Hartsdown Academy, in Kent, sent 50 students home on the first day of term for “incorrect” school uniform.
Nervous 11-year-olds on their first day in big school were turned away because of quibbles about their socks, or buckles on their shoes.Yet the headteacher and the academy chain bosses are defiantly self-righteous. They want to stop the school being “scruffy”.
There is no evidence that wearing costly, awkward, and weird clothes helps learning. School uniforms are unknown in Finland, which comes top in world assessments, and in France and Germany.
I teach maths in a school which requires teachers and sixth-formers to wear “business attire”, and younger students to wear a strange uniform. When we have extra sessions in half-term, both students and teachers wear what we like — because we all know that’s better for learning. Actual working mathematicians do not wear suits and ties. The only prominent counter-example is John von Neumann, who died in 1957, and was an oddity even in his day.
My daughters went to the only state high school in their Australian state which has no uniform. There was a general student revolt against uniform in the early 70s, with a victory that “stuck” only in that school. Conservatives deride it as “scruffy” and “the hippy school”. Its academic results are better than those of the big, posh, elaborately-uniformed fee-paying school just across the road from it.
According to government figures, school uniforms cost an average of £230-odd, and it must be more for the more gung-ho uniform schools.School-age children and young people have little enough liberty. Being able to dress as they like is one area where they can have liberty without risk of hurting themselves or anyone else.