The fixation with school uniform is a mystery to me. Education secretary Michael Gove clearly believes blazers and ties are the key to success in schools while lots of commentators reckon uniform improves students’ behaviour, encourages loyalty and belonging and means pupils don’t compete to look cool. But as I’ve written in a previous blog, I don’t see why children can’t wear what they like – as long as it isn’t inappropriate, too revealing or covered in offensive slogans.
I vividly remember the dramatic moment when my daughter stopped wearing uniform and started wearing exactly what she wanted.
Just before her GCSEs, in a bid to mark the last school uniform day in style, she and her pals set about customising their outfits. Even Stella McCartney would have been impressed by their efforts. Some girls accessorised their school clothes with fuchsia-coloured tights and towering platforms while others wore Ninja Turtle shells they’d constructed from cardboard.
My daughter made a typically bold decision. First she chopped up her navy school polo shirt, closely followed by the kick-pleat skirt she’d worn every day for five years. She then hit on the bright idea of sewing all the ripped-up bits of her uniform back together again and transforming them into a fetching halter-neck and hair-tie. With a final flourish, she painted shiny white stars all over her skirt and wore the whole outfit to her school’s traditional “muck-up” celebrations – the last uniform day before exams began.
When my son arrived home that night, he was far from impressed. He took one appalled look at his big sister and declared: “That’s the silliest school uniform I’ve ever seen...”
As I watched my daughter rip her school uniform to ribbons (it was falling to bits anyway), I couldn’t believe that 12 years had flown by since her first day at primary school. It seemed no time at all since she was excitedly setting out for her reception class in a grey pinafore, purple jumper and matching socks. At four, she was so proud of her old-fashioned leather satchel that she insisted on taking it everywhere she went – even on Saturdays and Sundays. It made a brief reappearance a couple of years ago when, thanks to Alexa Chung and Mulberry, satchels came back into fashion again. Now sadly, it’s been consigned to the depths of the cupboard once more.