Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Taking a stand in a skirt

Three cheers for  the 12-year-old boy who went to school in a skirt yesterday as a protest against boys having to wear long trousers in hot weather. He sounds like a young man who will go far.

Chris Whitehead wore a girls’ knee-length skirt to classes at Impington Village College and marched to school through the village as supportive fellow pupils waved banners.

The protest has prompted the Head to review the situation, though, interestingly, his objections to shorts seem to be mainly aesthetic: : “Personally I’m not sure shorts are appropriate. For instance what do you wear with them to look smart? Socks and sandals?"

Perhaps he should have a look at the uniforms in hotter countries - though preferably not on a fact-finding mission at public expense - or even visit the nearest primary school playground (on second thoughts, maybe that's not such good advice these days...).

I suspect the biggest thorn in his flesh is the anti-discrimination policy; Chris was at liberty to wear his sister's skirt to school because the uniform does not distinguish between girls and boys, simply stating that pupils should wear black trousers or a black skirt.

Thus the inclusion of shorts, though allowing the sensible tailored male variety, would inevitably open the door to the sort of endless battles over hot-pants that no head wants to have to deal with.

Even so, I recommend that the Head of Impington College graps the nettle firmly. It may be that adult office workers wear suits all summer, but few schools have the dubious benefit of air conditioning, and precious few office workers want to spend every break playing football.

The modern form of school uniform has its roots in the sports clothing of the Edwardian era - that's why it's called a gym slip - and represented a looser, more comfortable style that the formal clothes children then wore. There's no reason today's school-children should not be offered the same freedom to dress in clothing suitable for an active lifestyle appropriate to the seasonal conditions.

So good luck to Chris Whitehead in his campaign and I hope he is allowed to spend next summer in shorts.


  1. Whatever else we may think, it took some courage.

  2. Headteacher Robert Campbell;
    "if we end up like Australia because of global warming,....."



Moderation is on as I’m having some technical difficulties with Comments