Sexed-up togs leave uniform policy in tatters

30th October 2009 at 00:00

Last week my tie fell victim to a freak accident involving red powder paint, PVA glue and the planet Mars. I don't mean the real planet Mars - this one was a 3D construction made from chicken wire and papier-mache.

It was a sobering moment, however, not least because it is the third tie I have lost in action since September. The other two were victims of Tyson's collage and a cheese and beetroot sandwich. At this rate, I will have to start wearing my Homer Simpson one - or maybe not.

A headteacher I worked for was very keen on the idea of a dress code for staff. Her reasoning was as impeccable as a Savile Row suit: if you want to be treated like a professional, you must look like a professional.

Her principal commandments were as follows: thou shalt not wear jeans; thou shalt not display thy midriff; and thou shalt keep thy cleavage behind closed buttons. Male staff were additionally expected to wear a shirt and tie.

I have watched enough Trinny and Susannah programmes to know that what a person wears says something about them. According to friends, my clothes say I have a sense of humour - which I try to take as a compliment.

Anyway, the important thing is that whatever my clothes say about me, they don't say it literally. Neither do they use offensive or sexually explicit references. Unlike the clothing some parents provide for their children.

From our end, the telephone conversation went like this. "Hello, is that Bratney's mum? School here. It's about Bratney not wearing her uniform again ... Still in the wash ... Right ... The thing is, we are very concerned about the T-shirt she's wearing. It's just that we feel the slogan is a little inappropriate for a primary school ... That's the one, 'I'm Just a F*cking Ray of Sunshine' ... Mmm, yes ... the asterisk doesn't really work, though. We have tried masking tape, but it keeps falling off. Maybe you could pop in with a spare top? ... The one with a smiley face on the front will be fine ... Thanks, bye."

Over the summer, Dr Catherine White, director of the sexual assault referral centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, warned of the dangers associated with the increasing sexualisation of children through marketing slogans.

"When you see a little girl wearing a T-shirt with a Playboy bunny, that's wrong, isn't it?" she asks. We could have asked Bratney's mum the same thing if she had not been wearing a revealingly tight top bearing the words "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful, Hate Me Because I Have Huge Boobs".

At least here in school we can protect children from overt sexual exploitation and the excesses of fashion and advertising. Even when a child's uniform has been in the wash for the best part of two years, we can still insist on her wearing something appropriate. And a T-shirt with a smiley face on the front is definitely child-friendly, isn't it? At least it would be if it didn't also bear the words "Smile If You Wanna Fcuk".

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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