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A unique outfit for public schools in France from 2026?

Illustration: French Ministry of National Education The school uniform will be tested from the next school year in around a hundred schools throughout the country, announced the French government, which has issued a concept illustration of the outfits it would like. We see here what a little one in kindergarten, an 8 year old child (CE1 class, in primary school) and 13 year olds (4th grade class, in middle school) would wear.

The oldest have kept the memory of it. Until the 1960s, French schoolchildren wore the “blouse”, which was actually a blue smock. It must be said that at the time, some still used pen and inkwell. For the rest, unlike many countries, such as the United Kingdom, the uniform has never been generalized in French public schools, with the exception of overseas departments and territories. It would therefore be a first if, as the new Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, seems to suggest, it becomes widespread in public schools at the start of the 2026 school year.

The idea had been percolating for several years. It was notably supported by the president's wife, Brigitte Macron, according to whom “it erases differences” and allows us to “save time”. It resurfaced when at the start of the school year in September, citing respect for secularism, the Minister of Education decreed a ban on the wearing of the abaya, a traditional Muslim garment. That's all it took to make us wonder if a single outfit wouldn't solve the problem once and for all.

It will therefore be tested from the next school year in around a hundred schools spread across the country, says the government. This was confirmed by Emmanuel Macron during his press conference on January 16, because, he said, “the unique outfit erases inequalities between families and creates the conditions for respect”.

An element of pride

If, for some, this measure is only cosmetic, for others, it is welcome. It was with enthusiasm that Alban Salmon, director of the Jacques Cassard high school in Nantes, welcomed the news. “We had been thinking about it for a long time,” he said. It gave us the push we needed to try the experiment. » From September, this maritime high school (CEGEP level), which trains master fishermen and electromechanics, will provide its 130 students with a kit including two pairs of pants, three polo shirts, a sweater and a windbreaker in the college colors.

“Our teachers have been very supportive of it,” says Salmon. It will create a feeling of belonging. An esprit de corps. A form of equality between students. » Among the latter, only a small minority was reluctant, he said. Same story among parents, where an in-house survey consulted by Le Devoir garnered an approval rate of 93%. They will not have to pay anything since the wardrobe will be co-financed by the State and the municipality, for an amount of approximately 200 euros (CA$290) per student.< /p> A unique outfit for public schools in France from 2026?

Photo: Agence France-Presse Schoolchildren, some of whom wear blouses, play marbles in the playground of a primary school, in 1949.

Let us point out that the word “uniform” is not unanimous. Many professions, such as butchers, lawyers or pastry chefs, wear work clothing without feeling the need to call it a uniform, explains Alban Salmon. This is why, at school, we prefer to talk about “unique outfit”.

The department of Essonne, located south of Paris, was one of the first to support Gabriel Attal's initiative. The Blaise Pascal college, in Massy, ​​volunteered. “It’s a good way to fight against harassment and put all students on the same footing,” a municipal official told us. This avoids any questioning about the religious nature of a garment. The question is resolved once and for all and we can concentrate on the essentials. »

“The tree that hides the forest” ?

The president of the department, François Durovray, believes that “common clothing, rather than a uniform, would be likely to reinforce the feeling of belonging and pride within establishments, at the same time that it could contribute to combating the phenomena of school harassment and stigmatization.” But, he believes, if this measure “can improve the school climate”, it “cannot be the tree that hides the forest”.

On the left, the initiative is much less well received. “The first social inequality is that of access to knowledge,” the socialist president of the Occitanie region, Carole Delga, told Agence France-Presse. For her, it would be more important to provide a free computer to each student, as her region already does, if we want to fight “against social determinism”. “Does masking inequalities, in practice, cancel out inequalities ? No! » decides the environmentalist mayor of Grenoble, Éric Piolle.

Same story from the unions. “All the speeches which aim to say that the uniform will promote equality mask the real solutions,” believes Rémi Baudry, representative of the Sud education union in the Somme. The real solution for more equality is more resources. »

In Provins, the idea of ​​a single outfit for all students left a bitter memory. In 2018, the right-wing mayor, Olivier Lavenka, became infatuated with the idea then defended by the Minister of Education. Supported by a majority of parents, he therefore ordered 700 sets of uniforms for the six primary schools in his town. Unable to modify the internal regulations which depend on the department, he will have to resolve to try the experiment on a voluntary basis. It only lasted a few months. At the end of the year, it was difficult to find any trace of any regulation polo shirt.

Two years is a long time…

The unique outfit at school is far from displeasing the French. At the start of the school year in September, six out of ten of them approved it. But this enthusiasm is unevenly distributed. More men (64%) than women (55%) support it. As might be expected, those aged 18-24 are more resistant to it (35%) than those under 35 (51%) and those aged 65 and over (66%). The idea is also more popular on the right (80%) than on the left (46%).

An in-house survey by the Parents site showed that the measure was favored by 77% of readers, who probably see it as a good way to resolve certain problems concerning their children's clothing.

For the principal of Vauban College in Belfort, Philippe Tissot, everything is not so simple. Most of the school principals we contacted refused to speak to us as the subject seemed so sensitive. Philippe Tissot underlines in particular the fact that the so-called “voluntary” establishments have for the most part been designated from above without the slightest consultation. It is claimed that there are a hundred of them, when there are only fifty. They still have to convince the students, parents and their board of directors. Because the measure will have to be voted on by each school council, in which representatives of the city, the school and parents participate. Once the experiment is done, we will have to learn lessons from it. In a little more than two years, will we then remember the arguments of the president and the prime minister ? In short, it may not be tomorrow that the 12 million French students will put on the uniform of 'Harry Potter.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116