Here's a bit of bother. A defiant mum is refusing to remove a stud from her 12-year-old daughter's nose, even though it's banned by her school on health and safety grounds. Donna Tucker has told the Liverpool Echo that staff at West Kirby's Hilbre high school ordered her daughter Keira to remove the "late Christmas present" by Monday or find another school. The headteacher, Jan Levenson, says piercings present "a very real risk of accidents" and points out that all parents have signed up to uniform rules. But Mrs Tucker, 38, is adamant that the jewellery, which matches her own, will not be removed: "We will fight the school over it, as it's a human rights issue. Kids aren't robots, my daughter's her own person." Tucker adds: " I do not know what the big deal is, she is not turning up with drugs or a weapon and they should be more bothered about the fact that she puts a lot of effort into her work." But according to Levenson: "Pupils are not allowed to wear piercings in school, and are always challenged when they do so. That rule exists on health and safety grounds because, in a busy school where there are a lot of pupils, there is a very real risk of accidents."
While she won't be drawn on whether Keira received an ultimatum from staff, she says the pupil wasn't sent home "as we have no wish to interrupt her education". Schools are very keen on uniforms these days – and it all began under Labour. Ed Balls wrote to every local authority in the country in 2009 about school discipline, and advised them to adopt a "smart uniform policy". Michael Gove, needless to say, is even more enthusiastic. "I'm inclined to trust the common sense of the majority of mums and dads who recognise that their children want proper uniforms, strict discipline, academic subjects rigorously taught and not some of the wild and wacky theorems that have distracted some of our schools from delivering on the basics over the last 20 years," he declared on Radio 4 recently. Uniform fans argue that they instil school pride, maintain discipline by underlining the distinction between staff and students, and protect poor pupils from having to sport the latest fashions. But what exactly constitutes "school uniform"? A colleague told me yesterday that her daughter, aged 14, had got into trouble at her London state school for putting a Cheryl Cole-red rinse in her hair just before Christmas. Staff said it was "not a natural colour" and therefore against uniform rules. Dye it back, she was told, before being put "in isolation". What's your experience? Does a strict uniform policy help staff to maintain standards or is it simply misguided nostalgia on the part of education secretaries for the trouble-free schooldays of yore?