After decades working in education across the UK I have heard more arguments in favour and against school uniforms then I care to remember.
There is no doubt it is a controversial subject for teachers, parents and, of course, pupils.
Yet in my experience as a teacher and a parent, and even distantly as a student, I have never wavered from an unshakeable belief that a well-managed and disciplined school uniform policy is the bedrock of a happy and successful school.
Firstly, I should make it clear that I have great respect for individuality – creative ideas and independent thought are crucial elements of a good education.
But it is equally important to create a sense of collective belonging – a comradeship and unity which encourages that creativity rather than stifles it – and a uniform is crucial in creating that union.
Robert Baden-Powell was right when he said about scout uniforms: “The uniform makes for brotherhood, since when universally adopted it covers up all differences of class and country.”
A sense of belonging and pride are vital in trying to create a positive and comfortable school community. It’s no accident that the armed forces, emergency services and many companies adopt uniforms. It helps foster a spirit of working together to meet goals.
When pupils look smart and are well mannered that sense of pride extends to the communities outside the school too. A school’s reputation is critical in ensuring pupils can secure work placements, college and university places and jobs.
A clear uniform policy can also reduce stress for pupils. They spend less time worrying about what to wear to fit in, peer pressure is reduced, and new starters are less nervous if they don’t have to agonise over how people will judge their appearance.
In my experience, bullying is reduced drastically when there is a well maintained uniform policy, preventing those from less affluent households feeling marginalized because they don’t wear the latest trends and labels.
These advantages extend to parents too. They spend less money and less time worrying about their children’s attire and it actually helps punctuality amongst pupils.
I’m a great believer in setting high standards for students. In my view, young people today are more committed, passionate and dedicated than many give them credit for.
Set high expectations in everything and the school, collectively, tends to meet them. Students and parents need to know you believe in them.
I expect them to adhere to the uniform policy, to look smart to think smart and to be a positive influence in their school and wider community and I am confident they will rise to those challenges.
Dale Hardy, 43, grew up and went to school in Grantham and is delighted to return to the county to take the reins at the North Hykeham school in September. His career spans secondary and primary education and includes time as head of City of Peterborough Academy, which he led to Outstanding status and was described as “inspirational and highly respected” by Ofsted inspectors. He leaves his current role as Executive Headteacher at the L.E.A.D. Academy Trust, which manages more than 20 primary schools and three secondaries.