BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day
© John Denney 9 July 2004
It was a Tuesday, and off I set, in my brand new uniform. Grey socks, folded neatly over just below the knee, grey shorts, grey flannelette shirt, school tie, blazer and scarf, and my school cap sitting squarely on my head. Over my shoulder, I had my new brown satchel, with that special satchel smell. By the end of that first bewildering day at the grammar school, I had been, like all the “fags” (as we new boys were called), the butt of several practical jokes. My new cap had been used as a rugby ball by the second years, and I had narrowly escaped being shown the goldfish that were alleged to reside down the Victorian WCs that comprised the lower school toilets. We gained uniform privileges as years went by: summer boaters for the fifth- and sixth-formers; waistcoats for the sixth form; and each year the cap was worn further and further back on the head, so that those in the know could tell from a distance which year a boy was in. Our uniform helped engender the ésprit de corps that was so important at my school.
My own children missed out on this aspect of school corporate life, for their school had no uniform. Not even a school tie. But the interesting thing was that the children created their own uniform. Jeans were de rigeur, and shirts and pullovers worn in a particular fashion; and there was a definite tendency for the children to wear similar colours.
I was thinking about these things because yesterday the government announced a Soviet-style 5-year plan to improve secondary schools, part of which is to encourage these schools to adopt a uniform. Research shows that people are happier when they know where they belong. In a school, uniforms help that sense of identity. We experienced a sense of national identity recently when so many houses and cars were adorned with St George’s flags.
St Paul said this:
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
God created us as individuals who belong to one another. Our identity is God-given, and we don’t need a uniform to express that.
 Ephesians 4:4-6 MSG