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Pupils protest over school's trousers only uniform plan

Around 150 parents and pupils took part in the protest Photo:

A group of pupils who attend a school in East Sussex have been protesting, alongside parents, over the school's plans to introduce a new 'trousers only' uniform policy for all students.

The Priory School on Mountfield Road in Lewes is a mixed school which teaches boys and girls between the ages of eleven and sixteen. The ban would mean that girls can no longer wear their school skirts.

The school says that it is not the only one introducing a gender neutral uniform policy and that everyone wearing the same uniform will instil a sense of equality among the students.

Secondary school pupils hold up protest placards

However, pupils say the change in uniform is pointless for some of them.

One of the contentious issues is the cost of buying extra uniform items

Some Year 11 students say it is not fair to have to buy a brand new uniform when they have just nine months of school left. They say they could continue using the uniforms they are wearing now.

Pupil, Nina Cullen, says that she does not not think the policy would be gender neutral because buying the new uniform would cost girls more money than it would cost boys - who already have the uniform trousers. She also expressed concerns about pupils discarding all their skirts at a time when the impact of so-called 'fast fashion' and its effect on the environment is in the news and high on the public and political agenda.

Parents have expressed anger at the extra expense of the school effectively banning skirts because it means the uniform skirts their children already possess would have to be replaced by new trousers.

Mother, Tracey Mayor, whose children attend the school says her daughters are both more comfortable in skirts. She also suggested a way she thinks would the uniform truly 'gender neutral'.

The school has issued a statement saying that the change would ensure equality and instil a sense of camaraderie:

''Priory School uniform is designed to be a practical uniform which encourages students to be ready to focus on their school work and activities. Our uniform also helps us to dilute the status placed on expensive clothes or labels and challenge the belief that we are defined by what we wear.Instead, we encourage individual beliefs, ideas, passions and wellbeing and an ethos of camaraderie that is reflected in this shared experience.

''We believe that a uniform worn without modification is the best way to ensure equality. We do not want children feeling vulnerable and stressed by the pressure they feel to wear or own the latest trend or status symbol.

''Priory school is not unusual in having trousers as the uniform item for all students. There are at least 40 other schools which have a similar uniform requirement. Our core purpose remains the quality of teaching and learning and we aim to achieve this by maximising the time spent on planning,delivering and evaluating the quality of provision.''

– Statement from Priory School, Lewes, East Sussex
Police officers were at the school to help prevent protesters from entering the school

Girls who ignored the new policy and wore skirts today were banned from entering the school. Police officers were called during the protest to help prevent pupils who were involved in the demonstration gaining access to school premises.

The local MP, Maria Caulfield, has weighed in on the argument, saying that the girls should have a choice over whether to wear trousers or skirts.

“The Government is spending money across the developing world to ensure that girls have access to an education. But here in Lewes, Priory School and unbelievably the Police, are stopping girls from entering school because they are wearing skirts. This is an absurd waste of school and police resources, and it is political correctness gone mad. Pupils should have a choice to wear trousers or skirts, and be allowed to get on with their education which is so important.”

“I am successfully arguing the case in Westminster for local police and schools to get extra funding, but residents will be shocked to see that this funding is being used to stop girls from going to school for wearing skirts. I would urge Lewes Priory School to allow the girls to return to school and to not involve the police in any future attempts to keep pupils out of school.”

– Maria Caulfield MP, Lewes, Conservative

Watch a report by Chloe Oliver below: