My head has followed the recent shopping centre ban on hoods. I think it's a waste of time. What do you think?
There's something I have to confess. I am a hoodie. There, I've said it. I knew it would come out one day, but we daily joggers have been going round in sweatshirts with hoods for years, simply because they have a pouch for your keys and Mint Imperials, and a hood to keep off the rain. It's hard to resist mugging people and shoplifting as I pound the streets, because the evil vapours in the hoodie go straight into the bloodstream, but I grit my teeth, keeping my crimes to a minimum.
What a load of tosh we purvey. Black stockings are sinful for girls one decade, required uniform the next. Short hair for boys is wicked one year, mandatory the next. Trousers are in, out, tighter, baggier. I once taught in a school where 14-year-old boys had to wear trousers 14 inches wide, while 15-year-olds' leg coverings had to be 15 inches. A 55-year-old teacher asked if the "inch per year" rule applied to staff.
The truth of the matter is that hoods are fine - comfortable and convenient - but bad behaviour isn't. Shopping centres love middle-aged hoodies buying groceries, but they object to violent teenagers concealing their identity from security cameras under baseball caps and hoods, and then stealing goods, or beating up passers-by for a laugh.
Discuss hoods with the wearers. Most will be sensible about the matter. Ban hoods for those who hide under them and behave badly, leave the righteous in peace. A few years ago some American schools tried to forbid pupils wearing a single glove, Michael Jackson-style, and mayhem ensued for weeks.
The craze lasted two minutes in schools that ignored it.
Calmer corridors, unveiled faces
It's irrelevant whether kids wear hoods or baseball caps. The real issue is what common rules the school has about the ways students behave and act towards each other and towards adults. I have recently become head of an inner-city secondary in special measures. On day one we agreed that no student should wear a hood or cap inside or outside the building. Why? Because it's a really visible way of showing how students should conform to the reasonable rules and guidelines of a school.
Now, if they do wear a cap or hoodie, it's taken from them with a smile and then returned at 3.15. There are no longer any confrontations and today, as well as students not wearing hoods and hats, our corridors are calmer.
Students are more biddable - and we can see their faces to check whether they're smiling or unhappy. We're beginning to create a school culture that is based on relationships and agreed codes of behaviour.
Think of the youngest pupils
It's easy to get caught up in the "hoodie" issue, and come across as someone who has been carried along on the fickle tide of public opinion.
And yet menace comes in all shapes and sizes - and wearing different dress codes. The hoodie has become the uniform of the Asbo collector. So wearing one sends out a message. The message may not be explicitly thought through, but it still signals trouble.
Think of the youngest and most vulnerable of the school community. They have a right to be educated in a context where they feel comfortable and confident. If hoodies in the school send out the wrong message to these kids, then banning them is a small price to pay.
B Preston, Newport
How will my boys keep heads warm?
My sons' school also recently banned hooded jackets, but neglected to tell us where we would be able to buy a suitable jacket that the fashion-conscious 15-year-old would wear and that would act as protection against the cold and rain. Maybe a further codicil could be added: that hoods are allowed up outside but should be down indoors.
Jane Orford, Liverpool