SCHOOL UNIFORMS: A RESTRICTIVE OR NECESSARY REQUIREMENT?
The notion of school uniforms and their constraints has long been a controversial topic. However, the recent release of a new strict uniform policy by Pimlico Academy in London has caused significant unrest amongst students and parents, and has reignited the need for debate.
The dress code stated that if students choose to wear hijabs, they should not be “too colourful”, and that hairstyles, such as afros, which may “block the view of others in class” are not permitted. Pupils consequently accused the school and their management of racism, and also staged a sit-down protest to express their anger.
For many, school uniforms are merely a burden and young people feel that having such strict guidelines can limit their self-expression. It is widely believed that teenagers need to express themselves through their clothing, piercings and hairstyles, and by having a uniform they are restricted in doing so. With school already being a difficult stage in a young person’s life, many argue that pupils should be able to take control of how they look and how they are perceived by others.
School uniforms can also be extremely expensive for parents and guardians as they are usually quite highly priced. This may be due to the fact that uniforms include more costly items – which often have to be of a very specific appearance – such as blazers and patent shoes. With over 4 million children living in poverty, the correct school uniform may simply be unattainable for some.
On the other hand, dress codes and policies have many beneficial aspects that can ultimately prevent bullying.
The idea of class barriers is an essential argument in favour of school uniforms, as without them the students with the most and least affluent backgrounds would be apparent; this is then most likely to lead to discrimination and bullying amongst young people. For those unable to afford the latest trends and more expensive labels, they will undeniably feel self-conscious, rejected, and as if they do not fit in. This may then cause much bigger issues to occur and have a long-lasting impact on a young person’s confidence.
School uniforms may also encourage a sense of pride and community amongst students – even after leaving education they are able to reminisce on the trials and tribulations of their school days. During their time at school, pupils will most likely not feel a huge sense of pride, but in the following years it becomes clearer that uniforms are crucial in preventing disadvantaged students from being singled out.
The need for school uniforms is an age-old debate, and there needs to be a greater understanding of both arguments.
Whilst pupils should look presentable, and the opportunity for discrimination should be prevented, there arguably should not be numerous constraints that can cause more harm than good. A prime example of this would be the aforementioned rules stated by Pimlico Academy which penalise students on what seems like grounds of race, and gender.
In modern society, young people are generally very self-conscious of their appearance and are beginning to become their own person, so they should not be overly constrained. Whilst many understand the necessity for a uniform, perhaps it is the unjustified extents and lack of progression which instigate such defiance.
Speaking to the BBC in a recent article in April 2021, Pimlico Academy Daniel Smith said he was "able to reassure students that their previous representations on these points had been the motivation for reflection which, in turn, resulted in revision to the relevant polices taking place".