Forced to wear a skirt

Theme: School uniforms and teenage dress codes
Lexical area: clothes, fashion items
Cross curricular links: personal and social education

Instructions for language assistants in italics.

Classroom materials

This topic will be helped by photos or magazine pictures of school uniforms. Failing this you could draw your school uniform on the board (if you are good at drawing!). Describe the uniform worn in your school or schools in your area. Give students an idea of the cost. Remind them that you spend less on clothes for school if you wear the same uniform every day.

1. Brainstorm
Put the word uniform on the board. Brainstorm: Who wears a uniform ? Why ? Do schools in your host country wear uniforms ? Ask students to describe to their partner what they like wearing for school. Get some suggestions, review clothes vocabulary with uniforms and the students’ clothes.

Check students know the vocabulary before doing this in pairs, followed by a quick class round up.

Task 1 Brainstorm
Look at the following list of fashionable items. Which things might not be suitable for wearing to school?

mini skirts bikini tops body piercing tattoos
jeans with holes tight jeans fur coats

cropped tops

track suits jazz pants loose long hair (boys and girls) hair gel or spray coloured hair
jewellery platform shoes or very high heels designer trainers make up
  • Can you think of the reasons why an item might not be suitable?
  • Are any of these fashion items banned from your school?

2. Discuss
You can do this activity as a quick class discussion to lead into the reading.

Task 2 Discuss

  • What are your school rules?
  • Is there a dress code?
  • Explain the rules:
    • We are allowed to wear/expected to wear.
    • We are not allowed to come to school in/wearing.

3. Read and find out
Make sure the students understand the questions. Give out the text and give them time to read it. Before checking through the answers with them let them compare their answers. This will give them a chance to do some peer correction.

Task 3 Read and find out

  • Which speaker is proud of their school uniform?
  • Which item of clothing causes the most problems?
  • Are the rules stricter than in your school?
  • Are the rules the same for boys and for girls?



School Uniform Report …Forced to wear a skirt….

Each term the British press has reports of pupils being sent home from school. What is their crime? Not always bad behaviour. Sometimes it has something to do with fashion. Punk hair, rings in noses and dangerous heels can cause concern but some schools are prepared to send pupils home if their school uniform is too short. Pupils can’t resist the temptation to customise their uniform, change the style of their trousers, write on their ties or adapt their uniform jacket to suit the latest trends.

UK students speak out:

  • I hate wearing our school skirt. It is no longer acceptable for girls to have to wear skirts. Making us wear them is totally sexist. In winter we are freezing and the boys are nice and warm in their trousers! It isn’t fair. Emma, 15 Liverpool
  • Three years ago the parents voted for a uniform. It has saved us all loads of money. Everyone looks smart in their school sweatshirt. I think it’s cool. We still have pressure to wear the latest trainers but at least there is no competition about clothes for school. Martin, 16 Northern Ireland
  • My mate was sent home in June because the Head of Year said her skirt was too short. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I would like to wear long shorts when it is hot but that isn’t possible either. The skirts have to be knee length. It’s like being in prison. I don’t think it makes any difference to our school work or exam results! Caitlin, 14 Edinburgh


4. Discuss
The students can work either in pairs or small groups to do this task. You could also do a pyramid discussion with this task, so that students start off in pairs to discuss, then join pairs into groups of four, then groups of four into groups of eight etc.

Task 4 Discuss
Here are some more opinions from British teenagers.

  • Divide the opinions into For or Against.
  • Tick the opinions you agree with and compare in pairs.
  • Hold a class vote How many are in favour of uniforms? (For) and How many are not in favour of uniforms? (Against)
    • Uniforms keep pupils tidy and smart.
    • Uniforms are ugly and outmoded.
    • Uniforms stop unfair comparisons between rich or poorer students.
    • Uniforms make choosing your clothes in the morning easier.
    • Uniforms are not democratic.
    • Uniforms do not allow teenagers to express their individual personalities.
    • Uniforms are good for discipline and give a serious tone to the school.

5. Discuss
You could either do this task as a whole class discussion or for extra speaking practice in pairs.

Task 5 Discuss

  • Is there too much pressure to wear fashionable clothes in your school system?
  • Do you plan what you are going to wear for school?
  • Do pupils laugh if you dress differently?
  • What would you say to them if it happened to you?

Some people say that teenage fashions are all the same and that teenagers wear a type of teenage uniform. Do you agree?

6. Role play
This is a fun roleplay activity. You can either get students to do it privately in pairs or you could help the pairs to prepare a script for them to do as a performance for the whole class.

Task 6 Role play

Student A is wearing something totally unsuitable for school. Try to justify your choice to the teacher. You must try to avoid being sent home to change.


Student B: You are an angry teacher. Student A is wearing something totally unsuitable today. Ask him or her to go home and get changed. Explain your reasons.

Internet links
Search the BBC news site.

The CBBC Newsround site has a lot of interesting articles on school uniform issues.

By Clare Lavery

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