UK schools generally have a very firm uniform policy. If you have been teaching abroad, you may have forgotten just how strict the rules can be surrounding the dress code. In fact, in many schools pupils can now be sent home if they arrive at the gates without the proper attire. As a teacher, one of your jobs will be to make sure that your students are dressed correctly in your classroom. To accomplish this, you will need an understanding of why school uniform is so important and how you can enforce the dress code. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is school uniform important?
Uniform is a vehicle for upholding the school’s reputation. In fact, you could almost think of it like branding. Locals will instantly be able to recognise what school a child is from just by looking at their clothing. Therefore, each individual is a reflection on the school. Needless to say, it will send a positive message if pupils look smart and are all dressed the same.
As an educator, your job is to prepare your pupils for adult life. This is why you should try to recognise the rules around uniform as an important life lesson. There are few occupations where people won’t have to obey some sort of dress code. Office workers usually dress in business attire, whereas public services – like the police, NHS and fire brigade – all wear instantly recognisable uniforms. Therefore, what you’re actually doing is teaching children that they can’t just dress however they please.
You’d almost be asking for conflict if you allowed your students to dress in whatever they wanted. For starters, there is no guarantee that some of the pupils wouldn’t flout the rules of decency by wearing offensive clothing. This could be anything from skimpy dresses to rude slogan t-shirts.
Removes strain on parents
Never forget that uniform also makes life easier for parents. When there’s a firm dress code in place, mums and dads won’t have to supervise their children as they get dressed in the morning. They also won’t have to bulk up their kid’s wardrobes with outfits for each day of the week.
Lastly, uniform helps establish routine. When the pupils don it, they know it’s time to knuckle down and learn. Meanwhile, their own clothing can symbolise an opportunity to relax and enjoy their leisure time.
How can you enforce the dress code?
Understand the rules
You need to make sure that you have an in-depth understanding of what’s acceptable and what’s not. If you’re new to the role, you may have to obtain this information from one of your colleagues or the head teacher. It’s very important that all staff are united when it comes to uniform because this will leave little room for the rules to be broken.
Don’t let breaches slide
You should always keep an eye out for when a pupil isn’t dressed correctly. Then, when you spot someone who is breaching the rules, you should act accordingly. It could be extremely problematic to let one student wear an item of clothing that isn’t official uniform because others will get the impression that it’s acceptable. Essentially, you should try to nip any problems in the bud before they can escalate any further.
Admittedly, you shouldn’t need to be told to dress smart in your workplace. Instead, this guidance is more to remind you that your own clothing carries a lot of weight. Children aren’t just easily influenced by others, they also love to expose double standards. Therefore, you should try to wear attire that is suitable and won’t spark a discussion.
Obviously it’s not your job to take your pupils out shopping. But you can offer them little bits of advice around buying their uniform. Where’s cheap? Where’s local? Where is there good customer service? This information could be very valuable for pupils whose parents are strapped for cash or time.
If all else fails, contact mums, dads and guardians. After all, it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure that their children meet the school’s dress code. It might be useful to send a small letter or email to guardians at the start of the term just to remind them what is expected. Then, if pupils fall below this standard, you shouldn’t be afraid to let the mums and dads know what’s happening. In some cases, they may not even be aware that their child is flouting the rules.
Teaching done right
It’s always wise to remember that being a teacher isn’t just about creating lesson plans and holding exams. Instead, it’s about crafting young minds into rule-abiding individuals ahead of adult life. Follow these guidelines to enforcing the dress code and you should find that you’re doing your job right.