Secondary school sparks huge row after skirts ban for gender neutral uniforms

A secondary school defended its decision to ban the wearing of skirts as part of a 'gender-neutral uniform policy'.

The new rule, part of a raft of changes at Tiverton High School in Devon, states all students must come to school wearing trousers from September – although skirts will still be able to be worn for PE.

Skirts were allowed but following what was said to be a persistent problem of skirts being worn shorter than rules permitted, the school's new rules are now being enforced.

"We will follow other secondary schools in implementing a more gender-neutral uniform policy," said headteacher Sammy Crook in a letter to parents announcing the changes.

Mrs Crook added: "Parents/carers will be pleased to know that the majority of the uniform will remain as it is, with the exception that from September all students will be expected to wear trousers."

Among the parents angry about a lack of consultation over the changes is Stephen Moakes, who said the they were just being imposed without any prior consultation with pupils or parents.

Other changes are being made to the school day, which will begin 30 minutes earlier and reducing lunch times.

Lessons are also being made longer by reducing the number each day from six to five, Devon Live reports.

Mr Moakes added: "While I accept an element of rules and policies need to be made, I feel that as a school that encourages its pupils to be engaged and have a voice this seems to be a complete lack of democracy by not allowing the established pupil forums to have input on school uniform changes, start/ finish times of school day, reduction in lunch break etc."

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Mrs Crook said that the changes were made with the approval of governors and balanced the demands placed on the school of standards in education, parental cost, inclusivity and student health.

She said the switch to 'trousers only' was a response to the 'trend' for girls in the school to abuse the current policy by wearing shorter skirts than permitted, which had attracted complaints from the public and school visitors. It has proven time consuming and frustrating for staff to enforce in-school and is beyond our control out of school," she said.

"We wrote to parents in November about our concerns and expectations around skirts, and in January we held a series of assemblies with all year groups about skirts, advising them that unless the uniform policy was properly observed we would move to an all trousers policy.

"Our current policy has allowed girls to wear trousers, which many do already, and boys have been able to wear skirts if they want to. Trousers also standardise how our students dress, so that we and they can focus on what we consider to be our primary objective: learning.

"We have not limited availability of trousers to one brand, and have made suggestions that give parents options around price and fit, and on the whole trousers should prove a cheaper option than skirts. We will consider and respond to individual circumstances, as we have always done, where there is medical or other need."

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