What keeps me awake at night - How to train the trainer-wearers?

16th March 2012 at 00:00

My teaching day begins with a mini battle against Nike, Adidas, Converse, K-Swiss and any other sportswear giant. I am a representative of the school rules, but my fight against these fashion brands often ends in my defeat.

Out of the 30 pupils in my Year 8 tutor group, at least six of them regularly sneak into school in sneakers. This small bunch uses a rather slim and changeless bank of excuses. "My shoes broke." "My mum is buying me new shoes this weekend." "I have blistersathlete's footplantar fasciitisverrucas." "I need support for my ankle."

The worst offenders often validate their excuse with a note. It's uncanny how parent and child sometimes share the same handwriting, but it would be remiss of me to accuse my charges of unscrupulous behaviour. By and large, parents will confirm their child's excuse.

My Year 8s are not the only ones chastised for their non-regulation trainers: I face the disdain of the deputy head, who regularly makes morning visits and takes a keen interest in my tutor group's choice of footwear.

As chief rule enforcer, it is naturally my responsibility to ensure all tutees are dressed according to the rules, which include having at least five stripes visible on their tie and wearing the regulation logo jumper.

Just as my pupils have a limited bank of excuses, so I have a rather predictable series of reasons for their prohibition. "Trainers do not look smart." "You're letting the school down." "You're in breach of school rules." "Gosh! They look expensive, why would you want to wear those to school?"

Year 8 and I have discussed the shoe-trainer issue in great depth. Their argument is, I hate to admit, valid - trainers are simply more comfortable. For someone who lives in Crocs at the weekend, I empathise with my group of comfort-lovers.

Not that I'm gullible enough to believe that comfort is the only reason for their rebellion - I realise that for this bunch of 12- and 13-year-olds, donning a pair of trendy trainers gives them status. It's only natural for the young to want to flaunt their new fancy footwear. But just wait until after school hours. Please. Let's not rehearse the same arguments. Here's a radical idea: let's learn something.

I know I need to think up a few ways to persuade the trainer troop to wear proper footwear. I just know that even if I won that battle, the sartorial rebellion would move on to something else: top buttons, skinny ties, short skirts.

Michael Gove might like the idea of school blazers. I like the idea of forgetting about uniform transgressors and getting on with my job.

The writer is an English teacher from Kent. To tell us what keeps you awake at night, email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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