Now 150 schools introduce gender neutral uniforms so pupils can experience ‘equality' by wearing either skirts or trousers
- Rising numbers of primaries and secondaries are adopting the policy
- Many parents support the move to allow boys and girls to choose their outfit
- Education experts argue that youngsters could be confused by PC practices
A total of around 150 schools have introduced gender neutral uniforms to enable children to experience ‘equality', it emerged yesterday.
Rising numbers of primaries and secondaries are adopting the policy, which includes allowing boys and girls to wear skirts or trousers.
Many parents support the move to increase choice, but education experts have argued that youngsters could become confused by ‘politically correct' practices.
Jamie Barry, headteacher of Parson Street Primary School in Bristol, yesterday said introducing a gender neutral uniform was basic common sense.
Priory School pupils Tilly and Paige in the new uniform for Priory School in Lewes after girls were banned from wearing skirts in favour of a gender neutral uniform
Girls could already wear plain grey or black trousers, like the boys.
However, the new policy introduced a year ago has enabled boys to wear skirts, pinafores and summer dresses if they wish - an option none have so far taken up.
Mr Barry, whose school recently won a Gold Best Practice award from the LGBT education charity Educate & Celebrate, has insisted the uniform overhaul is positive for all pupils.
He told The Guardian: ‘Why would we define our children by the clothes they wear?
‘We still have the same uniform, we simply removed all references to gender in our uniform policy. For me, this was about creating a culture of acceptance.
‘Children are not born homophobic or discriminatory, they are exposed to those influences as they grow up. At Parson Street, we believe children should grow up seeing and experiencing equality, before any stigmas are created.'
He added: ‘Removing the association of ‘boys' or ‘girls' with particular clothes in a school uniform policy may not change the way students dress but it could be a huge deal to young people who don't identify as a boy or a girl.
Many parents support the move to increase choice, but education experts have argued that youngsters could become confused by ‘politically correct' practices. More traditional uniforms are pictured above in a stock image
‘It may give them the acceptance that they need. Until we do that, it's going to be much more difficult for children to say: I am who I am.'
Cavendish Community Primary School in Manchester introduced a gender neutral uniform last September.
Its uniform policy, posted on the school website, makes no mention of boys or girls.
Children can wear red sweatshirts or jumpers, white shirts and either grey or black trousers or skirts/pinafores.
Headteacher Janet Marland said there has been ‘no adverse reaction from parents or governors' to the changes.
She believes that all schools ‘can and should have gender neutral uniform policies'.
‘We felt that in this day and age it was inappropriate to designate certain clothing items to one gender,' she told The Guardian. ‘We wanted our boys and girls to know they had the same rights.
‘Plus, we had concerns about what some of our girls were wearing - footwear without proper grips or sturdy soles, and tightfitting pencil skirts that restricted their movement. This was preventing them from playing safely on climbing frames.'
Earlier this month it emerged that Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex, had banned girls from wearing skirts.
This was to accommodate growing numbers of transgender pupils, and to deal with complaints over the ‘decency' of short skirts.
The move has divided opinion among parents and students, with one mother claiming the school was creating a ‘hostile environment for girls'. Others said they supported the move.
Earlier this year, independent Highgate School in North London drew up plans to introduce gender-neutral uniforms in response to a growing number of pupils questioning their gender identity.
Last year, Brighton College broke with hundreds of years of tradition by scrapping its uniform code in order to accommodate boys who identify as girls outside school.
Educate & Celebrate, a charity which champions LGBT issues in schools, yesterday said 150 schools have gender neutral uniforms as part of its best practice programme, which also includes using gender neutral language.
Dr Elly Barnes, founder of the charity, said: ‘We are ensuring that all students are represented within the curriculum, enabling well-being and full participation.'
The trend is also sweeping through retailers, with John Lewis this month announcing it was removing ‘girls' and ‘boys' labels from its children's clothing departments to get rid of gender stereotyping.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, said last night: ‘Boys' clothes have always struck me as more serviceable than those of girls.
‘It's reasonable, I think, to have the same uniform for both - trousers and shirts and blazers.
‘But allowing boys to wear skirts for reasons of political correctness could be unsettling and confusing to some children and is unnecessary.'
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