Students sent home after protest against ‘gender neutral’ uniform

Pupils protesting against a new “gender neutral” uniform have been barred from entering their school and sent home on the first day of term.

Dozens of pupils and parents gathered outside Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex, to demonstrate against the rules, which include a ban on girls wearing skirts.

The school said the policy is designed to promote equality among its students.

Local MP Maria Caulfield said she was “very disturbed” to see pupils being turned away.

Tim Loughton MP, who attended Priory School as a child, said it was “political correctness gone mad again”.

Nina Cullen and Libby Murray protest outside Priory School in Lewes
Nina Cullen and Libby Murray protest outside Priory School in Lewes (Cressida Murray/PA)

Cressida Murray, who helped organise the protest alongside her daughter Libby, said the school’s reaction was “outrageous”.

She said: “They just weren’t prepared and they haven’t let anyone in.

“I was hoping there was so many people that they would see sense and let them in.”

She said many families cannot afford to buy the uniform, some of whom will need it for less than a year.

Protesting pupils held signs saying “A new uniform for nine months is not sustainable”, and “Fast fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change”.

Many parents of pupils who attended the demonstration have since received texts from the school asking them to explain their child’s “unauthorised absence”.

Ms Caulfield, MP for Lewes, said on Twitter: “Very disturbed to see the school turning away girls from Priory school because they choose to wear a skirt and calling the police on them.

“This is not how we should be treating the young women of Lewes.”

pic.twitter.com/rpwqW1uesU

— Priory School Lewes (@LewesPriory) September 4, 2019

A spokesman for Priory School said: “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.”

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