THE GREAT SCHOOL UNIFORM DEBATE: MAKING US EQUAL?

A number of contributors to this site have claimed the state forcing children to wear uniforms at school will make them equal.

In an age of ever increasing inequality the claim is, of course, laughable. Although it’s a nice fit with the current corporate and technocratic “free market” agenda where evidence-free lies, artifice and appearance are promoted over simple facts or reality as our money is openly shoveled to the wealthy in exchange for worthless equalities waffle and cheap meritocratic drivel from posturing politicians and patsy bureaucrats.

But what about the children forced to be “equal” by these education bosses and their military agenda? Do they buy it? Are they as thick and gullible as the well-healed education bureaucracy making these claims?

Tony Dyer is the Green Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Bristol South. He attended Hartcliffe School in the late 70s and early 80s. Here’s his personal view on school uniforma:

When I started at Hartcliffe School there was an uniform code (blazer, school tie, etc) and the argument always used was that having an uniform meant that all the kids started from a level playing field and it reduced the pressure to “keep up with fashion”. The implication was that the kids from the poorer parts of the Hartcliffe estate (i.e me) would not be made to feel deprived because the “rich” kids from Whitchurch would be wearing the same uniform.

This was absolute nonsense of course. The fact of whether you were from the Hartcliffe council estate or from the Whitchurch private estate was the dividing line not what clothes you wore. We were always made fully aware of “our inferiority” and that there was no change in that when the school abandoned its uniform code a couple of years later.

What did change was that my parents no longer had to spend (with or without a grant) part of their limited budget on items of clothing that were only available from a restricted number of stores at prices that were higher than we would normally pay. Meanwhile the application for a school uniform grant was yet another means test that allowed some supercilious clerk to look down their nose at my parents for not being able to bring up their family without the support of the state.

I don’t have particularly strong feelings on school uniforms (although have always found it rather odd that we want to put kids into uniform as if they were all budding military conscripts)

What I do feel more strongly about is that there should be a dividing line between what teachers should have the strongest say on (i.e how to teach) and what parents should have the strongest say on (what their children should wear).

Unless teachers can demonstrate that putting on school uniform improves a child’s IQ and ability to learn, then I see no reason why school uniform should be imposed against the majority wishes of the parents who have to pay for the uniform in any case.

BALD-FACED VOTE RIGGING AS HILLCREST HEAD NIXES POLL: ‘ANTI-UNIFORM PARENTS ARE REVOLTING’!

All is not well in the once boho suburb of Totterdown… Or rather, all is not well among the parents of the local Primary School, HILLCREST – one of the last schools in the city not trussing up young kids in nasty nylon uniforms for their own good.

As reported in The BRISTOLIAN #4.10, the promised referendum of parents has now taken place at the school on the vexed issue of introducing a uniform and, in a small victory for the area’s dwindling liberals over the gentrifying corporate hordes, 52% of parents said ‘thanks but no thanks’ and voted against. Alas, this wasn’t good enough for the school’s bosses, Headteacher Tim ‘Baldy’ Browse and chair of governors Julia ‘Thick’ Skinner. They immediately announced that they planned to INTRODUCE A UNIFORM ANYWAY!

Cue uproar, Facebook spats, playground rows and fuming complaints as Thick and Baldy were besieged by outraged parents.

Matters then took a turn for the worse when Thick Skinner published a post on her widely-read blog condemning complaining parents as “school bullies” whose complaints were “pointless” and full of “aggressive, intimidating vitriol”! When this predictably stirred up even more anger, she then pulled it down, perhaps not realising that nothing is every really deleted from the web… You’ll never pass your ICT exam with clangers like that!

Meanwhile, presumably not wishing to get left behind in the total nutjob stakes, Baldy Browse has started issuing DARK THREATS that he may be investigating parents comments about the school on Facebook. Oooerrr missus!

What kind of city do we live in when primary school managers with support from council bosses start compiling secret intelligence dossiers on parents who oppose school uniforms?

“RACIST BOSSES” SCANDAL RUMBLES ON AT FLAGSHIP BRISTOL ACADEMY…

Following our exclusive exposé in May of the INSTITUTIONAL RACISM scandal rocking east Bristol’s City Academy, an employment tribunal in December backed up everything we said back in The BRISTOLIAN #4.3.

However, despite the official findings showing that major improvements need to be made in management, it seems that old habits die hard: STAFF WERE KEPT IN THE DARK until 23 January, shortly before the media storm hit. Completely coincidentally, Gill Kelly has so far kept her job as Principal… But has been DUMPED as head of the One World Learning Trust.

Whether that’s due to white supremacist attitudes of the school’s bosses or poorer exam results than expected isn’t yet clear…

GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS CATHEDRAL PRIMARY SCHOOL STITCH-UP! HOW BRISTOL’S MAYOR AND HIS CHUMS ‘STOLE’ A COMMUNITY RESOURCE…

FERGO IGNORES REPORT; HIDES CLOSE LINKS TO SCHOOL; FORCES THROUGH LIBRARY DEAL…WHY?

Parsons, Blundell, Ferguson & Cook: making the magic happen. But would you want them looking after your kids?
The CPS ‘Dream Team’: Parsons, Blundell, Ferguson & Cook – making the magic happen. But would you want them looking after your kids?

The SCANDAL over how vital space in Bristol’s publicly-owned and much-used Central Library has been given over to what until recently was a fee-paying private school continues, after Mayor George Ferguson’s Cabinet decision to rubber-stamp the move was confirmed in a ‘calling in’ council meeting in January. This followed Fergo ignoring a December scrutiny report which was highly critical of the deal on almost every count.

This means Cathedral Primary School (CPS), a new ‘free school’ set up by the formerly fee-paying Bristol Cathedral Choir School (BCCS), could take over two basement floors of the library from September 2015 if central government approves it. CPS  opened the doors to its first intake this past September, and currently occupies the Abbey House building alongside BCCS’s administrative block, the Deanery.

But exactly how did this behind-closed-doors deal get to be hammered out? And what can be done now?

The PRIMARY SCHOOL PLACES CRISIS in Bristol is real  – current estimates show that Bristol needs an additional 30% on top of current primary school places over the next five years – but the most acute shortages are in north and south Bristol, which this school will not address.

Since 2008 a state-funded but independently managed academy (thanks to severe financial problems forcing it to go cap-in-hand for government cash), BCCS has only been open to all children for 36 of its 873 years of continuous operation. In other words, it has been a BASTION OF PRIVILEGE and closed doors – and is judged to be in the bottom 1% nationally for social inclusion. Like its parent school, CPS will most directly benefit middle and upper class families in Clifton – whilst the school boasts of appealing to similarly affluent parents in South Gloucestershire and North Somerset!

Relocating the primary school into the library will mean two floors-worth of books – many in regular use – will now be shipped over to the B Bond warehouse on Cumberland Basin, where they will be MAROONED along with unwilling staff (minus convenient ‘wastage’ or ‘rationalisation’ – which will help Fergo trim down his wages bill). Bristolians wanting to access those books will likely have to wait days instead of minutes, and even face fees for the inconvenience.

So how did it all come to this?

George Ferguson has been careful to trying to appear neutral on the issue, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t hide the facts.

As a longtime member of that smug, self-satisfied band of local sub-Freemasons, the Society of Merchant Venturers, ex-private schoolboy Ferguson has been kept abreast of the plans from the outset. Ferguson resigned from the MVs in 2012 – only after announcing his candidancy for Mayor – much as he stopped paying dues to the Lib Dems: because it was politically expedient.

A fellow MV is Stephen Parsons. As well as being Chair of Trustees at both the Bristol Cathedral Trust and Cathedral Primary School, as well as Chair of Governors at BCCS and CPS, and Vice-Chair of Trustees at BCCS and an honorary Canon at  the Cathedral, Parsons also runs the Quartet Community Foundation. A way for RICH BASTARDS to feel good about themselves by doling out a few grants here and there, Quartet just so happens to administer Fergo’s own ‘Mayor’s Fund for Bristol’.

Parsons is also – alongside George Ferguson, of course – a board member at the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership quango. Perhaps he needs a hobby?

Fergo’s Cabinet chum, Lib Dem councillor Simon ‘Casualty’ Cook, has been another key driver behind the annexation of the library. Not himself a Merchant Venturer, Cook is however a member of the MV-linked ‘Antient Society of St Stephen’s Ringers’. He also went to school (in Norwich) with former BCCS head Kevin Riley. It is thought that this close friendship with Riley brought Cook into PARSONS’ INNER CIRCLE.

Grabber George’s own close connections to BCCS, and the cathedral to which it is linked, stretches back for years. His ex-wife Lavinia Ferguson was for the best part of a decade a director of Bristol Cathedral Concerts Ltd, seven years as its company secretary. In the 90s Fergo himself worked directly with the Cathedral’s Dean to block any harbourside development that didn’t put money in his RED TROUSERED POCKETS.

But not all the pressure has been from a clique within Shitty Hall. Considerable resources have been put at the disposal of BCCS Principal Neil Blundell – the man widely seen as driving the project from the Cathedral side – from ideologically-driven quarters.

Consider the Centre for Market Reform of Education (CMRE), a champion of ‘free schools’ which whilst nominally independent shares its premises and some personnel with the Institute for Economic Affairs. (Yes, that’s right, Margaret Thatcher’s very own BATSHIT CRAZY right-wing thinktank is also in the picture!) CMRE appears to have been used to channel funds into the marketing effort to ‘sell’ the CPS library snatch to Bristolians – not because it’s a good deal for the city, but because it fits a certain agenda.

Key to implementing this has been Wotton-based communications agency Edge Media, which has worked for the Cathedral and BCCS for a number of years, and is now additionally contracted to CPS. Certainly the amount of work Edge has put into the P.R. OFFENSIVE far outstrips the £6,961 that CPS itself directly spent on communications, or the £2,084 BCCS spends with them annually. But then it is unusual for Edge to represent what is nominally a state school: virtually all its clients are private schools or organisations connected to them.

These include the School Proprietors’ Association, for owners of private schools; the Tutors’ Association, for private tutors; the Society of Education Consultants; and iSBi, a search site for private schools. It’s almost as though Edge Media doesn’t really like mixing with us ordinary folk!

But it’s not all bad news. The push to relocate CPS into the library building is not unanimously popular within BCCS – either with staff or governors – or even with the
Cathedral. It seems that many consider it a vanity project of Parsons, Ferguson, Blundell and Cook. Sources say even Blundell was surprised that Cook managed to get Cabinet approval for the DODGY library deal.

Meanwhile, the murkiness of the whole sordid affair has attracted the interest of both the Department for Education and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.

So watch this space…