/ Parenting

School uniform – it’s time to ditch the scratchy blazer

Primary school children playing in school yard

A stiff blazer, plain skirt, blouse and black shoes make up my uniform, and I don’t like it. Why do I have to wear this uncomfortable clothing? Why can I not, within reason, wear what I want?

My uniform’s strict and there are various rules about how it can and can’t be worn (skirt on the knee, sleeves rolled down, shirt tucked in).

Teachers spend a lot of time meticulously checking we‘re wearing our uniform correctly. This is time when we could be learning, if we all wore our own clothes.

My school wants us to look smart, give a good impression, and to instil in us a sense of belonging to the school community. But how much does a badge on my blazer make me feel part of my school? Surely the atmosphere in school is more important than what the pupils are wearing.

The pressure of fashion

Another counter argument is the pressure no uniform puts on parents and pupils alike. If we dress in our own clothes, it will make us feel the demand to keep up with fashion trends and our peers. This in turn will press our parents to buy more clothes, which is expensive.

However, the uniform we wear isn’t cheap. My school insists on uniform from only one supplier, so the prices are high.

I also hear a lot that if we didn’t wear a uniform, there may be more bullying as people pick on those who don’t have the latest fashions. I don’t think a uniform is a guard against bullies. Being picked on for a hand-me-down skirt or badly fitting blazer is surely just as likely as for last season’s trainers. In 2011 RandomThingy, in Year 9 at the time, commented that he ‘thought uniforms were supposed to prevent bullying, yet all they did was encourage it’.

On the occasional mufti days my school has, the range of clothes worn is a positive conversation point and encourages many compliments where normal uniform gets none. A no-uniform policy gives pupils a chance to display their individuality, rather than being hidden behind regulation clothes.

Uncomfortable uniforms

Uniform is often uncomfortable, too. My blazer has the amazing ability of being too cold in the winter yet too hot in summer. As well, it’s not practical for some of our lessons. Many blazers bear paint stains from art, so wouldn’t it be better to let us choose something practical for our lessons, and the weather, so we can feel comfortable and focus on learning?

Do you agree that school uniform is in need of a rethink? What about giving pupils the freedom to choose their own clothes, but with guidelines on what is acceptable?

Comments
Member

I think you can see why primary and secondary school heads like to have a prescriptive uniform policy when you look at the students emerging from any further education college or university – or is their rebellious appearance just the reaction against years of conformity with repressive school uniforms?

Member

I think all schools should have a uniform dress policy, but I do agree old fashioned policies should be revised. There is no need to force purchase from 1 supplier nor these days should blazers or ties be required, but set rules on colour, length and type of clothes should be maintained. It sets a standard so that the only topic on clothes is a common dis-like of the uniform. It also does show the school and therefore its pupils in a good light, or at least in my day meant outside school you could spot trouble or know where the trouble makers came from. Whilst allowing own clothes would quickly turn into a parade of fashion, and add one more thing to differentiate one from another. The cost to parents would also take a toll.
As an adult I effectively wear a uniform of smart short and trousers with black shoes. I ignore dress down days as I cannot be bothered to think about what casual clothes to wear. Also I am there to work and the “uniform” means I feel in work mode.

Member

One of the purposes of rigid school uniform policies is obviously to instil team spirit and a “corporate” ethos, as well as to eradicate invidious attitudes related to how much parents spend on school clothing. Uniformity eroded class distinctions, except at my grammar school where there were two approved outfitters one being distinctly more upmarket than the other in terms of the quality of the fabric and certain details, reflected in the price of course. Tthe trick at my school was to wear all the right garments but not necessarily in the right manner, and to progressively “bohemianise” the appearance without incurring the masters’ wrath by doing anything too outrageous. I expect this is taken to a higher level today with the easy availability of body piercings and tattoos [are these adornments permitted in schools, or is it only the teachers who are expected to have them?].

Perhaps another purpose of uniform is to prepare young people for the world of work where nearly everyone has to wear some form of uniform whether it be the company sweatshirt, a conventional outfit [as in the hospitality trade], protective clothing, or a military or official uniform. Even office wear follows certain conventions that amount to a form of uniform. And the whacky outfits sported by people in certain media and high-tech businesses seem to conform to a sort of code as an identifier [woe betide anyone who turns up in a smart suit, or with a necktie, or with normal hair!]. Sadly today head masters and headmistresses fail to set the correct example and rarely wear their academic gowns.

Member

Nothing is more pleasant, I think, than to see Children from one School all wearing the same Uniform. Having said that, for many legally appointed Guardians this can be a devastating expense, especially when the Children dislike having to wear their Uniform when they are not at their School and the Guardian has to provided them with other and more suitable Clothing for their after School activities, as well.

I think all Schools should provide a Dress Uniform that Children will be comfortable wearing and will want to wear even after their School Day has ended.

I live in North West London and a local Comprehensive (Queens Park Community School) has for many Years got it’s Pupils to wear Track Suits. Every Evening and at all Weekends, all I see are Children of School age going around in groups wearing this School Uniform and I think this is a most worth while choice of Uniform and expense for these Children’s legal Guardians, many of whom because of the current Economic Climate, would have difficulty purchasing not just a regular Uniform but after School activity Clothing, also and because the Uniform is of a design which current Day Clothing Manufacturers mass-produce, these Garments have the added advantage of being able to be purchased at a minimum of cost.

Here’s an example of the cost. I’m old and will not wear a Track Suit outside my home but I think they are comfortable and do when I’m at Home. Last year and from Primemark, I purchased six Designer Labelled Track Bottoms (Nike) for £1 each.

“QPCS” is the only School, in the area in which I reside that has adopted this most affordable and hardwearing Uniform that current Day Children want to wear. During any evening when I’m out walking my Canine, I see Children wearing this Uniform and in the company of friends that are wearing other Track Suits (that their Guardians have had to buy for them), like these Pupils because, presumably, these other Children’s School Uniform is of a regular design and those Children don’t want to wear these outdated and “not Cool” (in my Day this used to be called: “Square”) Clothing when their School Day has concluded.

Member

Is there a possible compromise? I recall being taken by my mother to the school outfitter appointed by the grammar school that I would be attending at the end of the holidays. I wore my school cap for part of the first day and never wore the confounded thing again. I managed to cope with the rest of the uniform, though was pleased to be able to wear a jacket of my choice from when I entered the sixth form.

Member

One thing that I learnt at school was that it is in German, and not in English, where every common noun must start with a capital letter! 😉

Member

Well done, Fay Amstutz, for posting this article! I don’t agree with all you’ve said, but that is the point in starting a Conversation. And shame on you, NFH. Are you part of the ‘Grammar Police’, to whom only one level is permissible for all of the English-speaking world? Jon is being gloriously idiosyncratic: very English! His meaning, too, is completely clear, even though he doesn’t consistently follow your or any rule.

Member

It occurs to me that secondary school pupils might be safer on the streets if they are wearing a proper uniform rather than trying to look too adult [I recognise that there is a counter argument to this that I won’t go into and I consider the risk negligible].

Schools used to administer a “Necessitous Clothing Allowance” for children whose parents or guardians faced financial hardship. Horrible name and probably a horrible system based on a means test and a ration of clothing. However, I hope there is some mechanism in place these days because specified uniforms in unique colours or designs can work out rather pricey. Most schools where we live seem to limit the number of non-generic items to one or two at most [like a blazer or top and a tie or scarf] the rest being standard apparel that cn be purchased at the larger supermarkets.

I am not sure why blazers have to be stiff or itchy – the more they are worn the smoother they feel!

Fay doesn’t like being checked for how high her she wears her skirt or whether her sleeves are down or whether her blouse is tucked in. I wonder what her parents think.

Member
malcolm r says: