DfE can produce no academic evidence to support theory that school uniforms improve behaviour

Janet Downs's picture
The Dfe response to Freedom of Information Request revealed no empirical evidence of the link between school uniforms and behaviour. The response gave two examples:

1 Two academies who believed that the “wearing of neat clean uniform is an integral part of the schools' behaviour and discipline policies”

2 The previous government’s response to Sir Alan Steer's report (April 2009) which noted “The great majority of secondary schools find that a smart uniform helps to underpin the schools' authority and their pupils' sense of belonging.”

These examples are opinion, not fact. The DfE has presented no academic evidence that school uniforms are essential for promoting good standards of behaviour. There is, however, an academic report published in 2001 in the USA about the effects of school uniforms on behaviour. The report found that “uniform policies may indirectly affect school environment and student outcomes by providing a visible and public symbol of commitment to school improvement and reform.” However, the report’s conclusion was “that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioural problems, or attendance.” The report also found “a negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement”.

I like school uniforms, but that is my opinion. It is not fact. The DfE has based its support for school uniform on opinion. It should not. It behoves any Government to back up its policies with evidence. It has failed to do so.
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Shane Rae's picture
Sun, 13/03/2011 - 20:41

Janet, you and I see eye to eye on almost everything except this issue. I'm all for uniforms, having spent many years working in schools with and without and witnessed first hand the massive benefits to uniform.

I haven't read the report or it's response that you mention in point 2. but that IS evidence and very strong evidence at that. If the exact wording is that '...schools find that' then they are referring to findings (conclusions from investigations), not opinion. However, I would like to see their data on these 'findings'.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/03/2011 - 14:51

The Freedom of Information request asked for empirical evidence for the link between school uniforms and behaviour. That implies some kind of academic research like the 2001 report published in the USA. The Government failed to provide it. "The great majority of secondary schools..." is too vague, and the word "find" could be substituted by "believe".

I did say I personally liked uniforms. However, not all countries have them. Finland, the top-performing European country, does not have uniforms.

The lesson from this is actually wider than the usefulness of uniforms. It raises the question of just how far the Government is basing its educational policy on opinion rather than evidence. I think it is the former because Mr Gove ignores any evidence that doesn't chime with his prejudices (eg TIMSS 2007, evidence that top-performing countries are moving in the opposite direction to the one Mr Gove proposes, advice from the Head of the OECD and so on).

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 17/03/2011 - 09:55

Thanks Janet

I agree wholeheartedly about Gove's irresponsible misuse of data. I'm very surprised Opposition isn't making more of it as they could rip Gove to shreds.

Alberta, where I used to teach, also does not have a uniform. I saw the negatives there as well.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 18/03/2011 - 09:04

I think the Opposition know very well that Mr Gove uses discounted data from the OECD PISA 2000 UK survey. However, it is reluctant to challenge Mr Gove's use of distorted statistics because this might invite questions about why the 2000 PISA sampling for the UK was flawed in the first place. Mr Blair made much of these figures as the following article published last year reminds us:

'After the first PISA study in 2000, Tony Blair hailed the UK's seventh place in reading and eighth place in maths as a justification of his promise to prioritise education, insisting the country should be "very proud".'


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