Tag Archives: school uniform

Tears and tantrums (mostly mine): it’s uniform-buying week

WE’RE meant to be shopping for school uniform. I’m leafing through the endless racks of black trousers in BHS when I realise I’m talking to myself.

Two of the boys are across the shop wrestling over a tape measure while another and his sister have managed to climb on top of a Thomas the Tank Engine toddler ride in which they’ve already lost 50p.

Their coats and bags are strewn across the floor which other shoppers are having to step over. I shout. It’s all rather embarrassing.

One of the boys is ordered into the changing room laden with eight pairs of trousers in differing sizes, some of which are unhelpfully security tagged together in pairs, so when he emerges to show if a pair fits, he’s dragging its twin along like a bedraggled, dusty tail. None of them fit properly.

The shop assistant stares, unhelpfully, as I try to fold them back onto their hangers.

While another son grumpily enters the changing room, daughter decides she’s going to take every adult shoe off the rack and try them on. When this game is stopped she starts the wailing and flopping routine, refusing to walk or be carried.

Son emerges having decided the first pair of trousers he’s tried are fine and throws them into the basket. I look at the label: £16 for one pair. I send him back in with a £7 pair, knowing I’ll be spending most of the year sewing up hems and gussets wrecked by breaktime football. They fit. We buy two pairs. Then two more, cheaper, in M&S.

Here we go again then, one week to go before they’re back at school and the hell of uniform shopping is firmly upon us.

With three offspring in school, two of whom seem to grow every time they leave a room, it’s an expensive time of year – especially if you’ve just reduced your working hours for the holidays. I think this September’s uniform will have cost me over £300. And I’m a make-do-and-hand-me-down-bargain kinda mum.

It’s not just the cost, it’s the stress. I know you’ll tell me it would be a trillion times worse if I had three girls, but let me assure you, traipsing around the shops with bored and grumpy boys isn’t fun either.

I’d hoped that Dougie’s compulsory school uniform would last more than a year. It hasn’t. His blazer has a weird bleach mark across it, his tie is mutilated, his PE kit is either lost or too small. Along with Jed’s new kit, the official stuff is going to cost the best part of £200 when the shop opens this week.

Shirts are easier. Multipacks for boys are between £7-10 and Bill’s yellow polos cost a fiver for three. Job done.

But then there’s the annual trouser hell. Girls seem to have lots of styles and stretchy fabrics. Boys are stuck with flat front or pleated in stiff Teflon coated fabric. Two sizes – skinny or enormous.

Shoe shopping for our boys seems to have a basic formula.

The conversation usually goes:

Them: “I like these.”

Me: “They look like trainers. You aren’t allowed shoes that look like trainers.”

*repeat several times and get home empty-handed.

There have been some successes. A speculative TKMaxx run stocked us with rucksacks, coats and shoes for Jed. Dougie is still shoeless and Billy’s, bought at Easter, may have to last a little longer.

If you witness me having a nervous breakdown in a shoe shop later this week, keep walking, there’s nothing to see. . .


Filed under Parenting

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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Filed under Parenting