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Poll backs advocates of school uniform

Nine out of 10 Scottish parents are in favour of their children wearing school uniform - as are eight out of 10 children themselves.

The findings, from a poll carried out for Scotland on Sunday, will confirm the view of the supporters of uniform who believe they have backing for their position. But a leading parents' representative counsels against "assigning all kinds of virtues to school uniform that it simply cannot bear".

The poll was based on 500 respondents surveyed by Paperboy, the daily news e-mail service run by Scotsman Publications.

The First Minister and the Education Minister are both supporters of uniform, believing that it contributes to improving a school's ethos and discipline, and may be a factor in boosting attainment.

Craigton primary in Glasgow won glowing praise from the inspectorate a couple of years ago, in particular for the behaviour of its pupils and its close relationship with parents. Yet around half of children are entitled to free meals.

Wearing uniform was one of a range of strategies deployed to improve behaviour. The school board consulted pupils, who supported the move, and all the parents gave it their backing.

A survey two years ago, by Woolworths and mykindaplace. com, showed that more than half of eight to 16-year-olds prefer to wear uniform in school, to avoid playground peer pressure - so long as the uniform does not include a tie.

But Judith Gillespie, development manager at the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, is not convinced that school uniform eases peer pressures. "It just moves the competition elsewhere. Youngsters are more interested in having the best mobile phone than they are in jeans," Mrs Gillespie said.

The argument that uniforms cover up disparities in family income is also fallacious, Mrs Gillespie believes. "If you are from a well-off family, the uniform fits; if you are not, it doesn't."

She said: "It is interesting that, as the unions are complaining more and more about school discipline, it is on the back of more and more schools opting for school uniform. So it's not helping the discipline problem.

"Uniform is all about control and order, and what are we trying to promote? Enterprise. People have just not thought it through. School uniform is convenient and that is as much as can be said for it."

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