TROUSER BLOG – It’s the 21st Century – get real
It’s the 21st Century – get real!
We are now well into the 21st Century yet some schools still will not allow girls to wear trousers as part of their school uniform. I thought that this had all been sorted years ago, in the year 2000, when my daughter, backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission won her campaign to wear trousers to School. However despite mounting an acrimonious defence, the School backed down on the eve of the court case and grudgingly changed its uniform policy. While this was good news for the girls at Whickham School in Tyne and Wear, it was not good news for girls in other schools. No case, meant no case law, and therefore other schools could continue to ban trousers. Many schools saw the way the tide was flowing and changed their policies to avoid any similar challenges. Other stood, and some still stand like King Canute, trying to hold back the waves of change.
In most years since 2000 I have been contacted by someone who was trying to overturn a trouser ban at her daughter’school. I gave them advice, wished them luck and usually never heard from them again. Some I know managed to change the policy others may not have.
This last year has been different. Social media has enabled people to come together to try to overturn the trouser ban for girls and this web page (www.trousersforall.co.uk), our facebook group Facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/491384444377946/ and our growing twitter feed @TrousersForAll is the result. The Department for Education (DfE) has strengthened the legal framework around anti -discrimination issues and while they do not actually state that banning girls from wearing trousers in school is illegal, the direction of their argument is clear if you read the documents mentioned in this website. The DfE even advises Schools to take out their own insurance to guard against challenges to uniform policies. In other words if Schools decide to ignore the DfE guidance – then they are on their own if a legal challenge is made.
I have never found a rational argument to support a ban on girls wearing trouser. The reasons given are usually based on outdated gender stereotyping (‘women wear skirts’) personal prejudice (‘girls look nicer in skirts’) and the one from my daughter’s school nearly 20 years ago, that the introduction of trousers for girls would degrade the appearance of the school uniform and could ultimately lead to a breakdown in discipline which could have implications for the exam results of the school and its standing in the community.
One our group has suggested that many schools are conflating, or perhaps even confusing, ‘traditional values’ with ‘tradition clothes’. There is a lot of truth in this, but if it is true, how did we ever move out of gymslips, shorts, caps and knitted knee length grey socks. I have not seen a girl in a gymslip for a very long time, but you do sometimes see little boys in caps, shorts and knee length socks, mainly from private prep schools. So does insisting that girls wear skirts becomes a status symbol for the school? I think that I would admire a school that came out and stated this, rather than putting forward silly arguments that have no rational basis. At least then we can confront and discuss the real issue of why some schools are obsessed with girls wearing skirts.
But times are changing, last week Brighton College in Sussex, a high achieving independent school, changed its uniform policy so that girls could wear trousers and boys could wear skirts. Pupils, parents, staff and many alumni have reacted positively and other schools have contacted the Head Teacher, Richard Cairns for copies of the policy.
Also last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools stated that he was determined to ensure that discrimination, including on the grounds of gender, has no place in our classrooms. These comments apply equally to a ban on girls wearing trousers at school.
Hopefully if attitudes such as this begin to prevail we will soon be able to disband out group and take down our web page and social media sites. We will have made our contribution to the 21st Century.