The recent heatwave1 revealed problems with school uniform. Schools, however, have devoted huge emotional capital to student conformity and they didn’t like seeing their efforts going down the drain. This insight produced an intellectual meltdown but they couldn’t prevaricate because the weather forecast predicted actual danger. Temperatures, at or about 40C, translated into a health hazard in maladapted classrooms. Schools had to be decisive. Could students be taught if they weren’t in school uniform? Would they obey orders? Would the world end?
Schools displayed the intellectual agility of a train crash. The following examples of ‘School uniform as a fetish’ were culled from the media. These schools probably feel they’re unlucky to have a negative media experience as they’d claim they were typical. And they might be but they shouldn’t have been bone-headed in the first place.
Tanisha Smith, mum of Year 7 student Jessica Smith, 12, said: ‘Lincoln Castle Academy sent an email out to parents saying [the kids] could leave their blazers and ties at home, but they still need to come in their uniforms.
Newent School in Gloucestershire sent an email to parents on Friday [15th July 2022] stating that children were still expected to attend in normal uniform, despite the record-breaking temperatures [38C] on Monday.
“I [the headteacher] explained that all students in cycling shorts were sent home to change or placed in isolation if permission could not be sought.” (my emphasis)
“We will now also be asking students to come into school in the Billericay School PE kit for these two days. Students may wear their uniform as normal if they choose to do so but do not have to wear the blazer or tie for these two days. If students are in uniform they will need to wear school shoes rather than trainers.” (my emphasis) (see Addendum)
School uniform is a fetish in Britain. Disciplinary codes are written in exquisite detail not only about uniform but how they must be worn. This example comes from a school uniform policy for Sixth Formers,
Cardiff High sub-divides the bodies of Sixth Form students into Top Half and Bottom Half.2
Top Half means they wear, ….endorsed garments in order to both identify them as members of our school and also to promote a sense of identity and belonging amongst our upper school students.
Bottom Half meanwhile means, Students are permitted wear any suitable “bottom half” garments eg trousers/jeans/skirt
The fanatical devotion to school uniform was revealed by the heat wave. Schools behaved like zealots who’ve lost all sense of proportion.
The fetish style devotion to school uniforms was revealed by attempting to be flexible but not too flexible. Consider Billericay School where trainers couldn’t be worn with trousers. Or, Blackpool Aspire Academy that put students into isolation if they wore the ‘wrong’ shorts. Presumably attempting to prevent cross-contamination from improperly dressed students.
The response to the heatwave is a metaphor for Britain’s mediocre educational standards. Schools are obsessed with trivia and cosmetic outcomes, which overwhelms the purpose of schooling. It’s tragic that nothing will be learned from the farcical responses to the exceptional temperatures of the 18-19th July, 2022.
Addendum: Billericay School statement on school uniform
Surprisingly the school has a sole trader relationship with a shop. Monopolies are always more expensive and this is a compulsory purchase.
Whilst many of the items within our school uniform are available elsewhere, there are a select number of items which MUST be purchased from the school shop/Simmonds. (my emphasis)
1 18-19 July 2022. Temperatures in the high 30s, low 40s were seen across the country. This made classrooms very hot as they don’t have air conditioning.
2 5 Cardiff High School – Sixth Form Dress Code[Gwisg Ysgol 6ed Dosbarth] Sixth Formers are 16-18 years old. See a blog the politics of school uniform Michael Gove and the Politics of School Uniform | Odeboyz’s Blog (oedeboyz.com)