Before I begin, let me make one thing clear. I respect our teachers and believe that on the whole, they do a great job. I spent one day assisting on a school trip to Warwick Castle, chaperoning a gaggle of 6 year-olds and spent the best part of a week recovering. Also, I still wince at the memory of my son, Caleb, in his year at nursery, deciding that the most effective way of communicating to the teaching staff his intention to go home earlier than scheduled was to deliberately wet himself in the middle of the classroom. The ruddy complexion and slightly dishevelled appearance of the nursery teacher who greeted me at the end of the session spoke volumes. She was the chosen one – the teacher to make Caleb realise that his plan was fundamentally flawed. She was the one to introduce him to the bottomless lost property basket from which any number of alternative outfits can be assembled (although she was clearly no Gok Wan). The haunted look in her eyes as she relayed the physical challenge of re-dressing my hysterical son in the oversized jogging bottoms and red Wellington boots is forever etched in my memory. So whenever I feel like joining in the school gate banter and having a pop at the teaching staff, I recall this memory.
That said, I am struggling to suppress a rant today.
From the outset, the teachers at my son’s school have been at pains to promote independence in pupils. Within weeks of entering Reception, the children were encouraged to enter school unaided, laden with coats, PE bags, book bags, water bottles and lunch boxes and to locate their own pegs and carefully find homes for all their equipment. We would receive reports of teachers refusing to assist the children in fastening the top buttons of their shirts after PE (I still struggle with this uniquely stiff button!) They were also encouraged from the start to fasten their own coats.
Similarly, in Year 2, the quest for self-reliance continues and quite rightly so. The children are responsible for transferring newsletters from their trays into their book bags at the end of the day. They are expected to select their own reading books and remember to bring them home. So far, so good.
So imagine my surprise when my son came home last night and told me that the zip-up fleece (standard uniform item, bearing the school logo) could only be worn at playtime and that he should wear a jumper. Given that this fleece cost me £16.00, I decided to query this with the Head of Year. I was advised that as it is warm in school, perhaps it would be better for him to wear a jumper as the classroom is quite warm, which means he would have to take it off and then again, the school hall can be quite cold, which means he would have to think to put it on again.
Am I missing something?! Would this not apply to all outer layers or is this just specific to the zip-up fleece? More to the point, is my son incapable of appreciating when he is too hot or cold?
Now, he does have a jumper and a sweatshirt, which he also wears. But in the spirit of independence and with the temperature in school being tropical and the temperature outside being somewhat variable, I thought it best to send him in a zip-up fleece in order that he could exercise free will and easily remove said item when he was too warm.
Clearly I have a lot to learn about independence. It’s perhaps too complicated for a 7 year-old to neatly and tidily unzip a fleece when feeling a little warm in class. It is in fact much easier to remove a sweatshirt where the head hole is always a little too small, the action itself produces enough static in the hair to power a village and where the results are a skewiff tie and untucked shirt (definitely not regulation compliant).
This morning, I have therefore delivered my son to school in a jumper, standing little chance of ever coaxing him back into his pricey but practical fleece now that a teacher has turned it into such an issue.
OK, deep breaths. Rant over.
On the plus side, today is Pancake Day. (See how I moved so smoothly from mixed messages to pancake mix?)
For once I am completely organised. We have eggs. We have flour. We have milk and maple syrup. We have sugar and lemons. We have ice cream and berries. We have all the components for a teatime taste sensation.
However, we also have a wilful and independent child who will no doubt wish to take part in pancake preparations as well as their consumption. It could get messy. Best remove that jumper before we start, otherwise I’ll be forced to return to the forbidden fleece!