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School Uniform and the EU

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If the governors of Kesgrave high school, near Ipswich, had good reasons for insisting that girls wear trousers to school, to stop them looking so "come hither", as their chair put it, they were dreadfully naive to think they would get away with it. Do they have no sense of history? After the first principle of English parenting - the right to slap - the second is the freedom to accessorise your daughter with a thong or crop top, dreadlocks or nose-ring, then quote the Rights of Man when the teachers kick up a fuss. The names of the defiant skirt-wearers from Kesgrave will only be added to a roll of honour which already includes those martyrs to mad hair and piercings who would rather boycott lessons than submit their children to the indignity of a school uniform.

Already, a spokesperson for the Equal Opportunities Commission has been quoted as saying that, under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act, pupils could argue that the dress code for girls is more restrictive than the one for boys. Which seems unlikely, unless the Kesgrave governors start offering boys the option of skirts and a "come hither" look. One mother argues that "it is the individual right of the girls to wear a skirt".

This seems altogether more promising. For although the right to show off your legs does not feature, in so many words, in the profusion of alluring rights the EU plans to shower upon its citizens, the draft constitution's charter of fundamental rights does include several very handy-looking entitlements, in particular article II-24, the rights of the child. "Children ... may express their views freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity."

As for the schools, it can hardly be a defence any longer to argue that uniforms are specifically designed to restrict, rather than indulge, the personal inclinations of the wearer. Kesgrave's defiant leg-flashers will be aware that British schools are now generally applauded when they adjust their uniforms to accommodate Muslim pupils who wish to come to school in hijabs, long skirts and trousers. Is this fair? In a society that is not only secular but also increasingly obese, should the options of the religious pupil be privileged over, say, those of the worldly but wide-bottomed child, for whom trousers present a significant threat to self-esteem? Perhaps it would be to the credit of our multicultural society if, rather as the expansion of moderate faith schools has smoothed the way of weird, creationist academies, the indulgence of stiflingly modest versions of a school uniform were ultimately to be of service to pupils who consider it their inalienable right to dress like a lap dancer.

While the power of the EU's charter cannot be fully gauged until it is tested in a court, such a substantial contribution to rights literature can only be a stimulus to those who already consider that where there is an unwanted restriction, there must also be a right to be asserted against it. Whether it exists or not, the notion that somewhere among all the important rights there must a special dispensation for children who don't want to wear their school uniform, has the potential to waste so much time, energy and money that a pragmatic establishment might want to think of giving in and allowing children to create their own communal identity of jilbabs and hijabs, bare bellies and thongs. Anyone coming to school in sensible clothes - defined as any outfit which combines freedom of movement with reasonable modesty - could simply be given the option of transferral to another school, or immediate expulsion.


Edited by Catherine Bennett
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Interesting that the topic of school uniform has raised its head again! Have you had a chance to look at the earlier session about it on this forum Catherine?

In case you haven't here is the link:

School uniform

On another front, perhaps you'd like to express an opinion about dress codes for teachers also? Here is the link for that as well:

Teachers clothing!

Happy discussing! :)

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I loved working in a new school that did not have a formal uniform where the students wear colourful clothes

Then a group of students formed to discuss buying a hooded school fleecey top (or jumper or sweater according to the country) with school logo and names.

At lease it isn't compulsary and we only need to ask where thier names badges are.

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I was teaching at a time when girls were forbidden to wear trousers! Now this suggests a certain lack of consistency.

I am not going to comment on which is more "come hither" but rather seek to know what concrete evidence we have that girls learn better in trousers than skirts.....or vice versa.

Have a nice day.

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