Roisin and Codi, Cost of the School Day pupil group members at Braes High School in Falkirk, stepped up and spoke alongside CPAG in Scotland, academics, uniform banks, charities and the event’s sponsor, Fulton MacGregor MSP. Roisin told the group:
“Uniform is so important, it’s the first thing you think of every day. It’s so hard to be a teenager in today’s society, you have to be a certain way and wear certain things to feel like you belong. Uniform is the first step to help young people feel they are part of their school. Having the right uniform makes you feel like you fit in, it makes you feel ok. If you don’t have say, a blazer, or a certain style of jumper it can be really isolating, especially in your junior years,”
Codi opened with her thoughts about the clothing grant:
“There are people just above the threshold who just can’t get it. Stigma is a huge thing as well. Having uniform rails out in the school entrance, so that everyone knows its there and can see it, erases stigma and means that it’s just available for anyone who needs it. But not everything can be reused. And kids grow really rapidly, particularly in primary school, so families need to buy so much stuff just to keep up.”
Other speakers talked about the problems families on low incomes encounter providing uniform for children and how this affects child and family mental health. There was also lots of discussion about expanding clothing grant eligibility because, as Codi pointed out, many families living on low incomes are not able to claim this help.
It was particularly powerful to hear from young people who have to deal with school uniforms every school day, and Roisin and Codi’s thoughts and observations were central to an incredibly useful discussion, which will continue, helping MSPs and those working in education to make decisions about school uniform that will keep costs down and support families on lower incomes.
Edinburgh Uniform Bank tweeted afterwards about Codi and Roisin’s contribution to the roundtable: “We were delighted to speak alongside these two young people who clearly explained why inclusive, affordable uniform is so important”, Glasgow City Parents Group said “Wonderful speakers today and two fabulous senior pupils.” And the School Bank in West Lothian tweeted “Great contributions from these two young people today.”
So what did Roisin and Codi think of the experience? Codi said that:
"I thought it was a very unique and fun experience, I was able to speak about my thoughts on school uniforms and share a young person's view on the matter. It’s something I’ve become quite passionate about as it’s made me realise that everyday things are issues that some don’t even think about, including myself. I definitely feel it’s improved others understanding on the situation and it’s made a larger impact having those from different age groups talking about the issue. It’s something which isn’t acknowledged by other schools often and many are still very outdated on how these things are handled.
I would definitely recommend it to others as it’s a rare chance and it’s really a challenge to do, you achieve much more than you think you do by participating in things such as this. It’s also an opportunity most don’t get in their lifetimes and it’s something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life, along with those who you love most. Overall, it was a thrilling experience and I’d do it all over again if I could. I’m also so proud of Roisin for doing it along with me."
"I found the whole experience incredibly interesting. It was lovely to meet lots of people who are all passionate about making a change to young people’s lives. The topics discussed were fascinating and it really made me realise how much I take my uniform for granted. It’s also something I think more people should be aware of, because uniform is so much more than a blazer and tie. Hearing about young people having to stay off school because they don’t have the correct clothing or even shoes was upsetting. It’s completely unacceptable in this day and age. Although I did feel happy about what myself and Codi spoke about, and I know that we both are really hopeful that our input will influence future decisions made surrounding this issue. After having been through this experience, I feel driven to do more. I’d love to speak more at school about barriers to uniform and encourage more people to donate their pre-loved items to ensure no pupil is excluded from their education."
Clare Wardlaw, a teacher from Braes High School, accompanied Roisin and Codi to the event:
"It certainly was one of my proudest moments as a Braes High teacher in my 20 years here. Our young people were so confident and passionate when speaking. As a teacher it was very eye opening hearing the issues some families face concerning school uniform and something myself and Codi and Roisin are keen to discuss with our own leadership team."