UK school in league with Nike

When I first saw this story in the Guardian I thought it was one for the “world’s gone mad” department so beloved of certain radio talk-show hosts. A school in Wigan (in Lancashire, northern England) has introduced a new sports kit for its pupils which carries the Nike logo and the school emblem, which costs £78 (that’s $138.11). Bear in mind, Wigan isn’t actually one of the wealthiest parts of the country, lying as it does firmly in “northern ex-industrial” country. Reading this BBC report, which appeared at 4:40pm today (as opposed to in the morning Guardian), it’s not quite so bad in that the kit is “encouraged” and not compulsory.

But even so, I think that schools should not be encouraging this kind of brand loyalty by attaching corporate logos to school-issue clothing. It’s not up to schools to furnish large companies with free advertising and a supply of loyal customers by exposing them while they are still impressionable. One of the main justifications for keeping school uniforms (which most schools in the UK have) is that pupils are prevented, at least during school hours, from displaying such evidence of their parents’ disposable income - or their own, which they may not have come by entirely honestly. This is far more divisive to pupils than religious clothes, because the other pupils are unlikely to want to follow the wearers’ religion.

I happen to disagree with school uniforms as they are now; they are often obnoxious and uncomfortable (top buttons and ties, which caused numerous arguments between me and the teachers and prefects when I was at school), sometimes indecent (skirts too short), exclusive and expensive (like the tartan wrap skirts used by some Catholic girls’ schools in south London, although to their credit they do look very dignified), and sometimes even unhealthy. They can also clearly identify pupils to other schools’ pupils, which is not a good thing if there are feuds going on.

So, the “good parents” are those who get their cheque books out and pay an unreasonable amount for PE clothes which probably cost more than the whole of the rest of the uniform; bad parents are those who don’t, or worse, make a fuss about Nike’s well-known commercial practices. The fact of rivalry between children to display brand names is not unknown, so why on earth is a school encouraging this?

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