Does smarter mean smarter?

I CAN’T help but smile while doing the extended school run of a morning, since Malcolm Arnold Academy-nee-Unity-nee-Trinity changed their uniform.

Where once there was a purple fog of sweatshirt-clad teens dragging themselves across Northampton’s Racecourse, now there’s a sea of public-schoolesque blazers and cravats.

New boy Dougie in new uniform and yr 8 Jed, right, in his (and he had a haircut after seeing this photo)

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m getting old, but I really like their new look. Whereas before they seemed to look, well, like primary school kids, now they look far more grown-up. They seem to stand up straighter (now I’m worried I’m turning into my mother).

Apparently the girls have mixed feelings about it. Some appreciate that it’s actually ‘on-trend’ this season to have the preppy look. Others are taking every opportunity to use it as a tool of rebellion: cravats around heads, shirts undone, skirts rolled up at the waist to indecent lengths (yes yes, we all did it. . .)

Whether the smarter look actually makes them pay better attention to their schooling remains to be seen.

It seems to be considered an instant fix to a down-at-heel school to give everyone very public-school-style uniforms in the first instance. Whether this is so they are seen to be doing something, or genuinely because they believe it makes pupils take more pride in themselves, well, I guess it would be hard to prove. Uniform change comes with regime change. Which parts of that new regime actually work is often hard to quantify.

With one son at MAA and another at NSB (Northampton School for Boys), we’ve already see how two big secondaries operate in the first week of term.

Last year's secondary school uniform for Jed, er, just like primary but purple

MA has smart uniforms. NSB has smartish uniforms.

NSB has already held after-school trials for Year 7 cross-country, rugby, football, basketball and other activities in lunchtimes. MA hasn’t organised any afterschool clubs yet.

Nor does it actually have a Head of Music in place (despite being a music and maths specialist school?)

MA has lockers for pupils to store belongings.

NSB does not (for Yr 7s, at least).

This means small new boy is carting around a rucksack weighing half his bodyweight, sometimes with two sets of sports kit, for the entire day. Goodness only knows what happens when they start having to take a winter coat too. I understand this is supposed to make them responsible for their belongings. I suspect it may be responsible for giving them back injuries.

This may all seem superficial if both schools are delivering quality teaching in the classroom, and I guess its fair enough to give the new powers at MAA a chance to get things moving, seeing as they only legally took over a fortnight ago.

It’s a relief though, that my elder two boys seem happy and have settled quickly. I’m not happy, however, to be having to iron shirts for the first time in 20 years. I think a homework session for the boys in how to use an iron is due. . .

And while I’m not planning a blow-by-blow account of the term in these columns, it will certainly be interesting for all involved to see how things have gone by next summer. I’m keen to hear your views too.

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