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School which changed uniform policy to make outfit 'gender neutral' now faces legal challenge from parents who say it discriminates against girls

Katie O'Neill
Short skirts lead to gender neutral uniforms

A school which banned female pupils from wearing skirts, forcing parents to fork out for a “gender neutral” uniform, has been threatened with legal action. 

Priory School in Lewes received the legal threat following its decision to amend its uniform policy, requiring female students to wear trousers from September. 

The change addresses the issues of “inequality and decency” the school said in a bulletin on its website. 

The East Sussex first announced the uniform change in 2017 after concerns were raised over the length of skirts worn by pupils. It said the new rules would also cater for transgender pupils.

At the time the head teacher, Tony Smith said that only new students would be required to wear the new uniform. However, the school has now announced that all students, not just newcomers, will be required to wear trousers. 

So far, 209 parents have signed a petition calling on the school to reverse its decision. “This is about choice,” one signatory to the petition said. 

“In what other walk of life is it though inappropriate for girls to wear skirts. Yet another way of controlling I think.”

Last Tuesday, Priory received a legal letter from a parent addressed to Mr Smith and the governors. It threatens the launch of a judicial review if the school refuses to shelve plans for the uniform change.

The letter argues that it is unreasonable to implement a uniform change without a transition period, particularly for year 11 students. It states that the decision is “discriminatory” because it affects girls and their parents disproportionately. 

The letter’s author calls on the school to announce a one year transition period, allowing parents to buy the new uniform gradually and preventing parents of year 11 pupils from having to purchase the new clothes for just two and a half terms. 

The letter further argues that the change conflicts with the passage of a motion by Lewes Town Council recognising a climate emergency and calling on all levels of government to limit their carbon footprint. 

“There is abundant evidence that the clothing industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world,” it states. 

The parent behind the letter who does not wish to be identified said they are a low income household and will not send their daughter to school in the new uniform

If the school fails to respond within 14 days or does not agree to reverse its decision, the proposed claimant will apply for a judicial review.

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