The debate on whether to have a school uniform is an old one with strong attitudes on both sides.
Students would almost certainly prefer mufti, but it is their parents or parent who have to foot the bill for different outfits. For many homes, that is an unbearable financial stress and can lead to a situation of have and have-nots.
Even with school uniforms, the pressures on many households can be extreme, especially where a school is just introducing the uniform, or has done so only recently, and good second-hand uniforms are not readily available.
For the school itself, there are certainly benefits in a uniform, mainly by reducing that student competitiveness and bringing in a sense of cohesiveness.
But school uniforms can benefit students in a number of other ways. They give students an identity – making them feel they are a member of a school.
That sense of belonging can create more discipline. Uniforms do not show any imbalance created with those who come from homes that can afford designer-wear and upmarket sports labels, and those that just scrape by. Some who support uniforms say this can lead to an increased focus on studies because the students are not worried about what they are wearing. They might also well argue that uniforms can help prepare students for working life later where some will be required to wear a uniform or corporate wear.
Of course, that puts pressure on a design team from the school or college. How is best to go about it?
Brent Ellis, manager of Academic Schoolwear in Christchurch, says the process should start with the Board of Trustees. “If they can provide a clear picture of what they envisage, the manufacturer can provide samples which can then be approved or fine tuned. Some input from a good manufacturer could assist here,” he said.
With the ever-increasing cost of raw materials, thought needs to be given to the number of items in the uniform, said Mr Ellis. “Rather than create new designs for every item, it can be more economical to select an existing uniform item the manufacturer has, and individualise it to the school with a logo. This can create significant savings for the school and the parents.”
While it may be tempting to accept the lowest quote, durability should be a major consideration. A school uniform can receive a lot of rough treatment and the selection of a good manufacturer is important to ensure the correct selection of fabrics and matching of trims. Quality uniforms are more durable and can hold their smart appearance longer, making them more saleable when no longer needed.