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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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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>.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!)

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

Gah, can't type this morning!

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?'

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.

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.

NotGoodNotBad Thu 22-Nov-12 08:52:45

"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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 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!

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