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Force sixth formers into suits and wake up to Zombieland

09:27 10 September 2015

Sixth formers at Felixstowe Academy must not sport any facial hair - unlike Jeremy Corbyn

Sixth formers at Felixstowe Academy must not sport any facial hair - unlike Jeremy Corbyn

Archant Norfolk 2015

As a former teacher of sixth formers, I was interested to hear Felixstowe Academy’s plan to suit and boot its sixth form with a new dress code, writes Liz Nice.

Suit or smart jackets, tailored trousers. No facial hair! Yes, it really does say “no facial hair” because it is widely known that having a beard stops you from learning and makes you an all-round troublemaker – just look at Jeremy Corbyn.

“It’s a great idea because it will teach the kids to do what they’re told,” said one caller on BBC Radio Suffolk this week.

Ugh! But sadly, this is the prevailing wind in education these days. This belief that educational success is all down to “discipline” and getting everyone to behave in exactly the same way.

Well, guess what? As soon as you get out of school, the last thing universities want is a bunch of worker drones with nothing to say for themselves.

I should know. I spent seven years teaching undergraduates at a Russell Group university and got into Oxford by being cheeky and irreverent at interview. I doubt my odd dress was a hindrance. In fact, it probably helped.

We have a great tradition in this country of eccentrics.We also, sadly, have a tradition of rule keeping, queuing and kowtowing to our betters.

This may work well for law and order but it is intellectual death. So many of the students I taught were initially horrified to be asked for their own opinions, so drilled were they into thinking that there is a right and wrong answer for everything. There isn’t! Creative thought, critical thinking, being a visionary; these are the bedrocks of our top educational establishments yet our schools are turning out graduates straight-jacketed into the Mr Gradgrind-style manifestos Dickens lamented in Hard Times 161 years ago when he wrote of the intransigent headmaster who thought all that mattered in education, and life, was ‘facts’, ‘facts’, ‘facts’.

Think about it. How many great Britons do we proudly remember for their ability to take orders?

“Wasn’t X great? They always did as they were told!” are words we are never likely to hear of anyone.

Of course there is work to be done in helping sixth formers to be more serious about their own futures but for heaven’s sake don’t squash their individuality to do it.

The reasons some lack self belief are complex, societal, cultural. What they wear MAY be a symptom of that but it isn’t the cause. Felixstowe Academy’s apparent belief that getting students into suits is the first step towards becoming an outstanding school is delusional. Surely the quality of teaching is somewhat more relevant?

And where is the logic in saying a suit is good preparation for the work place? These days, suits are far from the norm. Want to work for Google or Facebook? Come in a shirt and tie because buttoned up anal retentives are just what they are looking for, right?

Since when was it a bad thing to want to stand out anyway? Let them wear purple, piercings and orange hair if they want to. Or wake up in 20 years to Zombieland.

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  • Sue Cuthbert - it has everything to do with Jeremy Corbyn, if we are believe in him as a representative of our country should he be elected Prime Minister.

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    Wednesday, September 16, 2015

  • angryoffelixstowe - I agree, some academies have a record of going 'off the deep end' with changes with little regard for parents or pupils, usually in a misguided attempt to correct some perceived problem or emulate another institution. I had the dubious pleasure of both a public school sixth form where you'd get a detention for wearing the wrong socks and a HE college where people openly smoked marijuana in class. Obviously somewhere in between is best!

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    Saturday, September 12, 2015

  • A few basic rules are fine, i don't think anybody disagrees with that, however a vicious clampdown on velcro strips and the like is surely going too far, especially mid term. Also, not many people have to wear suits upon entering the world of work. I left school in 1979 and have never had to wear one since.

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    Saturday, September 12, 2015

  • If someone feels their creativity or individuality is somehow suppressed by having to follow a few basic dress code and appearance rules commensurate with the world of work then I would suggest they are a little weak willed.

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    Friday, September 11, 2015

  • How utterly depressing that so many people think that "clothes maketh man" a truly ridiculous concept which ever way you look at it (see HitlerGhandi). Put a thug in a suit and he will still be a thug (see kray twins). I have it on good authority that uniform was about the only thing not criticised in the last ofstead report (although i haven't been able to clarify this).I suppose this means 1984 will be otf curriculum this year.

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    Friday, September 11, 2015

  • My middle son has just left the academy and will be starting at university in just over a week. For the courses he was doing, wearing a suit would have been completely impractical, very costly (he would have destroyed it in a week due to the requirements of his courses) and would have probably resulted in him not reaching the rather high result requirements of his chosen uni. When it was needed (chamber concerts etc), he would be wearing suitable clothing (albeit minus shoes and a restricting jacket) otherwise his normal day to day attire was very practical jeans and a t shirt. Wearing this attire allowed him to be creative, to feel free and able to do what was needed for the subject closest to his heart (music and soundlighting), it also meant he was wearing clothes suitable to scrabbling around on the floor doing cabling, or lugging heavy instruments around. His remaining course would have been more suitable to the proposedimplemented clothing rules (it is not a uniform, that is what the lower years have) however. At 18, he was no longer a child, in fact, at 16 and starting 6th form, they really shouldn't be thought about as children. They are young adults and this is the time that they should be exploring their views, learning who they are and starting preparation for when they start uni (where anything goes in regards to clothing, including the previous night's night club wear!) In reply to a previous poster, my children were very able to make informed decisions well before they started 6th form, it has been a family 'thing' to discuss and debate between us even when they were in primary school....I didn't want 3 children who had identical views to mine, who had a very narrow view, they were all taught to question, explore and more importantly, develop a freedom of thought and an ability to take another person's point of view on board, consider it and see that their own view may very possibly be the wrong one. Also, they are all very respectful of others, polite, well mannered and responsible and despite my eldest son living in track suit bottoms and converse whilst at 6th form, his chosen form of dress at uni is a suit complete with waistcoat!

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    Sue cuthbert

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

  • What on earth has a picture of Jeremy Corbyn got to do with any of this. Oh, bit i suppose this is usual for IS.

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    R2 D2

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

  • well said, Liz. !

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    Thursday, September 10, 2015

  • Of course there should be discipline, and part of discipline is to know what to wear, when, and what the limits are. It's especially important for the younger pupils, and when my wife taught, on "dress-down" days when the children were allowed out of a fairly relaxed uniform, she was horrified by some of the clothes being worn, to the extent that the children had to be sent home to find more suitable outfits. No doubt such "unsuitable" attire is essential out of hours, and in holidays, when, of course, the discipline is in parental hands. I spent a good part of my boarding school life in uniform, in the days of starched detached collars, caps and boaters, half a century ago. However, the Sixth Form in the major public school I attended were permitted freedom in dress, on well-understood lines, since they were considered to be on the brink of young adulthood, university, career etc. where they would be expected to conduct themselves in a manner befitting. I might add that in my later business and professional life, I always wore a suit (even on the dress-down days coming in at the start of the 90's) as I liked them, and was too idle to spend my time trying to work out what constituted "smart casual"; to me, the "Val Doonican" not-good look.

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    T Doff

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

  • @Carsey, Do not apologise because you are correct in your opinion. Uniform and the strict control of it serves many purposes. Besides showing a belonging to a particular education facility to which the wearer should be proud, the most important purpose of a uniform is it is the greatest leveller in the classroom. In an age where every child wants to show off their latest mobile phone, the smartest logo on their trainers, parade the latest fashion cut of their clothes, arrive at school on the newest scooter and sport the most unusual piercing etc there are still families who cannot afford to give their children such luxuries. A regulation school uniform with the school insisting it is worn ensures all children in the classroom whether rich or poor start on a level playing field. Education should be equal for all and children have enough distractions in the classroom today, trying to 'keep up with the Jones' should not be one of them. Uniforms also do not go out of fashion so can be passed down to siblings and neighbours, try doing that with the latest fashions.

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    Big Spot

    Thursday, September 10, 2015

  • Sorry to disagree but a lack of self discipline with many of our youngsters and concentrating on their rights rather than responsibilities is the reason many schools struggle to keep students in line. The power of the teacher to deal with the unruly is undermined by parents and government alike to the detriment of those who want to conform and learn. In my experience there is a right and wrong for most things in life and giving kids any other message is wrong and will cause problems when they have to join society as an adult. My 3 sons had to tow the line until they knew enough to make informed decisions and that is as it should be. Britain was Great when children were taught properly and we still produced explores and scientists and ruled the world.

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    Thursday, September 10, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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