Although at UIC London we do not have a uniform (well – what post 18 institution does?) visitors and students from Europe are frequently surprised to see that at almost every secondary school in the country there is a uniform, and not only is there a uniform but increasingly a uniform which is traditional – i.e. blazers and ties. It’s not a trend which is unique to this country either. In the US there is also a growing trend towards students wearing traditional uniforms. So why does it happen so commonly here and so rarely in Europe. The reasons for the uniform are clear enough – here and not anywhere in Europe?
An article in the Guardian reports “Supporters of uniform insist that it improves behaviour and builds community spirit” . They quote sop me research form Oxford Brookes University which concluded “Pupils enjoy the sense of pride they get from wearing a smart uniform, and the smarter the better.” This conclusion was well publicised but the fact that the research was sponsored by the Schoolwear Association was less so ! Do you smell a rat? What we might be looking at are political choices. The article quotes a couple of recent Education Ministers “Charles Clarke insisted that uniforms are good for discipline and school ethos, giving pupils a real sense of identity with their school”. And Ed Balls suggested that local authorities encourage schools to adopt “smart” uniforms and strengthen ties with “uniformed” organisations such as scouts and guides.
However a recent study in the US over 8 years came to very different conclusions. American academic David Brunsma concluded that: “The results, although surprising to many, simply cannot be ignored. Uniforms do not make our schools better. There seems to be no easy correlation in the UK – many failing schools have introduced rigid uniform policy while a significant number of very successful schools have completely done away with it.