School uniform: It should be about practicality, not gender neutrality

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It would seem Western civilization is in peril. No, not because of Brexit and Trump but because a couple of schools have changed their rules about school uniform.

Priory School, a secondary establishment in Lewes, Sussex, has hit the headlines for supposedly enforcing a gender-neutral policy. Winsford Academy in Cheshire, meanwhile, has insisted girls wear knee length skirts combined with tights.

A hullabaloo has resulted. Even media bad-boy Piers Morgan, as luck would have it former student of Priory School, has waded into the debate saying: “It is disappointing to see one of my old schools getting sucked into this gender equality nonsense.”

Having written about school uniform many a time in the past, I found myself being asked on to BBC Radio 5 Live to give my opinion. I’ll summarise it thus: This is an issue of practicality, not gender neutrality.

Let’s look at the facts. In most schools, be they primary or secondary, the students have to wear some awful approximation of office attire. While this may provide jumpers and cardigans to use as make-shift goal posts, the poor kids find themselves wearing impractical clothing that doesn’t encourage outdoor play or learning via play.

Girls, I feel, get the roughest deal. Skirts and dresses are hardly ideal if a kid wants to use a climbing frame, climb a tree or do gymnastics. The result is that everyone gets to see their underwear. This may not be an issue for really young kids, but I know my eight-year-old daughter is concerned about such things.

School shoe design for girls is also appalling. Most shoes are open fronted so the child only needs to step in a puddle and they get wet feet.

Yes, okay, many schools do give girls the choice to wear trousers. Girls, however, are not always comfortable wearing trousers because it isn’t seen as cool.

I am all for school uniform. I think it’s a great idea but I know from the comments I’ve received on previous blog posts that many people have this idea school uniform should be smart.

I put it to you that school uniform should not be smart and certainly shouldn’t replicate office attire. This is a view that needs challenging.

I know my mother used to judge my old secondary school on the appearance of the pupils. She said amazing things about how smart the kids looked.

Alas, she had been tricked. While the uniform and discipline policies were rigidly enforced, the quality of the teaching was shocking. I’m afraid appearance isn’t everything.

I feel strongly that uniform should be loose fitting, layered, warm and convenient. For primary school kids, it should also be covered in paint, mud and glue stains that show a kid has been exploring and making mess.

It should encourage outdoor play and sports. Most school uniforms do nothing of the sort.

A much better idea would be to have kids attend school in some form of track suit with trainers or plimsolls. Yes, okay, this would be gender neutral but that should not be the primary concern. It would be practical and that, for me, would be the main aim.

I’ll sign off with one interesting observation. Here is a link to the Priory School’s school uniform policy. It mentions gender neutrality once, in the final sentence. A hulaballoo about nothing, perhaps?

So what do you think? Are you wedded to the idea of smart school uniform and if so, why? Are you of the opinion practicality should trump gender neutrality? Please leave a comment below.

3 thoughts on “School uniform: It should be about practicality, not gender neutrality”

  1. I’m not sure what’s more entertaining, the kilt or a bathroom incident we can all relate to (albeit without the live broadcast!)

    With little girl enjoying nursery and the impending graduation to “big girl school’ I welcome your argument. Let her wear what makes her happy (perhaps excluding the full princess outfit or the cowboy gun).

    However, of I’m not getting ahead of things, there will surely come an age where peer pressure and fashions mean it’s better for our children and the school staff too have some sort of “rules” – surely not 😮

    1. I do like to entertain my readers Robin! As for that bathroom incident. oh my word, I simply had to laugh as soon as I was off-air!

      You do, nonetheless, raise a very good point. I am a very big advocate for school uniforms. It removes that fashion pressure you talk of. I simply think our whole approach to school uniforms is wrong. Kids should go to school in practical clothes that can get dirty and encourage play. Packing them off each day in pseudo office wear is bizarre. The retort is “but you often have to wear unifrom in the world of work.”

      Sure, you do. Paramedics, nurses, mechanics, tyre fitters, police, armed forces, factory workers, gardeners etc. All these people wear uniform that is practical safe and easy to clean. Very often the uniform is there to protect as much as look smart because the job comes with a risk that they will get dirty. A practical uniform would be a much better reflection of the working world.

  2. Consider the below benefits of having a custom school uniform and ask yourself: would your school should use uniforms for children? The answer is probably going to be a resounding YES!

    Here are some benefits of having a school uniforms:
    1. Make School have particular identity
    2. Ensure Children Safety
    3. Save time and Money
    4. Increase confidence between children

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