Here in the South Africa 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 color may develop a ‘team’ feel reminding everyone of 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 leveler 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?