There are a few non-uniform secondary schools but the vast majority have a uniform, certainly in Years 7–11.

  • School uniform is a leveller. If everyone has to wear the same clothes, it reduces fashion competition. This makes many young people feel happier and more secure. However, within any uniform, there is always some peer pressure to conform to trends, such as brands of bag or coat.
  • A uniform can reduce differences between students’ economic backgrounds.
  • It is a good sign if uniform rules are enforced. If a school adopts a uniform, but does not make their students wear it, this is a cause for concern. The institution is sending out the message to its students that rules can be flaunted. If students are allowed to rebel in small ways, for example, shirts hanging out, they may try to rebel in bigger ways as well.
  • Uniform rules should be enforced by all staff, not just by some. Students should be expected to wear proper uniform throughout the school.
  • It is a good sign if students wear their uniform with pride. This shows that the school pays attention to detail and that the children are proud of their uniform and their school. For example ties should be fastened.
  • If a school adopts a uniform, it knows its students will be identified in the community. It is therefore doubly important that the school  enforces the uniform to maintain a good local reputation.
  • There are of course different uniforms, which create varying messages. Schools that have blazers are often trying to establish or maintain a traditional, usually academic, ethos. Many successful schools have very well maintained uniforms but have abandoned ties, seeing them as untidy.
  • Thoughtful uniform guidelines will take into consideration the religious and cultural mix of the school’s intake. For example, if girls are allowed to wear skirt, trousers or shalwar kameez, then those students who wear the shalwar kameez do not stand out and those who do not feel fairly treated. However, if girls are only allowed to wear skirt or shalwar kameez, then faith differences, as identified by dress, become exacerbated.
  • It can appear that some schools choose uniforms that are deliberately expensive, to influence the nature of their client group. For example, a school might demand apparently unnecessary duplication in their sports’ kit, asking for a different piece of kit for each sport. Or, a school could demand different summer and winter uniforms.
  • Some schools choose uniforms because they are distinctive, and although affordable, can only be brought from particular suppliers. This makes it easier to ensure that the uniform is adhered to.
  • Some schools choose uniforms that are particularly accessible, for example a white polo shirt, so that they can guarantee all parents can easily find it.
  • Some schools consult students when adopting or changing their uniform. This is not necessarily a good thing.
  • Many schools facilitate the wearing of their uniform by selling clothing directly.
  • Parents are often requested to sign up to the uniform policy. A good school should expect and receive support from its parents in enforcing the wearing of uniform.
  • A few secondary schools do not have a uniform during Years 7–11. This suggests that the school has a libertarian approach to students’ social development.

Further Information

Informal Visit

Watch the students coming out of school at the end of the day – is the uniform code enforced? It does not matter if students are undoing their ties outside the gate, but it does matter if they are wearing uniform sloppily inside the grounds. If a significant number of students are out of uniform and nothing is done about it, then this is a cause for concern.


Make sure you read the uniform policy carefully, understand and agree with it.

Case Study


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