It all kicked off last night when leaders were warned of today's press release. This is just how it should be. If we expect leaders to be professional and prepared, they need to be informed so that they can deal with queries. I remember a time when this was not the case and I was getting asked questions by parents and the public but had no idea what was happening! The fact that Girlguiding have taken this step forward is brilliant - I just wish that some of my sister Guides would honour the confidentiality!
Within an hour, over 500 complaints had been made regarding the new uniform. This is nothing unexpected. Whenever there is change in Guiding, there is contention. Actually, that's not unique to Guiding. Human beings crave stability. Even those who have wanderlust or enjoy new experiences have a secure base to work from.
What did surprise me was my own reaction to the new uniform. Because I really, really didn't like it. At first. Then I took a second glance and thought, "what if it was that t-shirt with jeans?" Ok, that is sort of passable. I can't see any kids I know particularly liking it, but it wasn't too awful. And, in reality, girls will put their own spin on it. They won't trot into a meeting trussed up like the Guiding Essentials catalogue. Well, maybe for the first term.
Then I realised that all the detractors, including myself, had forgotten something in this. Ok, the kids we have spoken to might hate it at the moment. But it has novelty value. "I'd be the first to wear new uniform," a friend's daughter commented. That is a powerful force. It is new, it is different and certain aspects of it are on trend. It kind of looks like a Commonwealth Games outfit.
So... We'll have no problems getting this first generation into the uniform. But what about next year, when the novelty of the design has worn off? Realistically, 2015 will be the hardest year for this uniform. Novelty will have worn off, the blocky colours may have gone out of fashion and there is still the option of the old uniform. But if their friends in the year above have the new stuff, that might swing it.
Why does it get easier after that? Two reasons. Firstly, it will be the only option from 2016 onwards. Secondly, at least half the unit will be in the new uniform, so they will be the odd ones out by not wearing it. I say at least half, because the 2014 and 2015 intake will be wearing it, plus any older girls who have outgrown their previous stuff. But in addition to that, most of the girls won't know any different. That's the uniform, that's just what you wear to Guides.
A lot of the complaints are just resistance to change and projecting our own views onto the girls. The rest are because it is a genuinely confusing mix of clothing (which doesn't even match the new colour scheme of the Guide blanket!). For most of the girls, a t-shirt won't put them off at age 10. And as long as the core values and a healthy, balanced and girl-led programme is there, it probably won't drive off any more than usual at age 13.