School sparks fury after banning skirts to create a ‘more gender-neutral uniform policy’

A Devon school has sparked anger by declaring a blanket ban on students wearing skirts without first discussing parents.

Tiverton High School (THS) notified parents earlier this week that it had made modifications to its school uniform code. Due to a chronic issue of skirts being worn shorter than regulations allow, the new rule requires all students to wear pants when they return in September.

Skirts are already permitted, but the new guidelines are being implemented to establish a “more gender-neutral uniform policy.”

Though skirts will still be permitted during PE. Another big change that irritated parents was the announcement that the school day would begin 30 minutes earlier, at 8.30 a.m. Other adjustments mentioned involve decreasing lunch periods from 45 minutes to half an hour and introducing two half-hour breaks.

Courses are also being lengthened by lowering the number of days per week from six to five. They will join other secondary schools in establishing a more gender-neutral uniform policy, stated principal Sammy Crook in a letter.

Parents/caregivers will be relieved to know that most of the uniform will stay unchanged, with the exception that all kids will be required to wear pants beginning in September.

She said, they have liaised with Devon County Council to assure that those pupils who go by school bus are catered.

In preparation for September 2022, further details regarding how the school day will function for each year group will be provided with children and parents/caregivers in the following weeks.

Stephen Moakes is one of the parents who is upset about the lack of discussion on the modifications. ‘As a parent, I am concerned about the planned adjustments THS is proposing for September 2022,’ he stated. These were made without discussions with the students or their parents and are just being enforced.

‘While I accept that laws and norms must be established, I believe that as a school that motivates its students to be involved and have a voice, this appears to be an entire lack of democracy by not allowing the established student forums to have input on school uniform changes, start/finish times of the school day, reduction in lunch break, and so on.

‘How about parents who have to consider early wake-up, breakfast, and drop-off routines, perhaps including siblings at various schools?’ Those who travel long distances on school buses will undoubtedly be the most impacted.

‘The school day has not been prolonged as per government instructions, but rather started and ended earlier. I simply feel that these adjustments haven’t been thought through, and the kids, in particular, haven’t had a chance to have their voices heard.’

The school has stated why it did not discuss the adjustments.

They never take choices like this lightly and go through a rigorous process over time in order to arrive at the correct conclusions for their pupils and the school; judgments that satisfy our legal requirements and the standards anticipated in secondary education, Mrs Crook said. The governors have approved this adjustment to uniform policy, which blends the pressures imposed on them in areas like educational standards, parental expense, inclusion, and student health.

By switching to ‘trousers only,’ they have specifically addressed the ‘trend’ at the school for girls to misuse the present rules and wear permitted skirts shorter than they should, in and out of school. The wearing of skirts shorter than knee length, which is their present regulation, has elicited several concerns from the general public and school visitors.

It has been time consuming and difficult for staff to implement in-school, and it is beyond their power outside of school. In November, they wrote to parents about their worries and expectations regarding skirts, and in January, they had a series of assemblies with all year groups concerning skirts, informing them that if the uniform policy was not enforced correctly, they would shift to an all trousers policy.

Their present policy allows girls to wear pants, which many already do, and males to wear skirts if they wish to. Trousers help standardise how their kids dress, allowing the school and the pupils to concentrate on what they perceive to be their main goal: learning.

They have not restricted the accessibility of trousers to one brand, but have offered suggestions that give parents choices in terms of price and fit, and trousers should be a cheaper option than skirts overall.’ Their Year 10 students are also working on a project to find more solutions that meet personal preferences for ecologically and fairly sourced apparel.

It is already in their guideline that shorts can be worn during the summer term, and this will not alter, as will their stance on sports skirts. They will assess and answer unique cases when there is a medical or other need, as they have always done.

Mrs Crook stated, they are making the adjustments to the schedule overwhelmingly in the benefit of pupils’ learning, matching their offer with the latest government white paper. The adjustments are also a step forward in ensuring kids’ wellbeing throughout the winter and giving access to extracurricular activities.

Modifications like these do not need parental consultation, but they have been aware of the adjustments and how they may affect parents, and they have conferred with local transportation providers. They will give as much assistance as possible to parents who have concerns with the new schedule that are hard to overcome.

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