One of the first things you will notice about school children in Denmark is that they don’t wear school uniforms. Having grown up in the UK where all children wear uniform this was a bit odd for me at first, but as time went on I started to like it more. I saw that the arguments for school uniform seemed irrelevant here.
You hear in the UK that school uniforms are important to give a sense of belonging, to make sure that everyone looks the same and that children aren’t bullied for not having the most up to date fashions, they are cheaper than normal clothes and that if children misbehave outside of school their school will hear about it.
Even when I was at school, looking back, none of this really worked. You felt a sense of belonging to your school if your school made you feel that way, of the three schools I attended I only felt a sense of loyalty and belonging to one yet I wore school uniform to them all. Yes, we are all in the same colours and the same outfits but not all uniforms are created equal and it is still possible to see who’s family have less income than others; they are not always cheaper than other clothes, especially if the school expect you to go to a specific shop to buy the clothes and finally if kids are going to misbehave outside of school a colourful tie isn’t going to stop that!
I read the argument for no school uniforms here on one of the school websites and it made a lot of sense to me. It said “we don’t have school uniforms as we want to encourage children to choose appropriate dress for appropriate occasions, which is a valuable learning skill for later life.”
Looking at school children here you see a variety of clothing choices but in the main they are all totally appropriate. Most seem to come from H&M, what I jokingly call the school outfitters. Denmark is quite a level society so I doubt many kids turn up in very obviously designer clothes, they certainly don’t at my son’s school.
And when it comes to behaviour, society’s norms and unwritten rules have more to do with that here. It is normal to see big groups of school children from the age of four to sixteen using the public buses to travel to outside activities with their teachers. In the UK you would groan and probably try and get off the bus at the next stop if twenty teenagers piled on. But kids have been doing this for years, they may be noisy, smelly and full of hormones (they are teenagers after all) but they give up seats for old people, help people off the bus and move along to make space (sometimes with a little nudge from their teachers). Recently I was on a busy bus route when a group like this got on the bus and I witnessed a lovely moment between an old lady and one of the teenage boys. He treated her with respect and kindness and she treated him like a grandson.
Not one of these kids was in school uniform, some dressed like hippies, some like goths but most like teenagers more intent on living life than tying their tie.
I recently got hold of some things from my childhood and showed my son my old school ties. I put one on and he screwed up his nose and said why did they make you dress like a man? I was at loss to explain why girls wearing ties was important.
So although my son won’t have that rite of passage of wearing his first school uniform like I did (above on my first day at a new school age 11), I am not that bothered as school is about more than a blazer and tie. Its about knowledge, fun, friendship and learning skills for later life.