The school uniform debate

School uniforms hit the news headlines at the start of the new term, after a headteacher in Margate sent 50 pupils home for wearing the wrong clothes. We asked three school principals in this region what their views are on the subject. How important do they think a school’s uniform is in relation to standards and expectations from its students?

Dr Shelagh Potter, executive principal, North Liverpool Academy

As the most improved school in Liverpool this year, we are very clear that attention to detail on things that seem trivial like uniforms has a very significant impact on our students’ outcomes. This year we improved our 5 GCSEs at A* to C including English and maths by a record 20%.
We take a no-nonsense approach. This starts at the beginning of the day with uniforms. I expect my students to take pride in their appearance. Our Year Managers meet every student on the way in to school to make sure they are dressed appropriately. Of course this improves behaviour and in turn grades. If you give ground on wearing trainers and hoodies, you must expect to be challenged with more serious issues.
Our journey of improvement over the last year shows us that commitment to uniforms and behaviour raises the academic achievement of our students. And our GCSE grades absolutely demonstrate this.

Ian Young, principal, Rainford High Technology College

I am a strong believer in the importance of uniform as it sets the expected standards as to how we are going to go about our business of learning. It also represents belonging and being proud about what we belong to; to me school is all about being part of something.
For some people the only time in their lives when they will be part of a community with a common purpose is school. School and the uniform focuses on us all having the same standards, the same clear expectations and the same shared sets of values represented by the clothes we wear.
When we look beyond schools and question the issues of wider society and how people behave I think it’s important to consider how having shared ethos and values impacts on other successful organisation such as Team GB. The distinctive Team GB uniforms helped reinforce the idea of pride in belonging to a team, working hard and achieving success.
Clearly high standards of dress and uniform don’t guarantee success in learning and achievement but as a starting point, how we dress, present ourselves for the day and the expectation of how we intend to learn cannot be undervalued.

Michael Kennedy, principal, St Mary’s College

Appearance is a strong indicator of attitude of mind. At St Mary’s College, we expect our pupils to observe our uniform code and come to school looking smart and suitably prepared for lessons, which benefits everyone, most of all the pupils themselves. There is no doubt in my mind that the excellent academic results our pupils achieve here at St Mary’s and the high standards of behaviour we see around school are closely linked to the smart way our pupils dress and present themselves.
Our parents and – perhaps more importantly – our pupils themselves appreciate and support the importance of these high standards in preparing our young people for the world of work.

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