How can there be a middle ground on school uniforms?
I never met my mother-in-law so have no idea what her opinion was on school uniforms but I do know as a young widow with two bright sons, both getting places at the prestigious grammar school, she knew she would have to provide one.
When chatting to my husband recently with the subject yet again in the headlines, I discovered that my assumptions of the financial pressure his mum was under when he started school did not overly concern uniforms. I presumed he would have needed a branded blazer, tie, cap plus regulations shoes, shirt, trousers plus a whole case of PE kit for a school that played rugby and hockey. Even in 1967, that, I would imagine would add up to a great deal of money.
As it turns out that was not the case. Pupils had to have a jacket either grey or black but where it was purchased was up for grabs. It did need a school badge on it but these could be bought in the local sports shop that supplied school uniforms and sewn on. Where things got a bit more specific was tops for sport which had to be in house colours but again, readily available and not very expensive.
So, I am wondering why the school uniform debate got so heated and you don’t have to look far to find the culprit – the cost of it. I’m a great fan of uniforms for pupils. When I was of school age it stopped me fussing about what to put on. My mother didn’t need to buy me two wardrobes – school / non-school. As designer labels became a thing, when I was a headteacher, it stopped rivalry among my pupils. In my opinion, it did give the school a unity of belonging.
But, it has to be within the pockets of everyone otherwise it can cause division. The school uniforms for my schools were always simple and available at many supermarkets. When I opened a new school each child had one jumper given to them which had a logo on it but it was not expected to be replaced like for like.
Last year the government provided some guidance to schools about uniforms.
From the media hype that is around at the moment, it would seem some schools have not taken this on board. There is a philosophical conversation about the purpose of uniforms and I know some are very anti them. However, for me, expensive school uniforms are more about elitism than being elite.