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STREET BEAT: In gear for school

CARLOS ATWELL, [email protected]

STREET BEAT: In gear for school

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THE MICHAELMAS term is poised to begin, and across the island students will be either going to new schools or getting a uniform change as they move to higher forms.

This will again bring into focus the perennial problem of uniforms being too short or too tight, which will bring principals, schoolchildren, parents and the Ministry of Education into conflict.

As such, Street Beat visited a few school uniform wholesalers and retailers to get their take on the situation.

At the Uniform and Dress Shoppe, Black Rock, St Michael, sales clerk Christine Weekes said they ensured they kept their uniforms regulation size but had no control over what people did with them afterwards.

“Our uniforms are standard length. We let first form girls know the rules are two inches below the knee but what some of them do is to turn up the skirt waist and make it shorter. We also do not make skinny pants or it is guaranteed the principal will send them back home.

“The issue is with some of the parents. They tell children they will take the uniforms in, even the short pants; it’s a different trend every year. The principals are going by the rules, but it’s the parents,” she said.

General manager of Uniform Unlimited, Claire Stoute agreed. However, she said parents in turn were allowing themselves to be manipulated.

“Children are controlling the parents, who give the child what they want even when you tell them the principals won’t accept it. Our uniform lengths are made longer than the standard so there is no chance of buying a too-short uniform unless the child is tall [but] parents won’t stand up for the rules,” she said.

Stoute, who is also the manager for Mapp’s Factory Outlet in Tweedside Road, St Michael, said they did not make school uniforms contrary to regulation, saying “We don’t make skinny pants, if a parent wants one, they will have to have the pants altered.”

Recently, Minister of Education Ronald Jones urged principals to pay less attention to skirt lengths and to keep the children inside the school compound rather than out in the street. This however, caused a backlash from the teachers union and others, saying he was sending mixed messages. Stoute weighed in on the issue.

“I came up in an area with spot checks; if the uniform was not correct, you were given a letter to take home. I don’t agree with sending home children unsupervised, I think parents should be notified first.

“However, children are not going to a fashion show and should look decent on the road. It sends the wrong message, that they can dress how they like for school, so how can you then expect them to look proper for work?” she said.

Jacqueline Mottley operates a small uniform making business from home. She said she sometimes came across unreasonable requests from parents but did not compromise.

“I don’t make alterations to make skinny pants or short skirts. I believe the way the children are now is because they are telling parents what they want and not what it should be. You come, bring your girl – as I only make schoolgirl uniforms – and I would measure them and tell you how much material to buy. What I don’t like is when I would measure a child but a parent would then ask the child if it is big or long enough. You’re not going to a party, a schoolchild should look like one,” she said.

As for the controversy, Mottley said, while she believed the regulations should be kept, she did not believe in putting the children out, advising instead to call the parents.