Short skirts force school to impose trousers-only rule

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The Independent Online

A mixed comprehensive has become the first in the country to order all its girls to wear trousers after claiming their skirts were "immodest". Governors of the 1,600-pupil Kesgrave High School near Ipswich, Suffolk, claim the girls' short skirts gave the pupils a "come-hither look".

A mixed comprehensive has become the first in the country to order all its girls to wear trousers after claiming their skirts were "immodest". Governors of the 1,600-pupil Kesgrave High School near Ipswich, Suffolk, claim the girls' short skirts gave the pupils a "come-hither look".

There have been years of argument over appropriate dress for girl pupils. Schools have been threatened with court action for refusing girls permission to wear trousers.

But John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Many schools are very concerned about the dress of female pupils at a time when it is fashionable to have skirts no bigger than pelmets. Tops also reveal a large amount of bare flesh around the midriff, as do low-slung trousers. Schools do find it very difficult. It is provocative and it is courageous of schools to tackle this problem."

But it could land the school in deep water with the Equal Opportunities Commission, the body which has championed a girl's right to wear trousers at school. A spokeswoman said: "The issue is whether by banning skirts the school has a dress code which is more restrictive for girls than it is for boys." The EOC would have to wait for a complaint from a parent before deciding whether to take up the case.

Margaret Young, who chairs the school's governing body, said hemlines had risen to an "inappropriate" level. Like other schools, it had introduced a regulation that skirts should be of a regulation length just above the knee, but found difficulties policing the policy. "These days, girls wear very short skirts which is against the school uniform," she added.

She said a high percentage of the pupils cycled to school and short skirts looked "dreadful" on girls who cycled. "We have a very active curriculum and trousers are much more practical and comfortable." Mrs Young said a few parents had complained, but mainly over the cost of the new uniform. "We simply do not want our girls going outside with a 'come-hither look'," she added. "I think many parents will find it enormously helpful."

Schools have always faced conflicts over fashion. In the 1960s, they expelled boys with long hair and banned cuban heels, although some schools then decided against having uniforms. In the 1970s, many schools that kept uniforms outlawed platform shoes.

One Durham school was threatened with legal action for refusing to allow girls to wear trousers. It was settled out of court with the school allowing "smart" trousers.

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