I was prompted to think about this after reading the story from Ryde Academy. That has all fizzled out now, so I assume the parents buckled and forked out for new uniform items just before the Summer holidays in the sad knowledge that their kids will probably have grown out of them again by Christmas. I know most of the concerns of parents there was to do with the way sanctions were imposed but I generally find the fetish we have for school uniforms rather bizarre. I was surprised, in this case, and others I heard about after asking around, that “knee-length” means “to the bottom of the knee”. (I’d always assumed it meant to the top, though this may be to do with the fact that I was at high school in the late sixties when mini-skirts made their first and most persistent appearance.
We had no uniform in the sixth form and had a successful campaign for girls to be allowed to wear trousers there, though not in the school and never jeans. We were not compelled to wear our blazers at all times and we were not expected to ask permission to remove e them. We had caps for boys and berets for girls. We rarely wore them. There were various rules about shoes, socks and tights. They didn’t seem especially unreasonable or onerous.
Many current uniform requirements seem to be heading towards unnecessary extremes and I have a suspicion the rules are more to do with ensuring the children conform than any seriously practical consideration.
I accept the arguments for uniforms, I don’t entirely agree with them, but I accept them. I also think that when you have rules they should be adhered to, uniformly, across the school. I think this is made much simpler, for teachers, children and parents, if the rules are simple, clear, fair, and seen to be fair.
To this end, my idea of a school uniform is:-
- The uniform should comprise items that can be bought at reasonable cost from ordinary high street shops. You should not have to buy through the school, online or through specific, named (and usually expensive) suppliers.
- It should be washable. School clothes need to be washed often and need to dry quickly to be reused and avoid having more items than necessary.
- It should be comfortable. Personally I’m not keen on ties at all and I’m not convinced making girls, especially, wear ties with shirt top buttons uncomfortably fastened in hot summer weather is really preparing them for the world of work. Are there really that many workplaces with such rigid rules? And I think primary children don’t really need ties at all.
- It should not make children objects of derision from other children.
- Children should be able to take off jackets when they feel the need, not have to await the whim of a teacher.
- Light coloured outer clothing should be allowed. We can’t seriously run campaigns encouraging people to make sure they can be seen in the dark and not allow children to do exactly that. I used to worry about my children missing the bus and having to walk home in winter on a poorly lit road with no pavement.
- Girls should be allowed to wear trousers. (I’m Okay with “not too tight” but specifying, say, wool, is impractical)
- Skirts. Oooh. How short is too short? Well. Look at the photo. I think most of the ones you can see are too short. I’m not on the front row. My skirt wasn’t that short. I’d also not allow tight skirts. But fussing over a centimetre above the bottom of the knee seems excessive. Especially since children will insist on growing.
- Hair. Length for boys shouldn’t be an issue as long as they follow any rules that girls do about tying it back.
- Rules on jewellery should be applied impartially. No exemptions on religious grounds.
- Allowances for extremes of weather. Wooly tights in winter, dresses or short sleeved shirts in summer.
I think that’s it. Simple rules. Comfortable uniform. Less scope for argument.
I’ve probably forgotten something or missed some nuance. I’m sure you’ll let me know.