A school uniform is a compulsory set of standardized clothes worn for an educational institution. Wearing a school uniform is considered to be a British tradition which dates to the 16th century. The Christ Hospital School in London (1552) is believed to be the first school to use a school uniform in the United Kingdom.
There are theories and studies on the effectiveness and the shortcomings of uniform policies. In the UK, the topic of school uniforms has generated controversies and debates over the past years. Considerations concerning the constitutionality and economic viability of uniforms contribute to the controversy. Some advocates of uniforms believe that schools have traditional gender-neutral uniform policies. But some detractors say uniforms enforce standards of masculinity and femininity from a very young age. For most school uniforms, boys are required to wear trousers, closed-toe shoes, belts, tucked-in white shirts; a sweater (with the school logo on) and they are commonly required to have their hair cut short. For girls, the uniform is often a pleated skirt instead of trousers. Skirts are seen by some critics as a mandatory symbol of femininity because they restrict girls’ movement and force certain ways of sitting or playing.
School uniform is worn in over 90% of schools in England. Parents are required to purchase the uniform which averaged approximately £212.88 per child in 2015.
Questions which arise from this:
1. According to The Guardian, statistics say that despite dressing British students in blazers and ties, more than 40 academies failed to reach the government’s “floor target” of 30% of pupils with five A*- C GCSEs (including maths and English) in 2017. Why, then, school uniforms are still so popular in the UK?
2. School uniforms are common in the UK, but in the US (where having a uniform is spreading just recently) its introduction is often deterred on freedom of expression grounds. Do uniforms have endangered the freedom and human dignity of UK scholars?
3. Some critics allege that in the UK the increasing popularity of blazer and tie uniforms over the last 30 years has coincided with growing social inequality. Is school uniform an expressive and a potent means of social distinction?
Vocab useful for discussing the topic
1. Pick on − repeatedly single (someone) out for blame, criticism, or unkind treatment in a way perceived to be unfair.
2. Feminists − a person who supports feminism (the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes).
3. Sexism − prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
4. Headmistress − (especially in private schools) the woman in charge of a school; the principal.
5. Skinny − (of a person or part of their body) very thin.
6. Confidence − a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.
7. Complex − a related group of emotionally significant ideas that are completely or partly repressed and that cause psychic conflict leading to abnormal mental states or behaviour.
8. Cruel − wilfully causing pain or suffering to others or feeling no concern about it.
9. Blanket ban − a total and complete ban of something forbidden with no exceptions.
10. Flat-chested − (of a woman) having small breasts.
Video for discussion
The video below was taken from a day-time TV show where issues of the day are discussed frankly.
Watch the video and then answer the questions below.
1. Why are teachers doing an incredibly difficult job?
2. What do feminists say about picking up girls regarding their school uniform?
3. Why do all girls have the wear the same school uniform?
4. What does the headmistress think in relation to school uniforms?
5. What have school girls been doing with their uniforms?
6. Is the head teacher in question believed to be singling out bigger girls?
7. What is the problem with bigger girls?
8. What is every grown up’s responsibility?
9. Which is the blanket ban proposed in the video?
10. How can school girls express their individuality?
Why wearing school uniforms is a good thing
1. School uniforms prevent bullying and gang presence significantly.
2. Uniforms help schools to keep better track of all of their students.
3. School uniforms help with the overall morale of the student body and build a higher sense of school spirit and pride.
4. Uniforms reduce the amount of preparation and time and ease the morning routine.
5. Wearing school uniforms can be money saving. Uniforms are often much cheaper than buying trending clothing items.
Reasons not to study wear school uniforms
1. Some students feel that school uniforms interfere with their creativity and self-expression.
2. Some students find uniforms less comfortable than their regular clothes.
3. Bigger students wearing school uniform find themselves self-conscious regarding their appearance.
4. By using uniforms, some young students may not learn to make appropriate clothing decisions in their transition to adulthood.
5. School uniforms in public schools undermine the promise of a free education by imposing an extra expense on families.
Potential debating topics
1. Wearing long skirts prevent female students from distracting their male teachers.
2. Most Japanese Manga based their success on showing school miniskirts.
3. Scottish boys wear skirts at school. Are these skirts to the knee as well?
4. Educators are accountable for body shaming and bullying the girls for the length of their skirts.
Advocates of uniforms propose numerous explanations supporting their implementation and claiming their success in schools. The opposing side of uniforms claims their ineffectiveness using a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, pupils should believe their non-negotiable human right to free expression remains unharmed −even in mandatory school uniforms, by giving priority to essential values over appearance.