School uniform… :) or :I or :(

23 Mar

Different schools have different rules with regards to school uniform, and how strict they are with the children wearing their school uniform. In my school we had to ask permission to take our jumpers off… school 15 mins down the road they could do in in trainers instead of shoes and hoodies instead of school jumpers and the teachers weren’t bothered. So why do we have school uniforms? What is the psychology behind uniforms? Is there an association between improving school discipline and students wearing uniforms? Lets discuss…

The Department of Education says that there is no actual legislation directly for school uniform, but they do acknowledge that it plays an important role in school life. They did however establish a five-year strategy for students recognising how uniforms can improve school attendance and behaviour in schools.

So, why do we have to wear uniforms in schools?

I am sure that it is clear to us all that when a school has uniform they are distributing the message, that everyone is the same, the school is an inclusive organisation, everyone will be treated the same. The majority of people have an innate desire to belong and feel part of a group, to have admiration and respect, and feel like they are understood and accepted (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Going to school is about the opportunity to learn, not the opportunity to demonstrate your social class and be a target for the bullies!

Some people believe that a uniform rids children of their individuality and that it encourages them to conform. But is this really the case? Perhaps it will motivate the children to individualise themselves by achievements within the school rather than what they wear! In the evening before or morning of school children can focus on their work instead on worrying about what they are going to wear, will they get laughed at, will it be deemed acceptable. Work is the focus, not clothes!

However, could school uniforms be causing a ‘halo effect’? It is not actually the students’ behaviour that changes as a result of the uniforms, it is the way in which teachers and adults alike perceive the students when they wear the uniform. Behling (1994) found that both teachers and students believed that uniform-clad students exhibited more preferable behaviour and performed better academically than the students who did not wear uniforms. It is a possibility that this is an illusion, however Behling does construe that these positive perceptions could assist creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by where marking and discipline standards are increased to mirror their greater positive image of the students who consequently behave more appropriately.

I didn’t have any problem with wearing a school uniform, because lets be honest uniforms are a part of life… we all have expectations to what we expect people in certain jobs to wear! What I do not agree with is a school in London, specifically, which has decided to split a school into three sub-schools and the children wear a particular uniform depending on the sub-school they are placed in! Gifted and talented wear purple ties and badges and the remainder either wears blue or red. I feel this diminishes the whole purpose of a school uniform?!

What is your opinion on school uniform? Did you have to wear a uniform during 6th form?

Baumeister R.F., Leary M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.


8 Responses to “School uniform… :) or :I or :(”

  1. rgadd18 March 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    I was looking at research into the pros and cons of uniforms and i came across some arguments that i thought were different and i had not heard of before. Some reasons for wearing uniform are that: it increases student attendance, because they do not need to fear being ridiculed but also that they are more likely to buy books and school supplies because they are not saving for the latest fashion, also it decreases crime and violence; this is because students are less likely to steal items from their peers that are seen to be fashionable and worth a lot, also fights over material possessions are less likely to occur (Caruso, 1996). I hadnt thought of these reasons before and i think they might be pushing the edge of whether they are actually going to occur just because uniforms are being worn. However on the other side it has been argued that non of the evidence for uniforms is valid or reliable because it is based on anecdotal evidence and case studies (Caruso). I do not think the uniform debate will ever have an answer because there are so many arguments for each side; i think whatever the school feels is best for their students is the right decision as long as they are consistent with everyone.

    • cassharp March 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

      Thank you for your comment; it is interesting that the majority of advantages to wearing a uniform that you have mentioned are non-cognitive factors. This is however supported by recent research that highlights the biggest impact school uniforms has may be on non-cognitive skills, for example self-esteem and discipline. Research has found non-cognitive skill formation to be a valuable part of education, and has claimed that it is as a significant factor in student’s future social employment success as academic ability (Segal, 2009). You mention the effect uniforms has on crime and violence, well in 2009 the Los Angeles Times disputed how wearing particular colours in gang-plagued areas is sufficient for a fight to be ignited, and they say that uniforms help establish a campus with a more neutral atmosphere! Surely this is what we would want!

  2. sophmoss March 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I didn’t have to wear a uniform in 6th form, and although I felt at times it would be less hassle if we did have to wear one, I thought it gave us a bigger sense of independence and maturity compared to the rest of the school. Judgements or perceptions of people alter depending on appearance, and Behling (1994) studied person perceptions and school uniforms in a secondary school setting. Four clothing styles were presented, two of which were school uniforms. It was found that perceptions of school-related behaviour and academic ability varied significantly between styles of dress. School uniforms had a positive affect on perception of school-related behaviour and academic ability.
    So it would seem that when people see students in a school uniform, it reflects better on the student.

    • cassharp March 25, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

      When you say 6th form, this was part of a large school and not just a school for 6th forms’? Because I feel 6th form students should definitely wear uniforms like the remainder of the school, they should be the example to the young students, Bandura’s social learning theory demonstrates how we learn from our role models! I am quite sure that when you were in year 7/8 there must have been at least 1 6th form student you looked up to. I think in a whole-school setting, allowing 6th form students to wear their own clothes, could have detrimental effects on establishing a high standard of uniform dress amongst the younger pupils. More and more colleges are introducing their own dress code in their campuses for curb bunking and safety reasons.

  3. elburns March 25, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I had to wear a school uniform in primary school, secondary school but not in sixth-form, and I must say I missed having a uniform (although I never thought I would). I believe wearing uniform takes a lot of stress of parents also, and although there is the purchase of the uniform to begin with there is relatively less money spent, especially with me for instance as I wore all of my sisters passed down jumpers and t-shirts. In Long Beach Unified School District were the first district to require school uniform and found a dramatic decrease in violence and discipline problems in school. More importantly school crime decreased by 36%; sex offenses, by 74%; physical fights between students and vandalism by 18% to name a few (King, 2009). These appear to be huge differences by something so simple as wearing a school uniform. As described in my previous blog how disruptive classroom behaviour can be to learning. I believe Uniforms are the way forward!

    • cassharp March 26, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Thank you for comment on my blog, what I think is quite interesting is that we all continue to mention non-cognitive skills, not one of us have mentioned the affect school uniform could have on academic achievement! Yeung (2009) suggested that actually minimal to no effect on improving achievement levels, he speculates is can actually hurt them. This I don’t understand because surely students learning would increase as a result of less disruptive behaviour in the classroom?! However Yeung was not alone on his idea. A data analysis was performed from the National Center for Educational Statistic’s National Education Longitudinal Survey and Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Both assessed primary and secondary school students from 1988 to 2004. They concluded that whilst a certain percentage of scores were higher in the schools that wore uniforms, a large majority of the data was concluded as inconsistent and inconclusive! The National Education Longitudinal Survey even found that on all examinations other than reading, the uniformed public school students performed poorer than the students from uniform-free schools. I really don’t understand how uniforms can decrease academic achievement! Any thoughts?

  4. pippa March 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    I’ve always thought that the idea behind school uniforms was ‘deindividuation’ (see Zimbardo’s classic study), as wearing something universal lessens that persons sense of individuality and is more likely to increase conformity. By wearing something that is the same as everyone else, you are the same as everyone else and become a collective group. You are then more likely to conform to the group norms, as laid down by authority figures i.e. teachers. However, this idea falls down of course, when students start to find ways to personalise their uniform. In my school, really short, stubby ties were a shorthand for ‘cool’, as they were worn by the students who were brave enough to break the group norm. in this way, uniform can become a signal for social rank, which is something that wearing a uniform is meant to eliminate. therefore, I think it is important to strictly maintain the code of dress in order to retain these social effects (my 16 year old self would be scowling at me now).

  5. rebeccaamelieknight March 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    I never actually had to wear a uniform in secondary school, until I went to a new 6 form where we were required to dress smartly. I found this blog interesting because those of us who went to the same secondary school and then moved to this new school who hadn’t worn uniform previously respected the dress code, whereas those who were forced to wear a very strict uniform prior to 6 form rebelled when they were aloud to wear what they wanted.

    I found some research that supported my personal experience outlined above. Although they found that uniforms had a positive influence on school attendance in secondary school, there was little evidence to suggest that in the long run uniforms had any lasting effects on grade retention, achievement, or the likelihood of going on into further education.


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