“It’s not fair, girls can wear skirts, but we have to wear trousers. They’re so hot,” my 15-year-old son bemoaned to me on a balmy day. “Some of the boys at school were talking about wearing skirts, they can’t stop us. The uniform policy
says skirts are OK.” I felt for him; his regulation 100% polyester trousers make me sweat just looking at them.
Every year the skirts vs trousers debate echoes around the country. While my son’s friends decided against a day in skirts (I suspect in no small part because the skirts are nearly £40 each!) there are regular news reports of fed-up boys protesting restrictive uniform policies by attending school in skirts.
This year, it’s the boys at Chiltern Edge School in Oxfordshire, who have embraced the school’s new ‘gender neutral’ uniform policy. Last year it was boys at ISCA Academy, Exeter, who as a result changed their rules allowing boys to wear shorts in the summer.
While allowing boys to wear skirts is all well and good, the obvious question to ask is – why not shorts? If ISCA Academy changed their policies to allow shorts for boys, why can’t other schools? Plus, if we’re talking about gender neutrality, why not allow shorts for girls too?
Am I alone in wondering why shorts have been so overlooked in the summer uniform debate? Shorts are practical, smart, gender neutral and fulfil the need for modesty that schools promote. As great as it is that more progressive schools are allowing boys to wear skirts and girls to wear trousers, I can’t help feeling confused about the exclusion of shorts from uniform lists as soon as kids start secondary school.
My boys lived in shorts at infant and junior school. There was a period of around
twelve weeks, from December to February when they begrudgingly wore long
trousers. The rest of the year though they rocked their smart grey knee length shorts. Sometimes I dressed them in matching long socks, Prince George style, if I was worried about them getting cold. Most of the year though they revelled in having the bottom half of their legs bare. The minute they started secondary however, shorts were forbidden, much to their dismay.
When my daughter started school, she was sad to find she had a choice of gingham dress, grey skirt or long grey trousers. Shorts weren’t on the menu for girls at any age. We skirted the rules (no pun intended) by buying baggy culotte skirts, or gingham playsuits with skort bottoms. Given that most girls under eleven spend most of break and lunchtime upside down in handstands and cartwheels with their skirts around their waist and knickers on full display, I figured that shorts would have been a much more modest and practical choice for uniform. The school thought otherwise.
I was told she had to wear trousers if she didn’t want to wear a skirt or a dress. The secondary school she will soon be attending have the same policy; skirts or long trousers only.
I understand the need for school uniform regulations, what I don’t understand is why they are so unreflective of real life, given that’s what they’re meant to prepare kids for. As a professional working adult, I can select my clothing for comfort, according to the weather. If I’m too hot, I get distracted and my
work suffers. Why do we expect kids to cope better than us in situations we wouldn’t tolerate ourselves?
Why are shorts so overlooked? They are the perfect uniform solution, for both boys and girls at any age.