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The price of conformity – a poem from ‘Same Boat?’

This poem by Jayne Gosnall comes from 'Same Boat? Poems on poverty and lockdown', an anthology to be published by Church Action on Poverty on 15 October 2020.

The Price of Conformity

School shoes. Cost big. Growing feet
Struggle. Worry. Missed heartbeats
Wish that those who make the rules
Remember our kids go to school.

White shirts. Black skirts. Black trousers 
Black socks. Black shoes. No trainers. 
All kids hate them, fight against ‘em
No colour, stripes or fancy laces

Special school ties snag and fray.
Blazers shine more every day.
Mates might mock a hand-me-down
so got to buy new, scour the town.

Boy says all his mates have Vans
forgets they also have helpful Nans.
Girl says Kickers fine for her
I’m wishing that their Dad would care

Benefits not fit for purpose.
Constant fear. State couldn’t care less
When they’re laughed at ‘cause of me
of course I feel guilty.

Boy comes home after PE
says “My shoes got nicked!” expecting me
to solve the problem, like they’re free.
They’re our food budget for the week.
I cry so hard can barely speak


Every time I think of my sisters and brothers struggling to raise their children in poverty, I remember crying over my son’s stolen school shoes.

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