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Students debate uniforms issue
Wednesday, 02 May 2012
FIRES are still burning in the hot debate of whether uniformity really breeds discipline, leaving some displeased with a local school’s decision to reintroduce uniform, writes KEVICC pupil Liam Heitman-Rice, 15. After 10 years of a free dress code, and the creative liberation that partnered it, those attending King Edward VI Community College will now be confined to the monotony of uniform. As of September 2012, a decade of individuality will have expired. Among the collateral damage caused by the earthquake of divided opinions on the uniform policy are local parents, unsure of what educational merit is to be found in the decision. From front page The quality of the students’ learning has long been an issue since the uniform was abolished under the direction of former principal Stephen Jones. Despite the school undertaking a consultation of thousands of local residents, there are still some rumblings of discontent within the community. Yet doubtlessly the most important aspect is what students think. Is this a case of The Kids Are All Right or will they feel like just Another Brick In The Wall? To find out, I interviewed some of my fellow Year 10 classmates. Some said it will make the school look ‘smarter and more professional’ while others simply remarked ‘It’s useless!’ Many see the uniform as an exercise in social conformity, but others speculate it is little more than a superficial constituent of the illusion it will enhance academic achievement. Will clothing really affect grades? Ben Stephens believes there is a chance of this, saying that ‘although the benefits will not come instantly, there will be a few in the future.’ While uniform can only do so much to improve things, it will at least accumulate favourable comment from surrounding communities. Issues of how inappropriately dressed students are for their ‘learning environment’ will be obsolete and general presentation standards are likely to rocket. Conclusively, he says, ‘the reasons for bringing it [the uniform] in seem mostly solid in their logic.’ In comparison, Jo Parke said: ‘KEVICC has only two selling points – location and non-uniform. I think taking away one of these will greatly reduce the number of Year 7s coming.’ Many of the students stated the key reason for choosing KEVICC was its non-uniform policy. Removing this attraction may significantly decrease the numbers of prospective students hoping to join the college. India Creed said: ‘I chose KEVICC because of the non-uniform and now there’s going to be uniform it’ll be the same as the surrounding schools.’ KEVICC has prided its unique approach to learning and, as current principal Kate Mason puts it, ensures others see ‘who we are and what we offer’. To mimic the reported 90 per cent of UK state schools who have adopted uniform seems contradictory to that claim. This is an issue touched upon by Sam Endean. He feels the consultation process was inefficient, saying: ‘An awful lot of confusion and general stress could have easily been avoided had they been clear and decisive about what was going to take place.’ The adoption of a uniform was a very bold action, one that has justly rallied divisive opinions. It is because of this that caution was needed to handle the matter, but ruefully it seems to have been an absent feature. Angry confusion would not have ensued if the students had been properly informed of this radical change. The timing was also a factor. ‘People, understandably, rushed to the conclusion that it was because of our Ofsted report that we were bringing up the uniform debate,’ in relation to the belief that a uniform was hastily introduced to substitute the school’s ‘satisfactory’ grade. ‘However,’ Sam added, ‘upon inspection of the official Ofsted report, there was absolutely no mention of uniform and how it would or would not affect the college.’ Evaluating the reintroduction, he highlighted the significance of individuality. It is important for students to be themselves and assert their own independence. This is what models the young students into promising adults. He said:‘I feel that the school should teach students to stand up and be themselves in life, not who other people want them to be.’ Alas, with a decision so heavily influenced by others outside the school, it appears the college is doing quite the opposite. As is the way with all important decisions, the debate rages on. For instance, parents may argue against the tedious boredom of day-in-day-out clothing and the theft of their child’s originality. As well as uninspiring, uniform is also rather trivial, prompting the school’s senior management to prioritise their issues – namely, the necessity of teachers not ties. However relevant a point, the improving of public relations – though important – will not compensate for poor standards of learning. A uniform may strengthen social reform but does that justify the eradication of individuality? Only time will tell.
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