School uniforms in Wales to become 'gender-neutral'

The Welsh Government has ruled that school uniforms are to be made gender-neutral and more affordable.

New guidance comes into force from September 1, which provides governing bodies and head teachers with rules and regulations on school uniform policy.

Previous guidance issued in 2011 was non-statutory, which meant schools were not legally required to follow the advice.

Under the new legislation, schools are expected to keep items gender neutral. For example, items such as trousers will no longer be listed as "boy's items".

During the consultation, respondents backed 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.”

Governing bodies will also be expected to keep the price of school uniforms down, which could be by allowing more competition into the market so that parents can buy uniform from more than one shop.

Another possible way of reducing costs for parents could be introducing basic colour schemes of uniform, rather than adopting a specific pattern.

Schools will also be asked to consider whether it is necessary to have the school badge emblazoned on their clothing, and if that item should be provided free of charge.

A consultation was launched last autumn following a summer heatwave in which parents and pupils complained school uniform policies were too strict.

Students eligible for free school meals are entitled to £125 in the form of a grant from the Welsh Government to pay for school uniform.

Year 7 pupils entitled for free school meals are entitled to a grant of £200 to help when starting secondary school.

Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said: “Families will know how expensive new uniforms can be.

“This guidance puts a statutory responsibility on schools to consider the affordability, access and availability when setting their school uniform and appearance policy.

“Along with PDG Access, 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.

“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.”

  • ITV News' Consumer Editor Chris Choi previously highlighted the plight of parents paying out hundreds of pounds for school uniform.

  • Do the changes affect schools in England?

The new ruling in Wales does not extend over to England, which has a different set of rules.

In England, it is for the governing body of a school to decide whether there should be a uniform policy, and what that policy should look like.

Under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 schools must not discriminate on grounds of age, sex, gender reassignment, race, disability, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief or sexual orientation.