School uniform

Schools identify clothing considered appropriate for pupils to wear in school, usually including style and colour.

How effective is it?

There is a general belief in many countries that school uniform supports the development of a whole school ethos and therefore is supportive of discipline and motivation. However, there is no robust evidence that introducing a school uniform will, by itself, improve academic performance, behaviour or attendance. There are studies that have information about these outcomes linked to the introduction of a school uniform policy, but uniform was usually one factor amongst other improvement measures, such as changes in behaviour policy or other teaching and learning developments.

How secure is the evidence?

One of the problems in interpreting the evidence is that schools in challenging circumstances often choose a school uniform policy as part of a broader range of improvement measures. There are no systematic reviews of well-controlled interventions of a school uniform policy. The evidence rests mainly on correlational studies that have compared the performance of schools with uniforms to those without, or that have examined a school's trajectory of improvement after the introduction of school uniform. The most rigorous reviews and analyses have so far been unable to establish a causal link, but speculate that adoption of a uniform policy may provide a symbolic and public commitment to school improvement.

There are cultural issues about how a school uniform is perceived which play an important role in determining the acceptability and success (in terms of compliance). There is some evidence that in areas of very high poverty free school uniforms improve attendance, however this does not appear to be true in all areas. In other cultures school uniforms are associated with regulation and the loss of individuality, so care must be taken in generalising from studies from abroad.

For full references and effect sizes, please click here.

What are the costs?

The costs associated with introducing a school uniform are very low and mainly depend on parents buying the clothes instead of others the child would wear.

What should I consider?

Before you implement this strategy in your learning environment, consider the following:

  1. Wearing a uniform is not, on its own, going to improve learning, but where it is combined with the development of a school ethos and the improvement of behaviour and discipline, it can be successfully included as part of this process.

  2. Improved behaviour, on its own, does not necessarily lead to better learning, though it may be an important precondition (see Behaviour).

  3. The commitment of staff to uphold and enforce a uniform policy is crucial to its success. Have you considered how you will implement a uniform policy as part of a wider school policy?