I’ll start with a confession, I’ve got a bit of a thing about uniform.
Don’t worry, its not that sort of article, but I should say that at university I wrote my dissertation on the roll of uniform in society and my first teaching job in a state secondary had abandoned the idea of formal uniform in favour of a Clean, Covered and Considerate policy for dress.
But now as a parent of a school-aged child I understand the ease for all of having a uniform and sticking to it.
The arguments are well know, that uniform instils respect, encourages good behaviour, removes the pressure to dress in fashionable clothing and suggests equality across the whole student body. Perhaps, though, it’s time to review your uniform policy and consider these points.
What’s your purpose for uniform?
If it’s to instil respect and status then the uniform needs to be very easy to identify and be consistent across each student. If it’s for ease and durability, then cost and quality becomes the focus.
Where do you get your uniform?
If you are more focused on consistency then you need a consistent supplier.
This is best achieved by using just one. However, this often causes an increase in cost and in 2015 the Competitions and Markets Authority wrote an open letter to the DofE after a raft of complaints about single supplier policies advising schools that under completion rules several suppliers should be available to parents.
A preferred supplier can be named but you must allow parents to shop around. Keeping items that must be purchased, such as a blazer with the school emblem, to a minimum will offer parents flexibility.
How many items of uniform do you have?
The more items you have the more items parents will have to pay for. What community do you serve and what might be their general financial situation? Will the cost of your uniform cause concern for some parents? How do you support parents with the cost if and when issues arise?
Ease and choice
Flexible policies allow parents to consider what is important to them. They may want to focus on durability or be keen to choose natural materials.
Many manufactures are now making uniforms from plastic waste. This can not only be great for the environment but a demonstration of a reflective and engaged school, considering issues beyond the classroom.
The second-hand market and saving tips
Uniform can help to raise you funds as well. Donations of old but still wearable uniforms can be purchased from your school at a fraction of the original cost. This was done once each year at my school.
Additionally let parents know that buying the size up works for you too. We all know how quickly students grow so if an oversized sweatshirt doesn’t worry you then let them know.
Hannah Day is Head of Visual Arts, Media and Film at Ludlow College.