School uniforms improve attendance

Does a school uniform improve the school climate?

Uniform school clothing is discussed again and again in Germany. Pilot projects in schools usually bring positive results for a sense of community and identification with the school, pupils feel free from the pressure of fashion and can even learn better, but the idea of ​​a uniform dress code for the school has not yet been able to establish itself. Can school clothes really improve the social climate in the classroom?

Always perfectly dressed

"In the morning I don't have to worry about what to wear, because I can sleep at least five minutes longer," says Barbara, a 14-year-old guest student from near London. She likes her school uniform, which is more casual than stiff. “This leveling off would not be for me, says her German hostess Lilly, who is the same age. In England, the motherland of school uniforms, stiff skirts and blouses have long been abolished and in many places replaced with casual sweatshirts with the school logo, pullovers or shirts and comfortable pants or skirts in the school colors. That makes shopping easy. Barbara's mother buys the entire collection for her three children at the beginning of the school year and at the first half of the year: three times five white shirts or blouses - one for every day, inexpensive, easy-care and non-iron, three gray skirts, one short, one long, three black each Boys' trousers, one in winter and one in spring. The city's department stores are equipped for this and carry the clothing of the schools in the region. Lilly's mother, on the other hand, walks with her daughter through the city's fashion stores and once again discusses whether clothes should be fashionable or comfortable, whether they have to be shoes from a certain brand or which don't actually look the same for half the price.

School uniform also protects teachers

“I would like school uniforms,” moans a young teacher at a German secondary school for girls. "Frontal lessons in summer - where should you look as a man without running into the danger of immoral behavior?" Like him, many teachers feel: navel-free and low-cut tops, short skirts would certainly not be part of a school uniform. “The young girls don't really know how to dose their stimuli correctly, that makes it difficult,” the young teacher points out.

Uniform for a better social climate

A schoolgirl's bustier instead of a T-shirt or blouse on an extremely hot day was the trigger for a school in Giessen to start the “school clothes” project. The results of the accompanying study by teaching researchers were consistently positive: In classes with uniform school clothes, there is a better social climate, more attention in class, more interest in the content, a higher feeling of security and a lower importance of clothes in general than in the comparison classes without dress Code. The effect was particularly evident in the higher classes. This is also an observation from poor countries: Uniforms compensate for social differences, nobody has to be ashamed of poor clothing.

Strengthening the sense of togetherness

Could school uniforms balance out social inequalities and avoid exclusion? That is what the school principals of the pilot project hoped for. The children who wear expensive clothes do not have to be afraid of "rip-offs", poorer children do not have to fear social exclusion because they do not wear branded clothing. Similar to sports clubs, the outfit would strengthen the feeling of togetherness. An advantageous side aspect would be, for example, that it would be easier for schoolchildren to keep an eye on each other on excursions and school trips.

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Workwear "for students

Karin Brose, teacher at the pilot school, sees school clothes as work clothes for the students. If this is appealing, it also enhances the work and motivation of the students. She put together a special, contemporary, appealing collection. She believes that school clothes have the following positive aspects: Strengthening the sense of togetherness, the feeling of security and security is strengthened, there is a feeling of pride in the class, a sense of responsibility, no "fashion show" in the schoolyard, critical consumer awareness, no brand pressure and from that resulting exclusion and bullying, no "pulling off" expensive clothes, character counts instead of appearance. In the project described, more and more teachers took part and appeared in school clothes.

Psychosomatic Effects

Accompanying psychological research found further effects. Professor Oliver Dickhäuser from Giessen's Justus Liebig University: "Due to the lack of bullying and marginalization, absenteeism due to psychosomatic illnesses in school clothing classes is extremely low."

Arguments against it

During puberty in particular, it is important to try out yourself and find your style, as limits are not only pushed to the limit, but sometimes also exceeded. School clothes can protect against nasty slips, but also encourage you to exaggerate in other areas, be it hairstyle, make-up or shoes. On the other hand, this is also important to define one's individuality. Critics call uniform school clothes an interference with the children's right to self-determination. It is felt as peer pressure instead of as a release from competitive pressure.

Difficult new introduction

It is difficult to introduce such fundamental innovations in schools, parents and students have to go along with it. The decisive factor can be that the collection strikes the right balance between timeless, classic style that remains current for several years and comfortable, trendy clothing. Current wearing habits should be taken into account. Parents or teachers who want to initiate such projects should consider the following points: good quality for everyday wear, current age-appropriate cuts, modern styles, low prices, simple logistics. School clothing should significantly relieve the parents' budget and be cheaper than branded clothing. In any case, students must be included in the selection so that these clothes are accepted and not perceived as boring and stuffy. The taste of the adults is not what counts.

Competition among schools

There could be competition among schools. Cashmere sweaters for the elite schools, polyester shirts for the focal schools. Instead of compensating for social differences, as desired, they could even be emphasized. On the other hand, there could also be positive creative competition: Which clothes are cool and chic?

Then what is casual wear

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Some children wear old, cheaper clothes in their free time when they do not feel that they are being watched in "public". Others then really want to wear trendy clothes and style themselves.

Uniform does not prevent brand terror

The education and science union (GEW) criticized the minister's plans. "We are always skeptical about the discussion about school uniforms," ​​said GEW spokeswoman Martina Schmerr. "Especially when politicians want to initiate it from above." Schools, parents and the students themselves should voluntarily decide whether to introduce uniform clothing, if at all, said Schmerr. The union is of the opinion that uniforms do not solve the social problems at school. "As a result, the brand terror of young people is only shifting to cell phones and watches," explained Schmerr. This is a proxy debate because the real difficulty lies in the fact that "our school system produces losers".

Students refuse to wear the same clothes

The topic is discussed very controversially within the student body all over Germany, explained the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper "Spießer", Jörg Flachowsky. "From our point of view, there is a clear preference among the students against it, so school uniforms are generally rejected." Many would therefore take the position that uniform clothing could not solve the problems in schools. "In the opinion of the students, you don't have to make sure that everyone becomes the same, but rather work on accepting something different," said Flachowsky. Most of the students wanted to decide for themselves which clothes to wear.

Conclusion from the projects

The Giessen psychology professor Oliver Dickhäuser accompanied the Hamburg project. He observed: "Children in school clothes experience everyday school life more positively in many ways." But he also limits: "It is naive to believe that only a uniformly colored sweater solves these problems in German classrooms." The student Karin Brose observed at her school in Hamburg: "School clothes are a good way to get together better and create a good class atmosphere - and that is necessary for learning together. Pupils are free from the pressure of brands and fashionable constraints and learn to dress appropriately . They develop their own individual self-esteem. " She also sees this as a key competence for later professional life.

Literature tip: Karin Brose, school clothes are not school uniforms by Karin Brose, EUR 9.80, 44 pages - 25 illustrations, 2005, ISBN: 3-00-016953-9