After school each day the children do their homework, their clubs, have their playdates, and get washed and brushed and ready for bed, and I empty their hardly-touched but apparently necessary water bottles (does anyone know what's wrong with water drinking fountains?), add change to their purses so they can buy their overpriced milk, and their school dinners, make sure the right books are in the right bags, and make sure they have school uniform ready for the next day.
|My little girl is in nursery, and her|
uniform is just the school sweatshirt.
It's hard to get on and off, it's very
warm, and it has a hideous logo
which is nothing to do with the school.
|The big girl. She likes the buttoned cotton|
shirts (not the logo polo shirts, and cardis.
All through the winter the kids are expected to play out (when they can) wearing polyester trousers, which are freezing, or skirts and tights which constantly fall down and cause itchy groins in the girls. The shirts are too cold and the fluffy sweatshirts are too hot.
I am told school uniforms are a good thing because they save parents money, but this is clearly nonsense, because children need normal clothes anyway, so school uniform is just extra stuff you have to buy on top of that. And boys school shoes are SO INCREDIBLY DULL that you really have to buy them extra shoes just so they're not forced to die of boredom putting on their shoes.
I am told that school uniforms are a good thing because they reduce the chance to show social status through your clothes, but that's nonsense. My children know when someone's uniform is from Next and when it's from Tesco. Status is signified with labels, and the poor kids are easy to spot. Status is also signified with haircuts, and shoes, and school bags. Added to that is the fact that different schools have different statuses, and your school uniform shows you are a posh kid/catholic kid/academic kid.
|Eton boys showing that school uniform removes|
social status markers
I would really like it if kids could just wear their own clothes for school, and gain practice in how they present themselves, and also, perhaps, in accepting our differences. The Wikipedia page on school uniforms quotes a study by Brunsma and Rockquemore (1998), which found no effect of school uniforms on attendance or behavioural problems, but a negative effect on academic achievement. I haven't seen the research paper, and I don't know how good it was, if it's still true now, or how strong the effect was, but I generally believe that you don't create strong individuals (which is what we want our children to be, surely?) by making everyone pretend to be the same. I think that school uniform encourages children's natural tendencies to bash down those whose heads stick up, and it would be so much better if they could learn that difference is what actually makes the world work.
|Norwegian schools don't tend to have uniforms,|
and they seem to be doing OK
However, I have heard some good arguments for school uniforms:
- Children wearing school uniform are easily identified as belonging to that school, which is useful if someone is missing, or misbehaving.
- Enforcement of school uniform policy gives kids something to focus their rebellious efforts on, which is better than what they might do otherwise.
I think those are both pretty great arguments, and I also am rather fond of Scottish school mottoes, so I'd like to keep them on the clothes, and I don't think I'm ever going to convince everyone that we should do away with school uniform altogether, so here's my compromise suggestion:
|Some Chinese kids in their school uniform|
Still blah, but at least it's practical.
Let's ditch the white/pale blue shirts and the polyester trousers/skirts, and get good, comfy, hard-wearing school clothes which the kids can actually do things in. I'm thinking something like jogging bottoms, with a T-shirt and a hoodie. Let's not have different things for boys and girls, because we don't need to.
It might make sense for older school pupils to dress more smartly, I don't know. I can't imagine myself as a teenager being very impressed with being asked to wear jogging bottoms (I'd probably have looked like a telly-tubby), but then, I wasn't very impressed with wearing school uniform either. I don't have teenagers (yet), so someone else can work that out for now.
So, what do you think? Do you like school uniforms? If you could totally re-invent them, what would they look like? Did you wear school uniform when you were a kid?