In response to Janet on uniforms here is an article
I prepared earlier (in 2006 to be precise). I thought I would re-post it since it answers her question and, although I would defend an individual schools rights to choose whether to have a uniform or not, I haven't really changed my view
"It is almost thirty five years since my secondary school voted on whether to abolish our uniform.
The clear verdict to ditch the itchy tunic, purse belt, beret and, most liberating of all , the check summer dress sticks in my mind as one of the most significant days of my school life.
Why? Was it the power being given to pupils to make a choice? Was it the transformational effect it had on the school as the girls blossomed into some of the most eclectically dressed and stylish in North London, (with no discernable negative effect on its results).
Or was it just a loathing of the dreary duplication of 700 girls in bottle green – a colour least likely to flatter even the most ravishing student.
Since then I have done the uniform thing on and off as a parent. With one child left in a rare non uniform secondary school, the letter home I most dread is the one that explains it is being brought back.
The government likes to talk about ridding our school system of the ‘deadening hand of uniformity’, but surely dressing every child identically in what are usually poorish quality, badly designed clothes while schools are supposed to be encouraging diversity is one of the most bizarre contradictions of the lot.
Uniforms supposedly breed pride in a school, stimulate good behaviour and raise standards. Yet most of the evidence to support these ‘theories’ is anecdotal.
What properly controlled research would probably show is that uniforms are introduced alongside improved leadership, better , more consistent behaviour management and higher aspirations, which are the real reason standards and behaviour change and pupils feel differently about their schools.
The idea that a uniform alone could achieve this is absurd and disproved by the fact that most of our continental neighbours manage achievement levels that outstrip ours without a uniform in sight.
Then there are the equally dubious equality arguments. Uniform is a great leveller apparently, apart from the fact that the average secondary school uniform costs £280 and the supply chain has become such a racket that the Office of Fair Trading has launched an investigation into it.
Maybe the OFT could also look into what support is available to poor families to meet this spiralling cost and then establish how many children stay off school because they don’t have the required clothes?
In fact uniforms play a formidable but subtle role in the school hierarchy. The cost, often announced at the secondary transfer meeting, can act as a powerful deterrent to some parents while offering schools an effective tool of ‘self selection’
Uniforms of the so called ‘better’ schools are easily recognised investing status rather than equality into their wearers in the same way as the uniform of a poorly regarded school demonises its pupils.
Why else would the pre pubescent prep school pupils of South West London consent to walk the streets in corduroy knickerbockers and boaters if it weren’t to advertise they fact that they were in some way superior to their peers?
They aren’t necessarily easier for parents either. Early mornings are hell if you have washed and forgotten to dry a key item of clothing or lost it. It is simpler to change a t-shirt than conjure up a stripy tie from nowhere.
Enforcing them is a waste of teachers’ time. In his GCSE year one of my sons insisted on going to school every day in a red jumper rather than a black blazer. He was rarely challenged in what is otherwise a highly regarded and extremely popular school.
When I questioned a member of the senior management team about this, he explained apologetically that the staff had many more important things to nag the Year 11 boys about – where their coursework was for example. I couldn’t agree more but a poorly enforced uniform is much worse than no uniform at all as a symbol to the outside world.
A personalised school system would allow all young people to express their individuality through what they wear instead of trying to clone them into down market duplicates of the independent sector.
And parents – well if they really had ‘choice’ they would be able to opt their children out of wearing it."