School uniforms to become gender-neutral across Wales, government says

New guidance comes into force from 1 September

Sarah Young
Tuesday 09 July 2019 16:42 BST

All school uniforms across Wales are to become gender-neutral, the Welsh government has announced.

The change has been issued as part of a new set of guidelines for governing bodies and head teachers on issues relating to school uniform policy and will come into force from 1 September.

The new guidance will mean that when a list of clothing items is published by the school, they will not be assigned to a specific gender.

For example, trousers must not be described as a “boys' item” and skirts must not be described as a “girls’ item”.

The decision follows a consultation which was launched in 2018 following the summer heatwave in which some parents claimed school uniform policies were too strict.

During the consultation, respondents supported the introduction of gender-neutral uniforms.

One wrote: "This should include the choice for all children as to whether they wear trousers or skirts, regardless of their gender assignment or sexuality."

Another said: "The question of gender of a school uniform should be addressed by allowing those pupils with gender fluidity to wear either gender of uniform as required, without discrimination.

"The practicality of having a uniform policy that prescribes only gender neutral garments would be difficult to fulfil. However having a policy that allows children to wear any garments that form a part of the uniform policy should be allowed and encouraged."

The new guidelines will also expect schools to try and make uniforms more affordable and accessible.

Governing bodies will be expected to consider ways of keeping down the costs of uniforms by stipulating basic items and colours but not styles, meaning items can be bought from more than one outlet.

Schools will also have to consider whether there is a need for different uniforms for summer and winter, and whether school logos are strictly necessary.

If schools do require every piece of uniform to feature a logo, they will be asked if they can be provided free of charge.

The move has been praised by LGBT+ charity Stonewall which says it "strongly support the introduction of gender-neutral school uniform policies".

"This is in line with best practice examples already used in some of Wales' schools and will be hugely positive for all young people," Andrew White, director at Stonewall Cymru tells The Independent.

"We hope it will form part of a school-wide commitment to including all students and challenging gender stereotypes, which can be so damaging to how young people see themselves and fit in at school.

"It’s really important young people have a choice in the clothes they wear, that they don’t feel forced to wear trousers or dresses but can instead pick what feels most comfortable for them. This move from the Welsh Government will help make sure every young person feels happy, welcome and accepted at school."

Kirsty Williams, minister for education, said the guidance puts a statutory responsibility on schools to consider the “affordability, access and availability” when setting their school uniform and appearance policy.

"This guidance will help reduce the burden on families, so our children can focus on fulfilling their potential and enjoying a healthy academic and social life," Williams said.

"We should not be enforcing outdated ideas of what clothes are suitable for their gender, especially if it makes them wear something they feel uncomfortable wearing.

"This new guidance makes clear that school uniform policies should not dictate items of clothing based on gender."

Earlier this year, a primary school in County Wicklow, Ireland announced it will be introducing a new gender-neutral uniform policy from September.

St Brigid's National School, situated in the centre of the coastal town of Greystones, said it wants students who are questioning their gender identity to feel "comfortable" wearing their uniform in class.

Máire Costello, principal of the school, explained that the update to the uniform policy was put forward by the school's student council.

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Parents of students and members of the school's board of management then agreed to the proposal.

"We have children who are questioning their sexual identity. It is happening at an earlier age," Ms Costello told Irish Times.

"If that means girls wearing trousers or boys wearing skirts, so be it. The most important thing is that children should feel comfortable and happy over how they are dressed."

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