There is much debate in the education community surrounding school uniform policies. Are uniforms a great way to improve focus, level the socioeconomic playing field and create a sense of school citizenship, or are they an expensive way to curb students’ creativity and diminish their sense of individuality?
Of course, there are arguments to be made on both sides. Those who do not support policies requiring students to wear certain colours or specific pants, skirts and tops often site the expense. Indeed, uniforms can appear expensive as parents may be required to purchase a year’s worth of clothes at once. Others point to uniformity as a way to diminish a student’s individuality. How can a child express themselves in a creative way if their wardrobe choices are limited to the same outfit as their peers?
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] clothes can’t serve as a distraction[/pullquote]
Proponents of uniforms find the pros outweigh the cons. Of course, there are safety arguments. If everyone in the student body is dressed the same, it’s easy to identify intruders and know who belongs to the student body.
Others in support of uniforms have found that implementing a uniform policy can reduce theft. Since uniforms have an equalizing factor, students aren’t permitted to come to school wearing labels or flashy clothes. There is less competition, peer pressure or a sense of wanting clothing items their more privileged peers are wearing. In this way, uniforms reduce or even eradicate theft as there is no advantage to stealing. In some schools, the use of uniforms even reduces violence, as groups or gangs can no longer identify themselves by wearing certain clothes or colours.
Uniforms can even improve a student’s grades. Since there is no need to keep up with the latest fashions, clothes can’t serve as a distraction, which enables students to focus on learning. Nobody can show too much skin, inappropriately expose their bodies or make clothing choices in an attempt to attract attention. Rather, students are in a better position to concentrate on their studies and build relationships with one another based on substance.
Practically speaking, many parents find it’s easier to dress their children in the morning when their child is required to wear a uniform. There is no delay as children debate what to wear—something that can often be a time-consuming process, especially as students mature into teenagers. There are no arguments about what constitutes an appropriate outfit as items such as spaghetti straps, torn jeans and short skirts aren’t options.
Thanks to social media, it’s easy for parents to connect to find solutions to address the cost of uniforms. For instance, online message boards and community groups can be used to arrange clothing exchanges. This means that bigger ticket items such as blazers can be handed down from one student who outgrew it to another who needs it. Parents can save money by buying these clothing pieces second-hand, rather than buying new. Parents have also been known to voice their opinions with respect to selecting lower cost uniform suppliers. In some cases, they have banded together to request suppliers who meet certain ethical or environmental standards.
Some schools, in turn, are adapting uniform policies to include plain white button-down shirts or navy blue pants, for example. These kinds of clothing pieces can be purchased at retail stores like The Gap or Old Navy, some of which have uniform sections in their stores and online. These clothes can be easily purchased at affordable prices throughout the year and be worn year-round.
Uniforms are an important piece of the education puzzle and one that can contribute to enhanced learning and discussion.