Schools have an obligation to keep pupils safe and protect children from harm. Many schools, one suspects, have secret cupboards and drawers filled with weaponry, inappropriate magazines and tubs of contraband peanut butter they have confiscated over the years. On occasion though teachers can take this responsibility a little too seriously and ban stuff for no good reason other than the fact that they must like banning stuff.
1 “Please sir, can I have some more homework”
In March 2014 a 14-year-old boy was suspended from a school in Blackpool when he led a protest. Not against school dinners or shorter school hours, oh no, it was a protest demanding more homework. Teachers at Bispham High School took a dim view to the protest, which was made to education watchdog Ofsted, and banned him from two days of lessons as punishment. That’ll teach him, er not teach him.
2 Triangular flapjacks (for Health & Safety reasons we’re showing square ones)
An Essex school took the unprecedented step in 2013 of banning triangular flapjacks after a pupil was harmed by one during a vicious oat-based dining hall scrap. Square-shaped flapjacks continued to be allowed, the teachers seemingly overlooking that square flapjacks also have corners.
3 Boys with ponytails
There are many dangers facing us in the world today – drugs, dangerous dogs, the threat of radical extremism. Now, to this list we can add boys with ponytails. Ignoring the inherent dangers of this hairstyle – erm, he could flick someone with it – a school in Bolton banned an 11 year old sporting a ponytail for a breach of their strict uniform code. Without a trace of irony the parents complained that it was an infringement of his human rights. Yes, looking like Harry Styles is a human right.
4 Regional slang
In November 2013 teachers at a Halesowen school shocked parents when they sent pupils home with a letter outlining their “zero tolerance” to West Midlands slang. Listing 10 banned phrases the teachers demanded that responses such as “I cor do that” be replaced by “I can’t do that”. The school claimed they were getting kids ready for future “job interviews”.
5 Swimming Goggles
Leicestershire County Council, in common with many UK authorities, has banned schoolchildren from wearing goggles during swimming lessons because they could be “snapped and pulled against a child’s face” and cause them to “bump into each other”. The fact that goggles also protect children’s eyes from swimming pool chemicals appears to have been overlooked.
6 Parents saying “goodbye”
The new headmaster at an East London infant school didn’t endear himself to parents when he sent them a letter on the first day of term banning them from entering school premises in the morning. This meant parents of reception children had to say their goodbyes at the school gate. He followed this unpopular edict by banning – “due to allergies” – “birthday cakes or party bags or anything else on birthdays”. No word yet on the banning of Christmas and smiling but we’re primed for the news.
7 “Confrontational” red ink
A junior school in Kent banned teachers from using red pens to mark pupil’s work because it is considered “confrontational” and “de-motivating”. Instead the school uses highlighter pens, which they deem more “positive”. A bad mark in lime green isn’t quite as damning as one in red apparently. Maybe some glitter next to those “see me” comments would be even better.
8 Movember moustaches
Each November a proportion of the British male population grows fancy facial hair as a way of fundraising for the Movember prostrate cancer charity campaign. When a 13-year-old pupil at a Dunstable Academy attempted to join in, his school promptly demanded he shave and banned any future moustache growing on school property deeming it “not an activity that many children would be able to join in with”.
9 Running in the playground
Few people have ever attended school without being told off for running in corridors. Fair enough, there’s limited space and you could knock into your mates and/or angry teachers. But outside, well, you would imagine in our era of childhood obesity, active playground games would be encouraged. Alas not everyone agrees. Wallsend Primary School deemed it “unsafe” outside of what they call their “Fast Fit Grid” (also known as a playing field).
10 Best Friends
In 2013, a Battersea prep school took the peculiar step of discouraging pupils from making best friends. The headmaster explained that having a best pal was damaging because it was “ostracising” people who weren’t your best friend. Instead the head thought it would be better if people had “lots of good friends”. There was no advice on imaginary friends.
11 Loom bands
Loom bands have been banned in schools all over the UK, but the most inventive reason for the ban came from a junior school in North London. It was decided that loom bands were a tripping hazard. Mind you the kids were attempting to break a world record by building the world’s largest bracelet. And they did manage to successfully trip up a teacher.
One in 6 schools has banned conkers, although according to recent UK press reports it is not through fear of injury. Instead, it’s through fear of allergies. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents increasing numbers of children are allergic to conkers due to a decrease in outdoor play doing stuff like, erm, playing conkers. Bonkers!