Having attended a very traditional Catholic girls’ grammar school which prided itself on strict adherence to its uniform regulations, I was always a believer in uniform as a great leveller – we all had to wear the stupid A-line skirts. My children attend co-educational secondary-level school in Germany, where there are no school uniforms. The only recommendation regarding what is acceptable or not in terms of clothing, is that schoolchildren should not wear tops that show their midriffs in the summer, or any displays of racist/Nazi symbolism.
This results in a colourful mix of individual styles, creativity and a relaxed atmosphere within the school. The teachers do not have to spend valuable time ensuring that children adhere to strict uniform rules, and the children are not being judged on their choices of clothing. This is a relief when a 15-year-old decides to have pink hair, or wants to wear flip-flops on a hot day. Instead the schools judge academic achievement, engagement in various clubs and societies, and contribution to the school life and the wider community.
The interesting thing is that, when given a completely free choice as to what they can wear, the majority of girls will choose some form of trousers, whether they are leggings, jeans, jogging trousers, or shorts. When I ask my daughters why they are not wearing skirts, I get withering looks, and am told that “you can’t play football properly wearing a skirt” or “you have to be careful to make sure the skirt stays down”. So, for true equality, give the kids a choice. More than likely the girls will choose to wear the trousers.
You cover a mother’s attempt to sue the Department for Education over its guidance on trousers in school uniform, which are being denied to her daughter (Report, 7 July). Surely the question is not whether school uniform should require skirts or trousers, but whether schools should be able to require a uniform at all. I can understand uniforms for nurses or police, because this identifies them rapidly as people who have rights and functions most of us do not, and for the armed forces, to encourage them to march toward the sound of gunfire when ordered to do so. However, I do not see how making children all look the same can help them learn either to be analytical or creative. Let them wear what they want.