Real Lives: Debate - Twenty-one girls were sent home from a school in the Midlands last week for wearing short skirts.

Stop fussing, says Rachel Kellett, we're old enough to dress ourselves. Tough, says Camille Noriega - rules are rules
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RACHEL KELLETT, 14

What has the world come to? Are school uniform skirt lengths really so important? Teenage girls aren't nuns and it doesn't affect what they think about world hunger when they wear a short skirt. It's not as if what people wear is connected to their brains.

I don't think adults give young people enough credit these days. Children are maturing much faster, but we're not all sex-crazed maniacs. I don't think teachers are used to seeing girls as young as 12 wear make-up and have a boyfriend. Maybe they don't have much confidence in girls who wear short skirts. Maybe they think they're going to jump into bed with someone.

Of course any adult who has regular contact with children has a moral duty to look out for their well-being, but not to the point where they dictate what they wear. My mother stopped dressing me when I was six. It wasn't as though I started wearing lipstick and heels the second she took her eyes of me.

If pupils want to follow the rules, fine - no doubt they'll be forever law-abiding citizens. But I think anyone who really takes responsibility for themselves works out what they think about every issue. I'm not promoting anarchy, but I think that anyone with a mind of their own looks at rules and decides which they think are right and which they believe to be a waste of time. At the end of the day, you can have 10 GCSEs, all grade A to C, and have a skirt half way up your thighs. It just proves some rules are silly and pedantic and it doesn't matter if you abide by them or not.

I have no idea why headteachers get so bothered about uniform. Schools aren't perfect and headteachers can't be responsible for it all. Anyway, I don't see every female teacher with a skirt down to her knees.

Those who judge only by appearance are too shallow to get close enough to someone to find out what they're like. Headteachers are there to do what's best for the children in the school - not what's best for its image. Teenagers are worrying about what subject options they can take and what they need to do in their exams, but headteachers can seem more wrapped up in whether they're wearing a tie or not.

It's important to manage the standards of a school but they should be based on its academic achievement. Education isn't just about passing exams, but it shouldn't be about pupils' appearance either. Sadly, that's the way it seems to be heading.

I know there are some dangerous people out there but I don't think the way to protect us is to lower our skirt lengths. When we leave school, we can do what we like - that's when the danger begins. Young people need educational lessons on personal safety - something that will stay in our minds forever, not just until we're out of uniform.

CAMILLE NORIEGA, 14

I think standards are important. Some girls take this skirt business too far - they roll them up to their elbows and basically they just look like sluts. A good school wants to create a generation of pupils who can find jobs and make a mark in the world, so it's good that a headteacher enforces the rules about school uniform. You could argue that they're just being old-fashioned but, on the other hand, they might think things are better the way they were before. Of course society is moving on, but if pupils are doing things that affect their education and the reputation of the school just because they're trendy, then the headteacher has a right to put his foot down.

If I was a mother and saw a group of scruffy pupils, I would probably think they were unruly and that their teachers couldn't control them. I'd also think that their school didn't have very high standards. The school image rests on its doing well in the league tables and being strong in different subjects, but I wouldn't want my daughter to go to a school where pupils dressed like this.

If you're part of a school community, you should listen to the guidelines and follow the rules. Girls in ridiculously short skirts bring down the reputation of the school for the others. Even if it's just a few doing it, teachers are going to be harder on everyone else. We've just got a new uniform at my school. The teachers asked the whole school what they wanted and the whole school was happy with it. It's OK for adults to overrule young people, but when they ask us for ideas they are able to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

Parents who would rather their daughters sit around at home than alter their uniforms might respect teenagers' opinions - but they're failing to draw the line. There's a lack of morals here and I would say they're going about parenthood the wrong way. Parents have to show you can't get away with it.

I think there is a need to have a review of uniforms in many schools. Teachers should find out what girls have to say about them rather than knowing nothing about how they are going to feel or why short skirts are popular in the first place.

But if you really want to go somewhere in life, you know it's what's inside that counts. I know that it's working hard that's going to give me independence and the ignorant girls who might tease people like me put appearance before common sense. If they want to waste their time and have a nowhere life, they're going the right way about it. They'll end up having to rely on the dole.

Interviews by Stuart Fletcher, 16, and Rachel Kellett, 14, from Children's Express, the programme of learning through journalism for young people aged 8-18.

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