‘Wearing school uniforms again will provide much-needed security and normality’

Matthew Easter, co-chair of the Schoolwear Association, argues that despite some relaxing of policies during the pandemic, uniform continues to offer huge benefits that are even more important as schools reopen

The coronavirus pandemic has seen some independent schools relax uniform policies and MPs are currently debating new legislation which could lead to changes in government advice. So, is uniform under threat in independent schools? I think not. Uniform continues to offer huge benefits to schools, pupils and families, which are even more important as schools reopen fully in September.

Boosting pupils’ mental wellbeing after Covid-19

It goes without saying that independent schools have faced huge challenges this year as the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on every aspect of our lives. In these challenging times it is natural to look for signs of normality, but even so, as children returned to the classroom in June, many parents might have been surprised by how much their children were looking forward to putting their uniforms back on for the first time in months.

We have seen some schools relax uniform policies with reduced class sizes. However, headteachers across the country know the positive impact a sensible school uniform policy has on pupils, teachers and parents – it was encouraging to see the guidance from the Department for Education, which stated that all schools should return to their normal uniform policies from September.

As children returned to the classroom in June, many parents might have been surprised by how much their children were looking forward to putting their uniforms back on for the first time in months

The advice also stated that garments do not need to be washed more often than usual. School uniform is a vital aspect of day-to-day life for pupils across the UK and ensuring that children return to the classroom in their regular uniform will help to restore routine and a sense of normality following months of home learning.

The importance of school uniform to mental wellbeing and academic performance is supported by psychologists, including Dr Ameerah Khadaroo from the University of the Arts London. Dr Khadaroo, a lecturer in psychology, said that a uniform had a crucial role to play in boosting the wellbeing of students as they return to the classroom, helping to “strengthen a sense of togetherness amongst schoolchildren which is much needed in a context of social distancing”.

Statutory legislation

This year we have also seen the government support legislation which would introduce guidance on the cost of uniform. While this legislation is unlikely to lead to changes in the independent sector, it highlights the fact that cost is understandably an important consideration for parents, and clearly uniform should be affordable for families, but we believe that there are a number of other factors to consider when buying a uniform.

This is why the schoolwear industry takes its responsibility to providing high-quality, ethically sourced and sustainable clothing very seriously. Higher-quality clothing lasts longer and does not need to be replaced as often, producing longer-term cost savings for families and also reducing their impact on the environment.

In our recent report, Shining a Spotlight on School Uniform, we set out the need for the guidance to be balanced and ensure that the quality and sustainability of school uniform, alongside cost, are key considerations when schools develop uniform policy, as this will save families over the longer term and be better for the planet.

The widely known benefits of a school uniform have never been more relevant as we hope to return to a semblance of normality in the autumn. School uniform is popular among students, removing pressure to wear the latest brands and reducing levels of bullying, while also instilling a sense of identity and pride in their school.

Routine and structure are critical to children’s mental health and wellbeing, and wearing school uniforms again in September will provide some much-needed security and normality to them following the disruption caused by the pandemic.

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