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A note came home from school the other day about uniform. It referred parents to the relevant page in the handbook about what was and wasn’t cool for school.

tutorhubIt stated that pupils aren’t allowed to wear “denim clothing; coloured shirts; jumpers/sweaters with stripes or logos; hooded tops with logos; round neck sweaters which do not allow the school tie to be visible; baggy trousers; trainers; combat jackets; full length coats; baseball-style caps; low cut tops; cropped tops; immodestly short skirts; fashion belts; fashion jewellery; shorts; tight clothing; skinny jeans/trousers”.

Anyone know how short is immodest? I believe it was more than six inches in my day if measured while kneeling from floor to hem.

The whole thing took me back. To pupils school uniform is a challenge. Once we’d grown out of trying to cultivate the grubbiest cuffs and collars, we moved on to more subtle customisation.

Apart from ever shorter skirts (turned-over waistband anyone?), there were badges on the back of lapels, fat and fatter tie knots, pretty cardis, earrings, socks pulled up like stockings, skirts hobblingly tight, coloured buttons, Doctor Who scarves and laces with jolly beads on them.

So, it seems, nothing much has changed. I wonder how much energy has been expended over the years by school staff and parents trying to impose uniform rules and pupils bending them like fury.

Maybe we should put that energy into something more worthwhile, like teaching. What do you think?

The arguments for school uniform start with money – all pupils are equal. Theoretically yes, although anyone who was ever a pupil will know that’s not true. Look to shoes, pens, gadgets, coats and bags and differences are clear.

Uniforms instil a sense of identity and work ethic. Apparently there are studies that show this. And yes to an outsider it seems so, but surely a resentfully and badly worn tie must do the opposite.

My son’s school say safety is a factor – it’s easy to see if there’s a stranger in the midst. On the other hand some say that as soon as you put a teenage girl in a school uniform she’s the possible target of unwanted attention whether she knows it or not.

So, as the world turns onward and changes make flexibility and ‘the individual’ much more significant. If possibilities grow endlessly and the world is the oyster for our children then why should we care if they dress the same as their peers?

I care that my kids wear school uniform because – and perhaps the main reason for me – it makes my life so much easier. We all know what they’re going to leave the house wearing so we can save our energy for arguments about other things.

As for the rest, most of that stuff about pride, identity and enthusiasm for work comes from good teachers and a well-led school first, what the children wear and how comes second.

11 Comments

11 Responses to “Gone to blazers – why do we bother with school uniforms?”

  1. notjarvis

    Nice article
    The question came up a while ago on the Skeptics stack exchange site, asking for evidence on whether School Uniform actually influenced behaviour/performance.

    Evidence on this is contradictory, and as I pointed out in my answer

    “I think this quote highlights one of the problems with researching the issue of school uniforms. School’s do not exist in a vacuum, and a whole host of things change from term to term when there is a problem with behaviour in an attempt to sort out issues.

    It is difficult to tell whether benefits are anything to do with the school uniform itself, or other reforms which happened around the same time. One can also guess that schools with strict dress policies and/or uniform policies will also be more strict on behavioural terms (just being consistent) so any study just considering uniforms may be skewed.”

    Reply (1) (0)
    • ellenarnison27

      Thanks. Well said. There’s a world of difference between putting on a uniform you’re proud of and being forced into one you hate.

      Reply (1) (0)
  2. Hollie Smith

    Hmm, interesting one Ellen. I could do without uniform I think, on balance. It costs a lot of money (which their everyday clothes don’t because they’re usually bought in Tesco or secondhand), and it’s a pain keeping it all sufficiently clean and ironed. Having said that, I can now picture myself having a ‘you’re not going to school wearing that’ argument with my older daughter every morning of the week. So on reflection, maybe uniform is a better bet…

    Reply (0) (1)
    • ellenarnison27

      HI Hollie, Pros and cons I think. It also depends on the uniform. Both my big boys go to schools where the uniform is fairly generic so cheap (ish) from the supermarkets. Specific blazers would change this.

      Reply (1) (0)
  3. Clair

    One thing that I think uniform does give is the concept of appropriate attire.- something useful for moving into a work environment. After years successfully (and unsuccessfully) recruiting numerous young people straight from school it was clear that very few understood the concept of “smart” or how to tie a tie. I could predict with almost perfect accuracy based on High School attended- regardless of achievements- their dress code.
    But then you know I’m already pro uniform, but I’m also pro customisation.

    Reply (0) (1)
    • ellenarnison27

      Clair, That’s an interesting point and one that’s easy to forget in our easygoing modern world.

      Reply (1) (0)
  4. Gill

    Is this ok to add this article to my facebook fan page, i think they would love this stuff

    Reply (0) (0)
  5. Graeme Campbell

    As a teacher who works in a uniformed school I certainly notice the difference on “non uniform days” in terms of both behaviour and attitude towards school.

    “Uniforms” are a part of everyday life, we just tend to be allowed to personalize a bit more. You wear a different “uniform” to the gym than you do to a dinner or to a friends.

    I think that the subconscious act of putting on specific clothes and going to a specific place to do specific things is useful for students. It creates a mental aspect of “I’m here to learn”.

    And, as I always say to students who claim they can’t demonstrate their personalities – “Do you really think we want you to demonstrate who you are through what you wear rather than what you say and do”?

    Reply (0) (1)
    • Finnuala

      I’m a year 8 student and find uniform a constricting force on my imagination. I want to look like me not every one else because I am different and proud of being so. I want the freedom to express myself how I want. I have my views to share but when I am a voice coming wallpaper within a classroom I am not heard.
      you can’t look at non-uniform days as what a typical day in a school with no uniform because if you where trapped in a mould of someone else and you got a chance to revel your own character for a day, you to would do it to the max, and your behaviour may falter in your excitement too.

      Reply (0) (0)
  6. krame

    I recently attended a school awards ceremony at an all-girls school. It was a teriffic ceremony and all the young ladies really showed how bright and creative they are. I did notice that as accomplished as the girls are in academics, the appearance of their uniforms leae a lot to be desired. One girl came on stage with her tie really crooked and the right side of her collar was sticking straight up. Another girl had a crooked tie and her tie dangled outside of her buttoned-up blazer. Yet another girl somehow managed to have the loop of her tie go on the outside of her collar on one side. (She must’ve put on her tie hastily without the use of a mirror and didn’t realize she didn’t loop part of her underneath her collar. Many other girls left their collar unbuttoned or left their ties loose or crooked. I would think the purpose of the school uniform is to wear it neatly as it shows how distinguished these terrific young ladies are.

    Reply (0) (0)

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