Like the vast majority of parents, we believe that school rules are a benefit to a child’s education. They set parameters for behaviour that strengthen the sense of community within a school.
And we suspect that most would agree with us when we say that those rules should extend to the school uniform and to pupils’ appearance, codifying what is acceptable and what is not.
It is fair to say that, whatever rules are drawn up by a particular headteacher, it will be impossible to please all parents – and certainly all pupils. The trick is to ensure that rules are clear and meaningful but that they do not appear so pernickety or out of touch with the broader view that they become viewed as petty.
When that happens, young people who are by their nature potentially rebellious (and that’s not a bad thing) are likely to feel themselves divorced from the very community those rules are intended to strengthen.
We have to say that none of the Park Community School pupils we picture today appears to be rebellious or difficult.
But they and others have been effectively ostracised within the school after it was deemed they had contravened the rules relating to hairstyles. In one case, a pupil was so upset by being singled out as a miscreant that he was hysterical when he got home.
Surely that is not the reaction of a lad who is looking for trouble, and as well as being bad for him, it’s bad for the school itself that a child should be made to feel that way.
His hairstyle is, after all, nothing like as extreme as those sported by some other youngsters.
We’re glad then that the school’s headteacher has said that policy will be reviewed in the wake of protest.
His task is, we suggest, to find the middle ground between his own expectations – ‘it’s about having a smart business-like appearance that we would want them (pupils) to have in future’ – and those of the parent who says: ‘The children should be allowed to have a little bit of personality – as long as they are attending school and working hard, what’s the problem?’