Uniforms do nothing for ethos

14th April 2006 at 01:00
I have little sympathy for the religious motives which led Shabina Begum to take her campaign for the right to wear a jilbab in school to the House of Lords (TES, March 24). However, I am dismayed at the assertion by the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders that "uniforms are there to subjugate individual preference and create a community ethos in schools".

The notion that schools are there to subjugate anything is educational nonsense, or something more insidious.

The reigning orthodoxy about school uniforms is another form of fundamentalism -so much so that I hesitate to raise my head above the parapet to question it.

However, given that the purpose of education is to encourage young people to think creatively and critically - whether about science, religion or the way they dress - there are good reasons for doing so.

A school without uniform is, in fact, better equipped to help young people learn for themselves how to dress appropriately but imaginatively in a working context - a skill that will serve them well in later life.

Forcing students to dress like tin soldiers does nothing for "community ethos", except in the most superficial sense, and is more often a cause for silent rebellion or sullen hypocrisy.

A good ethos is achieved by a commitment to academic excellence and original thought, not by subjugation of anything.

Dr Giles Watson Flat 3, Mundesley Church Road St Mary's, Isles of Scilly

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