School uniforms are 'repressive' and should be scrapped, ministers told
The Education Bill aims to make school uniforms more affordable
Peers offered their support for the Education (Guidance About Costs of School Uniform) Bill on Friday, with some going as far as saying they would be in favour of scrapping school uniforms entirely.
The bill, current at the stage of its second reading in the House of Lords, aims to make school uniforms more affordable in England, by keeping branded items to a minimum, and to make second hand attire available to families.
Speaking to the House of Lords, the The Earl of Clancarty said uniforms were "an outmoded idea, ultimately a repressive aspect of the educational system itself, designed to keep children in line and indeed, in effect, part of the wider educational policy working against a child-centred approach to education.
"No school has to have a school uniform," he added.
No school is legally obliged to impose a uniform on its students, but government guidelines strongly encourage that they do.
"In their guidance, the department states that a school uniform policy 'flows from the duties placed upon all governing bodies by statute to ensure that school policies promote good behaviour and discipline amongst the pupil body'," Lord Clancarty added.
He went on to explain the benefits of not having a school uniform policy, referring to his daughter's school, which has no strict uniform code.
He read a quote from his 16-year-old, who said: "Thank God I don't have to wear a school uniform. I wouldn't be able to express myself every day."
He then added that while 90 per cent of schools insist on uniforms, only 67 per cent of parents are in favour of them.
There was, of course, opposition to Lord Clancarty's case against uniforms.
Liberal Democrat education spokesman and former teacher Lord Storey recalled the fashion contests that would arise from the absence of a school uniform policy when he worked in a school within one of Britain's more deprived communities.
"It led to competition for the latest designer clothes, the latest sweatshirts, t-shirts, trainers or whatever it was," he said.
"This created great upset amongst the pupils and those who couldn't afford the latest 'gear', as they called it, often were name-called and bullied."
Bearing all this in mind, the bill's intention to make school uniform more affordable, with school branded garments only required on rare occasions, would make a lot of sense.
Baroness Elizabeth Berridge said: "The guidance will also provide information to schools about ways they can achieve the benefits of a branded item while also keeping costs to parents low... This might involve the use of sew-on or iron-on logos, amongst other approaches."