School skirt ban sparks outcry in sexism row

A10 WEEK 27'MCBH'rd' John Colet open new English and Drama block Keith Wilkinson (Chm Governors) Mike Appleyard Chris McLintock (Head) David Lidington MP Sue Imbriano
A10 WEEK 27'MCBH'rd' John Colet open new English and Drama block Keith Wilkinson (Chm Governors) Mike Appleyard Chris McLintock (Head) David Lidington MP Sue Imbriano

A VALE secondary school has sparked a sexism row after banning girls from wearing skirts to class.

The new rule at John Colet School in Wendover is set to be introduced in January – but pupils have reacted furiously to the measure, launching online campaigns calling for a u-turn.

Parents have also written into The Bucks Herald complaining about the enforcement, dubbing it ‘heavy-handed’ and ‘sexist’.

But the headteacher has defended the move, saying it was needed to combat a ‘constant’ battle over inappropriately-dressed youngsters.

“Taking away the right of girls to dress as girls is sexist,” said one parent.

“Were this to happen in the workplace, the company would be sued for being anti-female, but it seems pupils and parents don’t count.

“There is a problem with a minority of girls taking things too far, but the solution is to enforce length rules and possibly tell individual girls they have to wear trousers.

“No-one, though, is in favour of this heavy-handed overreaction.

“The change was made without consulting parents and, unusually, in the middle of the academic year.

“It has not gone down well with pupils, who have formed two Facebook groups in an attempt to bring about a change of heart.

“While skirt length is an issue for secondary schools, there are other solutions available, such as specifying a single supplier or withdrawing the option of a skirt from girls that repeatedly wear them at too short a length.

“The school seems not to have even considered these alternatives.”

Headteacher at the school, Christine McLintock, claims the ban was a last resort after a year of teachers’ fighting to convince female pupils to conform to uniform policy after the girls repeatedly wore tight, short skirts to school despite being warned that trousers could be be made mandatory as a result.

“We are concerned with our school’s image in the local community and how our pupils look,” said Mrs McLintock.

“We have given the girls every opportunity to solve this issue themselves, and have even been supplying them with appropriate skirts.

“It has been a constant battle.

“Girls uniform has always been subject to fashions, and we had hoped that the fashion of tight, short skirts would pass, but it appears that it hasn’t.

“Discipline and rules are a major part of education, and uniform policy is a key part of this.

“Many of the parents have commended the decision, as they were facing conflicts at home when they tried to make their girls comply.

“It is with great sadness that we have to enforce this decision, and that we have upset any parents or pupils.

“But it is the decision which the governing body, also made up of parents, at the school has made.

“The majority of the girls wear trousers any way, and the majority of the ones who don’t are the girls who have led to the ban being put in place.

“Skirts which make girls look like they’re going clubbing are not appropriate for school.

“I have no problem with girls wanting to look feminine, but when it means wearing these tiny tight skirts to school I don’t think it’s appropriate.

“Despite our best efforts, many of the skirt wearing girls continue to wear short, tight skirts. Even with black tights on, walking up the stairs behind a girl wearing one of these skirts gives the person behind a clear view of the girl’s underwear as the skirt rides up.

“We warned the girls in September 2010, which was when the issue started.

“They were then told about the issue again throughout 2010 and 2011 until September this year when I told the girls that there was a chance skirts could be banned if they didn’t take responsibility for their uniforms and wear appropriate clothing.

“We made the decision to ban skirts in October half term, and it is now due to come into play as of January 4 next year.”

Letters were sent out to all parents of the some 400 girls, aged between 11 and 16, who attend the school detailing the new uniform policy.

It will not affect sixth form pupils at the school, whose uniform is described only as ‘professional dress’.