My daughter starts school this September- in Austria we’re a little later than other
countries round the world, so she’ll be 6 by the time she walks through the doors for the first time. Friends in the UK, Australia and the USA have already made the big step, fondly photographed and posted on social media by the parents. So I watch and (patiently) wait for my turn.
Am I the only mother who loves the look of the Grade 1 child in his or her new school uniform? The too big skirt and still bright-coloured jumper? The excited smile on the child’s face, as they have now graduated from Kindergarten to the ‘big girl’s school’? I remember finally being old enough to go to primary school in the UK, four long years after my sister had started. Weeks, or maybe months before the term started I had tried on my new uniform, loving the look and feel of it far more than I did once I was actually forced to wear it in class. And from then on I didn’t really think about the uniform, except on those days when we had ‘home clothes day’ and could come in looking different from usual.
There are many nay-sayers, who cannot agree with the concept of uniform- hate the colour, the style, the necessity of wearing something not their choice. So not everyone loves a uniform! But in school there are definite advantages that one can bring, and here are a few:
It’s an equaliser– when wearing the uniform everyone fits in with the school. You’re easily identified, and you all look the same.
It helps keep the focus on learning Students seem to feel more confident in the way they look, and so they have more confidence in themselves. They’re not busy admiring another pupil’s latest shoes, and not making assessments on their friends (and foes) based on the clothes they’re wearing.
It saved me from embarrassing trends. Ok, maybe not such a big issue now, but back in my day the “Ice, ice baby” duds were a hit which I would never have been able to pull off. Thank goodness I didn’t have to!
A uniform will bring an image of success to students. Uniforms look smart, and unify a group into a team. Surprising or not, that projects success, whether the school is successful or not.
It forces you to pick friends based on more than outward appearance. If everyone is wearing the same things, then pupils have to look at other aspects of their classmates in order to learn about them. Friendships will then be based on enjoying the same hobbies or sports, or because of the same ability at maths or science.
A uniform helps to develop self-expression. This may seem contrary to what a uniform does, after all, doesn’t it suppress expression through clothes? However, as above, pupils will have to express themselves more in other ways in order to stand out.
It helps bolster school and academic pride. It’s been found that wearing a uniform makes students feel more a part of the school, and therefore more keen to represent it in a good light. In addition, when a fellow pupil excels in some area, be it academic, art or sport, the whole school is reflected in the achievement, and other students receive part of the glory.
You gain a few minutes extra sleep. Not important? I disagree entirely. As a teenager, sleep is one of the most important parts of your day- ask any parent! Instead of having to get up to sift through your closet and find that perfect outfit, all you need to do in the morning is shrug on the same old same old and head to breakfast- easy peasy.
And finally, uniforms provide safety: They can help identify intruders in the school, as generally they won’t have a uniform on; and there will be less theft of those fancy Nike €200 trainers, if you’re not allowed to wear them in the first place! Also, when out of school grounds, it’s easier to identify someone if they’re wearing a uniform that is easily recognised by the local citizens. Children become less of a target to potential abductors.
Does a uniform really make a difference? According to research, yes! Virginia Draa, assistant professor at Youngstown State University, reviewed attendance, graduation and proficiency pass rates at 64 public high schools in the USA. Draa’s study concluded that those schools with uniform policies improved in attendance, graduation and suspension rates. She was unable to connect uniforms with academic improvement because of such complicating factors as changing instructional methods and curriculum.
Pupils have a wide-range of opinions when it comes to uniforms. All I know is that for me, they were overall a positive experience. My advice to those who attend school with a uniform is to embrace all the positive aspects of them! Enjoy that extra fifteen minutes of sleep while it lasts.