One hood doesn't fit all

27th May 2005 at 01:00
he Prime Minister's recent endorsement of the shopping centre ban on hoodies and baseball caps has left me in a quandary. The family would suggest I am one of those sad individuals who dresses too young for his age - but I have a reasonable explanation for my occasional weekend attire. The hoodies reflect my sporting hobbies and the baseball cap is necessary to protect a baldy heid from the more extreme elements.

I make sure to wear obscure and determinedly untrendy brands lest anyone should wonder if I am seeking to out-ned the neds - and I hope, as a depute head and with a guidance background to boot, the aspect I present is anything but threatening or disreputable.

Indeed, I am still debating my reaction to the moment some years ago when a local police officer in Montrose looked carefully at myself and my buddies en route to a Hibs cup game and let us through a restricted area on the grounds that "you look like respectable gentlemen".

It was a reassuring comment - but faintly disappointing.

However, it's been a bad month in the media for the youth of the country.

Channel Five gave us the secret film made by a supply teacher that looked like out-takes from The Blackboard Jungle, and a major speech to one of the Scottish teaching unions was presented in the press as if teachers were claiming that the lunatics had taken over the asylum.

I don't know if the reporting on either of these events was as balanced as it might have been but, given the contemporary taste for soundbite news, no doubt they contributed to a general perception that schools are struggling to keep control, and young people at large are a menace to society.

Surveys show that disaffection in the classroom is growing and there is no doubt that physical and verbal violence towards staff is more widespread.

Teachers, like any other employees, have the inalienable right to go about their business safe from attack and the establishment of an ethos of mutual respect becomes increasingly difficult when our schools contain some young people to whom the concept is foreign - on account of social or emotional background difficulties.

However, the teachers who gain most respect tend to be those who give most respect and we need to ensure structures in our schools and education systems that allow this approach to flourish.

As pupils all over Scotland sit exams that are the culmination of years of hard work from teachers and the students themselves, not to mention support from the vast majority of parents, we should retain a sense of perspective and remember that as many aspire to the academic hood as the Adidas model.

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