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British Schoolboys Can Now Wear Skirts

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Photo: GETTY
Schoolboys can now wear skirts as part of their uniform, just as girls have been allowed to wear trousers. It’s a move that’s come after continued lobbying from LGBT communities, and marks an increasing spotlight on gender equality and acceptance of diversity in British schools.

The Independent today reported that "80 state institutions", which includes 40 primary schools, have edited, or altogether scrapped their uniform dress codes, in line with supporting students' rights to choose what they wear to school every day.

Last week MPs were told of growing concerns
over girls being forced to wear shorts under their skirts at school in order to combat sexual harassment from their male peers. The Women and Equalities Committee who launched an inquiry into the safety of young girls in schools in April of this year discussed their concerns that skirts mean girls are made more vulnerable in the classroom and playground. One lobbyist, Sophie Bennett, co-director of UK Feminista, said: "We've heard from girls who tell us you don't leave school as a girl without being called a slut, that to wear shorts under your skirt to prevent boys revealing your underwear in the playground is just normal behaviour. So there is that sense of a normalised culture of sexual harassment in schools where girls don't feel able to report it and instead change their own behaviour, such as wearing shorts under their skirts."
Discussions surrounding gender-neutral uniforms have multiplied this year. In January, Brighton College, a 170-year-old private school took the forward thinking decision to scrap traditional uniform dress-codes for students. Richard Cairns, the headmaster of the college explained why he made the forward-thinking decision to The Independent: “If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that. My only interest as headmaster is their welfare and happiness.”

Now Cairns' gender-neutral vision might roll out all over the country. Julia Neal, who chairs ATL teaching union's equality and diversity committee, and has been petitioning for gender-free toilets in schools, explained the urgency over more gender-fluid attitudes in schools: "It's about senior management teams and governing bodies understanding that there are a lot of facilities in schools that are separated — changing rooms and toilets and uniforms are very gender-specific.

"If there is gender fluidity they need to understand the importance of gender-neutral facilities. And they need to understand how pupils want to be referred to, as he or she."
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