For me personally, I couldn’t leave school any faster than I did. While most education establishments in this country are broken in some way BY FAR the worst is our schools, from primary education to senior, schools continue to baffle me as to just how awful they still are!
With mental health awareness on the rise and society getting better at understanding difference, why is it schools still insist on outdated dress codes, huge punishments for the smallest of things (Like dying your hair) and continuing to push for attendance over well being? You may be thinking ‘oh but kids need to learn respect and prepare for the working world’ maybe so but this is NOT the way to do it. Children who can express themselves are proven to be way happier, it’s just a known thing, what schools do is punish difference, dye your hair, DETENTION, wear jewellery, DETENTION, wear trainers that YOU feel comfortable in, DETENTION. You think you’re teaching them that expressing yourself outside of a formal setting should be punished, well I’m here to say being different is what MAKES these kids, for some of them it’s all they’ve got. Being able to express yourself is the best feeling in the world, I should know, I spent 18 years in the closet hiding from my sexuality and gender identity, I felt angry that ‘boys’ were forced to wear ties at school and ‘girls’ weren’t, I was isolated but we all looked the same, not a soul dared to defy the school because they threated expulsion! When my mental health hit rock bottom I wanted to die, I couldn’t cope with this environment anymore, punishing anyone for being different is ridiculous but that especially counts for young LGBTQ+ kids, it can be such a battle for us and being forced to conform to such tight rules is just damaging. My only friend in secondary school was my Geography teacher, she wasn’t like other teachers, she was fun, kind and understanding, the UK needs more teachers like her but she was driven out of the school because of stricter marking and teaching rules. On her last day, I went to her classroom after school and cried. She really was my only friend at school and she wouldn’t be at school come Monday morning. That weekend was tough but come Monday I stayed in bed, I point blank refused to go back to school, ever.
6 months down the line and lots of ‘taster’ days to try and convince me to return to school I was officially moved to a specialist school, a school without a uniform policy, one that understood my needs and barriers and supported me rather than just fought for a tick on the register. During that one year, I started to speak to people again (hard to believe now but throughout the 4 years at the previous school I’d been selective mute) I dyed my hair and got praise and love rather than punishment. It was a one in a million chance I found and got a place at that school and I still believe to this day it saved my life, showing me the world is full of different and diverse people instead of just white Catholic children in uniforms because for such a long time that’s all I knew and I hated it.
Both my sisters have had similar problems at the same school, however, this is where double standards come into play. With me, the school actively tried to get me to return even though I was adamant I wouldn’t, yet my sisters were basically pushed out. Yeah! The only explanation is because they didn’t attend as often as me and had much lower grades, to me, that means they’re happy to just kick the failing kids out but if the kids are getting good grades get em’ back in!
It doesn’t even end there. Both my sisters currently attend specialist schools yet (AGAIN) because of schools being REQUIRED to keep up attendance or face LOSING FUNDING, the school insist on my younger sister going in DESPITE her obvious objections. She’s crying most mornings and nights, self-harms and is offen forgotten about completely because she doesn’t speak. THIS SCHOOL IS FAILING A VULNERABLE CHILD TO GET A TICK ON THE REGISTER. This is where a LOT of problems come from, the kids that need funding and support the most are kicked out of school if they don’t attend because the schools lose funding for them if the kid doesn’t attend all the time which is such a broken system I want to SCREAM.
Yeah, that was a mess but I hope that highlights just some of the things wrong with our school system in this country. While the conversation is ripe I wanted this to be highlighted so that any other in this position know that they’re not alone and we’re fighting for better!