School Uniforms in the United Kingdom

There is no legislation to govern school uniform in state-funded schools in any of the three separate legal jurisdictions of England & Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and enforcement of school uniform policy and dress codes is generally for individual schools to determine. However, schools do have to take into account Equality legislation in dress policies to prevent discrimination on grounds such as age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation. In order to ensure that policies are fair and non-discriminatory schools are expected to consult widely with staff, pupils, parents and governors when introducing or amending dress policies.

England
School uniforms were first introduced on a large scale during the reign of King Henry VIII. The uniforms of the time were referred as "bluecoats", as they consisted of long trench-coat-style jackets dyed blue. Blue was the cheapest available dye and showed humility amongst all children. The first school to introduce this uniform was Christ's Hospital in London (now in Sussex).

The Elementary Education Act 1870 introduced free primary education for all children. The popularity of uniforms increased and eventually most schools had a uniform. During this period most uniforms reflected the trends of the age, with boys wearing short trousers and blazers until roughly the age of puberty and then long trousers from about 14 or 15. Girls mainly wore blouse, tunic dress and pinafore, progressing to gymslips towards the beginning of the 20th century. worn together with a blouse.

These uniforms continued until the 1950s when after the Butler reforms secondary education was made free and the school leaving age was raised to 15. These reforms encouraged schools to implement uniform codes which were similar to other schools. Distinct "summer" and "winter" uniforms were sometimes required, particularly for girls, for whom dresses were mandated for summer and gymslips for winter.

School uniforms are required to be similar in cost for both boys and girls, to be reasonably low cost, and to tolerate religious freedoms, e.g. allowing male Sikhs to wear turbans and female Muslims to wear headscarfs.

The uniform in primary school is often a polo shirt or a shirt and a jumper, with trousers or shorts for boys and skirts or trousers for girls. In some primary schools, in the summer girls are allowed to wear dresses. The uniform in secondary school varies. Normally it is a blazer in the school colours or a white shirt or blouse; a tie, trousers or skirt in a black, grey, or blue and black shoes. It could also be a shirt, sweater, and tie or a polo shirt and a sweatshirt. Most English primary and secondary schools require pupils to wear uniforms. Boys wear a white shirt, long grey or black trousers, jumper or sweater with the school logo on, school tie, black shoes. The colour is the choice of the schools. Girls wear trousers or skirts as part of their uniform - typically black, grey, navy, or sometimes brown or maroon. During the summer term girls often wear summer school dresses.

Scotland
Scottish law is not specific on the question of school uniform. Generally, the school must provide information on its policy on clothing and uniform and the Education Authority must provide written information on its general policy on wearing school uniform. Some Education Authorities do not insist on students wearing a uniform as a precondition to attending and taking part in curricular activities.

Children cannot be disciplined for not wearing a uniform if their parents do not want their child to wear it. However, a child that simply refuses to wear the school uniform can be disciplined by the school if it thinks that academic or disciplinary problems might be caused by the refusal. Many schools do have a policy covering the wearing of school clothing. The policy may state that certain items must be worn and that other items cannot be worn, for example, jeans. Schools must take religious and cultural requirements into account when drawing up a school uniform policy.

Although the way that the uniforms are worn is usually not an issue, some state schools may have regulation on the subject (e.g. height of ties, whether the shirt is tucked in or not), the selection of clothes worn, whether they follow the policy, can be very strict. For example, in black and white uniform schools, wearing colours such as grey or wearing white shoes is forbidden. However, in schools that only use a basic uniform (e.g. jumper and trousers) the policy is often less strict.

Wales
The Welsh Assembly Government issued detailed guidance to governing bodies on uniform and appearance policies that begins by making explicit, "There is no education legislation specifically covering the wearing of school uniform or other aspects of appearance such as hair colour and style, and the wearing of jewellery and makeup. However, as part of its responsibility for the conduct of the school, a governing body can specify a uniform which pupils are required to wear and other rules relating to appearance."

Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland Executive supports poor families with the cost of paying for school uniforms with a £35 primary school uniform allowance. This is claimed via local Education and Library Boards for parents in receipt of income support. At the end of August 2009, there were 24,135 successful applications for the grant.

The most common secondary school uniform in Northern Ireland is a shirt, blazer and sweater with a tie and a skirt or trousers. The uniform (most likely the sweater and tie) may change after Year 12. The uniform in primary school is similar to those used in the Republic of Ireland.

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