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.

moonbells Mon 19-Nov-12 11:41:24

Our local community college (11+ area) just turned Academy, had name change, uniform change, the works. They reintroduced blazers at the request of the students.

I just wish I knew who had decided the ties should have luminous green and black stripes... shock

I'm glad we have uniform at my DS's primary; makes it so much easier to get him dressed in a morning, and I don't have a houseful of Disney/Marvel/DC/Dreamworks themed crap clothing. At least not much. And I don't have to argue that he can't wear a Batman costume to school. grin

Blu Mon 19-Nov-12 11:51:01

Why couldn't he go in his Batman outfit? Children in Reception at DSD's school regularly appeared in Spiderman outfits etc!

A bit of play dressing at 4 years old doesn't seem such a bad thing, and doesn't seem to have stopped anyone having learned to read.

The academic results of DS's community school, no uniform, spiderman outfits allowed, calling teachers by first names, have been neck and neck with a Catholic primary which requires caps, white shirts, ties, socks with stripes., pinafore dresses, girls hats, proper blazers (not polyester).

I was very happy DS had no uniform, I also thought the children with smart uniform looked great.

ByTheWay1 Mon 19-Nov-12 11:51:21

mmm - our secondary uses uniform as an additional "discipline" type tool - you have to wear it and it has to be worn correctly or you will get a uniform demerit - 3 and you get detention.

It does work - the kids think about how they look, they know certain behaviour leads to detention and it does seem to improve overall behaviour. But..... it is a "good" school....

Waspie Mon 19-Nov-12 11:58:37

My son has only just started reception and wears a simply uniform of grey trousers and white polo shirt with a school jumper. It's great - so much easier than the shirts and ties I had to wear when I first started school.

School uniform is also cheaper to buy and, as moonbells says I don't end up with loads of themed clothing and arguments about whether it's okay to wear a superhero/star wars outfits to school.

Also isn't uniform about allowing others to identify which school a child is from if they are being PITAs? When I was at school the local newsagent/bus driver/neighbour could tell which school the child who was giving them grief came from and go and complain to the school if necessary.

picturesinthefirelight Mon 19-Nov-12 12:07:04

I went to a secondary school without a uniform. It was awful if you didn't have the right clothes/brands. Even down to whether you had pods or shoes.

I'm very glad my children's school has a strict uniform. The girls wear a matching skirt and fitted jacket and an open collar blouse. Ok it's a pain it has to come from a set supplier but it looks really smart and everyone is equal. It also lasts and lasts so no stigma about 2nd hand.

NamingOfParts Mon 19-Nov-12 12:57:37

But is that in fact true monica77798? Do students get picked on because of their clothes? Does uniform bring equality if the rich kids get a new blazer every year and the poorer ones wear the same one until their wrists are hanging out of it?

VintageRainBoots, why does school uniform put students into the frame of mind for learning? Where is the evidence for this? What is it about putting on a nylon blazer that makes a student better able to learn than one wearing a sweatshirt.

I really would like to know what the evidence is to support school uniform. We are quoted assumptions about pride, equality, etc but how much of this is really true?

My DD has now gone into 6th form. No uniform and a very light touch dress code pretty much as MathAnxiety describes (no offensive slogans, no bare midrifs, no underwear showing). Anarchy has not broken out.

mathanxiety Tue 20-Nov-12 01:58:14

Goralka, no elementary school that I know of in the US had students wear ties, even those that required a uniform. Granted I did not live in every little corner of the US but when Americans think of a British school uniform a tie features prominently in the image that is conjured up. I knew no private school in Ireland when I was growing up that did not require a tie (I wore one from age 4 to age 12) and now that even National Schools in Ireland are more and more using a uniform, a tie is often de rigeur.

goralka Tue 20-Nov-12 10:38:10

primary schools in the UK usually have a polo shirt and sweatshirt no matter what is in the minds of americans.

confuddledDOTcom Tue 20-Nov-12 11:13:16

mathanxiety - you've given me a laugh this morning! My school uniform at secondary school was bottle green trousers or skirt, no rules on length, white polo shirt and a green jumper of cardigan. We could get a school one or buy a badge to sew on but it wasn't necessary. In Year 11 we could choose a black round neck sweatshirt.

My daughter's uniform at primary school is black/ grey/ navy trousers/ skirt/ pinafore. White/ blue/ yellow shirt/ blouse/ polo shirt. Blue cardigan/ jumper/ sweatshirt. There is a school tie for those who wish to wear them, my daughter has a couple on elastic which she wears if she wants to go a little more formal. They don't tend to say much about the uniform until you get into Year 6 but that's about preparing for secondary school.

At our school a lot of uniform is donated back to the school and then we have uniform sales where you can buy a nearly new jumper for £3. We don't have issues of children wearing scruffy uniforms because everyone knows how to get cheap uniform if they need it - although Tesco/ Asda/ Matalan etc are all pretty cheap anyway. The school also doesn't have uniform through places like Clive Marks and sells branded stuff themselves so we can get brand new uniform pretty cheap. Can you imagine sending a child to school in second hand clothes that someone had also worn to school when it's not uniform? A lot harder to hide.

NamingOfParts Tue 20-Nov-12 12:35:38

I think that school uniform is not at all about the students but about the parents. It taps into the parental psyche about a theoretical golden era in education (my guess around the 50s/early 60s). School uniform is quite deliberately old fashioned. School uniform apes this golden era.

It isn’t smart work wear (how many people outside of a holiday camp wear a blazer to work). Looking around my accounting office of around 30 people (evenly split m/f) only 2 people are wearing ties.

So what then is the purpose of school uniform? I think that with the recent uniform changes as part of ‘new broom’ heads sweeping clean the uniform is a cipher for a good school. A number of years ago some schools were tuned around by new head teachers. Real management changes were made, schools were reborn. As a symbol of this new uniforms were introduced.
There appears to be no budget left for schools to make real changes. Now all we are left with are the uniforms.

Myliferocks Tue 20-Nov-12 12:38:23

My DD went to a school that had blazers and ties. She loved it!
Within 3 days of starting college back in september she was wishing she was back in school uniform as she didn't have to think about which clothes to wear then.

AngelsWithSilverWings Tue 20-Nov-12 12:56:29

I'm all for school uniform as it does work out cheaper than buying jeans etc and it makes life easier getting ready in the morning.

I do hate blazers though. They look cheap and nasty and must be so uncomfortable. They are also expensive considering they are made from cheap material.

The smart polo shirt and a jumper with the school badge on that my primary school kids wear is so much smarter and more comfortable.

I don't see why kids have to suddenly start wearing a blazer as soon as they get to secondary school.

Lancelottie Tue 20-Nov-12 16:07:52

I'm struggling to think of any (state) schools around here that have ties. One has blazers but worn with a polo shirt, I think.

Ah -- yes, there's the one that was in special measures. That kind of fits the OP's theory.

mathanxiety Tue 20-Nov-12 16:53:38

I have seen students wearing second hand clothes to a school that didn't require a uniform -- my own DCs and most of their friends, who bought them from the Salvation Army and Goodwill and places like Plato's Closet. They also swapped clothes among themselves, and wore clothes from older siblings. Because spanking clean uniform was not the order of the day and the school had over 3,000 students each with his or her own taste, nobody bothered 'hiding' what they were wearing or emphasising what they were wearing. I think it's hard for parents used to the British emphasis on appearance to understand how fast students get over the whole 'dressing for show' thing and settle down to wearing whatever is on the top of the heap in the morning when they go to a school where anything goes and live in a culture where class markers are different. Using clothing as a means of showing the Joneses you are not falling behind with the rent is not an American middle class thing; it's much more of a ghetto thing, along with conspicuous consumption on hair and nails.

The parish school did an official uniform exchange every year -- you brought whatever you were getting rid of and even if you didn't you could go and rummage and get whatever you needed for free. There was also an ongoing uniform go round among families. Actually, there were always clothing bags circulating -- I used to bag up clothes the DCs grew out of and send them to a friend, who used to send whatever she didn't want on its merry way. In turn I got clothes from all points and rebagged and sent out once I had picked through them. I bought very few clothes, jackets, snowboots, etc., new for the DCs. This was an affluent suburb of a major city. Wearing a 'scruffy' uniform there wasn't something that would be commented upon. Most students had splotches of acrylic paint (art teacher insisted on using non washable paint) in the places where the art smocks didn't reach. Most uniforms were taken in or out for years with varying degrees of skill and a lot of parents repaired hems with a stapler.

mathanxiety Tue 20-Nov-12 17:07:48

Bad school improves with uniform in Glasgow.

Good school in bad area has a uniform. It is also an all male school, in contrast with public schools. The issues identified and addressed by the founder of Urban Prep were lack of community and family male leadership (outside of gangs), a culture that was hostile to education and macho to the point of young males actively resisting authority in schools.

In the high school my DCs attended none of this was a major issue.

NamingOfParts Tue 20-Nov-12 17:26:12

I can see that schools change and that particularly where the school has had a bad local image a change of image is important but what I would like to see is if it was the pride in the school which leads to the pride in the uniform or vice versa.

There have been lots of these sorts af articles - normally the Head accompanied by a handful of students saying how proud they are to wear the uniform. The Head at my DCs school did precisely the same. You could actually see the Head's progress through the special measures schools in the area (they all ended up in the same uniform just a different badge!).

Problem is that a few years down the line the school teeters on the brink of special measures once more. The new broom has changed the uniform and other than that mostly just swept the dust around.

I would like to see more than just anecdotal evidence on the effectiveness of school uniform. I would like to see more effort put into researching how to turn schools around, not just a quick change in uniform.

Focusing on a uniform change alone is patronising and cheapens the efforts of Heads and management teams who are making real differences to their schools.

mathanxiety Tue 20-Nov-12 17:42:19

You don't see the excellent schools that don't wear uniforms held up as examples because they are plugging away quietly, focusing on what their community expects them to and producing results year after year for 120 + years. But there are thousands of them all over the US.

pointythings Tue 20-Nov-12 21:11:29

math your link does not show cause and effect between the introduction of the uniform and the improvement. There was also a change of leadership - correlation =|= causation.

monica a lot of school uniform is not cheap, as schools have rip-off deals with tied suppliers. Instead of allowing students to wear a plain white polo for example, which you can get in any supermarket or department store in multipacks (and fair trade/ethically sourced if you wish) for about £4 per shirt (if you are choosing the posh option), you will be paying £10 or more for one piece of polyester crap with the logo on it because you have no choice. I hate it.

I see so many countries in Europe which have no school uniform, and where the outcomes in education are better than they are in the UK, that the uniform argument just fails to convince me. And clearly these students are perfectly capable of taking pride in their school. Must be something in the European water supply then...

As for preparing to learn/preparing for the world of work - save me! Soooo... First we make them wear uniform until 16. Then if they go onto 6th form, they are often allowed to wear non-uniform. Our local secondary recommends 'business dress' but this is not enforced. One of the highest-performing 6th form colleges near where I work makes no such recommendations, and you see students wearing allsorts, behaving well and achieving well. And then they go to uni - no uniform there either.

Then these young people are able to join the world of work pretty effectively. Clearly all because they wore uniform in the very distant past hmm.

The bullying argument cuts no ice either- bullies will always find some reason to pick on someone.

Pyrrah Tue 20-Nov-12 22:44:07

Love uniform.

I went to one school where we had a winter uniform, but in the summer any blue dress was fine. OMG it was hell - the competition over which brand, how cool or otherwise etc. I was small for my age and since I didn't hit puberty till 17 I was also obviously flat-chested - the only blue dresses that my parents could find that fitted were in Debenhams children's department and were what looks sweet on a 7 year-old but not too cool on a 14 year-old. I was tormented for several years over them by both boys and girls. I was over the moon when they brought in a uniform dress in my 3rd year there.

St Pauls Girls School in London doesn't have uniform at all - I believe an old headmistress said that uniform taught girls how to dress badly (or some such thing). They get 49% to Oxbridge so I don't see that it has much effect on grades.

I have never understood ties and shirts - or shiny polyester blazers. One school I was at had navy roll-necks in Winter and short-sleeved polo shirts in the summer. We had white shirts and ties for special occasions - speech day, music competitions etc. It is nearly impossible to make roll-necks or polo shirts look sloppy - shirts and ties are so easy to make look hideous.

One of the schools round here got the girls to design their own uniform - they have pale pink shirts with navy skirts and navy blazers with pink linings. One of the muslim girls got a relative to produce headscarves in navy with a pink band at the front to match the uniform. It looks very pretty.

I do love seeing some of the London preps when they go round museums etc - some of the uniforms are very whacky: Hill House with the gold jumpers and rust knickerbockers for starters. But there is a girls school with pink and grey that is gorgeous!

NamingOfParts Wed 21-Nov-12 12:41:21

I think the headmistress at St Pauls got it absolutely right. So many times I have heard people say that they like school uniform because it means they/their children dont have to think what to wear.

This is probably okay in early primary school but surely as children come to the later years of primary they should be starting to learn to dress appropriately for the content of their day. In this I think that school uniform does them no favours. It teaches young people to simply blindly follow a code.

Nylon blazer/white shirt/tie is seldom appropriate dress when you consider the activities in a secondary school:
- moving from class to class in all weather (nylon blazers are hot in summer, cold in winter and absorb rain like sponges)
- ties are a liability in technology science and art classes
- white shirts are simply magnets for chemicals, art materials etc

Quite honestly army fatigues would be more practical.

I'm afraid that I do not think that 'pretty' should be an aim for a school uniform for girls. I think that it teaches a lot of very negative lessons to girls. I do also think that uniforms which encourage girls to wear skirts/pinafores are encouraging girls in an old fashioned and essentially sexist stereotype. By wearing skirts to school girls are dissuaded from actively participating in all aspects of lessons:

- not wanting to reach for things
- not wanting to bend over to pick things up
- worrying in lessons that someone can/will look up their skirt

Pyrrah Wed 21-Nov-12 23:56:49

I don't see what is wrong with a pretty uniform? What negative lesson does that teach? You can bet that with no uniform a lot of girls will be spending an enormous amount of time thinking about their looks and what various clothes do for them. I remember at boarding school the agonising about what to wear after-school and the all-afternoon preparations for the school discos that went on.

My DD already has far more interest in clothes than I would like.

I also doubt that every girl would want to wear trousers. My secondary school had a smart casual no-uniform rule for the 6th form - don't think I ever wore trousers, I liked skirts and dresses.

Judging by the amount school skirts get hoiked up by their wearers I don't think many of them are that worried about someone seeing their knickers - or at least not enough to not roll the waistband over several times!

psychomum5 Thu 22-Nov-12 00:20:05

I don;t mind uniform, but why does it all have to be from one shop only, and each piece be set.

What is wrong with it being black trousers (for boys AND girls as they are warmer and more practical), a white polo shirt, and a jumper in the school colour, knitted by grandma, and so warm and cosy in these horrid cold days.

My children have to have set shirts/blouses (so no buying multi-packs for pennies from tesco), set pinstriped skirts, a logo'd jumper, a blazer, and a tie for my boys. And it all costs stupid money, and falls apart in the first term. Indeed, I was sewing the cuff/collar bit back on to the neck of DS1's jumper just last weekendhmm.

Oh, and I would LOVE to know how socks make a difference. DS2 loves funky socks. ones with eyes on. ones with stripes. ones with monster feet.

I have had a letter telling me that he is not allowed to wear them anymore and must wear regulation grey socks, as it distracts from his learning.


they are hidden by his shoes, and his long black trousers. they are not on show and stuck to his head, whereby he would be clowning about and yes, dsitracting himself (and the class) from learning.

mathanxiety Thu 22-Nov-12 01:14:08

Pointythings, I know. People assume uniforms have magical properties. I see Emperor's New Clothes syndrome.

Pyrrah -- my DDs were in their parochial school to age 14, wearing their uniforms every day. The reason they spent soooooo long preparing for the school dances and felt they had to spend sooooo much money for outfits for the school dances was imo because they were simply blown away by the idea of expressing their own taste in clothes while spending time with their peers in school, for once. When they arrived in high school they were happy to throw on pretty much anything that was clean for school daily. The importance of clothes vanished almost overnight.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Thu 22-Nov-12 01:38:50

DS has to wear a uniform, but it's a sensible, slack dress code variety - blue or white shirt or polo shirt, grey trousers (skirt or pinafore option for girls but they can wear trousers too) and blue jumper, which can be plain or you can buy one with the school logo on if you want. That seems sort of fair enough to me: suggests to the DC that 'now you're at school and should think school-type thoughts' without being pointlessly pissy about things like sock colours and ties and blazers.
When it comes to picking a secondary school, a red flag/avoid for me would be 'very strict uniform rules'. Because that would suggest an obsession with conformity and obedience, which is not what I want DS to learn.

Lancelottie Thu 22-Nov-12 08:40:21

I think you have a point there, Solid.

We pulled DS out of a 'blazer and trimmings' type of school which blamed his problems with bullies on the fact that he didn't seem to try hard enough to fit in. He's happy (and unbullied) at a sweatshirt-and-polos school a few miles away -- same area, same sort of intake, different ethos.

"I don;t mind uniform, but why does it all have to be from one shop only, and each piece be set.

What is wrong with it being black trousers (for boys AND girls as they are warmer and more practical), a white polo shirt, and a jumper in the school colour, knitted by grandma, and so warm and cosy in these horrid cold days."

What's wrong with it, is endless back-and-forth between kids, teachers and parents with trousers that are really more like jeans, and a white shirt that isn't really a polo shirt and is too tight, and a low-cut revealing jumper, etc. If the rules aren't fairly strict they just get broken, and a simple way to try to enforce them is to say that the uniform has to be from one (or preferably 2 or 3) shop(s).

goralka Thu 22-Nov-12 08:55:40

oh come on a polo shirt is a polo shirt. I really resent having to pay £10 for one with a logo on it from a specific shop when they come in packs of three for a couple of quid each. as so much 'education'it is just anti-parent.

ByTheWay1 Thu 22-Nov-12 09:23:45

Our secondary has a very strict uniform policy - it is one of the (many) reasons we chose it for our first choice school.. - I do like that the school has a bit of an obsession with obedience - the school has no problems with disruption in class - unlike the other school where pretty much anything goes... Sometimes the ethos goes through the whole school.

Lancelottie Thu 22-Nov-12 09:49:46

If DD's school wants all uniform from the same shop they can try to find something in that shop that fits her. I'm not doing it. I struggle enough to come up with 'roughly the right colour' (in this case a very tall, hipless, round tummied child; but same probs with her beanpole brother, who practically has to pleat his trousers round his midriff as he cold probably get both legs down one leg hole).

Bytheway: presumably it works at your school, but at DS's te atitude was very much 'Gosh, people are picking on you? I wonder what it is about YOU that makes them do that?'

Lancelottie Thu 22-Nov-12 09:49:57

Gah, can't type this morning!

Lancelottie Thu 22-Nov-12 09:53:45

DS1 is at 6th form now, where it's much easier to kit him out as he can wear skinny jeans (which still bag on him, admittedly). The dress code is 'covered, clean, decent' which seems to work.

Some of the sixth forms in town specify 'business dress'. Well, for one of our most successful friends, that would be cycling shorts and bare feet (was a bit startled by that one when I met him in the office!)

WhoWhatNow Thu 22-Nov-12 10:04:23

My dds go to primary school and they wear a uniform - recently changed to blue shirt/tie/v neck jumper/grey skirt/pinafore/trousers. The jumper costs £12, the tie came free with the jumper and everything else can be bought from wherever you want.

I have noticed since dd2 started P1 that I haven't had to get her new clothes as often - she is wearing the uniform for so long during the day,she usually just keeps bits and pieces of it on until bath time.

MerryMarigold Thu 22-Nov-12 10:08:15

In my dd's case it stops agonising over what to wear and makes it a lot quicker to get ready for school. I dread the day when uniform is over. You get into co-ordinating outfits etc. I think they're essential for secondary.

I agree with uniforms bringing equality. Even if there is a simple dress code, some people may only be able to afford a couple of skirts and others will never wear the same thing twice. Very few parents would buy 6 or 7 different uniform skirts, but someone could easily have that many skirts/ trousers.

NamingOfParts Thu 22-Nov-12 12:25:55

The proportion of girls who make their uniform skirts revealing is fairly small – at least in my experience. To my mind this is the sort of thing that a simple dress code should deal with.

Encouraging pretty uniforms for girls is in my opinion part of the objectification of girls. It is encouraging girls to dress for school so that they ‘look nice’ rather than that they dress for the rigours of a school day. It is encouraging girls to be ornamental and not necessarily practical.

What I keep seeing even on this thread is that school uniform is a convenience to parents. There seems to be no real evidence that it improves behaviour or attainment.

I suspect that in schools with strict uniform policy the uniform is used as a way of quickly identifying those students (and their parents) who the school feels dont belong. Very much a 'fit in or eff off' attitude. This is fine in the independant sector - you pay your money and take your choice. However I think that this is intrinsically wrong in the state sector. In the state sector we largely have no choice.

Pyrrah Thu 22-Nov-12 14:08:21

I don't think that those who dislike uniform will change their views or vice-versa.

Personally I am more inclined to chose a school with a strict uniform-code than one with no uniform.

So if a pretty uniform objectifies girls, does an unattractive one (and crikey there are some awful ones round here - peppermint shirts with brown jumpers and skirts) have the opposite effect?

Anyone who thinks that the majority of girls won't dress to look nice is kidding themselves. Uniform or no uniform. We are biologically destined to seek to make ourselves more attractive - as are all animals (and birds, fish etc).

I'd also prefer my daughter to think that trying to get away with a blue jumper instead of maroon is enough of a rebellion that she doesn't go for more extreme methods of shocking me. I believe in giving children strong boundaries to kick against.

weegiemum Thu 22-Nov-12 14:17:46

I'm a teacher (might be relevant)

I think primary school uniform is a waste of time. Blazers for 6 year olds? Get over it!!

But at secondary (dd1 just went to high school this year, and I'm a secondary teacher by training, though I work in adult ed now) - I like it. Kids still customise it, but there's no fashion police going on. Maybe with shies, but no one cares if your school shirt is from asda, tesco, M&S or John Lewis. We have a school issue embroidered jersey, so no arguing there!

I'd do away with it at primary (if it wasn't a polo shirt and trackies - my younger kids school is shirt and tie!) but keep it for high school.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Thu 22-Nov-12 14:19:44

I also think that it's going to depend on what the school considers the uniform to be 'for'. If it's about practicality (comfortable, hardwearing clothes and shoes that mean no need to think too much about what to put on in the morning) then fair enough. But the more pissy the uniform (ties, fiddly fastenings, hats, impractical blazers, an obsession with sock colours etc) the more likely the aim is to make the children submit and conform - and also, if it can only be bought from one expensive shop, to keep the common, poor families away.

MerryMarigold Thu 22-Nov-12 14:23:35

I am not interested in school simply from a point of view of behaviour and attainment. It should be a happy, relaxed place. I really think an element uniform (not ridiculously strict with blazers, ties etc.) helps that. I agree some state schools are a bit ridiculous about it (polo shirts embroidered with school logo for a silly price, ties on 4 yr olds, black shoes only, no trainers, and blazers) and I would agree with your argument there that it helps people 'stand out' if they haven't adhered to it. Our school is v relaxed, basically a red jumper, grey skirt/ trousers and white polo top. That, for me, is ideal.

hellymelly Thu 22-Nov-12 14:24:49

I LOATHE school uniforms. I spend a vast amount of cash on stuff in ugly colours that don't suit my children, and polo shirts made of nasty synthetics that will end up in landfill. I didn't have a primary school uniform, I wasn't any less interested in learning than my dds. Its just a moneymaker for schools. Oh and my dds head said she "wouldn't recognise any of them" without it confused. I suppose I can vaguely see the argument for uniforms in secondary school, but even then I would prefer to see the children in normal clothes instead of drudging about in grey with maroon acrylic jumpers <shudders>.

mathanxiety Thu 22-Nov-12 21:54:11

I have to say as the mother of a DS as well as DDs, it made my teeth itch to see the difference between the girls' uniform price and what I paid for DS's. The boys could get navy trousers and blue polo shirts from anywhere. There was no school logo on the shirt. You could get whole packets of them for a school year. The girls' uniform had to be bought from two suppliers -- hence the amount of swoppage. The older girls' polo shirts had banded bottoms and they pretty much had to be bought from the suppliers too as they were hard to find. The reason to have the banded bottom white polos was to deal with the so called problem of girls untucking their ordinary polo shirts from their skirts and wearing them outside the top of the skirts. This was done by the girls to conceal the fact that their skirts were rolled up.. Kerrrrraaaaazyyy.

The difference in cost of outfitting a girl (if you bought the uniform and didn't use a hand me down) and a boy was substantial.

NamingOfParts Fri 23-Nov-12 13:30:28

We have had experience both of uniform and non-uniform (roughly 50/50). I agree with Pyrrah that views arent changed by argument but certainly ours were changed by experience. When DD started at school in the UK we were very keen on uniform. However, we moved abroad and DCs went to non-uniform school. The novelty value wore off after about a week.

When we returned to the UK school uniform did feel strange and still does. The nonesensical restrictions about tie wearing no matter the weather. The weird obsession with proper black shoes. My DCs all walked a mile or more to school so wore out their shoes far quicker than they grew out of them. No way was I sending DD to school in pretty princess patent leather school shoes - they would have looked like a dog had chewed them by the end of the week.

Mathanxiety, I agree about the cost of school uniform but the other problem is availability. You can buy cheap uniform in the official 'back to school' season but you are on your own if one of your DC decides to have a mid-year growth spurt.

MerryMarigold Sun 25-Nov-12 22:14:27

M and S do uniform all year round, and it is reasonable though not on a par with supermarkets. I generally have to top up a little with M and S but it's still cheaper than most clothes.

Remotecontrolduck Thu 29-Nov-12 02:24:57

I think it would be better to instil a sense of acceptance in children of those who are different from an early age. Making everyone 'equal' artificially isn't really sorting the problem. We have a serious issue with bullying in UK schools, yet virtually all of them wear uniform.

And of course, uniform doesn't even do that. Kids know who has the tatty old blazer. Who doesn't style their hair in a 'trendy' way. Who has unfashionable or old scuffed shoes.

Non uniform days are a complete red herring too, of course students will go to town on their outfit when they only have a couple of days per year to show it off!

I'd much rather an absolute zero tolerance approach on bullying of every kind from day 1 of school to be honest, than pretending everything is great because you have a load of kids in ill fitting polyester blazers

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