After a busy 2017, this year will see the Schoolwear Association campaign under the banner of ‘Every child is worth it’ for every school student in the UK to have access to a quality school uniform.
The not-for-profit organisation, which represents all those involved in the industry, will continue to highlight the benefits of uniform, including improved learning, better behaviour and increased safety. It aims to ensure that parents, schools, children’s charities and the education authorities see the real value of uniform.
Last year, demonstrating school uniform’s contribution to children’s mental health was a key theme. In a hectic year that also saw the launch of the inaugural Schoolwear Awards, the association continued to campaign in the media and online for every child to have a good quality uniform.
It commissioned a poll of teachers and an in-depth study by a respected child psychology team to provide evidence of uniform’s benefits. The survey found:
- A majority of teachers think more children have mental health issues than five years ago with more than half saying cyber bullying is on the rise.
- Most teachers also think kids face increased pressure about fashion and appearance with eight out of ten saying good school uniform could help reduce bullying and prevent victimisation based on a child’s economic background.
- Teachers believe it’s important for schools to set boundaries and that good school uniform reinforces those boundaries.
Meanwhile, research carried out for the association with schoolchildren reinforced teachers’ views that school uniform has significant benefits for wellbeing in young people.
The study by Family Kids and Youth revealed fascinating insights into how uniform helps to reduce children’s anxiety about their appearance and fitting in with their peers, as one year nine student told the researchers: “With uniform, you can’t be judged. Without uniform, everyone would be competing about what the style is, what the trend is, what you need to wear. I think there’d be more bullying as well and it would be more stress in the morning.”
Many of the young people interviewed said they would feel under pressure to wear branded clothing to fit in, and to avoid being bullied, if there was no uniform. This could pose problems, not only for those who couldn’t afford expensive brands but also for those who could, as they could be labelled rich kids.
The research backed up the idea that uniform can put children in the right mind-set for school. One year seven boy commented: “Imagine sitting in a maths lesson wearing your own clothes. I don’t feel like I’d do much work in the whole day if I didn’t have to wear uniform.”
Dr Barbie Clarke, lead researcher for Family Kids and Youth, said: “School uniform seems to play an important role in establishing identity among young people of this age. It can protect adolescents from being picked on. This creates a greater degree of self-confidence, and ultimately helps with the fundamental adolescent need to be accepted by others.”
David Burgess, chairman of the Schoolwear Association said: “At a time when young people are under more pressure than ever to buy into fashion and look right, we wanted to find out the role that uniform plays in children’s well-being in school. It’s clear that both teachers and young people think uniform helps students to feel they belong. It has a role in reducing bullying and establishing children’s identity within the boundaries set by their school. We think every child deserves that.”
The new studies follow previous research by the association, showing that uniform contributes to improved learning, better behaviour and greater safety. The association has produced studies proving that uniform is excellent value for money when compared with out-of-school children’s clothing.
In 2017, the association also highlighted the traditional place of uniform in UK education, with an online feature on its history, reviewing changing ideas about what children should wear to school leading up to the current trend towards smarter outfits. This turned out to be one of the most popular items on its blog, Facebook and Twitter pages where the association also posted content marking anti-bullying week. As well as on its own digital channels, the association’s campaigns were featured in national newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, online on news sites including the Huffington Post and in educational magazines and websites.
In 2018, the association will continue work to ensure disadvantaged families can afford to properly clothe their children for school, both through initiatives of its own and by amplifying the work of member organisations in this area. The campaign goes further to making the case for ethical sourcing so that British children are not clothed at the expense of exploited youngsters or their parents in manufacturing centres overseas.
Since 2006, the Schoolwear Association has been making the case for quality school uniform and providing support to the schoolwear specialists that make up its membership. It now has more than 250 members, who collectively help to clothe three quarters of Britain’s school children.
The Schoolwear Association is working to strengthen links between schools and the schoolwear industry, and encourages schools to choose members of the association as preferred suppliers. A regular newsletter to head teachers and managers informs schools of new developments and provides them with resources to make the case for uniform with parents.
As a non-profit organisation, the association relies on a diverse group of people from across the industry with a passion for its work. Members of the executive give their time voluntarily for the benefit of all members, and members who want to contribute are encouraged to apply to join the team.
Why become a member?
Membership is open to all organisations involved in the supply of school-specific uniform, including retailers, suppliers, distributors, wholesalers, decorators, agents and schools. There are a wide range of member benefits, from free expert advice to social events
On behalf of members, the association lobbies a wide range of organisations including government agencies and children’s charities, to further the case for uniform, to promote the good work of members and to lobby for sensible government guidelines and legislation.
The association’s communications team works to put across strong, positive messages about school uniform and the industry through media and social media where the association is active on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
The association regularly updates members on issues that affect their businesses and allows members to share ideas and best practice through a variety of forums and events.
It also publishes fact sheets, marketing material and newsletters.