The Many Other Benefits of School Uniforms
Improvements to enrolment are just one of the many benefits that implementing a school uniform can have.
This below examines some of the other benefits that schools and their students enjoy. Each has backing from researchers who’ve examined the benefit in more detail.
Benefit #1 – Student Mental Health Benefits
Mental health is a hot-button issue in the current educational climate.
Estimates suggest that 20% of the 1.3 million Australians attending university experienced a mental illness. In many cases, these mental illnesses begin to develop during the student’s school career.
This is a global issue.
In the UK, approximately 500,000 people below the age of 18 get referred for mental health treatment each year. There are likely many more who don’t receive treatment because they conceal their issues.
It’s a major issue that schools need to address. And it appears that the implementation of a school uniform can go some way towards helping.
In 2007, researchers from Oxford Brookes University in the UK ran several focus groups. Quizzing students aged between 13 and 17, they hoped to discover the positive impact that a school uniform has on them.
The study found that students felt a consistent uniform led to less bullying and worrying about their peers. This has a positive effect on student mental health. Consistency in appearance allows students to focus on their work. It also creates fewer triggers that can lead to incidents that affect a student’s mental wellbeing.
The UK-based Schoolwear Association ran their own study in 2017 to corroborate these results. Again, they found that a consistent uniform creates a sense of equality among students. This impacts how they treat each other, which in turn can impact the wellbeing of the students.
Eversfield Preparatory School deputy head Hannah Phillips also raises an interesting point. The UK-based teacher says:
“Many of our children have access to both social media and the internet, so even at a young age, they are conscious about body image and whether their clothes are fashionable enough.”
There’s a simple message here. Children have more access to information than ever before. It’s no longer just physical interactions that affect their mental health. What they see online can also affect them.
School uniforms aren’t a comprehensive solution to the mental health issue, by any means. However, they introduce consistency and equality that help students to feel accepted in the school and by their peers. This, in turn, can have a positive impact on their mental health.
Benefit #2 – Improved Student Attention Spans
With less of a preoccupation on fashion, students can also focus more intently on their lessons. They’re less concerned with what other students wear or how they need to present themselves.
Again, the consistency of a uniform comes into play here. When all the students wear the same clothes, nobody worries about having to abide by fashion trends.
The research suggests that this leads to improved student performance.
A study published in the International Journal of Educational Management examined this in more detail. It had an overarching purpose of determining how school discipline impacts performance.
The school uniform was one of the aspects that it looked at.
The study found that the implementation of a uniform leads to improved student discipline. In the classroom setting, students in uniforms tend to listen more intently to their teachers. This also means that teachers spend less time waiting for students to settle. Classes start on time and there are fewer issues with lateness.
As a result, they can dedicate more of their time to teaching.
This improved discipline also leads to superior student performance. The same study discovered that the most disciplined students are also the highest-performing ones.
School uniforms improve student discipline. This helps school operations to run smoother. Plus, it leads to better test results and overall student performance.
Benefit #3 – Improved Teacher Retention
The issue of teacher retention is another hot-button issue in Australian education. According to some studies, anywhere between 30% and 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years.
That’s a massive attrition rate.
There are many factors involved in a teacher’s decision to leave their position. Generally speaking, a lack of student discipline can create a demoralising effect. Teachers don’t enjoy their work because they don’t like spending time with students.
As established above, it appears that a school uniform can help to quash these discipline issues.
And according to one study, that has a positive effect on teacher retention rates.
Published in the Journal of Urban Economics, the study looked into how uniforms affect a variety of outcomes in the United States.
It found a remarkable result in elementary schools. These are roughly equivalent to primary schools in Australia.
The study found a direct link between school uniforms and increases in teacher retention.
It’s likely that improvements in student discipline play a role here. But there’s a simple message.
Uniforms can help you to keep your best teachers. This improves your school’s performance. This makes it a more desirable choice for students and parents.
Benefit #4 – Improved Attendance
The Journal of Urban Economics study also examined a uniform’s effect on school attendance.
It found a marked improvement in the secondary grades.
However, the report does not go into detail about why this occurs. There are likely several issues at play though.
Again, the fact that students don’t have to worry so much about their appearance plays a part. This may have a dual effect. There’s less student lateness because uniforms eliminate clothing decisions. Plus, there are fewer students avoiding school out of fear that they’ll get picked on for their clothing choices.
The increased pride that a good school uniform creates may also play a part. Students feel a sense of belonging to their school. Thus, they’re more willing to spend time there.
Furthermore, the uniform improves student focus, which means they get more out of lessons. Seeing more marked improvement may encourage the student to maintain high attendance.
Benefit #5 – Less Bullying
Bullying is another major issue in Australian schools.
Both Kids Helpline and Bullying. No Way! report that 25% of students experience bullying at some point. Appearance is often a target for bullies. And as mentioned previously, bullying has links to mental health issues. It damages student self-confidence. In some cases, students take extreme measures that lead to them harming themselves.
Bullying may also have links to low attendance. A bullied student isn’t as likely to show up to school as a student who isn’t bullied.
This is another issue that uniforms appear to have a positive impact.
Another UK-based study has found that both teachers and students believe that uniforms reduce bullying.
Commissioned by a charity called The Diana Award, the study quizzed 1,318 students, teachers, and parents.
It found that 89% of teachers believe uniforms lead to less bullying.
Students seemed to generally agree with this perception. The study found that 69% of students believe uniforms help them to “fit in”.
This sense of equality takes away one of the main areas of focus that a bully might have. In particular, it makes it harder for bullies to identify potential targets.
If everybody looks equal, a bully can’t pick on somebody who appears different.
The UK’s Department of Education agrees with this research.
It says that uniforms have “a valuable role in contributing to the ethos of a school and setting an appropriate tone”.
A uniform may be part of the solution if your school has a bullying issue. The research certainly suggests that uniforms play a role in reducing bullying.
Benefit #6 – Raising Self-Esteem
Many of the points above come back to the common thread of self-esteem.
The pressure of fitting in can have a devastating effect on a student’s confidence. Unfortunately, those who don’t abide by the current trends can get singled out as targets for bullies.
However, self-esteem issues can arise without the bullying aspect. For example, a student may see somebody else wearing something that they can’t afford or aren’t allowed to wear. This can have an effect on their self-esteem too. Some students may allow this desire to make them feel worse about themselves.
A uniform eliminates many of these concerns. Thus, students feel more confident when wearing one.
The previously-mentioned University of Nevada study offers more insight into this.
It found that 42% of students worry less about how others look when everyone’s wearing a uniform. Furthermore, a uniform doesn’t appear to affect the students’ sense of individuality. In fact, 54% say they feel that they still have their identity when wearing a uniform.
You can use a school uniform to temper many of the issues that can affect a student’s self-esteem. This leads to more confident students.
Benefit #7 – Improved Graduation Rates
School uniforms also have a direct benefit on a school’s graduation rate. This is perhaps one of the most surprising benefits.
Researchers in Cleveland, Ohio in the United States conducted their own study into the benefits of uniforms. They examined 64 schools in the state of Ohio. Of those, six had a uniform policy.
The study looked at how the schools with uniform policies performed prior to introducing a uniform. On average, they’d achieved an 11% improvement in graduation rates after adopting a uniform.
By contrast, the schools without uniforms struggled. On average, their graduation rates dropped by 4.6% compared to rates from previous years.
It’s likely that the discipline issue is at play again here. More disciplined students turn up to lessons on time. Plus, they’re more attentive. As a result, they perform better during exams. And this raises their chances of graduating.
The end result is that schools with uniforms create better outcomes for their students.