No uniform way for schools on wearing uniforms, says Education Department

Proud to wear school uniform... pupils at Bishop Challoner

Proud to wear school uniform... pupils at Bishop Challoner - Credit: Bishop Challoner Sch [promo]

Pupils are now back in the classroom after the summer break, many with new uniforms if they’re joining a new school.

Some parents finding it tough making ends meet question whether expensive uniforms are necessary—so do some of the older students now in the ‘home run towards next summer’s GCSE and A-levels.

Government regulations say head teachers can discipline pupils not wearing a uniform — and some heads do.

A pupil can be suspended or expelled if they repeatedly ignore the uniform rules.

Schools like east London’s Bishop Challoner in Stepney have a strict code—but it doesn’t suit all pupils.

Head teacher Nick Soar believes uniforms are the catalyst for good educational management.

“Uniforms don’t solve problems,” he admits. “We would hope that uniforms prevent bullying, but it would be naive to think it cures all.”

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“If a school cares daily about checking the dress code, it is likely to have a structure that is also interested in whether homework has been done.”

School uniform ensures equity, whether rich or poor, whatever gender, according to Bishop Challoner’s philosophy.

“We don’t see a uniform as suppressing imagination,” Mr Soar added. “A uniform liberates young people to focus energies of their imaginations.”

But not all students agree. Tayla Maloney, a Bishop Challoner sixth-form student from Mile End, felt compelled to voice her view that uniforms stifle expression.

She said: “Our school cares more about the clothes on our back than our actual education.

“They are trying to make students from the poorest borough in the UK, Tower Hamlets, buy suits when many of their parents earn minimum wage and simply cannot afford it.”

The Department of Education advises parents to seek help with the cost of buying uniforms and to talk to heads if their if they cannot afford the uniform or PE kit. The school has to give parents time to buy the right clothes.

But Tayla insisted: “Surely it is not fair that we have to dress more formal than our superiors.

“Fashion is a huge part of expressing myself and many of my peers agree.

“Being restricted to this clothing is a joke—not to mention that when we attend uni in the upcoming years we are allowed to wear whatever we wish.”

There is no legislation that deals specifically with school uniform, although Whitehall says it expects schools to take account of developing a uniform policy.

But sixth-form students like Tayla say they feel it is important as young adults they have a chance to express themselves—and that means choosing themselves what they wear on their backs.