It's not the clothes but the way you wear them

27th May 2005 at 01:00
When I was asked recently to compere my school's fashion show, I was happy to oblige. After all, I like to think of myself as something of a fashion and grooming icon, the David Beckham of the teaching world. I never tire of telling people that I once blew a pound;35 windfall entirely on clothes.

If you want some kind of mental peg on which to hang an image of my wardrobe, then think Man at CA.

The leather elbow patches never existed, the flares have gone and so (but only recently) has the 70s moustache when I realised that, like the red squirrel, it was being overrun by grey. However, as a statement of classic cool, the side parting remains, still fresh and vital as it approaches its fifth decade.

So yes, accepting that I was the logical choice, I was happy to accept and I did my best to disguise my ulterior motives. These were that a high-profile role with very little work involved should never be turned down and, as compere, there would be little danger of my being asked to perform on the catwalk.

Personal aggrandisement and cynical motives aside, the fashion show was a huge success. Local retailers and national organisations rallied to the cause, pupils from primary schools modelled uniforms, members of staff demonstrated their elegance, poise and sense of fun in various outfits, and more than 50 students were themselves supermodels, some of them designing, manufacturing and exhibiting their own creations. Dancers and musicians ensured that the audience packed into the school hall had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

I said in my introductory remarks that the school was a happy school that is at the heart of the community, both assertions borne out by the evening's event. But I also said that the school could now rank alongside the fashion houses of New York, Paris and Milan.

A casual joke, perhaps, but it came from someone who has recently been concerning himself with self-evaluation procedures and tariff completions.

And the fashion show begged a few questions. How do you measure such success? The evening was yet another example of the rich fabric (pardon the pun) of the school, which defies clinical evaluation. Which box do you tick to acknowledge the enthusiastic involvement of students of all ages and abilities, the teamwork and co-operation of hard-working staff and the generous support of parents? Moreover, in considering that question, the recent dance festival, art exhibition and world book day event also need to be taken into account.

Humbling in their overall effect, these events prove that achievement takes place on a wide scale and in many guises. Anyone intending to build an empire dressed in the emperor's new designer label of league tables should have their appearance ridiculed very sharply.

Now, where can I buy a new kipper tie?

John Clarke is director of language at Swinton community school, Rotherham

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