At Preshil we don’t require students to wear a uniform.
I think some people read this to mean that we are a bit casual and not ‘rigorous’.
But children are very quick to read the symbolic message in rules and adult behaviour. When everyone is forced to look identical and punished for failing to conform children are not likely to be fooled that they are valued as individuals.
I find this topic comes up often when we interview students wishing to enrol at Preshil. They, and their parents, are keenly attuned to the difference between rigorous learning and control.
Uniforms don’t really make everyone look the same; they actually emphasise the differences in size and shape; they highlight the natural unfairness between the effortless grace of some children compared to the ungainly awkwardness of others. Children are easily persuaded that they are the wrong shape, when it is the uniform that is simply the wrong shape for them.
Children also recognise the encoded message in the endless instruction to ‘do up your tie’, ‘pull your socks up’, ‘tuck your shirt in’, etc. Enforcing a uniform code demands that teachers engage in conversations which must seem to children to be petty and punitive; surely grownups have more important things to focus on? In a society where youth anxiety and depression continue to escalate we need to be questioning the wisdom of repressive traditions.
At Preshil our commitment to treat each child as an individual is not just a hollow claim. From their earliest years children at Preshil are free to wear what they truly like. Amazing hats, bright colours, warm and comforting jackets, extraordinary dress ups. They are free to run and jump, to be funny and to be comfortable.
As our students become young adults they are free to express their individuality within the usual bounds of accepted casual dress. Some students choose to show their interest in fashion, others disregard it entirely, but they are free to be themselves.
There is nothing casual about this approach to our students; it is part of a deliberate culture of respect and the genuine celebration of difference.