Walking through Liverpool city centre this week I noticed a number of stressed out mums and dads having very, shall we say, persuasive conversations with their teenagers about (I can only presume) their school uniform.
But what is the point of a school uniform? It’s expensive, itchy, restrictive and made from one of the least eco-friendly materials on the planet.
It’s also difficult to source (as your school will be linked to only one of the dreaded school uniform shops). And don’t tell me you can pick it up in Tesco with your other groceries, because I spent a full day of annual leave visiting various supermarkets trying to find a pair of black/grey shorts in the correct size, when the schools went back after Easter.
I accept that I’d left it to the last minute and it was my fault. But come on! What a palaver. This time, I was sure to nab the shirts and trousers I needed in Tesco as soon as the summer holidays started. There are various arguments in support of school uniform, so let’s explore.
‘It’s to get them used to dressing smart for work’
But it’s 2021 and no solicitors, architects, doctors, scientists or mathematicians are wearing suits for work. Only estate agents still wear suits. And I’m guessing no one’s sending their child to school in hope that they’ll grow up to be an estate agent one day.
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‘It’s to prevent bullying’
But nasty little bullies will say anything to hurt you. You can have the correct uniform on and be bullied about your hair. You can cut your hair and they’ll say mean things about your teeth. You can’t win! Further more, this heading covers the assumption that an under privileged child can’t be identified from a child from a rich family, which simply isn’t true.
‘It shows you’re part of an organisation’
Why are we pitting schools against each other, encouraging rivalry and fighting?
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‘Children don’t concentrate on non uniform days’
That’s because it’s only once in a while. When I worked in an office that permitted us to dress down once a month, admittedly we would all get a bit giddy. Inevitably, someone would breach the policy and cause an additional stir. But when the smart dress code was abolished and we could just wear jeans every day, the novelty soon wore off and it was business as usual.
Back in the 90s, my primary school didn’t have a uniform and although my high school did, it was very relaxed. Certainly not another stick for teachers to beat you with.
We know it’s possible. Not least because they don’t have school uniform in America.
If the fear is that abolishing school uniform will lead to children arriving for school wearing clothes that are considered inappropriate or offensive, then why don’t we meet in the middle?
Let’s say that we accept that some type of workwear is required, to save their good clothes from getting spoiled. And perhaps some unity is sensible, to narrow (some) of the issues regarding bulling. So why don’t we permit a relaxed but unified look, like surgeons have scrubs?
Perhaps cotton sweat pants, leggings or relaxed hemp trousers and a crew neck or short sleeved top. Surely the days of the polyester suit jacket for children are numbered?
Personally, I don’t see any benefit in dressing our children like miniature bank managers, just to see them congregate outside news agents or swarm into McDonalds at 3:30pm.
Corporate have moved away from polyester, and our schools should to.
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