OPINION: ‘I’m sick of draconian school uniform rules’
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While group head of features Charlotte agrees uniform is important, she says it’s time for the education system to ‘get real’ when it comes to accommodating children’s shapes and sizes.
When I packed my teen and pre-teen off to school last week for the first time since March, I’ll admit I was worried.
Their anxiety levels were high after months hibernating at home – how would they cope?
With social distancing effectively non-existent in the classroom and between whole year groups (with masks only being worn in shared spaces such as corridors), how exposed would they potentially be to the virus?
And, most importantly to them, was I still good at making a packed lunch (the bane of my life)?
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Their uniforms, bought from the suggested supplier apart from one garment, were the furthest thing from my mind.
After wiping away their nervous tears, helping them pack their bags, and dosing them up on pre-school trash TV to calm their nerves, I set the duo off looking, I thought, really quite smart. Shiny new shoes, crisp new uniforms not yet tarnished by scuffs and tears from footie on the playground.
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Bedecked in prep-school style knits and clip-on ties, they looked like they meant business.
And yet, just one day in, a dreaded email arrived informing us our daughter’s trousers didn’t fit the school dress code as they were too ‘skinny’.
I take umbrage with this.
Actually, said trousers are slim fit with a hem (as suggested on the approved uniform list) and my daughter has worn the same look and style for the past two years. They don’t cling to her like leggings/jeggings, and have pleats and stitching. She certainly doesn’t look scruffy, ‘tarty’ or troublesome – like she’s going to disappear at lunchtime for a ciggy and bottle of White Lightning at the park.
While I wholeheartedly appreciate the founding theory of uniform and its importance – to put kids on an even playing field, represent the school, and elevate their pride and community in the education facility – isn’t it a bit draconian, particularly in these uncertain times, to put parents under pressure for the minutiae?
Taking our own circumstance as an example, faced with an hourglass-shaped but very skinny 15-year-old who is too shapely for children’s clothes and a little too tiny for adult sizes, a measure of grace should surely be given? Children are not, after all, one size fits all.
With a similar (but much less toned) physique to my child, I still to this day find it nigh-on impossible to buy or wear trousers, having to resort to smart jeggings or a leggings and dress combination. My employer doesn’t send me home with a note. In fact, as far as I’m aware, as long as we look smart and our ‘top comfortably meets our bottom’ (my favourite phrase ever from HR), we can wear what we like.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that’s what schools should do, uniforms are important, but show a little sympathy and lenience to those bedraggled, stressed parents with ununiformly shaped children, who are now having to endure weekends trawling shops for that mythical perfect-fit trouser instead of taking their kids out for bike rides and walks.
A cursory survey amongst friends on social media showed I’m not alone this year.
One has a child who had to rummage in the lost property box for suitable trousers, which were too big and threatened to fall down.
Another, with a daughter a similar shape to mine, is fuming.
And someone else with a SEN child said their child looks smart and is comfortable (very important to their special needs) but they have been pulled up on a tiny, inconsequential styling detail.
In contrast, a teaching friend added: “When expectations on uniform are dropped, behaviour in other areas also drops and then learning is seriously affected. It is seen regularly and I’ve experienced it in different schools, with high uniform standards follows good behaviour and as a result learning is improved.”
Well, quite. But if the trousers fit...
What is the solution here? Do I keep my bright, top-set-for-most-subjects, keen, polite, thoughtful daughter at home because she’s too slim for school?
Or is it time schools stop looking at the ‘smallprint’ of their students’ clothing?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me .