The requirements of English schools concerning uniform including short pants varied by the type of school as well as variations at different schools. The various types of English schools seems enornously complex to the Americam reader. Schools have included: academies, Anglican, Catholic, dame, grammar, hospital, national, normal, preparatory, public, ragged, secondary modern, and many others. In addition to this complexity, the names are misleading. Public schools are exclusive private schools.The term Independant schools is also used for private schools. ManyIndependant schools were grant maintained which meant that many pupils were fee paying whilst the state paid for 10% (eg Norwich School). Grammar schools are for secondary-age children while preparatory schools are for elementary age chldren. The uniform regulations or lack of such regulations at these schools would be a very complex study, requiring a separate book. We will how however provide a short summary to assist the reader. One key law creating the modern structure of English Education was the 1944 Education Act. It reflected the growing political clout of the Labor Party and the aim was to expand educational opportunity. The law had some features that would be now viewed as elitist, especially the 11 plus exams to gain access to the best secondary schools. The school leaving age was raised to age 15 in 1944 and the Conservatives later raised it to age 16.
State elementary/primary schools until the 1950s did not generally require uniforms or short pants. Boys did, however, commonly wear short pants to school. Many secondary schools in the 1950s, however began introducing uniforms, usually including short pants.
Elementary schools: Pre-war elementary schools were the old all-through state schools that went right from infant level up to the school leaving age of 13, later 14 years. I don't think most of them ever had uniforms. Boy at these schools, even the older boys, commonly wore short pants. Few elementary schools, required uniform. I would be surprised if many explicitly specified short trousers; I think it was just that most boys wore them in those days up to age 14 or 15; by the 1960s this had come down slightly to 13 or 14 on average, but with plenty of exceptions to the general rule.
Primary schools: Under the 1944 Education Act elementary schools were abolished to be replaced by primary schools (up to age 11). It took many years to split up these schools and the process wasn't completed until the 1950s. Few of these new primary schols required uniforms from the outset, but many began introducing simple uniforms in the late 1950s and they were fairly common by the 1960s. Most required short pants throughout the school year. The situation has changed in the 1990s and I understand that many schools have dropped uniform requirements. The Catholic and Anglican schools, however, generally continue to wear uniforms, although short pants have become less common.
State secondary schools had a variety of different regulations about uniforms. Again there were several different types.
Secondary modern schools: Boys age 11 onwards that were not academically gifted went to secondary modern schools. These schools were also created by the 1944 Education Act. Many of the younger boys that went to these schools wore short pants. In the 1950s some of these schools instituted regulations stipulating short pants and even short pants, especially for the junior forms. While generally not as strict as the grammar schools, the headmasters and staff at these schools could be very traditionally oriented and some were very strict about the schools uniform requirements.
Grammar schools: Academically clever boys doing well on the 11 plus exams went secondary schools called grammar schools. Many of the grammar schools were very traditional and attempted to copy the ethos of the public schools. As a result, there was considerable attention to uniform at these schools. Many required the younger boys to wear short pants.
Comprehensive schools: The labor partyworked to end elitism in education. Mostly the 11 plus exams were done away with and coprehensive schools, rather like American high schools, replaced the secondary modern schools as well as most grammar schools. Some places like North Yorksire still retainselection with the gifted going to the local grammar school. Most of these schools had uniforms of blazers and ties, but few if any required caps or short pants as both had gone out of fashion by the time these schools were created.
One HBC contributor informs us that his reading of the situation is that the overall trend towards uniform in state schools in the 1950s was a product of the 1944 reorganisation and the raising of the school leaving age rather than any change of heart on the part of particular types of schools. To give an example, the village primary school I was sent to at age 5 in 1954 was still at that point in the final phase of changing over from having been an all-through elementary school. It certainly never had any uniform requirement, under either its old or its new regime. When I first went there, there were still "big boys" (and girls) of up to 13. But long before I was 11 there ceased to be any pupils there over 11, and by this stage (1960) we 11-year-olds all left to go either to grammar school (if we had passed the exam) or otherwise secondary modern school--both requiring highly specific compulsory uniforms. Virtually all new arrivals at grammar school (aged 11) would wear short trousers because all boys of that age did (possible exception: one or two boys unusally tall for their age). But I think there was probably no written requirement and that the rules probably just stated that boys had to wear grey trousers. The same was true of the local secondary modern school.
Preparatory schools begin to appear in the mid-19th Century to prepare boys for the country's Public schools. Uniforms of caps, colorful blazers, ties, shorts pants, and kneesocks were de rigor from the 1920s through the 1960s. Schools sandals were common at many schools. The schools began to drop the caps and short pants in the 1970s. Today at most of the schools only the younger boys wear shorts.
Public schools had widely varied uniforms. Some like the hospital schools dated back centuries. Most schools by the 1930s had uniforms of caps and blazers. A few schools required all boys to wear short pants. More common was for the youngerboys to wear shorts. Through the 1950s regulations on shorts may not have been necessary as so many boys wore shorts. Beginning in the 1960s, however, specific regulations were issued at many schools.
Many public schools became grant maintained which meant that they were partiallyfunded by the government in exchange for 11 plus places being allocated.(eg Norwich School). At the Norwich school short trousers were worn in thefirst 2 years and this was common in most grant maintained establishments When the labour government abolished such fuding the schools had the option of becoming comprehensives or becoming Independant again. The conservatives introduced assisted places at a later date, but the current Labour government is to abolish this in 1999.
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