What’s the point of school uniform?
You might hate your school uniform, but I think it’s there for good reason, says 15-year-old Chloe Spencer.
Why wear a school uniform?
A shirt, tie and blazer may not be the ingredients for my favourite outfit, but if I were given the choice, I wouldn’t throw away the idea of school uniform. Wearing a uniform is a badge of pride, creates an identity for a school and is an important part of being a school student.
“Uniforms show that you are part of an organisation. Wearing it says we’re all in this together,” Jason Wing, head teacher at the Neale-Wade academy in Cambridgeshire, says.
“Also, if you wear your uniform with pride, it means you are half way there to being respectful, buying into what the organisation is all about.”
Claire Howlette, an English teacher, agrees: “Uniforms give students a sense of belonging to a particular school and create an identity for the school in the community.”
My school is one of many that seem to be reverting to a more formal uniform – this September I will be wearing a shirt and blazer instead of my old jumper and polo shirt. A number of students have complained about the change, but general opinion is that the jumpers and polo shirts were “childish”.
A school uniform teaches students to dress smartly and take pride in their appearance. Howlette says: “Uniforms help students to prepare for when they leave school and may have to dress smartly or wear a uniform.”
Some people believe that a school uniform can improve learning by reducing distraction, sharpening focus on schoolwork and making the classroom a more serious environment, allowing students to perform better academically.
Perhaps most importantly, a uniform means students don’t have to worry about peer pressure when it comes to their clothes. When everyone is dressed the same, worrying about what you look like isn’t so important. There is no competition about being dressed in the latest trend, which would put a great deal of financial pressure on students and parents. Potential bullies have one less target for their insults; it’s hard to make fun of what someone is wearing when you’re dressed exactly the same.
In America, where a majority of schools do not have a uniform, roughly 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. This might not be directly linked to what they’re wearing, but having a uniform can be a safety net for many students who might otherwise suffer from bullying. A strict uniform gives the impression that rules are strict too, perhaps helping maintain a sense of order at school.
Although wearing a school uniform is less expensive than buying a whole wardrobe of outfits, uniform can still be pricey. Many schools have a specific supplier, and wearing cheaper alternatives can result in punishment if the black skirt you’re wearing isn’t exactly the right black skirt. Finding uniform that fits you, especially if you’re limited to one shop, can also be a struggle.
Recently the Liberal Democrats held a conference about the cost of school uniforms across England. The education minister David Laws is to issue new guidance to end the practice of using a single uniform supplier, enabling parents to shop around for uniform. If schools decide to change their uniform, for example with a new emblem or colour, changes should be restricted to one or two items, preferably with sew-on logos. Changing from a one-supplier system could help families with the cost of school uniform.
Although it might seem a shame to miss out on those two years of dressing as you like at school, I welcome the smart dress code. Not only does it make getting dressed each morning a lot easier, but it sets sixth formers up as role models for younger students, and that’s important.
Macy Vallance, a year-eight student, says: “I like uniforms because everyone is the same and no one can be left out by the way they are dressed. Our new uniform looks smarter, which is good.”
My uniform might not be what I would wear in my own time, but it gives me a sense of belonging, takes away the pressure of what to wear and deters the bullies. School uniform isn’t fashionable, but that’s exactly why I think it should be here to stay.
Pros & Cons
School uniforms may deter crime and increase student safety. If someone were to come into a building, the intruder could easily be recognized.”
School uniforms keep students focused on their education, not their clothes. A bulletin published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals stated that “When all students are wearing the same outfit, they are less concerned about how they look and how they fit in with their peers; thus, they can concentrate on their schoolwork.
School uniforms create a level playing field among students, reducing peer pressure and bullying. When all students are dressed alike, competition between students over clothing choices and the teasing of those who are dressed in less expensive or less fashionable outfits can be eliminated.
Wearing uniforms enhances school pride, unity, and community spirit. The uniforms help troubled students feel they have the support of a community: “There is a sense of belonging.
School uniforms may improve attendance and discipline.
Uniform policies save valuable class time because they are easier to enforce than a standard dress code.
School uniforms prevent the display of gang colors and insignia.
School uniforms make getting ready for school easier, which can improve punctuality. When uniforms are mandatory, parents and students do not spend time choosing appropriate outfits for the school day.
School uniforms can save parents money. Parents can reduce their financial burden when their children are limited to wearing one simple outfit every day.
Most parents and educators support mandatory school uniforms. A 2013 survey by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and uniform manufacturer Lands’ End found that a majority of school leaders believe their school uniform or formal dress code policies have had a positive impact on classroom discipline (85%), the school’s image in the community (83%), student safety (79%), school pride (77%), and student achievement (64%).  A poll administered by the Harford County, MD school system in 2007 found that “teachers and administrators were overwhelmingly in favor” of introducing school uniforms. The poll also found that 58% of parents wanted a mandatory uniform policy instated.
Students’ legal right to free expression remains intact even with mandatory school uniforms.
Students dressed in uniform are better perceived by teachers and peers.
School uniforms restrict students’ freedom of expression.
School uniforms promote conformity over individuality. At a time when schools are encouraging an appreciation of diversity, enforcing standardized dress sends a contradictory message.
School uniforms do not stop bullying and may increase violent attacks.
School uniforms do not improve attendance, academic preparedness, or exam results. Brunsma also found a “negative effect of uniforms on academic achievement,” and later found that uniforms were equally ineffective on elementary students and eighth graders.
The key findings used to tout the benefits of uniforms are questionable. The oft-quoted improvements to school safety and student behavior in the Long Beach (CA) Unified School District from 1993-1995 may not have resulted from the introduction of school uniforms.
School uniforms emphasize the socio-economic divisions they are supposed to eliminate.
Students oppose school uniforms. A 2012 peer-reviewed study by researchers at the University of Nevada at Reno found that 90% of seventh and eighth grade public school students did not like wearing uniforms.
Uniforms may have a detrimental effect on students’ self-image. When students have to wear the same outfits, rather than being allowed to select clothes that suit their body types, they can suffer embarrassment at school.
Focusing on uniforms takes attention away from finding genuine solutions to problems in education. Spending time and effort implementing uniform policies may detract from more effective efforts to reduce crime in schools and boost student performance. More substantive improvements to public education could be achieved with smaller class sizes, tightened security, increased parental involvement, improved facilities, and other measures.   Tom Houlihan, former Superintendent of Schools in Oxford, NC, stated that school uniforms “are a distraction from focusing on systematic and fundamental transformation to improve our schools.
The push for school uniforms is driven by commercial interests rather than educational ones.
Parents should be free to choose their children’s clothes without government interference.