New research by the Schoolwear Association has revealed that both children and teachers see uniform as a powerful tool for promoting wellbeing and tackling the kind of appearance-related pressures that could lead to mental health issues.
The Schoolwear Association commissioned a two-stage research programme, carried out by independent researchers, OnePoll and Family Kids and Youth, to explore teachers’ and young peoples’ views on mental health issues and the link to appearance, identity and bullying in schools.
The association’s chairman, David Burgess, said: “While most schools back uniform these days they often have to fight battles with parents to justify the choice and cost of uniform. We feel it’s important to provide real and tangible evidence of the benefits of uniform for young people so that parents can have confidence in schools’ decisions to enforce it and so they can value the investment they make in buying it for their children.”
In the survey with teachers, 75% reported they have seen an increase in the number of children with mental health problems in the last five years and two thirds felt that kids face increased pressure about fashion and appearance. While 83% said a good school uniform reduced this pressure in schools and could prevent bullying based on appearance or economic background.
The young people in the study agreed that school uniform is a force for good.
In a series of focus groups carried out by Family, Kids and Youth, 50 12 to 14 year-olds in an Essex school, shared their views on how uniform helped to reduce anxiety about their appearance and worry about fitting in with their peers.
Many said they would feel under pressure to wear branded clothing and footwear to fit in and avoid being bullied if there was no school uniform. This, they said, could pose problems for those who couldn’t afford these kinds of brands but also for those who could.
Mr Burgess added: “We have carried out previous research which shows that wearing school uniform can lead to improved learning, better behaviour and greater safety for pupils. We’ve also demonstrated that uniform presents excellent value for money when compared with everyday children’s clothing.
“This is the first time we have really looked at its effect on well-being and it’s clear from the research that both teachers and young people think school uniform helps students to feel like they fit in, avoid bullying and establish their identity within the boundaries set by their school. We think that’s well worth the investment.”