I think it’s important for me to say that I am a fan of school uniform. It’s not without its flaws, but I like the fact that it puts all children on a level playing field, everyone is the same and there isn’t bullying around what labels children wear on their clothes. There is also the added benefit in the mornings that we don’t have to faff about what the children are going to wear, we can just put the uniform on and go.
But… I think it’s outdated. That it needs updating to reflect the times, times that have changed, even more considerably during the course of lockdown. The world is less formal and parenting and teaching styles less stringent.
Children go to school to learn and to play, to be educated. They have proved in lockdown and in other countries they can do this in whatever clothes they wear, so why are uniforms rules so formal? Why are they not practical and comfortable? The number of times I have cursed the white polo shirts my children have to wear in primary school, which after the first wear are never clean again. Why aren’t they a colour? So much better for hiding the stains!
We’ve got just over two years until my oldest starts secondary school and every parent I know despairs about the cost of secondary uniform, with many starting to save at least a year before the child even starts. The average price of secondary school uniform is £2-300 per child. The thing I can’t understand is why? Surely the point of school is education, not who has the strictest or most impressive uniform policy? Why are we doing this to families?
In the UK, at present, it is estimated that 34% of children shockingly live in poverty in the UK. Which is an unbelievable number. Why are we pricing them out of education? I was really glad to read that the government is backing a policy to reduce the cost of uniform, this is a great step in the right direction. But I would argue that uniform policies need totally overhauling.
Why are we making children wear blazers and ties to school? What professions truly require them anymore? I haven’t worn a blazer to work since I left school and at one point in my career, I was Head of Department in an agency, a role that required lots of customer-facing meetings. I think I can name on my fingers professions that need ties, so why do we insist all children wear them? What is the point? Blazers alone are at least £40. Then there are the draconian rules that blazers can only be removed with permission, again in what world or professional career, perhaps other than the military, do you have to ask permission to remove a jacket if you are too warm? Why are we treating our children like their comfort is not of importance? Yes we need to teach them to be presentable and take pride in their appearance, but they do not need ties in order to do this.
I believe that uniforms need to be simpler. A polo shirt and jumper is perfectly acceptable for secondary school. It is a uniform so that everyone is equal, it is smart and practical and more reflective of what people wear in modern times. If schools insist on logo items, provide the logos at a low price that people can sew them onto items, instead of asking suppliers to make and sell them at triple the cost. I would argue that young key stage one children do not need smart trousers, skirts and pinafores when they first start, give them clothes that are better for the running and playing and craft that they do. Move them to smarter clothes when they are a bit older.
Then of course there is the gender issue. Some schools still in 2021 insist the girls cannot wear trousers. What are we in the 50s? But also we know so much more about gender than ever did before. Uniform should no longer be gendered. Skirts, trousers, pinafores should be able to be worn by whatever child wants them to wear them, if a boy wants to wear a skirt why shouldn’t they, why do policies need to be different? If we’re truly striving for gender equality, it begins in the classroom and it begins with simple things like this.
My view is we need to take uniform cheaper, more practical and accessible for all. Get rid of the stuffy and embrace the practical. Uniforms haven’t changed for years, but now is a perfect time. As well as using this time to update the curriculum, we should use it to update outdated uniform policies too.