Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hey, Teacher, Leave Them Kids Alone!

A school in Offaly has suspended three 15-year-olds for having haircuts that are too short. The boys have been banned from taking their junior certificates at the school and are having arrangements made to take the exams elsewhere.

The State Examinations Commission has granted approval for an additional centre to be set up to facilitate the three boys (I wonder how much that will cost).

The school principal refused to allow the boys sit the exams at the school because they had short hair which he said was a breach of the school rules which state that number one haircuts are forbidden.

Shock, horror? Well, actually, no- this sort of petty fascism is commonplace in Irish schools. Many principals and their deputies seem to have some sort of fetishistic obsession with forcing young people of both genders to adhere to pathetic, pointless rules, the like of which will have no relevance in real life (real life being a concept that many schools fail to recognise exists). I don't know if that is the problem in this case, but from the facts available, it doesn't look impressive.

To give you an example of what students may face, let me share a brief list of rules that were enforced at my former school:

  • shaved hair forbidden
  • long hair forbidden
  • hair of different lengths forbidden (e.g. 'bowls')
  • dyed or bleached hair forbidden
  • students could only wear the school overcoat in and on the way to school (unsurprisingly it was only available through the school).
  • on cold days, wooly hats were banned both in and on the way to school if they were not completely plain (e.g. if they had an Adidas three stripes or a Nike swoosh logo, they were forbidden)
  • students were not allowed to take off their blazers outside the classroom, even on the hottest of days
  • students were not allowed to have any design on their obligatory black or grey socks
  • facial hair was forbidden
  • students could wear only black shoes, and these were not allowed to go above ankle level
  • students in the 7th year common room (many of whom were aged 18) were not allowed to play cards, whether money was involved or not
  • students were banned from having a party in their own free time after the school formal (suffice to say, this rule was ignored)
  • students were not allowed to leave books in their locker, even if their schoolbag weighed 17 tonnes

Thankfully corporal punishment was banned by the time I arrived in secondary education, so the punishment for these 'crimes' was detention, or at worst, suspension.

My understanding of education is that it should help students get the grades and skills they need to make the most of their abilities, and to equip them for life outside of education. Quite where the enforcement of brainless rules such as those above fits into that ethos, I'm not quite sure. Needless to say, the school didn't provide any education in areas which might have actually been useful in real life, such as cookery etc. Apparently it also has the highest rate of university drop-outs for any school in the north- after all, our careers advice amounted to them handing us prospectuses for Queen's and the University of Ulster.

At least in America, students get suspended for attacking people with blades, rather than just for having their hair cut with them!


Chris Gaskin said...

I didn't know you were a former Abbey man?

El Matador said...

Perhaps there are two schools with rules such as banning hats with logos on them. Or maybe not ;)

I hear you've been at the receiving end of the Abbey's suspension policy, although I don't believe having shaved hair was involved.

Chris Gaskin said...

El Mat, we both know that I know who you are but I will respect your wish of anonymonity.

I just always took you as a 'blue blazer boy' ;)

I have been on the recieving end of draconian powers by said school although I did find that legal action did focus their minds.

I also recieved good cross party support from our local councillors. Pat McElroy spoke about me in glowing terms during a council meeting on the issue.

Not sure if he knew I was a shinner at the time ;)

No, good bloke!

P Armstrong said...

Schools are completely over the top. The teachers seem to have these stupid rules indented in their minds. I've seen new teachers reduce 1st year pupils to tears over using vending machines in between classes. I think new teachers are the worst; once they teach long enough they tend to learn to treat students with some respect, and then they might get it back. Although you also get teachers who are hoping they'll get promoted or like to show off their departmental authority by verbally assaulting kids who are taught not to defend themselves.
That said, there are some excellent teachers who allow student interaction and discussion in class, and do enforce many sensible rules that are needed.

Tara said...

Wow, those are some of the dumbest rules I've ever seen. As for corporal punishment I have first hand experience with, and it was much better than detention. You took your beating and it was boring tasks to complete. They did away with it while I still had three years left at school. I missed it.

Aileen said...

"students were not allowed to take off their blazers outside the classroom, even on the hottest of days"

sadistic b******ds!

Not just unpleasant but a health issue!