Traditional uniforms to make a comeback

13th September 1996 at 01:00
The blazer and skirt could hold the answer to several school problems, according to West Dunbartonshire councillors, who want all pupils to wear their school's uniform. They believe the traditional blues and greys can even improve school security and reduce truancy, as well as instilling pride in the school.

The council's education committee agreed to authorise informal consultations with pupils, staff and school boards, which officials promise will be handled "very sensitively".

But a report by Ian McMurdo, West Dunbartonshire's director of education, leaves no doubt that he wants to push the matter strongly and he criticises "the erroneous conviction" that uniforms are outmoded and expensive. Mr McMurdo says corporate dress "should be viewed positively since it relates more properly to ethos, pride in one's school and the community".

Mr McMurdo acknowledges that such a policy could never be enforced and he would be content to accept "school colours" rather than prescriptive rules about clothes which children found "unattractive, uncomfortable or impractical". But he believes he will have the backing of parents for an end to an "enforced fashion parade" in which pupils try to outdo each other with increasingly expensive casual wear.

Mr McMurdo also believes school uniform has taken on a more serious purpose in helping to identify pupils quickly, thereby improving truancy, vandalism and security. The need to distinguish pupils from "potential intruders" has been underlined since the Dunblane tragedy, he says.

The director's firm line has the backing of schools which already have a policy on uniforms. Gordon English, deputy head at Vale of Leven Academy, says it introduced the move to boost the school's corporate identity, although making it easier to spot intruders was a spin-off benefit.

The motivation behind Edinbarnet Primary's adoption of distinctive colours was vandalism, as pupils from the Clydebank school were accused of getting up to mischief on their way home. Shona Carmichael, the head, shares the view that pupils are much less likely to play truant or get into fights if they know they can be easily spotted.

But Mrs Carmichael supports the light touch of school colours rather than rigid dress. "Ninety per cent of our pupils are on clothing grants, so we can't afford to be prescriptive," she says. The school has a payment card system to help poorer families meet the cost.

The Educational Institute of Scotland is now formally affiliated to the STUC, following Wednesday's meeting of congress's general council. The institute, affiliating in respect of 32,000 members, brings teacher strength in congress to 36,000, the SSA having affiliated 3,000 and the SFEA 1,050.

* Edinburgh's largest primary class has 44 pupils, says a report by the director of education. Last year there was a class of 46, and two classes had 44 pupils. The average size of class, as at August 1971, was 32.2 compared with 33.1 last year.

* (Leader) At the Church Representatives' Conference there was the suggestion that all trainee ministers should be given teacher training so that they could as parish ministers spend a day or two in the week helping out in the local school.

This was part of a curious discussion about finding more RE specialists for the school - curious because there was so much uncertainty about whether the RE teacher should be doing specialist work or should be a kind of personal and social moralist-in-chief, also about whether the result could be foreseen of establishing a stronger specialism, with an increasing number of teachers, primary as well as secondary, opting out of RE because they felt ill-equipped or on grounds of conscience.

TES Scotland, SEPTEMBER 17, 1971.

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