/ Parenting

Time to put school uniforms in detention?

This week a young Cambridgeshire boy wore a skirt to school in protest of his school’s uniform policy to ban boys from wearing shorts. Yet, this raises another question – should kids have to wear school uniforms at all?

Chris Whitehead had a knees-up this week, protesting against his school’s policy to stop boys wearing shorts.

In 2009, Impington Village College near Cambridgeshire decided that boys wouldn’t be allowed to wear shorts, a policy that year 8 pupil Chris wasn’t happy about.

The aspiring politician marched through Impington in a girls’ knee-length skirt alongside half a dozen pupils waving banners. If girls can cool down in a skirt during the summer months, why can’t boys wear shorts, he protested?

Fair play to the lad, I say. And amusingly, due to a loophole in the school’s uniform policy, boys are welcome to wear skirts. Headteacher Robert Campbell adds, ‘we would be discriminating against them if we did not allow it.’

Do school uniforms make the grade?

But skirting around that issue, there’s another around the corner – should schools impose set uniforms at all? What problem would there be if kids were allowed to wear what they wanted?

Surely school is for learning and not for telling children what to wear. School uniforms seem to come from an old-fashioned and almost militaristic tradition that says children aren’t individuals – that they should all be drones taught under the all-seeing eye of the headmaster.

But why not let them fold away the uniforms and get dressed in their own attire? An eternal mufti day if you like. Most US schools hold this view, and it’s the philosophy we take in Which? towers – wear what you like (within reason) and you’ll be more comfortable in your work.

A rise in fashion victims?

There is one potential problem that I can see with school uniforms being left in the closet. A set uniform makes it easier on families of all means – parents don’t need to splash out on school clothes, as in 2010 we found that it’s easy to find affordable uniforms that last.

Whereas an eternal mufti-day could leave some children to worry that their clothes don’t match the quality of their friends’, or that their parents can’t afford to keep up with the current fickle fashion trends. Plus, different clothing could be one more thing that bullies can pick up on to torment others.

But what do you think – have we come to the end of the age of school uniforms, or do you think that matching school garbs still holds some value?

Should children have to wear school uniforms?

Yes (92%, 465 Votes)

No (8%, 42 Votes)

Total Voters: 507

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Comments
Member

I have incredibly mixed feelings on this issue and I cannot make my mind up at all.

It’s something I have thought about almost all my life.

With one hat on I recall vividly how, as a Junior School pupil, where we did NOT have uniform, I was pilloried by other pupils and also their parents and the staff for being “unfashionable” because my parents would not buy fashionable and expensive clothes for school and made me have “sensible” plain clothes, mainly from M&S in an era when M&S was seen as a Granny’s shop. It was a massive relief, therefore, when I started secondary school and we all had to wear grey or black trousers, grey or black socks, black shoes (NOT trainers), white or grey shirts, school tie and school blazer with school badge. And in 1979 that was NOT a “posh” or selective school, that was every ordinary council run comprehensive. Both my secondary schools had virtually identical uniforms (only the tie’s stripes and the blazer’s badge differed) and both made Girls wear skirts but NOT trousers and none of us could wear shorts. Laughably in summer we were permitted to remove our ties but only on condition that our open shirt collars were worn on top of the blazer’s collar, in a very untrendy way that the head presumably thought would make us all want to keep our ties on (it didn’t!), but we were not permitted to remove our blazers and no one could wear shorts.

Despite being uncomfortably hot much of the year, none of us (nor our parents) complained and there was no bullying nor theft of trendy trainers, etc., as has been prevalent in the intervening years.

From that side of the argument I am 100% for uniform, as I also am in terms of saving money for parents as over-priced fashion garments would not then be at risk of damage in a school environment.

On the other side of the debate, as a teacher, it is a thankless and pointless task fighting against parents and students to try to get them into uniform and it makes not one iota of difference to the behaviour of utterly out of control pupils in schools that have a discipline issue (i know, I’ve done 8 years in one such place and it nearly killed quite a few of us, and the school did have a uniform). I have worked for the last 7 years in a different place where there has never been a uniform and where most of the students do come from backgrounds where stereotypically you might expect issues over compliance, bullying, parental objection, etc. We have never ever had a discipline issue and I can still count on the fingers of both hands how many times I have had to raise my voice or take any sort of disciplinary action against any student. Clearly, then, the lack of uniform doesn’t mean automatic poor behaviour.

What DOES happen in my current place, though, is that students don’t spend even one second thinking about complaining about what they have to wear, they don’t skip lessons because a given teacher is known to always pick them up on the smallest breaches of dress code and, for whatever reason, there is virtually no bullying for any reason at all, and it certainly isn’t over what people are wearing.

As for Chris in Impington, I admire and wholeheartedly support him and I absolutely agree that if a uniform is required by a school then it must be one that is minutely checked for practicality and to ensure no possible discrimination.

If I had children of my own my gut feeling is that I would prefer them to wear uniform until they reach the end of compulsory education, then be allowed to dress as they wished if they continued in education; but I’m happy to admit that if I actually found myself with a child to care for, I may well change my mind, so I’m as undecided as I said at the start of this post!!!

I’ll be very interested to see what others have to say.

Member

Uniform until 6th form. This makes it
a) cheaper for poorer parents
b) ensures kids aren’t mocked for their lack of latest brand
c) keeps personal clothes clean
d) instils a sense of togetherness
e) helps them unconsciously to be a team

We all have to conform to various rules and regulations later on in life, a uniform helps us to understand that there are many rules which literally make no sense at all. Therefore it helps to just accept that institutions are what they are, indoctrinations.

Sorry, a bit heavy for monday morning 🙂

Member

I agree with most of your bullet points, except for maybe the last two. In theory they sound like good arguments, but a school can’t be very good if they rely on school uniforms to instil a sense of togetherness or inspire pupils to work as a team.

Those two points seem to imply that in the US where they often don’t wear uniforms, that children are more deficient at being a team, or that they can’t follow rules and regulations (as per your final paragraph). Although this sounds nice in theory, if you take rid of the uniforms, I really don’t think that these two things suddenly become lacking in pupils.

Member

Patrick, I see what you mean, but I think what dean is alluding to is that uniforms provide a visual symbol of a common unit, rather like those used in the military.

It also helps identify who’s on your side in fights!

Member

I have enough balls to juggle without the extra one of investing in and managing my kids’ clothes. School uniforms mean that I know exactly what clothes have to be on hand for five days and I do not have the debates about where a particular item of clothing is at seven o’clock in the morning. On top of that I don’t want my kids to be at the mercy of peer pressure on what they should/should not wear.

Member

Not a good life-lesson I think, to give in and go-uniform because otherwise the pressure will be too great.
Children need to be encouraged to make a stand and feel free to make their own choices with the benefit of support and guidance rather than pressure and conformity.

Member

definately, they should wear uniforms, but the bigger issue is the closed shop system of only being able to buy them for over inflated prices direct from the school itself.
any local business should be able to supply uniforms and school badges.

Member

Absolutely. Why can’t schools have a colour-system so we can get the uniform from anywhere and then a ‘badge’ that we can put on sweatshirts etc????