MOST schools in the UK have a uniform. Some people think that school uniform is good because everyone is equal. Others think
everyone should be free to wear what they want at school. Shabina Begum has been in the news recently because she has been
fighting for her right to wear a jilbab - a traditional full-length Islamic dress - at school.
Denbigh High decided to send Shabina home to change her clothes when she came to school in a jilbab in September 2002,
when she was 13 years old. Shabina went to court to appeal against1 their decision and won her case in 2005. That was not
the end of the story. The school appealed against that decision and they won their case in March this year.
The judges said that Shabina and her parents should have chosen a different school if they did not agree with the dress
code2 at Denbigh High. There are other schools in the area where the jilbab is part of the uniform. The judges also said
that the school has a dress code which allows traditional religious clothes. Most of their pupils are Muslim, as is the
headteacher, and the school had talked to parents about the kind of school uniform they would like. Muslim girls at
Denbigh High are allowed to wear the shalwar kameez, a tunic and trousers. in the school colours.
In the UK it is the school governors3 who decide if a school will have a uniform or not; if they do, the headteacher
will make sure all pupils are wearing it. Schoolchildren can have detentions4 or be sent home if they do not follow the
If there is a uniform at a school, the government says it should not be too expensive so that poorer families or families
with lots of children can afford5 it. The uniform must also be equal for boys and girls. Schools must also allow for
cultural and religious dress, for example islamic dresses for girls or Sikh headdresses6 for boys.
This means children should have the freedom to wear traditional dress as part of the school uniform.
Shabina's case went to the heart of the controversy about school uniforms. Even the courts changed their minds. First,
they decided that her right to wear traditional religious dress had been denied7. Then they decided that she should wear
the school uniform or find a different school. On the one hand, people say a school needs a uniform so that everyone is
equal. On the other hand, people say we live in a free country, with freedom of speech8, so why do we not have freedom
C. 430 words
By Chloe Anthony
Source: Read On Nr. 593, Aug. 2006
1. to appeal against - Einspruch ergben gegen
2. dress code - Kleiderordnung
3. school governors - Schulbeirat
4. to have detentions - nachsitzen müssen
5. to afford - sich leisten
6. headdress - Kopfschmuck
7. to deny - verweigern, vorenthalten
8. freedom of speech - Redefreiheit
1. Why did Muslim girl Shabina Begum go to court and what did the court's decision of 2005 look like?
2. In a second court case the Muslim girl was given two options. What options were these?
3. What is the main reason for an English school to adopt a dress code making pupils wear a school uniform?
4. What would your opinion be if your school were to introduce school uniforms for their pupils? Argue for and against.