Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education
“Discriminatory school uniform policies not only maintain outdated and offensive gender discrimination, they also send strong signals to children about what it is to be a ‘proper’ girl or boy.
The stipulation that boys wear trousers while girls must wear skirts promotes messages that boys are active, while girls should be less active, decorative, and ‘demure’.
We need to challenge such stereotypical assumptions, and gender discrimination wherever it is found. The choice of trousers or skirts should not be constrained by gender, and that is why I support the Trousers for All campaign.”
Professor Becky Francis, February 2016
Mr Jamie Barry, Head Teacher, Parson Street Primary School, Bristol
It is unbelievable to consider that organisations, of any kind, insist on particular items of clothing for particular genders. It is 2016 and there are protected characteristics written into equality law which we should be mindful of. Insisting that people wear clothing based on their gender (even if gender was as clearly defined as male or female) is a clear breach of this law and is discriminatory and unfair.
I am proud to be the Head Teacher of Parson Street Primary School in Bristol. We are an ‘Educate & Celebrate’ school and we take pride in ensuring we teach our children about all aspects of the Equality Act 2010. In our eyes, children should be allowed to express themselves in a way that they feel is right for them. We do not enforce gender stereotypes by insisting that girls wear one type of clothing and boys wear another. We provide a basic uniform list and allow children and families to choose what to wear from that. Why wouldn’t we? It is common sense!
It is important that schools, as places of education, make changes to their own practices in order to ensure equality prevails. If we do not do this then our children will grow up with stereotypical views of the world.
Mr Jamie Barry, July 2016
Beatrix Campbell, writer, playwright and broadcaster. OBE for services to equality
“Just look at the crowd on the bus, the Tube, in the supermarket, at work, anywhere other than school or a wedding, and what do you see? Girls and women wearing trousers. The argument about women wearing trousers has never been about what girls or women actually want. It has always been about what men want. And what men want girls and women to wear has always been about their sense of entitlement, their desire and their right to decide. The difference between school and weddings is that the former is about the last bastion of regulation of women’s dress, and the latter is about women wearing frocks that they may never wear again.”
Bea Campbell, December 2015
Susuana Amoah, National Women’s Officer, National Union of Students
“I cannot think of one rational reason to not allow girls to be able to wear trousers to school. It is 2016, and although all sexism in society hasn’t yet been eradicated, you’d think one thing that we would have got past is enforcing dull and restrictive gender norms on school uniforms. School is a place where young people should be allowed to express themselves in an environment that values equality and diversity. Kids should be free to wear what they feel comfortable to school, and schools should be educational places that liberate young people from stereotypical norms not places that reinforce them. That’s why as NUS National Women’s Officer, I’m proud to support Trousers for All.”
Susuana Amoah, March 2016
Professor Gordon McMullan, Director of Shakespeare Centre, King’s College London
“It came as a surprise to me to learn that some schools still refuse to permit girls wear trousers rather than skirts as part of their uniform if they would prefer to do so. It seems an odd historical leftover, this, a discomfort about the relationship between clothing and gender identity that is some decades out of step with natural social change over time. After all, women have had trousers in their wardrobes since the early twentieth century, and there’s no point pretending attitudes to clothing don’t vary across time and geography. I know nobody Scottish who worries that a boy’s masculinity will be compromised by the wearing of the kilt – to the contrary – and I happen to spend much of my life teaching the works of a playwright who lived in a time when wearing tights was a clear sign of manliness. ‘Times change, values don’t’ – or so a newspaper advert told us some years ago – but this is of course untrue: times change and values change with them, whether we like it or not. The question in this case seems obvious: if a girl will be more happily engaged with her life and her studies at school wearing trousers rather than a skirt, why on earth refuse to let her?”
Professor Gordon McMullan, May 2016
Elly Barnes, CEO of Educate & Celebrate. MBE for services to equality and diversity
“Educate & Celebrate is proud to support the Trousers For All campaign.
The main focus of our charity is to eradicate discrimination from schools through our best practice programme.
We recommend that all schools adopt a gender-neutral uniform where schools simply specify which clothes their students can wear. We know that not all students identify with the binary or fall into gender stereotypes, as one of our headteachers comments:
‘We go down the ‘gender is not uniform’ route, with the emphasis on being comfortable and ready to learn.’
A teacher from Bexley Heath clarifies:
‘I am very proud to say that we have had a non-gendered school uniform for about four years now. Interestingly there has never been any comment made about it by parents or staff. But for any school who worries about reactions – nothing has changed other than the wording in the prospectus and our attitude.’
The gender-neutral uniform allows for students to have a choice over what they wear within the list. A headteacher in Bristol comments on the benefits:
‘We allow children to be who they want to be. We work hard as a community to afford children the freedom to express themselves in a way, which is in line with our equality code. Our clothing and uniform policy therefore does not insist that girls wear one item of clothing whilst boys wear another.’
A Birmingham Headteacher comments:
‘Play, freedom and imagination are so important in Early Years. Girls and boys are never restricted in terms of who they want to dress up as or which role they want to play. Staff always tackle gender stereotypical language or expectations, this should continue through into the uniform policy of the school.’
The Equality Act 2010 asks us to treat those of different ages, disabilities, genders, gender identities, whether married or pregnant, races, religions and sexual orientations equally and fairly. Therefore specifying what males and females must wear is in breach of this legislation. Firstly by assuming that we are all either male or female and secondly by enforcing gender segregation in our schools.
It is 2016; tradition does not mean it is right or we cannot make positive change. Young people and teachers achieve their full potential when they can be themselves, therefore we must stop this woeful discrimination now to avoid further trauma to our young people. Equality is the key to success.”
Elly Barnes, February 2016
Matthew Brown, Professor in Latin American History, University of Bristol
“I am delighted to support the Trousers for All campaign. As a historian whose research explores social change through the past two centuries, the anachronistic school uniform policies encountered by Trousers for All strike me as clear legacies of times when we thought very differently about the roles of women and men within society. Times have changed, and uniform policies need to change too.”
Professor Matthew Brown, March 2016
Dr Prudence Black, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney
“The word uniform comes from the meaning of one form. Historically, uniforms were designed to unite a group, and school uniforms worn today should have that same purpose. Unity comes from providing a range of garments that can be worn by all students, and not through garments that have been designed on the basis of gender. It is not the role of schools to police gender though their uniforms. Schools should be safe and inclusive places where children can express who they are without being forced into gender binaries through the uniforms they wear. School uniforms should be affordable, comfortable, practical and not gender specific. For many young people, gender is not a straightforward matter and they should not be made to feel self-conscious in the clothes they have to wear to school. The Trousers for All campaign acknowledges that there are still young women who are being stereotyped and discriminated against, by the outmoded practice of not being able to wear trousers to school. Schools that prevent their students from wearing trousers need to ask themselves the question, what exactly is at stake in denying these young women the right to wear trousers. The answer would have to be a resounding ‘there is no good reason’.”
Dr Prudence Black, May 2016