James Gillespie’s considers dress code change

An online survey sent to parents gives them four different choices. Picture: Ian Rutherford
An online survey sent to parents gives them four different choices. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Students have been turning up for classes dressed like ordinary teenagers for at least a generation.

But now James Gillespie’s High School is considering changing its dress code for the first time in 30 years ahead of a move into a new campus next year.

With the move into our new campus next year, now is the ideal time to gauge people’s opinions

Donald MacDonald

Staff and pupils at the school have been surveyed in recent weeks to gauge their reaction to the plans, with the school now looking to hear what parents think.

Options include introducing a uniform consisting of a polo shirt and sweatshirt – or even forcing pupils to don a blazer and tie in the manner of some of the city’s smartest private schools.

All parents with children at the school will be able to fill out an online survey stating their preference, as well as those with youngsters in the last three years of an associated primary.

The questionnaire, which closes on Thursday August 13, is the first on the topic for 12 years and will be read and analysed by headteacher Donald Macdonald and his senior team, with a final decision set to be made by the October break.

Any new uniform policy would come into action at the start of term in August next year.

Mr Macdonald said: “It’s been several years since we last consulted about the school dress code and with the move into our fantastic new campus next year, now is the ideal time to gauge people’s opinions.

“We’ve been surveying staff and pupils over the past few weeks and are keen to hear from parents within the James Gillespie’s community.”

An e-mail sent out to parents yesterday morning also said the move to the school’s new campus buildings – part of a £42.8 million redevelopment that includes new teaching blocks, gym and football pitch – represented a good opportunity to discuss introducing a new uniform.

It read: “As you will be aware James Gillespie’s High School recently moved into the new and wonderful Malala building. We are due to move into the Spark Building and the Liddell Building in August 2016 which represents an exciting time in our school’s history.

“It has been a few years since JGHS made an update to its school dress code and we view the move into our new campus in August 2016 as the ideal time to update our dress code following consultation.”

An online survey attached to the e-mail gives parents four different options to chose from – no change to the dress code, a uniform of polo shirt and sweatshirt, a uniform of blazer and tie, or no preference.

But plans to reintroduce a dress code at the school – made famous as the inspiration for Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – have already proved controversial.

Tina Woolnough, a city parent and Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said strict clothing policies did little to forge a sense of belonging in pupils.

She said: “I know schools like the idea that uniform brings a sense of belonging and identity, but I think what’s more important is that young people feel a sense of belonging themselves.

“I’m not a great believer in uniform for the sake of discipline and those sorts of things.

“I think it can be the case that enforcing uniforms is one of the control mechanisms that schools like to assert over young people, when in fact they should be focusing on forming relationships with them.

“Gillespie’s has always managed without uniform and has not had problems. It shouldn’t be about discipline and about rules. It should be about wanting to belong to an establishment and that’s actually nothing to do with uniforms.”