Many children loathe it, and some parents resent paying hundreds of pounds every year for it, yet school uniform is considered essential in most UK schools.
As families embark on their annual ‘back to school,’ shopping trip, here CashLady looks at some of the reasons why school uniform is so important, from helping to reduce bullying, to instilling a sense of belonging in young students.
School uniform around the world
Of all the countries in the world, the UK is one of the most steadfastly stuck to school uniforms, with most schools in favour of retaining uniforms, which in some cases date as far back as the sixteenth century.
In both wider Europe and America school uniforms are far less common.
School uniform costs
Figures from American Express show that for an average family with two children, the cost of heading back to school is an eye watering £332, with most of this covering the purchase of new school uniform.
Depending on where schools are in the UK, and what type of school it is, uniforms can range from black skirts or trousers, polo shirts and sweatshirts, to shirts and ties, blazers, kilts, shorts, summer dresses and hats, plus various clothing items for gym kits.
The costs for parents is significant, particularly if their children’s school is tied to a certain uniform manufacturer, which prevents shopping around, yet school uniform is widely accepted as in pupil’s and parent’s best interests.
School uniform for preventing bullying
Children can be hard on one another and bullying is, unfortunately, frequently part of school life.
Figures from Ditch the Label, reveal that 1.5 million young people were bullied last year, and while school uniform can’t eradicate bullying, ensuring that pupils all wear the same clothes each day, may lessen instances of it, based on what another child is wearing.
Insults for wearing hand-me-downs, threadbare clothing or items that are too small may still be shouted across the playground, but uniform helps level the playing field, particularly where there are major disparities in household income.
School uniform saves parents from purchasing expensive fashion items
With a new pair of trainers approaching £100, parents could find themselves even further out of pocket if a uniform was scrapped in favour of children wearing their own clothes to school.
Fashion changes regularly and so kids may pressure their parents to keep them in the most up to date items, fearing ridicule in the playground if they are seen in last year’s sportswear or style of jeans.
Uniform instils a sense of belonging
Sharing the same uniform can instil a sense of belonging and pride in the school, and among the wider community.
It also helps to avoid the formation of dangerous gangs, or badly-behaved group, behaviour in schools, because gangs tend to use a kind of uniform to identify themselves.
Improves behaviour outside the school gates
If they know that they can be easily identified with their school, then it is less likely that pupils will misbehave in the streets or cause trouble in local shops.
Research has shown that children are more conscious of their behaviour while wearing a uniform, and they have reported an awareness of security guards following them in shops if they are in their school clothes.
Watchful members of the community are known to report sightings of bad behaviour to head teachers if they recognise the uniform that children are wearing, and so it can help foster a sense of accountability among students outside the school gates.
School uniform prepares children for dressing for work
While staff in Silicon Valley might sit at their desks in leisure wear, the same can’t be said for most places of work, where smart or professional levels of dress are expected, and uniforms are common.
Preparing for the day ahead, and showing up for school looking well turned out, fosters a sense of professionalism and sets good habits for later in life.
Improved behaviour in school
There is conflicting research on whether school uniform improves the behaviour of children in the class, although most UK head teachers report that it does.
Free from the distractions of what everyone is wearing, pupils are more likely to be focused on their school work.
Advocates of school uniform also believe that it sets high standards and expectations, which pupils can and will respond to, while casual clothes facilitate a casual attitude or belief among students that they aren’t required to perform at their very best.