Unlike with yours truly, Mark attends a former state school that is now a so-called ‘academy’. This means that it is still a state school, but now it has the aspiration to be a public school in that uniquely British sense that confuse the foreigners. Public schools in Britain are these horribly exclusive and posh institutions. Eton is a public school, while a simple school operated by the government is called a comprehensive.
For the last two years this has meant that Mark has been forced to wear a silly looking school uniform, whereas while it was a state school, he could wear his normal clothes. Appearance and façade has become very important after the school transmuted itself from a mere comprehensive into a fashionable academy.
In contrast, my school, which has aspirations of being special and competitive and competent, has no clothing rule except for the extremely nebulous “appropriate attire”. This can mean that the school is horribly arbitrary. Short skirts can be okay one week, and the next week some girl can be sent home to change. Or it can mean that torn jeans are acceptable on Tuesdays but not on Fridays. Or the sports folks can prance around shirtless in the grass behind the school on one sunny day, and be docked behaviour points on the next.
Mark though has to wear this silly purple jumper with the school logo on his left nipple, a white shirt underneath the jumper, and black trousers and shoes. At least he is spared the indignity of having to wear a tie to school, but if the school thought it would make it seem more posh-like they would probably introduce that.
They do try… Last year they made a massive effort to give everyone Apple computers because Apple computers were trendy and fashionable and all the good schools had computer subsidy programs. Of course that fell apart when parents got wind of it, and complained because they had bought cheap laptops at Tesco’s and now had to replace those with these exclusive things that cost twice as much even with the subsidy.
While the school now pretends that it’s the Eton on the Wye, the parents are lower middle class and upper working class with a few sprinkles of people like Stephen whose parents put him into the school because they didn’t want an elitist wanker on their hands after two years. The school may have changed ambition, and the school may want to change perceptions, but the catchment area for the pupils is what it is – and that means that the petty bourgeoisie is not sending their sons and daughters there.
Apart from the incident with the computers, the evidence of the school’s pauper origins have been evident a couple of times now because the jumper is of extremely shoddy quality and tend to unravel after a while. It starts around the hem with loose threads, and then it just collapses. During the two years, I think Mark has changed the jumper three times due to this.
Now it’s time again for a new jumper, and it is annoying because we only have mere weeks left in our schools. We should not have to pay fifteen pounds for a new jumper when we’re going off to the summer holiday so soon, and when we’re never going to come back to these schools ever again.