School uniforms in France? MPs set to propose new law

The ‘sensitive’ issue is expected to be debated in the coming weeks, with the text carefully avoiding the word ‘uniform’ in favour of ‘common outfit’

A photo of school children in uniforms running towards camera
Most state schools in France do not have school uniforms, although some do. They are more common in private schools
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Schools in France could introduce school uniforms in future after seven MPs submitted a new proposal to introduce “the wearing of a common school outfit” to “create a sense of belonging”.

The MPs from the Renaissance group (former-LREM) submitted the bill to leaders on November 18, and is set to be debated in tomorrow (November 21).

A committee will debate the topic before an official text is eventually submitted to the Assemblée nationale for wider discussion.

The MPs say that the project is about introducing more “equality” into schools, and avoiding “school bullying”. However, the term “uniform” is never mentioned in the text, with the MPs instead preferring to use the term “common outfit”.

MP Sylvain Maillard, who was not involved in the proposal writing, but has said he is “favourable to the principle” of a school uniform, told Le Figaro: “There is a will to debate it quickly.”

The details of how an eventual law might look are yet to be established.

Currently, most state schools in France do not have a school uniform, and the decision on whether to have one is left to the school’s own leadership team. Uniforms are, however, much more common in the French overseas territories.

Read more: Mythbuster: French state schools do not have uniforms

Eleonore Caroit, one of the text’s signatories, and MP for the French people abroad, said: "This is a sensitive subject, which must be discussed within the group…It is first of all about creating a sense of belonging among students, without taking away from their differences."

Other arguments in favour of the proposal include that it is a way to establish secular dress, could save parents money on fancy clothes, and help the national economy as the clothes would be subsidised and likely made in France.

"We must take into account all the issues and arguments,” said Renaissance MP and text signatory Charles Rodwell.

The idea already has support from Sonia Backès, Junior Minister for Citizenship. However, National Education Minister Pap Ndiaye has not said whether or not he is in favour.

He has said that he has not “closed the door on the question”, but is awaiting “tangible elements” as part of the discussion. Speaking to RTL-LeFigaro-LCI, he said: “We must not think that introducing a uniform will be a response that will resolve the question of laicity once and for all.”

Some MPs fear that the topic could be a hot political issue that could play into the hands of right-wing parties like the Rassemblement National, and former leader Marine Le Pen. Former presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has previously said that they are needed as part of a “return to excellence” in France.

The nationalist party is expected to submit its own school uniform bill to the Assemblée Nationale in early 2023.

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