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What’s the Point of School Uniforms?

What’s the Point of School Uniforms?

Here in the UK almost every child is expected to wear a school uniform.  It’s just the way we do things.  But what’s the point of school uniform?

Do uniforms create a good school ethos?

Having students all wear the same uniform or a uniform colour may develop a ‘team’ feel reminding everyone from a particular school that they’re all part of the same community and are one big team .  However, some might argue that taken too far this school ethos can be a bad thing.  It’s fine whilst students are on their own school grounds but once they’re beyond the school gates and encountering students from other schools it’s possible that school uniforms reinforce the “us and them” feelings between students from different schools, and students and could contribute to inter-school bullying.

Do uniforms improve results?

When kids put on their school uniform, does it put them in the learning mindset?  (We’ve all seen the lack of focus that arises on non-uniform days!)  I’m not aware of any compelling research which shows a link between uniforms and results but perhaps someone can enlighten me?

Do school uniforms narrow the gap?

Expecting everyone to wear the same clothes could act as a social leveller with students wearing the same uniform no matter what their family background or income.  Although some school uniforms are highly prescriptive and very expensive, many school uniforms are very good value for money.  And because students wear the same clothes every day a uniform easily hides the fact that some students’ families cannot afford to spend hundreds of pounds on a huge wardrobe of clothes.  Arguably, if students could choose their own clothes better off students could show off their designer labels etc.  There are probably other ways around this issue though – would banning clothes with designer motifs work?

Are uniforms practical?

Theoretically a school uniform should be practical in design and ensure that students are well clothed for their different lessons and there are no health and safety risks during lessons such as D&T but in reality school uniforms are often quite impractical.  Collars, ties and blazers expected by many schools are uncomfortable – and ties can even prove unsafe.  I’m sure we’ve all heard of at least one teacher who knew a teacher who taught a pupil who set their tie on fire in chemistry or got it caught in a lathe in D&T.  Not much chance of that happening is students choose their own clothes!  School uniforms are not necessarily well designed at all and may leave children too hot in summer, too cold in winter and generally less comfortable than if they wore their own clothes to school.

Do uniforms help prepare students for future careers?

Many professions require adults to wear a uniform, or a suit (which is really just a grown up uniform / dress code isn’t it!) so wearing a uniform to school could be seen as a good preparation for the working world.  Like adults who wear a uniform, students can ditch their uniform as soon as they are ‘off duty’.


What do you think?  Are school uniforms beneficial?


Does your school have a uniform or dress code – do you agree with it?


24 responses to “What’s the Point of School Uniforms?”

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  2. Avatar Tafkam says:

    1. Ethos – people and their actions make an ethos. A school with a well-enforced uniform policy will have a different ethos to one with a poorly-adopted one. The uniform itself is simply a tool in creating some small part of that. Schools without uniform simply have a different ethos.

    2. Results – the trouble with non-uniform days is that it’s the change from the norm that causes the bedlam. Classrooms are not similarly chaotic in the large majority of the world’s countries where uniforms don’t exist.

    3. Social leveller – ask that of the girl who got bullied because her pleated skirt was from Tesco instead of M&S. Or the boy who wears the same stained shirt all week. What you resolve in one area simply creates problems in another. Kids are horrible to each other; we need to find other ways to deal with that than attempting to homogenise them.

    4. Practical – ha! I can think of few cases where a school uniform is more practical than jeans and a sweater. And inevitably in schools where uniform doesn’t exist, that becomes the de facto uniform in most cases. A practical uniform code is far more appropriate.

    5. Few roles that we might want our students to aspire to have uniforms; most have dress codes. The sooner we teach them to make their own appropriate choices the better.

    The Scandinavian schools about which we hear so much seem to manage perfectly well without uniform.

  3. Avatar Tafkam says:

    Oh… and out of interest, King Edward VI Community College in Devon dropped its uniform in 2003. Since then, 5+ A*-C rates have gone from 53% to 75%, so it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm!

  4. In my early days of teaching I was always against uniforms in schools. I felt that they led to confrontation when teachers immediately challenged students as they walked through the door for not having their shirts tucked in. I also believed that they were merely a tool for enabling students to conform to the instructions of teachers – allowing students to get into a routine of ‘doing as they were told’. However, I’m currently a massive fan of them.

    I firmly believe that the concept of equality amongst students is absolutely at the centre of my beliefs for establishing a supportive and safe learning environment. Uniforms are one way of ensuring that this exists in schools. I have only taught in two secondaries – both within areas of deprivation but the social and economic variance has been staggering. Some students come to to school in Mercedes and BMWs whilst others have no cars because they can’t afford them. However, because of uniform this variance stops at the school gates.

    Non uniform days every so often are great but the disparity between the well off and those not so well off is much more pronounced, and from my experience the students recognise it. I have almost felt at times that a class system comes into being and that is terrible. For me therefore, uniforms act as a great leveller for schools that operate within our society where so much is often placed upon status: whether it be a mobile phone, an iPod or an item of clothing.

    I can only make an informed opinion based upon my own context and experiences. I am open to alternative views but for now I’m in favour of some kind of uniform in schools.

    • Avatar Tafkam says:

      “because of uniform this variance stops at the school gates.”
      I think that’s a very naive viewpoint. The reality is that while uniform may appear to reduce some of the outward signs of variance, there are still plenty of other differences that come through even through a uniform. The only school I have experience of with a non-uniform policy placed great importance of valuing individuals. I’m sure it didn’t eradicate the issues of students being unkind to one another, but nor will uniform.

  5. Avatar Rob Butler says:

    I teach in a special school. We don’t have a compulsory uniform although students do have the opportunity to purchase from the school (at cost value) school polo shirts or sweat shirts. Some students wear these as do many of the staff (who also have no dress code). We are an outstanding school which is down to the way we teach and track students – not what we wear.

    Being a small school staff have good relationships with our students and this is what we build upon to promote learning and exercise discipline. I don’t believe things would be any different for us if uniform was compulsory. We have many parents who don’t have much money (in common with all schools) and they have the advantage of only having to buy one set of clothes as opposed to two. We are fortunate in that many of our students are oblivious to brand names and fashion – a popular argument for uniforms in larger schools.

    In contrast when I visit mainstream schools who have a uniform I usually tell staff to enforce it in their lessons as it is one of many tools they have to build/exert their authority, and l notice that poorly enforced uniforms usually go hand in hand with other problems in the school.

    I look forward to the day when we (the men) all wear comfortable Star Trek style lycra uniforms instead of squeezy and itchy collars with ties!

  6. Avatar chef wear says:

    Having students all wear the same uniform or a uniform colour may develop a ‘team’ feel reminding everyone from a particular school.

  7. Avatar Andrew H says:

    I think it’s necessary for students to wear uniforms when they go to school. I know that wearing uniforms is good because it shows the uniqueness of each school and makes students look neat. Furthermore, parents of students who wear uniforms may be proud when other people see their children wearing the uniform of a school.
    School Uniform

  8. Avatar Dream says:

    I grew up in America where no uniforms were required except for private schools. We were very poor so we had very ugly clothes and that was very hard as a teenager. The way I looked caused me to have a very low self esteem, no friends, poor grades and eventually to quit school. It ruined my future and I wished so hard that I could live in a place where everyone wore uniforms. My life would have been ten thousand times better. Now I live in England, where my children are loving thier uniforms and enjoying being themselves.

  9. Avatar Liz k says:

    As a parent I love the fact that a strict uniform code makes getting two teens ready in the morning easier – one less thing for them to argue about, no decisions on what to wear. I do agree it’s not comfortable and hot in summer/cold in winter, but school as a whole has an identity and the students do look smart as code is strictly enforced.

    • Avatar Rob says:

      I think the emphasis on a learning establishment should be on learning and not how ‘neat and tidy’ a uniform looks. On a recent conversation with my Childs ‘principal’ (i always thourght it was a headmaster in this country)

      ‘if the educational establisment does not have uniform all hell breaks loose’.

      Universities do not have a dress code, and I often see looting, fighting and pillaging at such places.

      These people with self expression should be hidden away.

  10. I was brought up in Germany and never wore a school uniform, and I still don’t think they are necessary. All the extra money I had to spend on my children’s uniform I would have rather spent on decent school books. Instead, they had to use old, sometimes disgusting textbooks, often with pages missing or obscenities written or drawn in it!

    • Avatar Tom Hesmondhalgh says:

      I suppose the counter argument to that is that uniforms enforce discipline and a more professional attitude in students, but then I’m guessing German classrooms are probably much the same as English ones in that respect.

  11. While teaching middle schoolers, I loved uniforms, but now in a in a uniform high school, I hate it. Too much time and energy is spent enforcing it (cutting into both instructional time and creating positive relationships with students). The students also despise the policy, making them resent school even more than they already do.

  12. Avatar Abby says:

    I like the idea of just pulling out any random outfit. What I hate is having limits on what you can and can’t wear.

  13. Avatar Maria says:

    I live in Spain. My son wears school uniform only in PE days. It is a Hooded Sweatshirt with long pants. A t-shirt and short trousers in summer. It is very nice and he likes it very much. It’s unisex. It is mandatory to wear it on day trips or excursions. PE teacher has the duty to inforce it.

  14. Avatar Isaiah says:

    I dont believe in the purpose of uniforms. They just make it worse for kids that want to have the full highschool experience. Uniforms do not promote creativity or individualism. It’s really the same concept as communism. (basically making everybody equal). We are supposed to be free. Instead uniforms are putting students in idealistic chains.

  15. Avatar moises alcala says:

    I am from Masbate City, Philippines. Uniform sets an identity of the school and its a basic foundation of obedience to authority. In case you don’t want to obey the regulation of the school, you have a choice of choosing a school who doesn’t require uniform, anyway.

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