School Uniform, Is It Time to Ditch It?

Since my son changed schools, and changed dress-codes, I've become a non-uniform advocate. But I still wonder if wearing a uniform has its benefits



There have been quite a few radio and TV debates this week about whether or not school uniform makes a difference to the success of a school and the welfare of its students.

Historically, I've always been very much an advocate of school uniform. I believed that by wearing it, students could 'blend in' better with their peer group and perhaps avoid such issues as class divide. In some ways I do still see this as a potential barrier to bullying, but last year my views had to change when my son suddenly moved schools.

Embracing non-uniform

My son's new school has a very relaxed 'college-style' atmosphere, with students permitted to wear their own clothes. At first, I was apprehensive as to why this was a good thing - after all, school uniform means exactly what its name suggests - uniformity. When students wear exactly the same clothes they should, in theory, be treated the same. What I've found, however, is that it makes little or no difference. In fact, I can say with conviction that my son and his peers are far happier wearing their own clothes to school.

There have been no incidents where he has felt pressure to compete over expensive trainers or designer clothes since the school still has a set of rules over what is considered appropriate school wear. For example, offensive logos, studded clothes and certain jewellery are strictly off limits.

Pros and cons

So, on the whole, I'm a non-uniform convert, but I can still see certain positive elements of uniform. So what are the real pros and cons?

  • Schools with a dress code see their uniform as a badge of honour; instilling pride and respect for the school and creating a unique identity. For them, uniform helps to create a sense of belonging too, like being part of a big team.
  • Schools without uniform argue that their students gain a sense of freedom and individuality, express themselves better and, within reason, enjoy experimenting with different colours and styles.

Cost implication

Parents often complain about the high cost of uniform - especially at secondary school - with blazers and sports kit only being available in specific stores. I'm with uniform here though. With experience of both, I can say that having to buy, wash and iron different clothes for every day of the week is more costly and time consuming.

School uniform might be pricey initially, but mostly it's pretty robust stuff and built to last. Black shoes are easy to buy and save hugely on home wear. I've had to buy three pairs of trainers to see my son through last year - not cheap!

The verdict

I'm still a convert, and after several debates and studies, it's been pretty much universally accepted that uniform does not make for a better school, education or school experience. But for most parents, the jury is still out.

One thing is for sure, whatever your viewpoint, this debate will certainly roll on for the foreseeable future!

Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor

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