As a parent and a teacher I am aware of the diverse views surrounding the wearing of school uniforms and for me the issue is one of contention. I understand why some parents and teachers believe uniforms are an important aspect of school life and I believe that they do have the potential to help children understand expectations of work uniform in adult life. Yet, I am neither for, nor against the wearing of school uniform but I do have strong views surrounding the debate.
School uniforms are always featured in the news, whether it is about how the old style of blazers is not practical in a modern school setting, or how schools should be understanding of children's needs during difficult weather. Headteachers and school governors can of course, make their own decisions when it comes to their school uniform policies, however, The Department For Education does highlight that one of the main considerations must be to consider the factor of cost in any changes to school uniform policy.
I believe that being prepared for the day by having a wash, putting on clean clothes is an important life skill to learn... "clean, uniform is a clean mind" is one phase I have heard during my teaching placements, and costs nothing... or does it?
What do schools consider as clean and tidy? With a quick type into google "school uniform news" a flurry of news articles comes up referencing letters from headteachers about the state of their pupils, and angry words from parents about the challenges of modern parenting.
One particular news article though did catch my attention. A Primary School Headteacher, highlighted that children were "unkempt and not in appropriate school uniform" and furthermore "In a country where there is plentiful running water and washing machines, and shops like Tesco offering entire school uniforms for £10, it is a pretty poor indictment of the parenting skills of some of our families”
Let me address these points separately:
1)Unkempt - Yes, in the country I live (UK) we are fortunate to have free healthcare and running water, yet some families who are living in times of austerity have to choose between hot water or breakfast every morning. This is a real issue, because as a teacher, I see the amount of children that are coming into school hungry or the amount of parents who are having to use food banks as a source of feeding their family. Secondly, not every household has a washing machine. Often washing is done on a weekly basis for a lot of families, which would mean that a parent would need to buy more than one uniform for each child.
2) Cost of uniform - The prices of full uniforms seem to be on the up each year. With schools demanding only school printed sweatshirts and trousers with the school logo, this only adds to the tightening of the purse strings. As a single mum for many years, I would each year save my Nectar and Tesco points in order to get my kids trousers, shirts and all the other 'back to school' gear I needed to buy. Now my kids are older and this year I only have one to buy for... Brilliant I thought as this is going to be so inexpensive... how wrong was I?!
My son's new school has just had a school uniform policy overhaul. This is focusing on children wearing the same uniform, including the skirts and trousers. For a pair of trousers with the school logo it has cost me fifteen pounds! £15!?!, plus then a PE kit, shirt and trousers for £35! I luckily don't live in a household who is struggling for money, but even I found the payment hard to swallow. With a son, completing KS4 sports and performing arts, we need more than one kit and dirty trousers from mud and rain means more trousers need to be bought... Even with a washing machine and tumble dryer, we are not a 1950's family! Mum does not stay at home cleaning and Dad out being the lone bread earner.
3) Another aspect that seems to be changing and I know some parents are finding tricky is the ever increasing use of online purchasing. I remember going to get my school uniform with my parents during the last week of the holidays. It would all be over in a day after Mum and Dad had saved for all my supplies and I would go and try on the clothes and buy my shoes after being fitted.
Today, I have now had to go and purchase my son's school uniform (apart from shoes and shirts) all online and this does raise a few issues..
- Not all parents have access to a current account, linked to a parent pay account!
- Not all parents can afford to pay for their child's clothes by the beginning of August!
- Not all parents can afford to not use their supermarket vouchers!
I applaud all the people who take the decision to ask family members for help or have the courage to go and speak with their school about finding other ways to pay for their child's clothing. I honestly don't know what I would have done 10 years ago as a young single parent if I had had to deal with these modern issues.
To all the parents out there... we are all doing a brilliant job!!
* If your child has grown out of his old school clothes, please think about giving them to your school with the understanding that they are for parents who could do with an extra pair of trousers or another jumper *
What do you think about school uniforms? What do you think about the increasing price? What is your child's uniform policy, is it easy to get their uniform?
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xx Family Of The Day xx