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A Short History Of Our Secondary College Jacket

Found in: News

About three years ago, I began the process of speaking to our community about the subject of jackets for the secondary school. This included discussion with the Parent Committee and a more general survey of parents as well as students.

I was asking people to consider the choice between:
1) A blazer, like most independent schools
2) A more modern, comfortable, cheaper and pragmatic coat.
(You can already see where my bias lies, can’t you)

Since being Head of House and then Dean of Students at my previous school, I’ve fought long and hard to get students to wear their blazers. Some students like them and the sense of dignity they bestow. Most students avoid wearing them at all costs. They are not particularly functional, smell like wet dogs in the rain and cost a fortune.

I believe that young people, in fact all people, should know how to dress to respect an occasion, a position or a role. It is, to me, a mark of consideration for others and understanding that not all occasions or events revolve around us and a solely personal choice of clothing. As a principal, I’m wearing a uniform which is why I have about 20 unravelled ties on the back seat of my car (ties just don’t come naturally to me). Some jobs have highly developed clothing requirements around health or safety and it is important that our students learn to function responsibly in that space. There is a lot of thinking behind uniforms. There are other issues such as liberation from the excessive and shallow demands of fashion, sense of belonging and respect; this is what I wear for learning etc.

I do feel, however, that there is something anachronistic about blazers that emphasise the way students look rather than the way students act (this is just an opinion). I want them to be in something comfortable and workable but still looks smart enough to wear with a tie. I think our new jacket works well and it has been popular with students and parents as we’ve done our market research. It also works well with our hills college. We’ve designed our campus with students in mind and the uniform as well. We could move into a tie debate at this point, but let’s leave it there.

People have asked if the jacket is compulsory. It is, but fortunately it is less than half the cost of a blazer. Others have asked if the jacket and jumper are both required. Personally, I think that there are times where students will need to wear both to be warm. There will be a number of occasions where students are required to be outside in the cold winter mornings and evenings. If you have a “I’m itchy in jumpers” or “that will overheat me” child, then go for the jacket please. That’s the story so far.

Rod McNeill