The idea of school uniforms seems like an antiquated concept for many North Americans. Unless a child attends private school, it is not normally practiced by children and families. Yet around the world, wearing school uniforms is the norm. Students studying in schools requiring school uniforms generally perform very well academically and seem happy wearing the same outfit every day. There are many benefits to wearing school uniforms that schools in Canada and the United States should incorporate into their public schools.
One of the biggest concerns in schools these days is bullying. Students are harassed physically, verbally, and socially. The latest trend in bullying is cyberbullying. Often, the cause of bullying stems from people being different for not wearing the “right” clothes. If someone looks richer, most people feel like they have a higher social status or more power. To the contrary, uniforms allow children to learn on a more level playing field, with less judgment about clothing choices, brands of clothing, or physical appearance.
A lot of students who wear uniforms claim that they feel more proud of their school. Wearing school colors gives students a feeling of being more connected to their school and classmates. If there is a sense of community and connectedness among the students, the use of foul language, gang behavior, and crimes like vandalism are largely eliminated. Wearing school uniforms can also help people gain more self-confidence because they know they are a part of something bigger.
One of the main concerns people have about wearing school uniforms is conformity. People fear that by making children look the same, their individuality will be suppressed. However, this is not the case. Accessories, such as bracelets and hair clips, can jazz up a school uniform. Besides, students can wear their own clothing after school and during weekends. An individual’s personality is not wholly expressed by fashion alone. Personality is determined by the way a person moves, feels, thinks, and talks. Wearing a school uniform neither defines a child’s personality nor erases it.
There are even more advantages to wearing school uniforms in public schools in addition to those previously mentioned. It means lower costs for parents during back-to-school shopping. However, the idea that bullying might be alleviated is the leading reason why schools should implement the wearing of uniforms. The other is the fostering of school pride. Students will not lose their personality but will merely learn new ways to express themselves.
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.