I'm a governor in a local secondary school and recently we were discussing changes to the uniform policy. I committed heresy when I asked the question "Why do we have a uniform at all?" After a suitable pause, the room erupted into a chorus of; "it improves behaviour", "it's cheaper for parents", "it removes the stigma of not having the latest fashions", "it's easier to manage who wears what", "it's about consistency and it looks good" and "it improves outcomes".
Regardless of the difficulties in actually enforcing a rigid uniform policy, the widely held perception is that there are a multitude of benefits, both for the learner and for the institution. But what does research say?
Surprisingly, there has been little research into the impact of school uniform policy. Evidence suggests that implementing a uniform; has little impact on attendance and attainment; promotes the staff and parent perception of a positive school climate; has no overall impact on the learner perception of school climate; possibly leads to increased incidents of social isolation and students with an enforced uniform policy report lower self perception/actualisation scores. All that said, the studies are limited and the conclusions drawn are barely significant, with small effect sizes.
Put simply, there is no conclusive evidence either way about the impact of school uniform.
All this matters when we are reflecting on "why are we doing what we do?" or "why are we changing something?" As we move to a more evidence based education system, we need to understand why we are actually doing something and if by doing the thing we are considering will this actually lead to a quantifiable improvement in some metric that we value.
We also need to consider if it is possible to apply the conclusions drawn in educational studies to our specific case. Whilst possibly not applicable to uniform, implementing action research informed by academic education research can give us the insight we are looking for.To discuss how to access primary education research, contact Glen Gilchrist firstname.lastname@example.org.
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