A Hartlepool school has been slammed for forcing girls to wear tights with skirts to “protect their modesty” and keep them safe.
Parents of pupils at St Hild’s Church of England School, based on King Oswy Drive, were sent a letter last week revealing the school’s ‘concern’ at the length of skirts worn by some girls.
The letter stated that “in the interest of modesty and to ensure your child is properly safeguarded on their way to and from school, we ask that black tights be worn with skirts at all times”.
The school – which says it makes ‘no apologies’ for setting ‘high standards’ – ordered that all girls must wear black tights with skirts, or wear trousers instead, and the ‘interim’ rule became effective yesterday, ahead of a full consultation later this year with parents and children.
One pupil, Hannah McEnaney, 14, was promptly handed a pair of tights after turning up wearing a skirt with socks, and was told she would be put into isolation or sent home if she did not wear a pair of tights provided by the school.
Her mum Carol today said: “My daughter prefers wearing socks, and just doesn’t like wearing tights.
“The school said, though, that if she didn’t wear tights, she would be put in isolation or sent home.
“I want to get my point across that girls should have the right to choose.
“My daughter does not dress inappropriately. She’s perfectly presentable, and there shouldn’t be a problem as the skirt isn’t short. It’s about knee-height.
“I’m angry about it, because I think it’s wrong.
“You would also think that the consultation with parents would come before the rule change to see what the parents think.”
The decision has also been criticised by the Fawcett Society, a national charity which aims to advance women’s rights and equality.
Its chief executive, Sam Smethers, said: “Girls and young women are being asked to change their behaviour and modify the way they dress and here is yet another example. That’s just not acceptable in 2015.
“It’s fine for schools to have a uniform and a dress code, but let’s see them apply it equally to boys and girls.
“Modesty and safeguarding don’t come into it. What they should be focussing on is opening up a world of opportunity to their young women, not controlling what they wear.”
Tracey Gibson, acting headteacher at St Hild’s Church of England School, said: “With the full backing of governors, letters were sent out last week to parents/carers explaining the decision to make this interim change.
“The letter also made it clear that both parents and children will be given an opportunity in due course to take part in a full review of the school’s uniform policy.
“The outcome of this consultation will help shape the policy in the longer-term.
“The school’s uniform policy which still offers girls the choice of skirts with tights or trousers, reflects a determination to build on rising standards at St Hild’s by providing the best possible learning environment for all pupils.
“I make no apologies for setting high standards and I would like to thank parents for their support. As a school we will continue to strive to provide a wide and varied range of learning opportunities for all students, both boys and girls, to enable them to achieve their full potential in life.”
In the letter sent out to parents, the school’s deputy head pastoral, Grant Carswell, had said: “We would like to review our school uniform policy, and will be inviting you to take part in a full consultation in due course.
“However, we have a particular concern at the moment regarding the length of skirts worn by some of our female students.
“In the interest of modesty and to ensure your child is properly safeguarded on their way to and from school, we ask that black tights be worn with skirts at all times, effective from Monday, November 9, 2015.
“These should be opaque tights, no less than 40 denier. Alternatively, your child may wish to wear black school trousers, as stipulated in the uniform section of the school website.
“I am sure we will have your co-operation in this matter, but should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact your child’s head of year via the main school office.”