The Decline of Adwick’s Uniform
Preface – Old Article from 2000
The final seat of authority in childhood, my last school has (to my thinking) acquired an aura of mystique. As I have commented in another post before they were demolished, its old buildings were all that remained of a world that has since passed.
Trying to see when that world actually ended is a heavy exercise in the existential! Of course at the simplest level, it ended at about three o’clock on Thursday, 21st May 1981. That was the day before I was supposed to leave, but for fear of some unpleasant things that were rumoured for the 22nd May itself I had decided not to bother going in that last day. On this final afternoon, I thought I was being very brave “twagging” the very last period, in order that I could slip out unnoticed well before the school bell, and hiding out in my final minutes completely unnoticed in one of the music department’s practice rooms!
Yet of course, I am talking about something more than this. For in the immediate aftermath of my schooling, even the first two years after I had left, I did not think that Adwick School had become any different from the school I had known. It was still the place I used to go to, and nothing more. Eventually, as my own childhood began to recede into time, I began to see my school in more nostalgic terms.
At this time I still had active contact with people in that area, and between the years 1985 and 1988 I first noticed some changes to the uniform that I had worn. This was when I observed pupils leaving the school at the end of the day. Those changes were not very large ones. Yet for the first time there then was a clear distinction between that time I remembered and the school world I saw now.
In 1988 I took up a place at the former Polytechnic of Huddersfield. Sometimes I should return by bus at the weekend. This invariably passed Adwick School just as school was ending. In my years at Huddersfield, I thus noticed the continuing changes to what had once been a very smart uniform. By then it was seeming far less strictly observed, and the overall changes were much more noticeable.
Having emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1991, I was to have yet one more experience of the school world at Adwick. This was in 1997, when I travelled back there with two Norwegian school children. One of them, indeed, borrowed my old school tie, and they were enrolled at the school for half a day. However, by now many pupils were not wearing the uniform, or only parts of it, and I had the impression even then that its days were drawing to an end.
In 2000, a year before my father passed away, I wrote a small article concerning this on my home page – the blog wasn’t invented back then! This article was subsequently revised after my father had died, and indeed after the uniform had finally been replaced. In 2002, Adwick School was renamed Doncaster North Technology College, and together with the new branding for the school, the old uniform was replaced by a modern dress code.
I am aware that the older Doncaster North Technology College, which itself has now been superseded by the new Outwood Academy Adwick, called their dress code a “uniform”. However for the purposes of this discussion, I prefer to restrict the term “uniform” to a certain type of school clothing. The technology college’s “uniform” is far better described as a dress code for these purposes. Nevertheless, from what I can gather about the new academy, there is once again a uniform, as smart and strictly applied as ours in my days. That is however completely different to the green, white and black uniform we wore at Adwick School.
I am republishing here my earlier article, after its revisions in 2002. Take yourself back therefore to that year. These are my observations regarding the decline and ultimate loss of the Adwick School uniform…. They are only my opinions, and in no way meant to be authoritative!
Note: this article was first published in year 2000, when the last vestiges of school uniform still existed at Adwick High. The only changes made are therefore those of tense. For example, “traces of its distinctive look could still be seen” was originally “traces of its distinctive look can still be seen”.
The article is otherwise republished exactly as it was first put out on the Internet, below.
Observations on School Uniform
Adwick School had a classical English school uniform. Traces of its very distinctive look could still be seen as recently as 2001, when formerly speaking the school still retained it. However by then, there could be little doubting its decline, compared to its heyday in the seventies.
That this is so I can vouchsafe myself. When I was a pupil at the end of that period, I did know about the practice of wearing the school tie in such a way that only a tiny bit could be seen poking out of the knot. However, this was then fairly new, regarded as scruffy appearance, and the vast majority of us still wore it conventionally. Indeed house tutors would upbraid us if our ties and uniform were not neatly, and correctly worn.
This photograph to the right admittedly shows my tie in a position that would have earned such an admonishment. Yet it was taken, as I recall, at the very end of the school day, and the “slack” tie shows the photograph to be genuine: schoolboys did not as a rule pay too much attention to detail unless teachers made them. What the photograph does clearly show is the school tie with the correct knot (as opposed to the “scruffy” versions described above that later became both fashionable and, indeed, the rule rather than the exception).
Documented too are all of the uniform’s items waist up, with the sole exception of the school scarf. Had I been conscious of the photograph’s ultimate historical value to this discussion, I would definitely have taken my scarf along with me – but such things had of course never dawned on me when this photograph was taken. I was no doubt counting down the minutes to the bell (for home-time).
The photograph being old has required a good deal of editing on the computer, and this is the best I can do. I have been able to bring the green back to the blazer and tie (which had all but gone on the original), but to make this green colour like it was when the photograph was taken would unfortunately make me look rather “seasick” in the face.
Shown too is the distinctive black V-neck, which disappeared in the eighties shortly after I left school. The green and white colours of the school’s green, white, and black scheme made two stripes at the “V” of the neck and at the arms, which were folded in at the ends – though I cannot now remember how those stripes were, whether they were right at the point where the hands came out, or further up the fold.
Not shown is the equally distinctive Adwick School logo on the breast pocket. This took the form of bold black initials “AS” on a white background that filled the square of the pocket. Below this was a so-called “flash” that denoted the House (pupils belonged to Priestley, Delius, Rhodes or Moore Houses).
The Priestley flash I wore was yellow, the others were blue, green and red – if my memory serves me correct, though I cannot remember which colour corresponded to which House. The name of the House was written in clear black letters over this colour background.
The Adwick School Sixth Form also had a uniform. That was certainly not in existence a year ago, and given that I did not stay on after 16 years at school, I regret that I cannot remember the details of how exactly it was composed.
The Uniform Begins to Change
Not long after my departure from Adwick in 1981, the uniform began to change. The neighbouring school, Don Valley High School lost its uniform entirely (at least in the stricter sense of the word “uniform” required for this discussion), and although the Adwick uniform remained times were a changing.
Between the years 1985 and 1986, I observed that the first casualty of these changes was the V-neck pullover. The majority of children were now wearing plain black V-necks, without the colour stripes at the “V”. These would be clothes bought from ordinary shops, and not specially tailored uniform clothes. A very few did have the old patterns, and I suspect these were children from the more well to do areas of Sprotborough – which was still a part of Adwick’s catchment area at that time.
The V-neck became completely discarded soon afterwards. This happened in the early nineties, and by 1997 when I visited Adwick with two schoolboys from where I now live, I was told that the V-neck was still “there” theoretically – but nobody would be seen dead wearing it. Indeed I noticed how, despite the cold September air, pupils would go to school with but the protection of a shirt, their designer winter coats open.
The latter indeed, in all kinds of sundry colours now masked the look of uniform, at least when the children were outdoors. I had observed moreover that the blazer too seemed to be on the way out: the answer seemed to be to go to school without it, with an outer designer coat for protection from the elements. At the time of my visit, though, there were still plenty blazers to be seen, but those dropping them altogether were quite noticeable.
The tie was by now either not worn at all, or worn with most of the tie tucked into the shirt, and only the tip end showing out of the knot. I had the distinct impression then that the uniform’s days were numbered.
As good as all girls now wore trousers – not that there were anything wrong with that I hasten to add – but because these girls had so many colour alternatives, and because of the outer clothing that everybody wore over the uniform, the whole point did seem to be lost. The uniform no longer existed in the strict sense, though a weakened impression of uniform did admittedly hang on for dear life.
Important note: this article was revised in 2002. Outwood Academy Adwick has now reintroduced school uniform. This is a very smart one too, using purple and black with an earthy yellow stripe. See the official website for the academy. This article was written at a time when uniform (as I prefer to understand the word) had been abolished. I did not foresee a time it would ever return again, as it has with the academy. That is therefore the context of the final paragraphs below.
It was therefore, regrettably only a matter of time before someone took the by then inevitable step of abolishing the Adwick Uniform. At the end of the day, a uniform is the expression of the community that wears it; and when there is no consensus for keeping it, no amount of force will save it. There is a world of difference between the last dying vestiges of Adwick Uniform and its living, proud expression of the former generation.
In our day, the uniform fulfilled a role, and both we and our parents wanted it. Yet to be fair too, that was a bygone age, with different values. Today the community had to make a choice: it had either to abolish school uniform altogether or put its weight behind the concept. Clearly it has chosen to do the first.
Now the Adwick uniform is history. It is my firm opinion that whatever the rights or wrongs of its abolition, the uniform is [also] important history. Children today and tomorrow should know about it, because it was an essential part of being a child in school for many generations. History is about how we understand ourselves, and with the demise of classical school uniform at Adwick, it is even more important to keep it living in historical discussions and study.
Description of the Older Uniform
Girls Green or grey skirt; otherwise as boys except blazer optional
Boys White shirt
School Tie (pictured) – green, white, black diagonal stripes
Green Adwick Blazer
Black V-neck – green and white stripes at “V” and arms
In addition came the optional school scarf. This had parallel stripes of green, white, and black – though interestingly the black colour band was a little larger than the green colour band. The white band came in the middle, and like the stripe on the tie was the smallest.
The school scarf was never widely used. I had one, but unfortunately I have no pictures of it.
The school tie I still have today. It is pictured at the top.