A Message from the Principal

Discussion in schools invariably include commentary about uniform, often stemming from the correction of a student either wearing incorrect uniform or wearing uniform incorrectly. There are numerous pros and cons for school uniforms.

The following points are ones I have made before, however, they are definitely worth revisiting to consider why a school uniform is worthwhile:

  • School uniforms create a level playing field among students
    When all students are dressed alike, competition between students over clothing choices and the teasing of those who are dressed in different ways can be eliminated. There are many ways that people make comparisons between themselves and others, this may include comparisons of mobile phones, homes, cars or holiday destinations. Comparisons such as these have their source in envy and can often be an automatic response. A school uniform takes one of these possible comparisons out of play. When all William Carey students are dressed in a common uniform, it removes one aspect of comparison from their lives.
  • School uniforms are a signal to learn
    Clothing often sets the tone for the activity. When I go on holidays I enjoy the comfort of a t-shirt, shorts and thongs. The change in clothing is a change in gears to more a relaxed mode. When it is back to work, I will put on a suit and tie as a signal to myself and others that my focus is now on work, another change in gear. Sports uniforms have the same effect on people’s focus and purpose – working as a team to excel in sporting competition. A bulletin published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals stated, “When all students are wearing the same outfit, they are less concerned about how they look or how they fit in with their peers; thus, they can concentrate on their schoolwork.”[1]A 2010 University of Houston study found that elementary school girls’ language test scores increased by about three percentile points after uniforms were introduced.[2]
    School uniforms work the same way to send a non-verbal signal to students that school time has a learning focus. Putting the school uniform on is a change in gears for students as well.
  • School uniforms provide a sense of belonging to a community
    A society that emphasises individuality can also produce a negative by-product of isolation. More than generating a sense of pride, uniforms can have the effect of generating a sense of belonging to a community. A uniform can work to reduce division within a group. It is important that students learn that they belong to a community, developing thinking and actions that both connect them and enable them to support others in that larger body.
  • School uniforms make life easier
    School uniforms make it just that bit easier to get to school on time! The amount of angst and time required for getting ready for school is reduced by having uniform. The cost of clothing is also reduced by using uniforms. While the financial outlay for a good quality, long lasting uniform seems additional, it actually costs less than to purchase the same non-uniform clothing requirements for a year or longer.
  • School uniforms reduce focus on the externals
    Finally, we live in a society in which media encourages people to pay great attention to their appearance and invest large amounts of time, money and effort to project an ‘acceptable’ external appearance. This has significant negative impacts on the way that many young people think about themselves. It seems counter-intuitive, but taking care in how a uniform is worn, actually provides our students with a break from the pressure of maintaining their appearance under the scrutiny of their peers. Wearing a uniform well provides the opportunity to demonstrate their character, intellect and heart.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

In every school that I know, there are some students who push the boundaries of acceptable uniform standards, whether it is about the top button being done up, the length of the skirt, the socks being worn, the amount of make-up, the shirt tucked in, the colour and style of hair or the type of shoes. There are innumerable little ways that students will test the boundaries.

It is a fair expectation that students who belong to our school community will meet the uniform standards that are outlined in the student planners and that parents who choose to enrol their children in our school will support their children to meet these expectations.

I expect that our staff will be vigilant regarding our students’ uniform; to check that they are wearing the uniform and wearing it correctly. As a school we seek to do this consistently. However, I do not see this responsibility as a key one for staff and to spend time discussing student uniform reduces the amount of time staff can give to delivering an excellent learning experience. Thus the responsibility for wearing the uniform correctly lies with the student.

In the few cases where a student cannot meet the school uniform expectations, we welcome the opportunity to work with the family to resolve this matter.

Each school needs to work out where, when, with whom and how to hold the line on different matters. We appreciate the support of our parents in holding to our expectations regarding uniforms.

In His service,

Keith McMullen

[1] Peter Caruso, “Individuality vs. Conformity: The Issue behind School Uniforms,” NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) Bulletin, Sep. 1996

[2] Elisabetta Gentile and Scott A. Imberman, “Dressed for Success? The Effect of School Uniforms on Student Achievement and Behavior,” utdallas.edu, Jan. 15, 2010