The Week Unwrapped: Strict schools, swimming caps and the four-day week
Do more rules make for a better education? Is a ban on “Afro caps” a blow to sporting diversity? And will Covid boost calls for a four-day working week?
Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.
In this week’s episode, we discuss:
A new headteacher at John Ferneley College in Leicestershire has issued a strict set of instructions to her pupils: they must “always smile”, respond to teachers’ greetings in an “upbeat” manner, ensure they have permission before they can even pick up a pen and learn how to respond to a series of “whistle commands”. Ferneley is just one of a number of state schools turning to super-strict rules, based on ‘Slant’ techniques pioneered in the US, to improve behaviour and raise standards. But do such methods really work, or do they turn schools - as one parent put it - into a “prison camp”?
Swimming caps designed for natural black hair will not be allowed at the Olympics after they were rejected by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) for not fitting what the governing body described as “the natural form of the head”. The caps in question, created by a black-owned brand called Soul Cap, fit over and protect dreadlocks, afros, weaves, braids and thick or curly hair. Its founders say the caps don’t give swimmers an unfair advantage, so why has FINA banned them and what message does this send to young black female swimmers?
A long-term trial in Iceland, in which 1% of the population worked four days a week instead of five, has been hailed as a success. The people who took part were more productive as well as happier, researchers have said, and employers did not incur any extra costs. As many British companies are preparing for a post-Covid return to the office, some campaigners say they should consider cutting the working week here too.