Primary School headteacher Kate Chisholm came under fire last week for sending a letter to parents asking that they get dressed to bring their children to school. Chisholm had noticed an increasing number of parents turning up at the school gates both in the mornings and at the end of the day, and some even at parents evenings and meetings, still wearing their pyjamas.
In some ways this is not a big deal; the school run is often a frantic rush and there are few parents turning up perfectly coiffed. At least the children are being taken to school and the parents are attending the parents evenings. Predictably, Chisholm has been accused of over stepping her jurisdiction, with parents saying she has no right to dictate what they wear at any time of the day. There are those crying ‘class-ism’, wearing pyjamas on the school run perhaps being an indication that you won’t be going to work afterwards. Some have retorted that she is herself setting a bad example to the children by wearing high heels, although I seriously doubt that her clothing would have been brought into the argument were she a man in the same position.
However, wearing pyjamas outside the house conveys a certain attitude. Those parents would not dream of turning up to the bank or the dentist in a dressing gown, and I’m sure they would be offended if people came to their place of work similarly dressed. Not bothering to get dressed before you leave the house essentially says that you don’t believe what you’re going out to do is important enough to spend five minutes putting on jeans and a jumper. It shows a massive lack of respect for teachers and the work they do, and this is a terrible message to send to children, who need to recognise how important their education is. Primary school teachers have the difficult job of trying to impress this upon them at a very young age, and if they don’t have the support of parents this can be an impossible task. Just like helping with homework and listening to reading books, parents need to support teachers to underline the incredible value of school and encourage their child to do their best.
If children are not turned on to education when they’re young it’s unlikely they ever will be. It’s in these crucial early years that a good attitude towards school can make all the difference, and develop a love for learning that will carry on throughout their school career. Ultimately, in less affluent areas like Darlington, engaging children and helping them to enjoy education can mean they continue studying for longer, and make a vast difference to their future. Schools can’t do this alone. The best teachers in the world can’t make up for an unsupportive home environment. There must be a united front between parents and teachers for this to happen, and the parents at Skerne Park are currently undermining the good work done by the school.
Chisholm is right to demand higher standards from parents. If we don’t show children that school is an aspirational place and that teachers are people to strive to impress they simply will not reach their full potential. Far from overstepping the mark, Chisholm is reminding parents that she has their children’s best interests at heart. She is working to create the best learning environment for them that she can, and requesting that their parents make the same effort.
Image: Lesley Show