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Why do schools insist on thinking no school uniform day is some kind of treat?
The school holidays are here at last. Those last few weeks are always a bit of a struggle. Everyone is exhausted, illnesses surface, bedtimes start shifting and you can almost hear the children counting down the hours. Of course, those who have been doing GCSEs or A Levels have been off for weeks already and are beginning to go a little bit stir crazy. “Just one and a half days to go,” I said on Tuesday morning to those still having to haul themselves into school.
Ping! About half way through the morning I got a message from the secondary school. It said that the headteacher had decided that, due to the weather, he was going to allow everyone to have a no school uniform day the next day. Presumably he thought this was a lovely treat. I picked up daughter three later. She was in a pit of despond. I put on the news. It didn’t perk her up. I knew what the problem was. Daughter three hates no school uniform day. It causes her endless anxiety because a) the clothes she likes to wear do not conform to what the so-called popular people at school wear and 2) they show off her body and she feels this is under minute scrutiny due to daily comments she has had in the past.
Daughter three retired to her room for most of the evening where she sat in a gloom. I went in every now and again to try and talk in through, to suggest any nondescript outfit she could wear. “You don’t understand, mum,” she said, sobbing. “I HATE no school uniform day and it’s much worse in the summer because you have to wear tight clothes.” I confess that I find it difficult to understand the kind of anxiety she is going through because, although I have felt anxious in my life on many occasions, it has not in any way been to the degree that I see it manifesting itself in girls today. “My friend isn’t going in,” said daughter three.
I have spoken to other parents. It is apparently fairly common that kids, particularly the ones who have been bullied in the past, find no school uniform day a source of endless anxiety. In the past I’ve sat with daughter three as she has been shaking, looking through clothes trying to decide what she can wear that won’t prompt negative comments. She has come a long way this year, going to a new school, building her confidence bit by bit, overcoming often overwhelming worry and some brutal comments from other kids. When she tells me what some of them say so casually it sometimes takes my breath away.
I went into her room again later, it was 11pm. She was still awake, crying. Is it really worth going into school feeling that distressed for the few hours of the last day of term when no real work is done?
I find it amazing that schools do not seem to know that this is going on and that no school uniform day is in no way the treat they seem to think it is for many of their students. Maybe its the senior management who are oblivious or maybe they think kids just need to get over it. But how?
I’ve spent hours talking this through. Sometimes I’ve got daughter three to agree to go in. Sometimes it hasn’t been so bad, but at the very end of term at the end of a year of confronting all sorts of anxieties and overcoming them this was just one ask too much. Last week I went to an awards evening where the head teacher gave a long speech about how kind the students were. I’m sure some of them are, but I find it hard to connect the dots. Children absorb the world like sponges. Wake up and look around you. We are not living in a kind age.