Two thirds of readers think schools are too strict on uniform
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Hundreds of parents and carers across the region have voiced their opinions on school uniform – with nearly 70% of readers arguing that rules are too stringent. Which camp are you in?
A survey conducted by this newspaper has found that more than two thirds of readers think schools are too strict on uniform.
The poll, which was featured in a piece about an alleged crackdown on uniform at Stowupland High, asked the general public: “Are schools too strict on uniform?”
The survey found that 68% of 547 people voted ‘Yes’, while 32% voted ‘No’.
Many parents and carers also commented on the piece in public forums, exposing a divide in opinion across the region.
A handful of the responses are featured below. Do you think school uniform is too strict?
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One reader, Justin Allard, said: “Uniform is uniform whether at school or work. Look at army/police then tell me schools are too strict. I personally think it is important that if a school has a uniform rule it should be adhered too otherwise it’s just another relaxed UK where the kids rule and don’t have any discipline.”
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Laura Freeman, who has two children at Saxmundham Primary School, said: “It’s not a fashion parade, can’t do as you please. It’s school, and like when these kids go out to work there will be rules. Rules have to be adhered too. Whether you like it or not.”
Levi Evans, who is in Year 11 at Copleston High School in Ipswich, said: “They’re not strict on uniform specifically but are more focused on getting the great grades that will get you where you want to go next. I’m happy to go there as the relationship between us students and teachers is amazing actually and that bond between the two is very helpful for when you very first join.”
Maxene Walsworth, an ex-Coplestone High pupil with children at Pipers Vale Primary and Ipswich Academy, said: “I’m getting sick to the back teeth of this. When you learn at or work in any establishment there are dress code and rules surrounding them.
“As a parent regardless of your opinion of the rules it’s your job to encourage and ensure your children follow them. Things change, rules change on a yearly termly basis, again it’s your job as a parent to keep abreast of it and provide adequate uniform, utensils.
“Making excuses and stamping your feet does nothing but make the situation worse and make your children believe the rules don’t apply to them.
“When they go out into the working world they’ll get given a uniform and that’s that. Wear it and follow it or have no job.”
Another reader, Jacqui Yates, said: “A uniform stops bullying as children whose parents cannot afford the latest designer gear don’t have to compete.”
Emma Pullen added: “Life is full of rules and if we can’t follow a simple one about dress code then life is going to prove pretty difficult for some.
“If we dropped all the fuss and argument about uniform, perhaps we would have more energy and could get on with enjoying sports and education and accept that school is about the teaching and the learning, not the presenting of challenging behaviors and disrespecting authority.
“Look to the future. Where there’s a point in time that mum and dad/carer/gran, are not there to constantly fight your battles. A bit of fuss over uniform will seem like the least of your worries.”
Alan Whelan, who was headteacher at St Benedict’s Catholic College in Colchester for 14 years, said: “Thanks be to God that in my fourteen years as an Essex secondary headteacher I never had to enforce such regulations. Our PTA and school council meetings always ensured that we had consensus regarding our strict uniform regime.”
Nicolle Watkins, whose daughter goes to Stowupland High, said: “My daughter was told on her first day her trousers were unacceptable. Too tight apparently. But the three girls stood next to her wearing the exact same style had nothing said to them. Completely ridiculous. Focus on teaching the children not their clothing.”
Sherry Lou, who has children at Pakefield High in Lowestoft, added: “More to the point is the expense of the specified uniforms, with having to buy from specific shops. It’s now a case of: ‘Shall I feed my child this week or buy the specific non optional items on the uniform list?’. Yes to a degree I do agree the following rules etc, however the pure cost is awful in this economic era. As far as hair colour, piercings and tattoos how can inclusion be promoted if these in moderation are not accepted?
“Some of the most decent people I know have tattoos, piercings and different coloured hair, as also some of the most awful people I know are outwardly looking comformist who follow all the rules.”
Zoey Palmer, who has a daughter at Stowupland High, said: “I can understand if the uniform is smart (i.e. blazer, tie, etc.) but it’s not, half the kids don’t wear a school jumper, polo top that is never tucked in, to me that’s not smart, and they say they set high standards.
“I agree with looking smart but not half of the job! They need to concentrate on the school education, and smarting up the school as it’s very run down.
“Not everyone can afford the the trousers and the shoes they want them to wear!”
Samantha Wasteney, who has two children on the autistic spectrum at Thomas Gainsborough School in Great Cornard, argued that pupils with special needs were left out of the picture when uniform regulations were drawn up.
“Jess has a problem with layers and would rather keep her blazer off,” she said. “Looks smart though. However you can see the frustration on her face.”
Karyn Cuthbert, who has a son with Aspergers at Hadleigh High School, agreed: “I don’t feel like children with additional needs are taken into account where school uniforms are concerned, i.e. texture, material can play a major part in how the children feel. Where is the inclusion?”
What is the law surrounding school uniform?
The Department for Education (DfE) offers guidance for schools on uniform and related polices, but there is no legislation that deals specifically with school uniform or other aspects of appearance such as hair colour and style. It is for the governing body of a school to decide whether there should be a school uniform and other rules relating to appearance, and if so what they should be.
The latest guidance, published in 2013, says: “The Department strongly encourages schools to have a uniform as it can play a valuable role in contributing to the ethos of a school and setting an appropriate tone.
“We strongly recommend that in setting its uniform/appearance policy the governing body: [...] consider the cost, the available supply sources and year round availability of the proposed uniform to ensure it is providing best value for money for parents.
“The School Admissions Code 2012, which is statutory guidance, states ‘Admission authorities must ensure that […] policies around school uniform or school trips do not discourage parents from applying for a place for their child.’
“No school uniform should be so expensive as to leave pupils or their families feeling unable to apply to, or attend, a school of their choice, due to the cost of the uniform.
“School governing bodies should therefore give high priority to cost considerations. The governing body should be able to demonstrate how best value has been achieved and keep the cost of supplying the uniform under review.”