Uniform debate

June 29, 2011, 7:00 PM GMT+0

Nearly seven in ten British people believe that schools should have compulsory uniforms, our poll has revealed. In contrast, just over a quarter think that schools should not have a uniform, but instead should adopt a compulsory dress code similar to that more commonly used in the United States and Europe.

Even so, more than half of people conclude that a school in Harrow that banned a student from sporting cornrows (a hairstyle traditionally associated with Afro-Caribbean communities in which the hair is braided very close to the scalp) was wrong to do so.

When asked to select from a list what items should be banned under uniform policy, the most popular choices were facial piercings, high heels and visible underpants, each with 78% apiece.

  • 67% of British people believe that schools should have compulsory uniforms
  • While just 26% suggest schools should instead have a compulsory dress code which lists unacceptable types of clothing
  • Only 3% of people think that students should be free to dress however they choose at school
  • 55% of people believe that the school which banned a student from wearing his hair in cornrows was wrong to do so
  • While just over a third (34%) think the secondary school was right to prohibit the hairstyle
  • 78% think a school should be able to ban facial piercings under its uniform policy, and the same amount think high heels and visible underpants should be eligible for a ban
  • 77% think visible bras should be able to be banned by schools, while 71% say visible tattoos should able to be prohibited
  • Two thirds of people (66%) believe that hoodies should be able to be banned under school uniform policy
  • Further down the list, just 30% of people think cornrows should be something schools can outlaw
  • And less than a quarter (24%) agree that ear piercings should be able to be banned

Hairstyle row

The poll comes as last week the High Court ruled that St Gregory’s Catholic Science College in Harrow, North West London, banning a pupil from wearing his hair in cornrows had resulted in ‘unlawful, indirect racial discrimination.’ Then 11 years old, the boy was refused a place at the school because he sported the hairstyle, in which the hair is braided very close to the scalp, producing a continuous raised row. The student and his family claimed that the hairstyle should not be banned, arguing that it was part of their cultural identity. The judge overseeing the case said that in future, school authorities must consider allowing other boys to wear cornrows if it was ‘a genuine family tradition based on cultural and social reasons’.

Another uniform issue surfaced earlier this month when pupils at a school in Coventry were refused entry to a GCSE exam because they were wearing shoes that were prohibited by the school uniform. Several students at Cardinal Newman School were told they were not allowed to enter the Maths exam hall because they were not wearing black shoes and would not remove their ‘unacceptable’ footwear. ‘The school has tried to work with all our parents to make them aware of the expectations about school uniform,’ the school said.