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To Sam

Sexism?

I know we wear school uniform for a reason To unify us all, but am I right in thinking that my high school and other schools in our country are sexist towards females restricting us to wearing what the stereotypical woman in the 20s,30s,40s,50s and 60s is. And how come some schools give girls a choice of what to wear, I guess you could say the same about the boys too...?
Thanks for trying to answer my question. I am really keen on the subject!
Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there,

Thanks for taking the time to write your letter. This is a really interesting point that you raise and it's great that you're trying to find out more. From your letter you sound like a really mature and intelligent young person in how you are considering all sides of the argument.

You are right that one of the points of a school uniform is to unify people. Arguments for school uniforms say that they help young people to identify with their school and feel like they belong to an organisation. Some people even argue that uniforms can help to improve concentration and performance at school - as they reduce distractions such as fashion and labels. There are also dangers of young people feeling pressure to wear certain brands or expensive clothing if uniforms didn’t exist.

Your question is very interesting though, as making young people wear uniforms can be viewed as setting restrictions on what people can wear and this can link into the area of human rights. Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world. These rights include the freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief and a right not to be discriminated against. Each of these rights can relate to the way that people dress.

At the moment schools are allowed to set their own rules on what pupils should and should not wear to school - but they must not discriminate based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or belief.

A big debate in recent times has focussed on whether stopping girls from wearing trousers (or boys wearing earrings) is a form of gender discrimination. In theory, girls should be allowed to wear trousers as an alternative to skirts because trousers are something lots of girls wear outside of school.

So far the courts have not had to make a judgment on whether different school uniform regulations for boys and girls would be discriminatory under the Sex Discrimination Act. Until this happens schools will probably still be allowed to set their own rules for uniforms.

I can hear that you are very keen and clued up on this issue. If this is something that you would like to challenge your school on then there are some options available to you. If you felt that you are being discriminated against due to your school's uniform policy then the first step is to speak with your head teacher or the school’s board of governors, possibly with the support of a parent or guardian. 

If you feel you would like some further information, advice or support with this issue or taking further actions it may be useful to check out the Children’s Legal Centre.

You might also find the ChildLine message boards useful. This is a really interesting point so it might help you to see what other young people think about the subject.

I hope you found this reply useful.

Take care,
Sam

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