School uniform 'should be gender neutral' in Wales

Primary school pupils Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Schools should not stipulate that only girls can wear dresses, the guidance says

Schools should not dictate what uniform is for "girls" and what is for "boys", under proposed new Welsh Government guidance.

It says clothing choices should not be based on sex or gender, and flexibility is urged to help pupils undergoing gender reassignment.

Ministers are also consulting on ways to help make uniform cheaper, such as limiting school logos on clothes.

One head teacher said plans for gender neutral uniforms were "sensible".

"Our policy is that any student can wear a skirt or trousers, and we have had one young man who came in in a skirt one day and we said he looked very smart and he carried on and the next day he came in in trousers," said Jackie Parker, from Crickhowell High School in Monmouthshire.

"Generally the girls wear skirts and the boys wear trousers but I think gender neutral is sensible."

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said individual children should be allowed to decide what they wear to school based on what "promotes their wellbeing".

"We do have some circumstances where children write lists of uniforms - this is what boys will wear, this is what girls will wear and what we're saying is that's no longer appropriate," she said.

"It's perfectly acceptable to list items the children should wear to school but we shouldn't be making distinctions on those binary grounds."

Jenny-Anne Bishop, a trans woman who works with the Unique Transgender Network in Rhyl and visits schoolchildren to talk about gender, said the guidance was needed.

"It will help young people be themselves and feel they're respected and valued," she said.

"It makes me so hopeful for their futures. If there had been this guidance when I was at school it would have made such a difference and it would have prevented a lot of problems for me."

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Media captionRhiannon Thomas said the need to put school logos on uniform added to the cost

Uniform policy is decided by individual schools' governing bodies.

The proposed new Welsh Government guidance would put a legal duty on governors to consider the cost of uniforms.

It says they should consider:

  • Only stipulating basic items and colours for uniforms so that they can be bought from a range of suppliers, as well as avoiding high-cost items such as blazers and caps.
  • Limiting logos on items and providing iron-on or sew-on versions has also been put forward.
  • Uniform exchange or recycling schemes, which are already well-established in many schools.
  • Flexibility during extreme weather conditions, for example allowing pupils to wear their PE kits in very hot weather.

Rhiannon Thomas from Cardiff, who had to borrow money to pay for her son's uniform, said the need to put school logos on uniform added to the cost.

She said she went shopping for her 15-year-old's uniform with £200 and "came home with £1.50 change".

"Because it has a logo on it costs double the price of what it would cost in a supermarket," she said.

Parents, pupils and schools are now being invited to comment on the proposed guidance as part of a 12-week consultation.

Image caption The guidance encourages uniform recycling schemes, such as this at Ysgol Glan Morfa in Cardiff

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