Helen Martin: Dyeing to take a stand on uniform

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AS long as schools have been in existence, uniforms have been a bone of contention over the cost, the length of skirts, long or short trousers, the colour of clothes and blazers, appropriate footwear, caps and hats or bare heads,

socks or stockings superseded by tights, girls wearing trousers, piercings, tattoos, or whether to wear a uniform at all.

Older generations like me remember being made to kneel to have skirt length in “inches above the knee” measured with a ruler, or the boys being forced to wear short trousers until secondary school.

But as the Young Master went to Gillespie’s, where there appeared to be no such thing as a uniform except for special occasions representing the school, I rather thought things had eased up in the state-pupil sartorial guidance department (while obviously still being strictly and expensively observed in Edinburgh’s independent sector).

Apparently not. Boroughmuir High headteacher David Dempster has taken a bit of a stand against pupils coming to school with unnatural and zany hair colours, and though they won’t be excluded from school they could be excluded from certain school trips.

This is where I use that placatory phrase “I can see where he’s coming from”, before adding “ . . but I think he’s on a hiding to nothing”.

Teenage girls are notoriously stubborn and determined when it comes to experimenting with their looks and in many cases, beyond the persuasion of parents. Any mother will tell you the best thing to do is ignore a teenager who emerges from her bedroom with a turquoise barnet and pretend you haven’t noticed. The more you plead with her to go back to mousy brown, the more likely you are to find she’s added a cerise streak down the middle. In future she may be a brain surgeon, a judge or a police inspector with a neat little blonde bob, but at 14 or 15 she’s a rebel, with or without a cause. An unfashionable colour of nail polish has more impact on her than dire headmasterly threats of how prospective employers might view green hair on a work experience placement.

Personally, I lean towards Mr Dempster, so to speak. But at the heart of the problem is the uniform itself. Bottle any self-respecting young girl up in grey or black with a shirt and tie and we all know what’s going to happen. She will find some way to individualise her way out of conformity. . . the shirt buttoned low, the tie-knot low-slung and the size of a well-fired morning roll, the skirt short, the trousers tighter than a Richmond sausage skin, and a blast of colour in the only place left under her control – her hair.

Her mum probably did the same so in many cases there will be a lack of parental back-up for imposing strict rules which, even if they worked at school, would cause major fall-out and tantrums at home.

So what’s to be done Mr Dempster? Well, you could try keeping a wardrobe of extremely fashionably cut wigs in ginger, blonde, auburn and black and watch the “zany” headed ones fight over them when a school outing or work placement is on the cards.

Or better still, play them at their own game. Dye your hair, you old silver fox! Shock them by turning up for each assembly in a different primary colour and see how they like you representing their school like that. At the very least you’ll instantly make brightly dyed hair as fashionable as a bustle.

Bring on bankers

WHO Wants To be A Millionaire? has gone down the TV plughole because recessionary contestants wouldn’t take enough risks to reach a million. All it needed was a series featuring bankers.

‘Charity’ and ‘promotion’ are very different categories

THAT much-loved shopping institution Dobbies uncharacteristically found itself in the middle of a very bad piece of PR last week.

The firm helps raise squillions of money for charities and yet stood accused of charging charities £400 a week to rattle cans in its stores. A Glasgow agency which markets promotional space in shopping venues was selling access to the stores and it says it is becoming common place for charities to pay for collecting in “high footfall venues”. Perhaps that’s true.

But most of us, and I’d like to think that would include Dobbie’s, understand the difference between “promotion” and charity. If Sky or a

double-glazing firm want to promote their wares, we’d expect them to pay for the privilege. Charities are in a different category and charging them is frankly obscene.

My hope is that Dobbie’s mistake was “getting into bed” with an agency which didn’t make that moral distinction and that the agency is now dumped.

How about two for one wart removal?

THE Nanny McPhee “age wart” on my cheek as diagnosed by my doctor (though he had a much fancier name for it) has now gone, no thanks to the NHS which has now stopped removing these things on the grounds that they are merely cosmetic.

I discovered that if I didn’t want to look like something out of Macbeth, prices at private hospitals and clinics in Edinburgh range from around £300 to around £1000.

Just like buying toilet rolls or mince, you gotta shop around. Another opening for Aldi or Lidl perhaps? They sell everything else.