- Your school decides whether to have a school uniform or not
- Pupils need to be involved in any changes to the school uniform
- Your school must be careful that the uniform it chooses is appropriate for all pupils at the school
Your school doesn’t have to have a school uniform, but most schools do. If there is a school uniform, it will probably be a school rule that you wear the uniform when you are at school, or if you represent the school in something like sport or music. Your school has to be careful that it chooses a uniform that is appropriate for all pupils at the school, and should talk to pupils before introducing a school uniform or making changes to the uniform that you already wear.
There is no law that says that your school has to have school uniform but lots of schools choose to have one. It helps everyone at one school feel part of one community. If everyone is wearing the same uniform there is less pressure on you to be wearing the ‘right’ kind of clothes, and can stop bullying that might happen over the kind of clothes you wear. Some schools that don’t have a school uniform may still have a ‘dress code’ which makes general rules about the kinds of clothes you can (or can’t) wear at school.
In July 2019, the Welsh Government published some ‘statutory guidance’ about school uniform. Statutory Guidance is not ‘a law’ BUT the people who decide the school uniform – school governors and head teachers – must take the guidance into account when they are putting a school uniform policy in place or if they are changing the school uniform policy.
The statutory guidance makes changes to the guidance which was in place before, so that
- When the school is setting or changing its uniform policy, it needs to think about how easy it is to buy the school uniform.
- The school must make sure that it does not say that different items of clothing can only be worn by boys or girls (or those who identify as boys or girls) e.g. a uniform policy that is put in place or changed now that the new guidance is in place should not specify ‘skirts for girls and trousers for boys’.
- The school uniform policy needs to take a sensible, flexible approach to school uniform when it’s very hot or very cold or there is some other form of extreme weather.
The guidance is now ‘statutory’ guidance which means schools have to take it into account when setting a school uniform policy or changing an existing school uniform policy.
You can read the Statutory Guidance for school governing bodies on school uniform and appearance policies here.
If your school already has a school uniform policy in place and there are no plans to change the school uniform, the statutory guidance might not apply, but you might still be able to challenge the school uniform policy if it discriminates against you, for example because of your sex/gender, your race or religion, or a disability. You can find out more about being treated unfairly at school here.
If your school (or the school you will be going to) has a school uniform, it should have a written document, called a ‘school uniform policy’ with all the details of the uniform included. Some schools will include the uniform policy in the prospectus with other details about the school, the uniform policy might be on the school website or included in the ‘home/school agreement’.
If your school has chosen to have a school uniform, it will probably be a school rule that you must wear the uniform to come to school. The school may want to discipline you if you don’t wear the correct uniform, but they should check first that there isn’t a good reason why you aren’t wearing the uniform. If you got your uniform dirty and it hasn’t been washed, or if you have lost something and haven’t been able to replace it, it might not be right for the school to punish you.
Your school has to make sure that the uniform is appropriate for all pupils. Sometimes the uniform might not be appropriate, for example if you have been in an accident and broken your arm or leg. You might have an ongoing condition that makes it hard for you to wear some kinds of clothes. Sometimes, you might want to wear something because of your religion that isn’t included in school uniform. If you’ve got a reason like this which makes it difficult to wear school uniform, you need to discuss this with the school, because it could be ‘discrimination’ against you – and the school may need to change its uniform policy.
If your school doesn’t have a uniform, and is thinking of introducing one, or has a uniform and is going to change it, the school should talk to pupils (as well as parents and teachers) about this. If your school is planning changes to school uniform, it might involve the School Council in its discussions. Your school doesn’t have to do what you want, but it must take your views into account. Your school must also take into account the Welsh Government’s Statutory Guidance on School uniform and Appearance Policies which is explained in more detail in the section above
The school uniform shouldn’t be so expensive that it makes it difficult for you to have the right uniform. Wales has a school uniform grant which will help some families that might find it difficult to buy uniform for secondary school. You will need to find out more from your local authority. If you don’t know which is your local authority, you can find out online.
Just because you don’t like wearing the school uniform isn’t enough of a reason not to wear it. But if you have a specific reason why you can’t wear something that is part of the school uniform, or if you want to wear something that isn’t part of the uniform, your school may have to think carefully about the school uniform. Your school might need to let you wear something that isn’t quite part of the uniform, otherwise it could be breaking the law.
- Some people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders find some kinds of clothes difficult to wear
- Some religions require followers to wear particular items of clothing
- Some young people identify as one gender, but their school wants them to wear the uniform of the opposite gender
You and your parents, or the people looking after you, should talk to your school to discuss the reasons why you don’t want to wear the school uniform. In most cases, you should be able to work out an agreement with the school about what you can wear so that everyone is happy. If not, and you feel that the school isn’t listening to you, you may decide to take things further.
Your school needs to think carefully about the reasons why you aren’t wearing school uniform to make sure it’s not breaking the law and treating you unfairly. If the school listens to you, but has its own good reason to keep the uniform as it is, you might then get into trouble if you carry on wearing something that isn’t school uniform. You might be sent home to change, and then come back to school wearing the right uniform. The school should tell your parents or carers that this has happened. Sometimes it might not be possible for you to change – for example if your uniform has been lost and you haven’t had time to replace it. School needs to be reasonable about how it deals with this and not keep you away from school for longer than necessary.
If you are sent home to change into your school uniform or deal with some other aspect of your appearance (like getting your hair cut) so that your appearance is in line with the school uniform policy, and don’t return to school as soon as possible, you might be marked as an ‘unauthorised absence’ by the school.
If you carry on coming to school without the right uniform, your school might take more serious action, according to its behaviour management policy, and you might end up being excluded. Your school should only consider exclusion as a ‘last resort’.