Uniform Message

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   No Comments   |  Posted on: Nov 28, 2011

Who else read the article in The Telegraph on Friday 25th November entitled ‘Getting tied up in knots over great school uniform debate’?
Lots of different and valid arguments were put forward by parents, teachers, psychologists, pupils and Headteachers about the advantages and disadvantages of having a school uniform. I’m not going to go through them here because I dare say most of you reading this will have heard them all before. What puzzled me was that of all the vast range of sources quoted in the article, not one of them referred to the uniform as ‘brand identity’.
Is a school uniform not the manifestation in clothing of the schools brand identity?
Having managed a School Sport Partnership for the last 7 years, we had a uniform which all staff wore because it stood for what we believed in.  It showed that we shared the same values, common purpose and vision, and made us easily identifiable as belonging to that group. Our brand identity was reflected in our website, our stationary, our banners, our pens, our mugs, our lanyards, our uniform and ultimately us. It conveyed a consistent message, and allowed us to manage our reputation. Everything we did reflected the quality of our brand, and we felt proud to be our brand and to wear our brand. Our brand was us.
In Newcastle where I live, a high proportion of the population, both male and female wear Newcastle United football shirts around the town, whether there is a match on or not. They share a common purpose, and similar values – they follow the same football team and are proud to show it by wearing the team shirt. Nobody makes them wear it – they choose to wear it to show their allegiance to the brand, and all it stands for. How do you think they feel when they pull on the black and white shirt?
If you are a teacher would you feel proud to wear your school’s uniform? Would you be proud to advertise where you work, and promote your organization? Would you be happy to wear clothes that say ‘I have the same values and purpose as this organization’? Would you feel happy to wear clothes that say ‘I stand for what this organization stands for’? Do your values resonate with your schools values? Are you and your staff, and your pupils all working together towards the same common purpose? Does your schools brand identity reflect and communicate those values and that purpose?
So would you? Would you feel proud to wear your school’s uniform?
And don’t say I’m an adult/teacher/boss/manager, uniforms are for the staff/pupils; I’m not asking you if you will wear it, I’m asking if you would feel proud to wear it, so can you answer the question with a straight yes or no?
And if you’re finding it hard to answer that question, then perhaps this might give you a clue as to why some school pupils rebel against their uniform. Does it reflect what they feel about the learning experience they have? Does it reflect their values? What are their values? Do they share in the vision of the school? Are they there for the same reasons as you? What message does the uniform send out? How do they feel about their school?
So the article in ‘The Telegraph’ asked whether school uniforms are necessary or not. Is that the question, or is the question ‘for what purpose school uniforms’? If it’s a tool to keep the masses from expressing individuality, to make year groups identifiable, to make them conform and to accept the discipline of the organization and the power of those in authority, then do you have a school or a uniformed service? Or is it to show that everyone in the organization is there for the same reason, has the same end goal, and want to get there together, working with each other promoting and reflecting common purpose and shared values in the culture and ethos of the learning community?
So maybe it’s not about the uniform at all. Is it what it stands for, the message it communicates and how that makes you feel?  What is the underlying meaning of it at your school? What is your brand identity?
Now look at your school uniform – does it say what you want it to say?

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