Having been at the forefront of schoolwear since its introduction in the 16th century, the majority of private schools and education establishments set great store by their adopted uniforms. At the UK’s most prestigious independent schools, uniforms often date back hundreds of years, with today’s students expected to wear similar attire to those worn centuries ago.
It’s a similar story with public schools too, although these uniforms have seen drastic change since the early 19th century. This suggests that the UK has one of the strictest approaches to schoolwear of any country, and the statistics do support this — with four in five secondary schools enforcing a full school uniform.
Given that most schools in the UK are in favour of retaining school uniforms, this ultimately raises questions about the positive impact school leaders believe uniforms have on today’s young scholars. Here we’ll explore this issue further, and find out how exactly school uniforms affect student attitudes in the classroom.
Encouraging good discipline
It may sound a tad naïve to assume that clothing can improve child discipline, but many experts believe that school uniforms do have a positive influence on behaviour. In his research paper, Dressed for Success, Scott Imberman conducted a study into the effects school uniforms have on behaviour and attendance, concluding that modest improvements were visible in schools which enforce a full uniform. But why is this the case?
Many school leaders share the view that, by wearing a school uniform, students gain skills in presentation which ultimately lead to improved discipline in the classroom. Uniforms can also improve attendance rates, and prevent students from forming gangs and groups that could result in further bad behaviour.
While those critical of school uniforms have been quoted as saying they offer a ‘quick fix for a range of problems’, it’s difficult to argue with the notion that schoolwear does boost professionalism in the classroom. And it isn’t just establishments themselves which benefit from this; school uniform experts, SWI, believe that students are empowered to succeed by their uniform.
They said: “The act of putting on a uniform in the morning adds occasion to the day ahead, much like a sportsman before a big game. Uniforms endow young students with a sense of motivation and purpose, and help to ready them for life beyond the school gates.”
School uniforms act as a socioeconomic leveller
In the 16th century when the school uniform was first introduced, its purpose was not to improve discipline or bolster professionalism — it was to level the socioeconomic playing field and ensure that every child was treated as equal in the eyes of their peers, something of invaluable importance in today’s independent school system.
By ensuring that pupils begin their education on an equal footing, each child is judged on his or her character, personality and academic merits — not on which designer brands they can afford. This ultimately creates a more rounded and equal school community, and one in which students are free to express themselves without fear of rejection and put-downs.
Creates a sense of identity
Attaining complete inclusivity in schools is something every school leader hopes to achieve, and one of the simplest ways to do this, according to some educational experts, is to adopt a school uniform. Schoolwear generates a tangible sense of identity and belonging among pupils, and subsequently helps to create a safe environment both in and out of the classroom.
According to former education secretary, Ed Balls, schoolwear can be likened to that of the uniforms worn by groups like Scouts and Guides. Why? Uniforms, Balls says, offer a sense of inclusion and community, helping the wearer feel a sense of acceptance, belonging and identity.