Mythbuster: French state schools do not have uniforms

This is no longer 100% true. One town is experimenting with a uniform – but it is not obligatory

27 March 2019
By Connexion journalist

Pupils returning to schools in one French town after last October’s half-term holidays caused a stir due to their sky blue-and-navy uniforms.

Unlike in the UK, uniforms are not – and never have been – obligatory in state schools in France.

The uniform in Provins, Seine-et-Marne, was voluntary but it is the first time one has been worn in state schools in France (apart from in some overseas territories). Only private or military schools have the right to impose a uniform.

The uniform, which costs €137 for the complete 10-piece outfit, is optional in six primary schools. It came after 63% of parents supported the move in a vote last June, though some parents later said they felt pressurised into backing it.

School uniforms divide opinion in France.

A 2018 survey showed that 63% of French people are in favour, but others see them as a step backwards and an ideological tool.

Opinions are divided along party lines: of those who participated in the survey, 76% of Les Républicains (Right) and 78% of Front National supporters are for them, against 59% of LREM (Centre-Right) and 56% Parti Socialiste (Left). 

Former presidential candidate François Fillon previously declared his support for them, and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said they could be a symbol of equality, reminding pupils that they are members of an educational and national community.

As for the pupils, one boy of eight told a reporter: “I am happy because I’m dressed like Harry Potter.”

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