Forced to wear a skirt

Age range : 12-18
Suitable after 2 years of learning English
Theme: School uniforms and teenage dress codes
Lexical area: clothes, fashion items
Cross curricular links: personal and social education
Internet links: Search the BBC news site and the CBBC Newsround site at for lots of interesting articles on school uniform issues.

Instructions for language assistants in italics.
This topic will be helped by photos or magazine pictures of school uniforms. Failing this you could draw your school uniform on the board (if you are good at drawing!). Describe the uniform worn in your school or schools in your area. Give students an idea of the cost. Remind them that you spend less on clothes for school if you wear the same uniform every day. Put the word uniform on the board. Brainstorm: Who wears a uniform ? Why ? Do schools in your host country wear uniforms ? Ask students to describe to their partner what they like wearing for school. Get some suggestions, review clothes vocabulary with uniforms and the studentsí clothes.

Check students know the vocabulary before doing this in pairs, followed by a quick class round up.

  1. Brainstorm

    Look at the following list of fashionable items. Which things might not be suitable for wearing to school?

    Mini skirts

    bikini tops body piercing (rings in nose or navel) tattoos
    jeans with holes tight jeans fur coats cropped tops (showing lots of skin)
    Track suits jazz pants loose long hair (boys and girls) hair gel or spray coloured hair (green/blue)
    jewellery (necklaces or rings)

    platform shoes or very high heels

    designer trainers make up (lipstick, eye shadow, body and hair glitter)

    Can you think of the reasons why an item might not be suitable? Are any of these fashion items banned from your school?

    You may wish to practise the difference between the use of wear/dress by giving some example sentences to complete with the missing verb. With higher levels look at expressions like to dress up/dress down/ dress casually/dress formally. Avoid overloading lower levels with vocabulary. This exercise needs controlled practice with lower levels.

    Build examples suggested by them on the board.

  2. Discuss: What are your school rules? Is there a dress code? Explain the rules:
      we are allowed to wear/expected to wear.
      We are not allowed to come to school in/wearing

  3. Read the School Uniform Report and find out

    a. Which speaker is proud of their school uniform?
    b. Which item of clothing causes the most problems?
    c. Are the rules more strict than in your school?
    d. Are the rules the same for boys and for girls?

      School Uniform Report ÖForced to wear a skirtÖ.

      Each term the British Press has reports of pupils being sent home from school. What is their crime ? Not always bad behaviour. Sometimes it has something to do with fashion. Punk hair, rings in noses and dangerous heels can cause concern but some schools are prepared to send pupils home if their school uniform is too short . Pupils canít resist the temptation to customise their uniform, change the style of their trousers, write on their ties or adapt their uniform jacket to suit the latest trends.

      UK students speak out:

      I hate wearing our school skirt. It is no longer acceptable for girls to have to wear skirts. Making us wear them is totally sexist. In winter we are freezing and the boys are nice and warm in their trousers !! It isnít fair. Emma, 15 Liverpool

      Three years ago the parents voted for a uniform. It has saved us all loads of money. Everyone looks smart in their school sweatshirt. I think itís cool. We still have pressure to wear the latest trainers but at least there is no competition about clothes for school. Martin, 16 Northern Ireland

      My mate was send home in June because the Head of Year said her skirt was too short. I mean, itís ridiculous. I would like to wear long shorts when it is hot but that isnít possible either. The skirts have to be knee length. Itís like being in prison. I donít think it makes any difference to our school work or exam results!! Caitlin, 14 Edinburgh

  4. Discuss

    Here are some more opinions from British teenagers.
    a. Divide the opinions in to For or Against.
    b. Tick the opinions you agree with and compare in pairs.
    c. Hold a class vote How many are in favour of uniforms? (For) and How many are not in favour of uniforms? (Against)

      Uniforms keep pupils tidy and smart.
      Uniforms are ugly and outmoded.
      Uniforms stop unfair comparisons between rich or poorer students.
      Uniforms make choosing your clothes in the morning easier.
      Uniforms are not democratic.
      Uniforms do not allow teenagers to express their individual personalities.
      Uniforms are good for discipline and give a serious tone to the school.

  5. Discuss

    Is there too much pressure to wear fashionable clothes in your school system? Do you plan what you are going to wear for school?
    Do pupils laugh if you dress differently? What would you say to them if it happened to you?
    Some people say that teenage fashions are all the same and that teenagers wear a type of teenage uniform. Do you agree?

  6. Role play

    Students can perform their role plays for the class if appropriate. Allow each pair to choose the unsuitable item as this adds to the fun!

    Student A is wearing something totally unsuitable for school. Try to justify your choice to the teacher. You must try to avoid being sent home to change.
    Student B: You are an angry teacher. Student A is wearing something totally unsuitable today. Ask him or her to go home and get changed. Explain your reasons.


© British Council. The United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.
We are registered in England as a Charity. Our privacy statement

Visit The British Council Website