Unisex School Uniform Policy
Its really simple. Provide a selection of smart and practical clothing options for all children, and remove terms such as boys clothes and girls clothes. This enables children to choose the types of clothing they feel most comfortable in, and the most appropriate for how they want to dress.
Why do this?
Department for Education guidance on school uniform places huge emphasis on keeping costs to a minimum, and by having a uniform policy with simple staple garments (that can be bought at a local supermarket or on the high street), means parents can do just that. If you create rules that treat girls and boys unequally, then schools could face legal action under sex discrimination legislation. For example, you could claim that since you have children of different sex, the uniform policy prevents hand-me-downs, or that you've found shopping for skirts, ankle/knee-high socks and tights (plus in some cases shorts to go underneath) is more expensive than school trousers and plain socks.
Fighting Gender Stereotypes
As more and more organisations join the fight against harmful gender stereotypes in early years, it is vital that all schools adopt a uniform policy that reflects equality in how children are treated and how they see each other, and that starts with what they wear on their first day at school.
Lets be honest, skirts and dresses can be cooling in the summer, but who wants cold knees in the winter and scabbed knees in the playground. Trousers are more practical whether you're bothered about showing your pants or not. For our guide on challenging a skirts only uniform policy, please click here
Boy in a dress?
This always crops up, and its a really strange question, because - why not? Does this feel like an insult to boys? Is that because the femininity associated culturally with skirts and dresses is demeaning? Why is it demeaning? I have yet to find a single good reason why a school uniform policy should exclude boys from wearing skirts and dresses. We believe choice is important, and in terms of school uniform, this can easily be done within the framework of a smart clothing policy.
What are we saying exactly?
When we tell a girl to dress one way, and a boy to dress another, what message are we giving to children? Are boys and girls so fundamentally different that they NEED to wear different clothes? Clothing aimed at girls and women is notoriously (and traditionally) impractical - and girls should be enjoying as much freedom of movement as boys.
After 42 years of sex discrimination laws, why force schoolgirls to wear skirts?
"In my view, preventing girls from wearing trousers is clearly less favourable treatment and consequently discriminatory: trousers are warmer in winter; more practical for travelling to school in; don’t require new tights to be bought all the time; are generally considered more comfortable; don’t require girls to think about their modesty every time they sit down (or play, in the case of younger pupils); and are less likely to lead to harassment on the way to school, making girls feel self-conscious about their bodies."
Article by Anna Macey (Barrister practising discrimination and education law) writing for The Guardian
To read the full article, please click here
Not wearing the trousers: why do some schools still have sexist uniform rules?
When children are eight, they should feel nothing but freedom. Girls, including my young correspondent, should be able to run, climb, jump without any concerns about hypothermia or their modesty. Lord knows enough of them will spend much of their adult lives suffering for outdated ideas of femininity.
Article by Hadley Freeman writing for The Guardian
To read the full article, please click here
Dept for Education Advice on School Uniform
The UK Dept for Education Guide on best practice in School Uniform policy can be downloaded (PDF) by clicking here
This is a "non-statutory" guide only, and is aimed at schools governing body (Board of Governors) who implement uniform policies within individual schools.
"It is for the governing body of a school to decide whether there should be a school uniform policy and if so what that should be."
This means you will need to get a change in policy brought before the schools board of governors. You can do this a number of ways:
1. Raise your concerns with the Head Teacher, and request they take your concerns before the governing body. This is your first step, and we recommend discussing this with the Head first before writing a formal letter of complaint.
2. You can also formally request to speak before the governing body in writing, stating the issue you would like to raise and why. The board can agree to allow "other persons as the governing body may determine" to attend, but be aware that some schools have "closed" meetings. If this is the case write to the Chair of the Board of Governors and press your case with them.
For more information on who can attend Board of Governors meetings, please click here
3. If you don't like how your concerns have been raised, or you feel misrepresented, ask to meet with the Head and Chair to discuss a school wide consultation on school uniform. This is a great way of schools engaging with parents and building a consensus - is the current school uniform policy working? Could we make it better?
When implementing or amending school uniform policy, schools should "take into account the views of parents and pupils" which is why we recommend only raising this issue at a school where you are parent/guardian to a pupil.
"Disputes about school uniforms should be resolved locally and should be pursued in accordance with the school’s complaints policy. In law, governing bodies must have a complaints procedure in place to deal with issues such as a complaint about school uniform. Parents should be able to lodge their complaints and/or objections easily. We do expect the governing body to consult and work closely with parents to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome."
According to a YouGov Poll in 2018, only 9% of respondents thought school boys should wear trousers and school girls should wear skirts.
In 2018, "Gender Neutral" school uniform policies hit the headlines, after it was revealed as many as 40 UK schools had banned pupils from wearing skirts.
"Some schools said the ban was related to complaints over the “decency” of short skirts, while others made it clear that the intent was to be more sensitive towards the identities of transgender children."
YouGov ran a poll on the issue and found 4 in 10 British adults believe in letting boys and girls wear whatever they want. A further 31% agreed with girls wearing trousers, but were unhappy with the idea of boys in skirts. Overall, girls wearing trousers was supported by 80% of respondents.
To view the YouGov results, please click here
HOw to challenge a school uniform policy
Start by asking around for support. Are there other parents/guardians who feel like you? Get some names and contact details together and get communicating. Whatsapp is a free app ideal for sending messages, or start a Facebook group. Whatever works for you. This will act as your support base, sounding board and back-up. Its easy to lose faith in your ideas, especially if you find the school difficult to communicate with, so get some buddies together to help keep you going!
Gather information. How is the uniform policy impacting pupils, can you offer specific examples? Can you identify additional costs to wearing skirts, or can prove that wearing trousers is cheaper? Who will benefit?
If you are part of any groups for your child's school or class, ask to consult other parents by holding a poll or asking for thoughts on changing the school uniform. This is a great way of building up evidence of why a change is important.
Speak to the head. Email or write to the Head Teacher outlining why you believe a change in the school uniform policy is in the best interest of your child/pupils and the school. Suggest a meeting with the Head and the Chair of the Board of Governors to discuss bringing a case before the Board of Governors at their next meeting.
Ask to speak before the schools Board of Governors. The Board of Governors can invite anyone they want to attend meetings, but be aware that there are others who will consider all meetings as "closed."
Request that a discussion on school uniform be added to the agenda for the next Governors meeting, and send a letter outlining why you believe a change is important. Make sure you send this at least 7 working days before the meeting date.
Start a petition. Its a bit trite, but online petitions can still draw attention if written well and shared widely via social media. Keep the title short and punchy, something that will grab, like "time to expel sexist uniform policies at..."
Petitions are free and easy to set up, and its a great way of garnering further support and showing the school your determination.
Get support. We are here to help with advice, and we are happy to contact your school directly and advocate a uniform policy change.
We also highly recommend contacting Trousers for All who specifically campaign on this issue and have a wealth of resources and experience.
Examples in the news
Boys can wear skirts at primary school as it introduces gender neutral uniform policy
Manchester Family for the MEN (Manchester Evening News)
Emma Gil & Edele Hughes, June 2019
Principal Máire Costello told The Irish Times:
"Up until now, girls attending the school were required to wear a green tartan pinafore while boys were required to wear grey trousers and green jumper. Those in older classes can wear a kilt and jumper. Under the new policy, children can choose either outfit."
Ms Costello said the move had been warmly welcomed and praised the school's student council for their role in the decision.
“I’m very proud of them. They did their research and surveyed pupils ... they made the case to the board who were fully behind them.”
Francesca Cambridge Mallen, lead campaigner for the Let Clothes Be Clothes group, a campaign to end gender stereotyping in the design and marketing of childrenswear, told the M.E.N:
"School uniform must be comfortable and practical, so a choice of styles regardless of sex is really important.
"We don't have work places where women can't wear trousers, why should that be acceptable in some schools? Plus for those who cry 'a boy in a dress!!' what is the problem? They're cooler in warm weather and it won't make their bits drop off."
Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against 'no shorts' policy
Steven Morris, June 2017
As the temperature soared past 30C earlier this week, the teenage boys had asked their teachers if they could swap their long trousers for shorts. They were told no – shorts weren’t permitted under the school’s uniform policy.
When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school – no doubt joking – said the boys were free to wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday, a handful braved the giggles and did so. The scale of the rebellion increased on Thurday, when at least 30 boys opted for the attire.
The headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, said: “We recognise that the last few days have been exceptionally hot and we are doing our utmost to enable both students and staff to remain as comfortable as possible.
“Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys, and I would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families. However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.”
Pupils at Isca academy say boys from every year group have been taking part in the uniform protest.
Gary Lineker, Annie Mac and other celebs back school petition on trousers for girls
Liverpool Echo, by Rebecca Koncienzcy, March 2021