Edinburgh gets smart

MORE schools in Edinburgh are to be encouraged to adopt uniforms - but, despite press reports, the city council will stop short of making them compulsory.

Ewan Aitken, the council's executive member for education, said it would be "encouraging and supporting" the adoption of uniforms because there is now sufficient evidence that they help create a sense of school community and improve discipline. The commitment is likely to be included in the ruling Labour Party's manifesto for the local elections in May.

The issue has been before the authority's consultative sounding board with parents and has won its backing, but only on the basis that it is up to school communities themselves to decide the dress code and how to promote its use with children and parents.

Pirniehall primary and Wester Hailes Education Centre are two Edinburgh schools where the adoption of uniforms is being credited with improving ethos and discipline - although Alex Wood, the Wester Hailes headteacher, points out that it is only one part of the school's efforts to bring about better behaviour.

The virtue of wearing uniforms was given a high profile two years ago by Jack McConnell as Education Minister following the recommendations of his task group report on Better Behaviour, Better Learning. It recommended that schools should consult parents, pupils and teachers to agree a "dress code".

In August 2001, Mr McConnell visited Wester Hailes where the pupils voted two to one in favour of uniform and he urged all Scottish schools to follow suit. "School uniforms send out a strong signal that a school is firmly committed to developing a positive ethos," Mr McConnell said.

In Edinburgh, the authority will become more proactive in dealing with youngsters who refuse to meet dress codes. The pupil will first be asked to comply, and parents will be invited in for discussion. They will be asked to tell the school in advance when other clothing is to be worn.

Families on income support or jobseekers' allowance will be eligible for clothing and footwear grants.

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