had died it red, blue, green (you get my drift) I would understand (sort of…I believe young people should be able to express themselves, but anyway that’s a topic for another article). She had coloured her hair a darker brown. Yes, you heard me. A darker shade of her natural hair colour. She ended up missing a week of school because my mum who also works in a school didn’t have the time nor money to bring my sister to get her hair stripped down back to its normal colour.
This then turned in to a vicious cycle. You couldn’t wear make up in school, my sister suffered from usual teenage spots and would wear make up. You’d be asked to remove it, or you’d be sent to isolation. Piercings, no more than one per ear and certainly no facial piercings even in the sixth form where some students are 18. You are now starting to get the picture of how schools were very focused on appearances and dress codes (because don’t get me wrong, this was not just my sister’s school). My school went from being considered a rough school to an ousted rated outstanding one which was amazing! But with this came a new, what I like to call, regime. The focus shifted to young people’s appearances, their average grades and so on. “Great!” You might say. “Isn’t this what school is all about?”. But I beg to differ. In 2017 while majority of London schools were seen to be making great progress, most were well above average according to Gov.uk. It was interesting to note that majority were also below average in terms of their pupils wanting to stay on past the age of 16 in their current sixth forms. This means their students were most likely applying to colleges where you could have more freedom. You could have as many piercings as you wanted, you could colour your hair any colour under the rainbow while still getting an education.
Now I myself want to become a teacher, I’ve done placements in a secondary school for 2 years in a row now and I am so excited for my future. I am also nervous though. I don’t want to be picking on kids for little things such as the way they wear their uniform or the make up they wear when I should be helping them get a decent education. Trainers, what bag you chose to carry your work in, etc should not be a teacher’s priority when they have a class full of 30 children that need to pass these ridiculously hard exams. There is enough stress on teachers due to shortages without having the added pressure of having to correct students on their appearances. One week missed from school over the colour of your hair means you are one week behind on all your subjects, and I believe once we make this shift away from a pupils appearance to more important things like them as a pupil then we will see a rise in these numbers of students wanting to stay on in to further education.