i Editor's Letter: The best years of your life! Honest.


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The Independent Online


For most of us, it's not a cabinet reshuffle, Nick Clegg's future leadership prospects, or the inexorable decline of X Factor that will occupy minds this week. No, it's back to school for millions of children, not to mention those nervous thousands going for the very first time.

Back to school means for many, a new uniform. Friends have been tweeting, or otherwise complaining about £200 to £300 bills − and that's before you even get on to sports kits. I've seen surveys saying the average bill is now £200 (it's £177 on pages 8-9). Either way it is a significant outlay for many families, especially right now.

Many of you will be unable to buy from department stores for more than shirts, socks and pants. Those specialist school uniform shops felt like a giant con even way back in the mists of time when I was at junior school getting chapped legs wearing shorts in winter at 5ft 9in tall, let alone paying over the odds for my hideous grammar school sea-blue blazer and cap combo that caused me so much grief on the estate.

Horrible as it was, I came, if not to love, then to appreciate the uniform as a tribal safety cloak. Granted, it was more comforting at the school-end of my two-bus journey, but as I was proud of the school and happy there, I came to be proud of the uniform.

I remembered all that when I had to cajole my two into their first uniform upon returning from the ubiquitous khaki and hoodies of school in Manhattan. Today, they again go to a school without a uniform, which brings its own world of pain, although identity is not the problem. You can spot pupils a mile off, and not just because of that universal middle-class teenage wardrobe of Hollister, Abercrombie, Superdry, Converse and Jack Wills. It's attitude. But, school uniforms are a comparative bargain!

Whatever you are wearing, good luck to all of you this week. They are the best years of your life! Honest.