This is a very English topic, so overseas readers, and especially Americans to whom the concept of a school uniform will seem alien and bizarre, please bear with me. There are a lot of silly school uniforms about. They are in over the top colours, usually with added piping in some clashing bright colour. What do these silly uniforms have in common? They are almost all from private fee paying schools and they scream out one message: 'THIS IS NOT A STATE SCHOOL!!!!' There is one London fee paying school which notoriously makes its hapless pupils wear brown corduroy knickerbocker type things with mustard coloured socks and a mustard coloured top. To walk those mean streets thus attired must be a considerable act of courage for the poor little things.
There is a serious point here. It makes these pupils targets. More years ago than I care to remember and before I did the Bar exams, I did a couple of years schoolteaching at one of the type of inner London comprehensive usually characterised as 'tough'. This particular school was tough in the sense that the battle of Stalingrad was tough. Extracurricular activities started at the top of the scale with a successfully executed murder plot hatched in the school playground down to routine lunacy. You get the general idea. I taught in the remedial department, for the 'less able child' and the 'slower learner'. There was also a highly unofficial third category: bright black kids dumped there for disciplinary reasons. It was there that I developed a taste for reggae but that's another story.
Anyway, it was unwise to arrange for school trips to central London for these pupils. Notwithstanding this, the school authorities did so arrange. I took a party of pupils to - I think - the Commonwealth Institute one fine day. En route we passed by Westminster Abbey and there were a group of Westminster School pupils. For the uninitiated, Westminster School is a jaw-droppingly expensive fee paying school and its pupils wore - and may still wear for all I know - cassocks as a kind of school uniform. My oiks spotted them. 'Ere!' They exclaimed. 'Snobs!' There was a gravel path nearby. Instantly, almost automatically as if this were the correct etiquette for such an occasion, my school trippers seized handfuls of gravel and began to pelt the Westminster schoolboys with it despite my wholly ineffectual attempts at restraint. The Westminster pupils disappeared sharpish.
Nowadays, soclal hostility can result in more extreme forms of activity. The sort of uniform under discussion sends a message: 'mug me - better than average pickings highly likely!' Rather like the muppets who wander around with their laptops in shoulder bags with the manufacturer's logo on. Do they want to be mugged???
So perhaps for as long as we have private schools, maybe they could tone it down on the uniform front in the interests of pupil safety? The real answer is this: we have an education system that despite warm words and routine tutting fails to educate roughly half its pupils to the minimum 5 GCSE at A-C level. This is not - contrary to the impression given - a given. It is an outrage in one of the richest countries in the world. Change that and public schools may find that the gravy train runs into the buffers and they are reduced to becoming - erm - public.