Let’s talk about the hot topic of the day shall we?
Yesterday a letter sent to parents at a primary school in Darlington, asking parents to not wear pyjamas on the school run was all over Twitter. Today it’s all over the media.
There have already been heated debates on this.
The general consensus is that parents or adults who wear pyjamas like this are lazy, unwashed, uneducated, social bottom feeders who live on benefits, don’t have proper jobs and who breed uneducated children in turn. These people, it is widely speculated, are only interested in what they can milk from the state, and not missing Jeremy Kyle.
I have already disagreed quite violently with this elsewhere, but here are my thoughts.
Firstly, there is no law that says adults cannot wear pyjamas wherever they like. There is a law banning nudity in public, but clothing wise, you can pretty much wear what you like, so how the head is going to enforce this, I am not entirely sure, given that it is the children she has a duty of care to and not their parents. It is infantilising and insulting.
It does what this government is so good at. It takes away all the benefits of what the conservative party accused the labour party of setting up in the so called ‘nanny state’, but persists in treating adults like badly behaved children who can’t look after themselves or their families and can’t be trusted to know what’s best.
If you want parents to act like adults, treat them like adults and not transgressive infants.
Secondly, I fail to see the problem with people wearing what they want. I always have. I have said this before about the detailed and frankly ridiculous way in which school uniform requirements are becoming increasingly draconian in order to give children a ‘sense of pride’ and a ‘willingness to learn’ along with ‘the understanding of what future employment will be like’. The only jobs requiring adults to wear uniforms are generally those low paid, unskilled roles like working in McDonalds or filling shelves in supermarkets. That or in careers which require you to act in a uniform way by taking orders. If this is what we are preparing children for, I despair. Ditto, adults.
Also, if I go to work and wear a uniform, I am paid to wear it, while I am in work. When I am not in work, I wear what I like.
Thirdly, at least pyjamas cover up flesh. I can think of much worse things I have seen on the school run which have been worn by parents in the name of fashion, and which I would frankly were rather covered up by a onesie. I have no desire to see arse cracks, g-strings, bra tops on people who Gok would weep over, and other heinous fashion faux pas, which no doubt the head teacher would consider respectable, because God knows, they’ve made an effort.
Then, let us look at the assumptions being made about these people. How do you know how much someone does or doesn’t earn by their clothes or the lack thereof? How do you know what their family circumstances are like? How do you know they haven’t made an effort? How do you know they are on benefit?
On occasion, with three small children to get to school I would sometimes wear my pyjamas on the school run. Sometimes the demands of children didn’t leave time to get dressed, and I knew I could come back and get dressed properly when I got home. Sometimes I was too exhausted. Sometimes I was just insane, and frankly getting through the day with the minimum possible effort was all I could hope for. I was neither poor, nor lazy, nor ill educated. I did not claim benefit, or watch Jeremy Kyle all day. I was just exhausted, stretched to my limit and mentally under the cosh. I wouldn’t presume to judge anyone else who might be in that situation.
Some people juggle shift work, multiple children, multiple jobs, caring for parents/other members of their family. Sometimes it’s not a question of pride, it’s a question of coping, and when you’re caring for others, you generally put others before yourself. If my kids got to school clean, tidy, in uniform, with everything they needed and homework done, I considered that day a win. What I looked like really wasn’t an issue.
Also don’t tell me to try putting on a track suit. I don’t own one and frankly the semantic difference between sportswear and pyjamas is so infinitesimal and involves the word ‘wicking’, I really can’t be bothered to have that spurious argument with you. It’s not better. It’s just different. It just offends you less because one is about ‘sporty’ people, and one is about ‘slobby’ people. Really? Do all people who wear tracksuits exude health and fitness to parent simultaneously? Really?
Let’s take the argument and shift it to fat people shall we? What if the head had asked fat people to make more of an effort at the school gate? What if she had said that being overweight is teaching your children to be slobs, eat badly, not care about their health, be lazy? What if we said that fat people are clearly terrible members of society who can’t take care of their kids, and that they should shape up or ship out? What if we said that all fat people were too lazy to get up off their benefit grabbing arses because they were watching Jeremy Kyle and spending all their benefit on junk food, and what sort of a role model are they being? What if we said that fat people are just not trying hard enough, letting the side down?
We could say that, couldn’t we? We could argue, with some veracity on our side, that parents being fat poses much worse a prospect for children in the long run than parents wearing pyjamas.
We wouldn’t, of course, well, the kinder amongst us, because we know that being overweight does not necessarily correlate with being slobby, or eating badly, or being lazy. We would not presume to be so hurtful or judgemental and ill informed, and if we did, we would, quite rightly, get slapped down for it.
With the average size woman in the UK at a size 16, roughly 11 stone and only 5 foot 3, we could absolutely point the finger at way more parents at the school gate who are medically overweight and at risk of some kind of debilitating health issue because of that weight than we could point out the dangers attributed to pyjama wearing. We would have medical facts and statistics to back us up, whereas what we have here is the outraged finger pointing of people who would rather look at the outside of something as a problem, than face difficult problems on the inside of anything for the most part.
As for the head teacher. If a head teacher requires this of parents, let me set up a few requests I have for the education system she or he stands for.
When all children of primary age leave year six with the basic ability to read, write, punctuate, spell and do fundamental mathematics.
When all primary schools in the UK have adequately stocked libraries and take time to teach children to read for pleasure.
When all gifted children and all children with special needs are adequately provided for in a day to day school setting.
When all children who fall in the middle academically, but who are quiet and therefore ignored, and who sometimes fall through the cracks, are given equal time to shine and not just passed over with relief because being quiet equals being good and therefore can be forgotten.
When all primary schools actually teach children for the last week of every term instead of insisting children come in on time and in full uniform to sit for six hours a day watching DVDs we have at home.
When all children who suffer abuse, neglect of any kind or other deprivations at home are noted, and dealt with and not overlooked until it is too late to save them.
When homework is not set for hours every week to ensure that children are caught up with things that the curriculum should cater for but can’t because it is not fit for purpose but children mustn’t fall behind.
When children don’t fall behind because they can’t grasp fractions in the two hours allotted for it this term, and never revisit it because there is no time.
When homework is not clearly aimed at parents taking up the slack for what teachers can’t do in school hours and is absolutely not completable by just the children, thus forcing parents into the role of home educators.
When schools stop making spurious links between the ability to wear matching socks and the ability to be a stone cold academic genius.
When schools stop cutting corners and making cost savings by allowing unqualified teaching assistants to act as supply teachers.
When schools stop expecting parents to teach new phonics and maths schemes when parents are not trained in new phonics and maths schemes.
When schools stop trying to make up for the short comings of an education system that does not serve them by trying to pass the buck onto parents, and takes issue with the government instead.
Then, and only then, will I consider whether what I wear or don’t wear will have a deleterious effect on my children’s academic life
*please do bear in mind that my 16 year old, who dresses regularly in pyjamas as day wear along with all kinds of other strange and bohemian outfits, stormed her GCSE’s in a shower of A* grades, is excelling in sixth form, and spends her spare time working diligently in the local wool shop, and attending anti war demonstrations, young socialist meetings and writing to her MP. My other two children, also excel at school, and are equally radical in their dress and outlook. But, you know, do blame the pyjamas if you like.