Does school uniform really matter?

(68 Posts)
NamingOfParts Fri 16-Nov-12 12:47:56

Probably been done to death many times so just hide this if the topic bores you!

Does school uniform really make that much difference? For a number of years we lived abroad and DCs went to school without uniform. I know that some people worry about school becoming a fashion parade. We didn?t see that but does that really happen? I can understand on mufti days there is the novelty value but day in day out do you get that?

Does a school uniform foster a sense of pride in the school and a school ethos? Again my experience doesn?t really convince me of this. DS belongs to Army Cadets. He is very proud of this and spends over an hour each week polishing his boots and ironing his uniform. On the other hand his school uniform looks like it is ready for the rag man. So I suppose my experience says that pride in the organisation fosters pride in the uniform, not the other way round.

Does a school uniform somehow help young people get ready for the world of work? Certainly looking round Europe I would have to say that the British (and I include myself in this) are not better dressed than our continental (non school uniform wearing) counterparts.

In my opinion young people do need some sort of guidance especially at the start to make sure that they are dressed appropriately. What is appropriate can depend on circumstance ? what is suitable for a History lesson is not suitable for playing rugby.

My suggestion would be to have a very simple dress code and leave it at that. This does not stop classroom discussion around selecting clothes for different situations especially as students get closer to applying for jobs/apprenticeships/college.

Any thoughts?

Scoobyblue Fri 16-Nov-12 13:30:05

I like school uniform. No arguments about what is and isn't appropriate. No nagging about having to have the "right" brand of top/jumper/skirt (at least on schooldays). They definitely look smarter and, given that my dc wear jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts at the weekend we would have to buy smarter stuff for school anyway so why not uniform? I also like the fact that I set it out at night, they put it on in the morning, no agonising abt what goes with what etc, everyone's wearing the same.

willyoulistentome Fri 16-Nov-12 13:33:24

It levels the playing field. Nobody will feel like the haven't got the right 'look' or can be teased about the clothes their unfashionable parents buy for them.

LaVolcan Fri 16-Nov-12 15:52:31

I agree with you NamingOfParts although I suspect that we are in a minority. It's the pride in the organisation which comes first. I could almost have written your post myself about my son - although he was in the Air Cadets. Uniform had to be exact - I wasn't allowed to press his trousers in case I inadvertently ironed tramlines in them. His school uniform - well, let's say, it would have looked fine on a scarecrow.

I don't think the polyester blazers my daughter's old school have introduced look smart by anyone's estimation; they look so scruffy, I am glad my daughter is no longer there.

Nor do I think it levels the playing field. If there is any sort of choice involved then those who are well off have one of each choice. If tennis whites, say, are optional in the summer, they have a set of whites, whereas the others make do with the normal PE kit. If there is a choice of blazer fabric guess who gets the good quality or the cheap polyester which looks scruffy within half a term? Guess which children have to make do with old stuff for the full five years of compulsory secondary school, or which ones have new stuff each year?

I agree that there can be a fashion parade but what is wrong with a dress code? Jeans not allowed, smart trousers in grey or black, for example. The sort of dress code that a significant number of people would be expected to comply with in a work situation.

CalmingMiranda Fri 16-Nov-12 16:22:12

DCs were at a primary with no uniform. Certainly no lack of loyalty to the school because every time they have an INSET closure many pupils go back and visit, accepting the open invitation that they are welcome any time, and they go and help children read, etc.

The school also had excellent discipline. This was linked to loyalty to the school, as discipline and kindness amongst children was borne of the deep 'family' feeling that was fostered. Staff were addressed by first names, older children were very involved with younger children, lots of cross-age group activites, discipline and good behaviour arose from mutual respect amongst staff and all pupils. there was very little bullying. The school engendered good behaviour, rather than enforcing compliance with rules. An inner-city London community primary in a 'rough' area with excellent academic results.

The kids just wore 'ordinary' clothes, no great fashion parades, most girls in jeans and tops, no one took much notice.

Now they are at a secondary with a strict unifom policy and detentions for everything. The school also has good discipline and is high achieving, but there is resentment and a certain cynicism and 'wha'ever' towards detentions. The uniform is fine, but uncomfortable.

I prefer a uniform-free school, but am not bothered that there is a polyester outfit now. But the importance of uniform on behaviour is wildl over-rated.

Most high schools in the U.S have no uniform, and yet their business dress code is much stricter than ours.

NamingOfParts Fri 16-Nov-12 17:17:22

I don’t have a problem with uniform. In a military setting it has two criteria to meet 1) make everyone look exactly the same 2) provide practical workwear.

It meets both of those criteria but it does so by following the maxim that uniform isn’t uniform unless it is uniform. I am always impressed by just how practical the cadet kit is. It still manages to look tidy even when they have all but lived in it for several days. Of course they are volunteers so agree to the rules.

School uniform is different. Blazers, especially the nylon sort, are hopelessly impractical, a sponge lined with a plastic bag. If there isn’t a set kit with a set way of wearing it (as the cadets have) then students will find a way of individualising the uniform. They aren’t volunteers so it is far harder to strenuously enforce uniform without being unreasonable.

To my mind school uniform doesn’t teach students to dress smartly. Instead it teaches students to dress without thought – wear the appropriate items (blazer, tie, shirt, black shoes) and no matter how ragged these are they are in uniform.

goralka Fri 16-Nov-12 17:22:05

uniform is a PITA no doubt, this morning was a delight as a non-uniform day - children were dressed and out of the house in double quick time wearing jeans and hoodies.
I do wonder if all those bright eyed graduates who went into teaching for all the right reasons imagined they would be spending their days yelling at people about the texture or colour of their trousers....

BackforGood Fri 16-Nov-12 17:34:30

Agree with the first two replies, tbh.

SoggyMoggy Fri 16-Nov-12 17:52:27

I live in the States, so my knowledge of uniform in schools is admittedly limited. Based on reading threads on Primary about how much uniform to buy, I've got to say uniform seems a heck of a lot kinder on the wallet. Individual pieces cost more, but compared to the number of them you need, it's absurd how much cheaper uniform comes out. Sure, a week's worth of non-uniform clothes should theoretically do as well as a week's worth of uniform, but in practice having only five outfits or so in rotation is an engraved invitation for your child to be mocked and bullied in the schools I have attended/taught in.

goralka Fri 16-Nov-12 18:35:22

hmm you do have a point of course soggymoggy - my children attended a non uniform school for a while and there were these repulsive children in full official football kit every day who would check the labels of any football shirt worn and declare them 'fake' very loudly and shout 'chav!'....

Ragwort Fri 16-Nov-12 18:41:17

I much prefer a school uniform - even with a dress 'code' there will be children (and parents) pushing the rules all the time, as they do anyway with the uniform but at least it makes it slightly simpler.

Our sixth form is meant to be dress code but whatever dress code allowes laddered tights with very brief denim shorts on size 18 girls shock - yes I may sound size-ist but I am size 18 and try to dress carefully grin.

Far too much time/energy/cost spent on some children's appearance and agree about the 'sneering' if you're not wearing the 'right' sort of make. My DS had a non-uniform day today and fortunately he doesn't really care what he wears but to see some of the pupils - you would think it was a fashion contest as to who could outdo who with their latest brands/styles etc.

NamingOfParts Fri 16-Nov-12 19:21:30

LaVolcan - your comment about cadet uniform reminded me of a conversation I overheard at cadets the other night - two of the adult staff, both former regulars, discussing whether MTP kit should have creases ironed in or not!

I would be interested to know if there has been any research into school uniform. Changing the school uniform seems to feature on page 1 of the 'new broom' head teacher's manual.

I do wonder whether the assumptions about school uniform are actually true. My parents had no sense of fashion. This meant that my mother thought nothing of accepting second hand clothes on my behalf - this included school uniform - it showed! I was bullied at school - not badly but I was fat, spotty, smelly and shy (puberty hit in first year secondary) so I guess I was going to be bullied no matter what clothes I wore.

NamingOfParts Fri 16-Nov-12 19:25:43

Mufti day is the curse of the fashionably inept - I hated it. I dont think that mufti day is typical though once the novelty wears off.

louisianablue2000 Fri 16-Nov-12 19:37:07

i went to schools with no uniform, my secondary school was one of the top state schools in the country. I do not understand the obsession with school uniform and FWIW DD1 has become much more aware of gender differences since she moved from her ununiformed nursery to her uniformed school. Apparently trousers and jumpers are now for boys. I can't help but think if her school was ununiformed all the kids would be in jeans and T-shirts just like mine was and she would be as ignorant about gender expectations as she ever was.

confuddledDOTcom Fri 16-Nov-12 20:16:27

I have a 3yo in a preschool that is more of a school than a nursery. They have a school jumper and she wanted to wear uniform like her sister. It's so much easier, it's kept only for nursery, she doesn't get it bad at the weekends and it doesn't matter if she messes it up at nursery. I don't think it's that expensive either, when you can get a bundle for £15.

Only problem we have is she is in 2-3 clothes which don't exist in uniform so she wears 3-4 turned up to the knees and pulled into a bustle at the waist!

Mutteroo Sun 18-Nov-12 01:05:27

It's more important to have a good Head Teacher & senior management team than to have a uniform. The problem is that uniforms are being reintroduced without the other changes that are needed to bring about positive change.

NamingOfParts Sun 18-Nov-12 20:14:17

I agree Mutteroo. Both at primary and secondary we have seen new heads come in and change the uniform but really change little else.

Our experience of non-uniform schools was that the absence of uniform didnt matter.

I often hear and read the advantages of uniform quoted but have never seen any genuine research. It makes me wonder if the benefits are just assumptions. If you see a group of people dressed the same wandering around then they may acquire the look of a community without that actually being true.

Does school uniform stop bullying? My own experience was that it didnt. Bullying is far more complex than that.

motherinferior Sun 18-Nov-12 20:16:00

Mufti day is not representative, absolutely.

I hate uniform.

DD1 managed a pretty good set of SATS at a non-uniform primary. She has to wear it now, but I can't be arsed to get on her case about it, frankly.

TheBuskersDog Mon 19-Nov-12 01:19:06

My son goes to an Ofsted rated outstanding school, they do not have a uniform, my son and his friends are very proud of their school. The school has consistently had good results for many years, yet ironically previously failing schools all brought in a smart new uniform when they were forced to become academies. When a new head came to the school a major concern was that he would try and introduce a uniform, not having a uniform is part of what makes the school different.
Scoobyblue you seem to be missing the point of not having a uniform, jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirts are exactly what they wear, so actually the children get far more wear out of their clothes. It isn't like non-uniform day in other schools, the novelty wears off and nobody is bothered what everybody thinks of their outfit.

VintageRainBoots Mon 19-Nov-12 01:29:42

We're coming over from the US where our daughter didn't have school uniforms. We're actually quite glad that she will wear a uniform at her UK school. It's far cheaper to buy a few copies of the same outfit rather than dozens of different tops, jumpers, pants, skirts, etc. Plus, I believe it puts children in right frame of mind to learn the same way that proper office attire prepares an adult to work.

Startail Mon 19-Nov-12 02:11:22

I hate uniform, just feels all wrong.
l just want them to learn, not get detention for not doing up their ties, which are surely, the most ridiculous things on the planet.

Hoddies, jeans and trainers is what most DCs would settle to in 3 months and the teachers would save hours of wasted nagging!

mathanxiety Mon 19-Nov-12 06:03:25

I agree they are silly and impractical and don't achieve the effect desired. I also have a nagging feeling that in militarising (even ineffectively) the student body they run counter to what educators should be trying to achieve in the classroom.

The older DCs went to parochial school and then public high school in the US. Uniform in the parochial school was a far cry from the stuffy British version of a uniform -- blue tones plaid pinafore to age ten and then plaid skirt from ten to fourteen, with white polo shirt under both pinafore and skirt, white socks, and gym shoes or formal shoes in brown or black for wearing to class. Most chose the gym shoes. For boys it was light blue polo shirt and navy pants and again the choice of gym shoes or formal shoes. Little children to age 8 wore their gym uniform to school on gym days (saved time changing). Gym uniform for boys and girls alike was black or navy shorts and white or commemorative t-shirts the students got when they did the annual sponsored run to benefit the school. No fussy blazers or school coats or the dreaded ties.

By the time the DCs got to 14 they hated the uniform and couldn't wait to cast it off. Individualising it was a preoccupation of the girls and preventing individualising of it was the preoccupation of one teacher in particular -- massive waste of energy imo, and the older students (aged up to 14) chafed at this. Very good school academically, but there was that element of control there that wasn't really necessary. The parents were motivated, it was a fee paying (parish schools are not free in the US), and very interested in seeing results. Pastoral care was great -- good atmosphere, very little bullying, school very proactive in nipping issues in the bud. School had great sports teams too, and that brought the student body together. They were very proud of wearing their sports uniforms.

There were also rules about jewellery, nail polish, makeup, hair colour, hair length.

For high school there was a dress code: no offensive slogans on clothing, no hats or baseball caps worn inside the building (yarmulkes and veils were fine), no clothing deemed too revealing, no clothing with bared midriff, no underwear visible. There was a gym uniform consisting of shorts and t shirt that students bought from the school each year, cost about $10, and you had to use a school issued swimsuit (speedo itsy bitsy trunks for boys and one piece for girls) for swim class. Sports teams also had school issued uniforms and gear. The DCs loved the school and felt very loyal to it. Maybe that is the nature of teens if they are happy where they are? . It was an outstanding high school, nurtured the 'whole student', sent hordes of students to Ivy League and 'Public Ivy' universities every year.

When it came to jewellery, hair colour, nail polish, hair length, makeup -- you could do whatever you wanted.

goralka Mon 19-Nov-12 07:49:56

Uniform in the parochial school was a far cry from the stuffy British version of a uniform -- blue tones plaid pinafore to age ten and then plaid skirt from ten to fourteen, with white polo shirt under both pinafore and skirt, white socks, and gym shoes or formal shoes in brown or black for wearing to class
a 'far cry from stuffy' - are you sure?
not all british attend private schools with blazer and tie thanks.

LaVolcan Mon 19-Nov-12 08:53:11

The ties business is a funny one. Ties were definitely out of fashion in the 80s and 90s. The three comprehensives local to me have just re-introduced them for both boys and girls. All part of the back to the 1950s ethos, that Gove and others are so fond of, as far as I can see. Meanwhile, two local private schools have both recently changed their uniforms and not reintroduced them - although going by photos they had them 20-30 years ago.

I am glad that my daughter, at one of the comprehensives, just had to wear a navy skirt/trousers, white blouse, navy jumper - perfectly sensible, practical and smart, and at my son's (different) comprehensive no tie in the summer - which he liked.

monica77798 Mon 19-Nov-12 10:25:37

I think uniforms are good because not every family has a lot of money, and without uniforms some of the kids from poorer families might get picked on because of their clothes. Uniforms bring a bit of equality to school.

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