No, Britain is not introducing a policy requiring boys to wear skirts at school

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An online story claims that British schoolboys are banned from wearing shorts in the summer in favour of “gender-neutral” skirts. However there is no national policy on school uniforms, despite an increasing number of schools opting for more gender-neutral dress codes.

Are British schoolboys being forced to wear “gender-neutral” skirts instead of shorts at school? That’s what one popular online story by YourNewsWire claimed. Shared over five thousand times on Facebook, the story mixes elements from several news reports and comes as school uniforms are in the headlines in Britain with the rise of gender-neutral uniform policies amid anti-discrimination laws.

Screenshot of Guardian article from June 23, 2017

Before being taken out of context, the picture above originally featured in an article in The Guardian in June 2017 over a Devonshire academy’s unwillingness to drop a trousers-only policy for boys despite a heatwave at the time. The photo of eight boys in tartan skirts formed part of the highly-publicised “box-pleat rebellion”, when boys wore skirts to protest the ban on shorts.

The text from YourNewsWire picked up elements of a story about another school, Chiltern Edge Secondary School in Oxfordshire, which last year decided to no longer allow boys to wear shorts to school, leaving only trousers or skirts for pupils to choose from.

The school said on its website that it had "made the decision to move to a more formal uniform. This has been successful. Shorts are not part of our uniform."

The false story claimed that Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, had rated the uniform policy as “inadequate”.

Although the decision came after an Ofsted report which rated the school as “inadequate”, the body has no authority over school policies and does not take uniforms into account during its inspections.

Headteacher Moira Green announced the new uniform policy in September 2017 “with the support of parents”, in an effort to improve the school and remove special measures.

"Fighting for equality": a growing trend among teenagers

Issues with strict uniform policies make the headlines around the end of the summer term in the UK, when students often prefer to wear shorts or other warm-weather clothing.

This year, a 16-year-old Welsh student Louis Fice, was sent home for wearing a skirt because of the warm weather. He had previously been reprimanded for wearing shorts without the permission of the headmaster, the only school figure who can allow the exception.

The Sunday Times this month reported that  at least 40 secondary schools had stopped girls from wearing skirts after changing to trousers-only policies.

Currently, schools are free to dictate their own uniform policy, though they must be as anti-discriminatory as possible.

The UK Government’s Department for Education website states:

LGBT lobby group Educate & Celebrate, which is run by “experienced teachers and youth workers”, says its campaign to encourage schools to become more gender-neutral, both in their uniform and bathroom policies, has been successful, with scores of schools signed up.

The government is currently considering changes made to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) which would clarify the rights of transgender people.

For now, there is no national policy on school uniforms, but an increasing number of schools are choosing to make their uniform policies more accessible to all.

EDIT November 20, 2018 changes header image to new format