School Uniform, Dress Code and Appearance Policies

School Uniform, Dress Code and Appearance Policies

School clothing policies in state funded secondary schools in Scotland were analysed in terms of the style of the uniform, discipline, equality and children’s rights, what was banned and affordability.

Infographic showing 100% is 357 Scottish state secondary schools, 96% have a compulsory school uniform, 66% have a blazer, 56% ban jeans, 24% ban hooded tops, 21% ban trainers in class, 20% have an exclusive uniform supplier.

Dr Rachel Shanks has focused on the affordability of school uniform and support to families on low incomes through the school clothing grant in Scotland. She produced a briefing in 2020, Affordability of secondary school uniform in Scotland: Policy briefing and another briefing in 2022 School Clothing Grant in Scotland Policy Briefing.

The reasons that were given for school uniforms in state funded secondary schools in Scotland were:

  • To foster school ethos, identity, pride and a sense of belonging
  • To prevent competition, discrimination, reduce bullying and improve discipline
  • For safety, security and to reduce truancy
  • Financial benefits (cheaper than wearing own clothes)
  • To enhance the reputation of the school
  • To prepare young people for the workplace (employability)
  • To improve attitudes to learning and improve standards

The current focus of the research is the affordability, sustainability and comfort of school uniform.

Two interconnected circles with the smaller circle containing a school blazer, school shirt and school tie and the larger circle containing three sections, one section is affordability with a price tag, a factory, a tie above a recycling bin and workers above a handshake. One section is labelled comfort and it contains a feather, a bicycle, the symbol for male and female and a scroll with UNCRC on it. The third section is labelled sustainability and it contains a factory, a lorry, a bin and a t-shirt.

Current work

Focusing on school uniform in a holistic way to consider:

  • Affordability - the cost to those buying items and consideration to issues of exploitation of workers, child labour etc. in how garments are produced.
  • Sustainability - thinking of this right through the supply chain, principles of fair and ethical trade and how/where garments are disposed of at end of use.
  • Comfort - covering not only fabric and texture but also allergies, stigma, gender, transgender, culture, religious beliefs.

The short framework also puts this in the context of children's rights and legislation.   

At this stage we are trying to get feedback on the framework which could inform discussions at national, local and school levels. Below are links to the framework and the feedback form:

Survey for school uniform and clothing banks

School Uniform Dress Codes and Appearance Policies Participant Information Sheet

Further Reading

Books and book chapters
Journal articles
The Conversation
Video and podcasts
Other useful resources