English teacher and author claims hooded tops no different from wearing Doc Martens. Nicola Porter reports
A teacher who is credited with writing Britain's first-ever novel on "chav" culture has criticised a Welsh school after the headteacher banned pupils from wearing hooded tops.
Matthew David Scott, a 26-year-old English teacher, said a chav was the new buzz word for a working-class townie, and hooded tops had taken over from Doc Marten boots and Burberry caps as their new fashion accessory.
But the author, a self-confessed chav who works at Cardiff's Fitzalan high school, said hoods had become wrongly associated with ghetto crime and he called on other Welsh schools not to ban pupils from wearing them.
Maesteg comprehensive, near Bridgend, has become the first school in Wales to ban hoods from classrooms. In a school newsletter, head Anne Carhart wrote: "We are particularly concerned that the hood is being used to hide pupils' identity during unacceptable behaviour.
"All hooded tops will be confiscated and only returned at the end of each half-term."
She has since defended her decision, saying the letter was part of a continuing school review on uniform policy, and the wearing of high-heeled shoes and the use of mobile phones was also under review.
But the ban, which follows a similar one by Deiniol shopping centre in Bangor, has angered children's charities who say young people are "mystified" over the decision.
Last week's TES Cymru (June 3) reported how Peter Clarke, children's commissioner for Wales, was also angry over the bad press surrounding so-called "hoodies". He said politicians were discriminating against young people who were not criminals.
Patrick Legge, spokesman for National Children's Homes Cymru, said: "The kids see hoods as a fashion thing, it is not usually designed to be threatening or intimidating.
"In the 1970s we wore our parkas to shopping centres or whatever, but now the whole hoodie thing is associated with rap culture, and crime."
He added: "I cannot see the logic in the ban - it is a kind of stereotyping, that these young people should instantly be associated with anti-social behaviour and criminality."
Mr Scott's first novel, Playing Mercy, is a black comedy following several families' lives on a sink council estate. He said working-class chav culture in Britain should not be confused with gang culture and the gun-toting crime of American ghettos.
The teacher, who is originally from Manchester, said: "I suppose I could be described as a working-class oik. I wanted to write a book about the ordinary people, the kind of people I grew up with."
According to Mr Scott, a chav is "a gold-chain wearing, salt-of-the- earth type who smokes Lambert and Butler, drinks Stella, and wears a Burberry cap".
On hoodies, he said: "The papers are awash with the current debate over 'hoodies' in town centres. But before we were chavs, we were townies, and before that we were casuals, and before that we were skins, mods and rockers - it is part of working-class culture."
But there was support for the hood ban from the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru.
Director Anna Brychan said: "Schools which ban hoodies do so in response to a specific set of circumstances, not as some kind of blanket condemnation of young people or their fashion choices."