In some countries school uniforms are a usual practice while in others there are ongoing discussions about introducing them or not. The following article is offering a participatory solution for introducing or revising school uniform practice making it possible for students and parents to develop and exercise their active citizenship skills in a few simple steps.
Step 1 – Sense of belonging
As a first step organise a survey among students and parents finding our why they are proud of the school of their choice, what they like (and dislike) about it, whether they feel good if they discover somebody went or goes to the same school. In case the school already has a uniform you can include questions about the likes and dislikes around that. The dislikes can always be used for improvements later on.
Step 2 – Discussion about school uniforms
Organise for a (on school level, class level, online, after school) to discuss the benefits of and problems with school uniform. Prepare facilitators to evaluate current practice, also to discuss partial solutions (eg. uniform for celebrations only, uniform for practical lessons to protect clothes, uniform for outings, etc.)
Step 3 – Finding ways of flagging that you belong
Announce a design competition for students of any piece of clothing and/or accessory they would like to wear to show others that they belong to your school. In the announcement tell them they have to think about material, price, production possibilities.
Step 4 – Create ownership of the new uniform
Once the proposals are collected, make a virtual or real exhibition and make it possible for all students to evaluate them. The evaluation should be based on whether you would like to wear the given item on a daily basis or for celebratory events.
Meanwhile have a similar vote among parents who should state if they were willing to buy the exhibited items.
Assessing the results of the competition, organise a second, similar round with the sets most popular with both parents and students – this is to ensure that children like and are ready to wear the chosen pieces, while parents are also happy about the looks and are likely to be able to afford it.
Step 5 – Make a joint decision
Use whatever democratic means you have to make a final decision on
- whether there is a consensus or convincing majority to introduce (new) uniform
- what is the scope of the new uniform (everyday or celebratory, for the whole schoolday or for special lessons)
involving school staff, students and teachers. If there is no consensus, be prepared to work on convincing the minority to ensure their ownership, too.
(Source of cover picture: WikiHow)