The school attended by my older two children is bringing in Business Wear for the sixth form. A list has been drawn up of what constitutes ‘business wear’ which is useful because no two businesses seem to define that the same way these days. And our school is not alone. Certainly around here most of the sixth forms seem to have gone down the same path.
I have been trying to work out what I think of the idea. As ever in these matters, I begin with what happened when I was at school, which coincidentally was the same institution. We wore uniform, after a fashion. Blue skirt, blue jumper, white shirt. How this was interpreted was pretty much left up to us and in my case was a combination of what I could afford from my meagre allowance and what I could get past my Mum. We were a scruffy bunch – no two ways about it – but at least when I got up every day I knew exactly what to wear.
Things have changed since then. To distinguish between the children who are at school by law and those there by choice, uniform was scrapped for the sixth form. Perhaps the powers that be anticipated that the newly found freedom would be exercised stylishly like the French or prepily like the Americans. But we are English so what they got was a mixture of quirky, sexy and downright scruffy. Something needed to be done.
The something is the Business Wear. In theory, the sixth form will look well turned out with a pride in their appearance and an attitude that is ready for learning. In practice, they will all spend a lot of money on their own interpretation of the rules which may or may not match the school’s and in time, I suspect, many of them will end up looking almost as scruffy as they currently do.
There seems to me to be an obvious solution. Why not just wear school uniform whilst you are at school? All the reasons that make a uniform a good idea are just as valid no matter what age you are. A sense of identity, a great leveller, a remover of distractions, putting on a uniform reminds you of what it is that you are meant to be doing, in this case learning.
It appears that I am old fashioned in this view. Apparently, the sixth formers want to feel superior to the rest of the school, to distinguish themselves from it. But, and here I seem to be terribly controversial, they are still school children. It seems to me that in this, as in so many other things, they are being allowed to grow up before their time.
Of course they are on the cusp of adulthood and about to step either into the working world or leave home for university but they haven’t quite done it yet. Whilst I felt invincible at 17 and 18, I now know that my life had barely begun. Why thrust upon them the realities of the adult world before they need to face it? Should we not encourage them to be children for as long as we can? Address them as pupils, give them a uniform, make sure that they respect those around them. And then, when their wings are fully formed, nudge them slowly out of the nest and into the real world to discover it for themselves.