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Scottish pupils could be told to wear gender-neutral uniforms to 'promote equality'
20 May 2022, 19:43
Every school pupil in Scotland could be told to wear a gender-neutral uniform in plans 'to cut costs for parents' and 'promote equality in the classroom'.
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The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on school uniform fees, with a view to reducing costs.
Parents and pupils have been asked to submit their views in the exercise, which will run until October 14, as the Government looks to create national guidance on uniforms to reduce the financial burden.
The coalition between the SNP and Scottish Greens led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon following last year's election included a commitment to putting the guidance in place.
Changes could include an increased use of generic items of clothing as part of uniforms.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "School uniform can promote a sense of identity, belonging and connectedness to school.
"However, the cost can be a significant burden for families, although there is no legal requirement to wear uniform.
"We have increased the school clothing grant to help families who need it most.
"Now we intend to go further by bringing forward national guidance aimed at reducing uniform costs. This could mean increasing the use of generic items of uniform.
"I would encourage anyone with an interest to have their say on how this guidance should look. It is essential that the views of children and young people are heard as part of this consultation."
Scotland currently has a grant to help parents pay for school uniforms at £120 per child.
Scottish Green education spokesman Ross Greer said the guidance could also improve classroom equality, including "removing unnecessary rules around what each gender should wear."
“This is an opportunity to promote equality in our classrooms through inclusive guidance, from removing unnecessary rules around what each gender should wear, to ensuring appropriate options for religious clothing.
"I hope that as many young people as possible make their voices heard over the course of the consultation so that any new guidance works for them."
He added: "School uniforms often place huge costs on families due to overly specific policies and too few suppliers, particularly at high school level.
"This new national guidance is an opportunity to let young people, parents and carers choose good value clothing which meets their school's rules without needing to buy from expensive specialist retailers."
But some in the education sector have criticised the potential changes.
John Edward, Director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, told the Telegraph: "I'm not sure why it's the business of government ministers what children in non-government schools wear.
"The whole point of our schools is they're run independently. So choices they make about uniform, the curriculum, admissions or anything else should be their business."
Lindsay Paterson, a professor of educational policy at the University of Edinburgh, said: "If the main advantage of uniforms is that they help to form a strong identity for a school, then only the school should decide.
"That is as true of independent schools as of schools that are managed by the local authorities."
School uniform costs an average of £337 a year for secondary schools and £315 for primaries, according to The Children's Society. Some items, such as secondary school blazers with the school's logo can cost as much as £50 each.