school

"I refuse to dress my daughter in the school uniform."

My daughter goes to a public primary school. Part of the school uniform is socks and shoes, all year round.

I’ve found that if my daughter’s feet sweat inside socks day after day in the summer, she develops sores between her toes. So I let her wear sandals to school – solid, good-quality, well-fitted sandals made for running around. On the one day a week she has sport, I send her to school in socks and shoes.

Last year, her teacher didn’t have a real problem with it. This year, it’s different.

Yesterday morning, when I dropped my daughter off, her teacher bailed me up.

“Why isn’t she wearing socks and shoes today?”

“Because if she wears socks every day in the summer, sores develop between her toes.”

“But it’s school uniform.”

“Yes, but I’m not going to send her to school in something that causes her pain.”

“She can put cotton between her toes. It’s uniform.”

“Her health is more important than uniform. Not doing it.”

I walked off, fuming.

Uniforms. A source of controversy. Image via iStock.

Now the teacher probably sees me as a trouble-making parent. I'm not, normally. The school is great, and I'm usually as supportive of the teachers as a parent could be.

But my daughter's wellbeing will always come first.

I went home and looked up the NSW Government's school uniform policy. Apparently, schools can't force a student to wear their uniform. They can't suspend them, or exclude them from activities, unless what they're wearing makes that activity unsafe. Even then, they have to provide them with an "alternative educational activity".

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"Conscientious objections by parents to the wearing of school uniform should be respected," the policy says.

I guess I'm sort of a conscientious objector, then.

I deliberately chose not to send my kids to a private school, even though I went to a private school myself. One reason was the ridiculousness of uniform regulation. I have memories of nuns telling us what colour our underwear had to be, and checking that our skirts were knee-length or below.

This is not how my kids look when they leave for school. Image via iStock.

I agree with the idea of public schools having a uniform. I think it saves parents a lot of money, as well as a lot of time in the mornings. But it should just be a base to work from. If kids feel the cold in winter and want to add extra layers of clothes, let them. If girls want to wear leggings under their dresses to make them feel more comfortable with physical activities, let them.

And, of course, if kids need to amend the uniform in some way for cultural or health reasons, let them.

This is school. It's not the army. Most kids will not go on to join the army. Most kids will go on to work in jobs where they will have at least some say over what they wear.

Having a school where everyone is pressured into dressing identically doesn't make it a "better" school. It doesn't make the kids "better" kids.

My daughter will be wearing sandals to school next week.

Is your children's school strict about uniforms?

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