After a recent Sociology lecture, I have found myself considering the value of school uniforms. Previously I had seen that there are some benefits; children feeling a sense of community, looking smart while having an attitude of learning and a sort of equality that comes from looking the same. But now I have begun to wonder; is it really equality? Even when the school requires everyone to wear black trousers, isn’t it still obvious which children’s parents took them straight out to M&S and which children received their siblings’ old hand-me-downs?
So if not equality, then are the uniforms for the sake of affiliation and pupil pride in their school? If that’s the case then wouldn’t it be better for the children to feel connected by shared school values and a strong sense of community? In my opinion the only way to make the children feel pride is to give them a school that they are actively involved in. A uniform cannot ensure that pupils take responsibility and action. It is more likely to demotivate as children may not feel appreciated as the unique person that they are.
I can see how some sociological theorists have connected the school uniform to later working life. When the children become part of ‘the system’, they may need to make compromises; to look in a way that others deem acceptable. But even within these constraints, we as adults are able to show some individuality and personality through our appearance. An example of this is in a formal interview situation. There are clear ideas of what clothing and presentation is expected, however if there were 3 female applicants; one may wear a dress, one may wear a skirt and one may wear trousers.
How a person dresses can have a large impact on how they feel about themselves. It can also affect their physical comfort. While in senior school, I was expected to wear a shirt and tie which I found to be incredibly uncomfortable. I remember in certain classes, if I had to turn my head for long periods of time (maybe to see the board), then the collar of the shirt would dig into my neck. I can’t help but wonder if I could have absorbed the information a bit more effectively if I was feeling comfortable within the classroom.
Education Secretary Angela Constance is suggesting a re-think about school uniforms following concerns raised by those who run Back to School banks, providing uniforms to pupils who may not otherwise be able to afford them. There has been a suggestion that a standardised Scottish school uniform should be introduced. This could be a simple black and white uniforms with the option of sew on badges or coloured ties in way of identification. Personally, I feel it would be better for the schools to consider the true reasons for their uniforms. Many of these reasons will be about tradition, but in a society where we are continually changing and developing; perhaps it’s time to scrap these old traditions and try something new, for the benefit of the children’s learning.
Instead of creating a whole new uniform; allowing pupils to wear their own clothing may help those families who are suffering poverty as it could mean that they can avoid the extra expense of buying additional clothing such as expensive blazers and ties.
Find the article about standardised Scottish school uniforms here.