Would You Sign A Parenting Code Of Conduct With Your School?

No punching - sure! But policing what people wear at the school gates is another matter...

motherland school gates

by Rhiannon Evans |
Published on

It feels like a long time since the 'Would/Should/Could you wear pyjamas to the school gates' question has hit headlines, but it's back again (sigh) after a large school academy trust asked parents to sign a code of conduct.

The code of conduct - thought to be one of the first in UK schools - is being proposed by one of the country's biggest academy trusts, the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust, which covers 48 schools in Co Durham, Newcastly and Northumberland.

But on reading the code, it appears to have a large remit, which goes from the understandable (no abusing and libelling teachers!) to the debatable (no tweeting about teachers... what do you think?) and the inflammatory (no pyjamas or bikinis at the school gates).

The Times this weekend reported that teachers have been raising concerns about behaviour setting a bad example and 'taking up excessive amounts of school time'. The paper reported people have been reported for smoking, drinking, vaping wearing bikini or pyjamas and wearing t-shirts with offensive language (for example the FCUK logo).

But there have also been more serious issues cited, like abusive messages about teachers being posted on social media, including one that branded falsely a teacher of being a paedophile, which the school sent a legal letter asking to be removed.

Chief Exec of the Trust, Nick Hurn, told The Times that a parent had recently objected to a punishment given to their child 'so the parent came in effing and blinding - she was going to knock the teacher's lights out. She was removed from the site by police.

'Parents' and children's behaviour is much worse since the pandemic. There is a breakdown in civil behaviour, courtesy, good manners. Some of the primary heads are getting upset by people turning up in pyjamas - sometimes leaving little to the imagination.

'A minority of parents do not follow the rules of acceptable behaviour. I thought, "Why do we not create a code of conduct that outlines what our expectations are for our parents?"'

Mr Hurn added that he thinks the government should bring in a national code and claims other schools in England have asked to see the contract. He also said a parent was once so drunk that when they tried to punch him, it didn't connect.

But surely there's a difference between 'no punching' and 'look how I think is acceptable' from a school setting? It's the smooth transition between 'civil behaviour' and 'people turning up in pyjamas' in what is being policed by the school that is sure to upset some parents.

In the 'dress' section, the code says: 'We expect all adults accessing out site to dress appropriately at all times. Please avoid clothing that may be viewed as offensive, revealing, sexually provocative, display contentious slogans and so on. Wearing nightwear is no appropriate.'

But it's murky waters to navigate beginning to police people's clothes (the code says parents could be penalised by being banned from entering school grounds 'and may lead to prosecution') because it can so quickly err into subjectivity at best - and sexism and classism at worst.

Who's to say a bikini top isn't ok, but a Lululemon sports bra fresh from pilates is ok? Or men's shorts on a hot day are fine, but a shorter skirt is 'revealing'? Or that a campaign t-shirt, or one with a political slogan is 'contentious'? The 'And so on...' in the policy leaves the power too much in the balance surely. And the wearing nightwear... well, if you want to talk about 'contentious'...

It's the children who are required to wear a uniform surely?

Most of the issues the school seems to be conducting a code on seem illegal anyway? The abuse? The libel? The muddying of the waters with what parents wear at the school gates, throws the whole issue into more debatable territory. And to see everything again (including the limelight) being slung at parents who are already burned out, suffering a cost of living crisis and having to fight for any support their child might need from an underfunded education system is frustrating. There's a lot going on to affect children's lives right now - is a school gate outfit really one of them?

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