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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?

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.

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