My oldest child starts school this week. He’s four, which means in the U.S. he would have attended preschool for a few hours each week this year. But in Great Britain, school begins at four, and thus I sent him on his way to “Reception” (what Americans call Kindergarten).
Like any mom, I spent the last few weeks in preparation for school to start by learning the components of a British school uniform. All schoolchildren here, from what I can tell, wear a uniform of some kind. My son’s school has a very complex uniform, including three separate “official” bags (books, gym clothes, and swim gear). A big change for a mom used to shipping him off to preschool in a t-shirt and shorts most days!
So here are the basic elements of his uniform this year:
- A blazer. It’s hard to imagine my 4-year-old wearing a blazer. He didn’t even wear a jacket when he was a ringer bearer in a wedding! And yet off he goes each morning in it. From what I’m told, the children remove them pretty quickly once arriving in their classroom so it doesn’t get dirty. Which I’m thankful for, since it was quite expensive.
- A jumper. What most Americans would call a sweater. My son’s is v-neck with the school emblem. I suspect he’ll wear it daily once the weather cools.
- Polo shirts. He has both short-sleeve and long-sleeve as an option each day, in red. In future years, he’ll switch to a more formal dress shirt and tie.
- Shorts or trousers. I love the look of little boys in knee-high socks and dress shorts. We just need to remember to call the “pants” trousers!
- A cap. He wears a wool cap with the school emblem each day. Because they spend a lot of time outdoors at his school, he also has a sunhat, which looks like a baseball cap with flaps.
- School shoes. A black pair of school shoes is a pretty universal clothing item for all British school children. Every shoe store has an entire rack devoted to these classic shoes.
That sums up his day-to-day look. Like I mentioned, he also has several bags, a gym outfit (shorts and a white polo shirt), attire for swimming (trunks and a swim cap), and soon we’ll add winter gear like coats, hats, scarves and gloves to the mix.
And while I’m definitely in favor of the uniform (no fights about wearing the same superhero shirt each morning!), I was not a fan of having to sew in name labels on each of these items, even the socks.
I purchased most of this, particularly those items with the school emblem, at his school’s supply store. The more basic pieces I was able to get at John Lewis, a popular department store here. You’ll find school uniform pieces being sold at most stores, even grocery stores.
I realize not every child’s uniform across the country looks just like this. But this has been our experience adjusting to a new code of dress. What are your thoughts about the British school uniform?