Thursday 29 September 2016

Top private school axes uniform code to accommodate 'gender dysphoric' pupils

Alison Kershaw

Published 20/01/2016 | 12:06

Brighton College Credit: Google Maps
Brighton College Credit: Google Maps

A top private school has scrapped its traditional uniform to accommodate "gender dysphoric" pupils.

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Brighton College said it has axed the 170-year-old code to meet the needs of youngsters who see themselves as the opposite sex from their biological gender.

Instead, the school is introducing a "trouser uniform" and a "skirt uniform" for pupils up to age 16. Girls who have gender dysphoria will be able to wear a tweed blazer, tie and trousers, while dysphoric boys will be able to wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck blouse.

At least one pupil has already taken up the option, Brighton College said, while a handful of other families have made inquiries on behalf of their own children.

The move is in reaction to a changing society which recognises that some children have gender dysphoria and do not want to lose their emotional gender identity at school, the college said.

Headmaster Richard Cairns said: "This change follows requests from a small number of families. It ties in with my strong personal belief that youngsters should be respected for who they are. If some boys and girls are happier identifying with a different gender from that in which they were born, then my job is to make sure that we accommodate that. My only interest as headmaster is their welfare and happiness.

"The college's approach is different from most other schools, which have tended to give transgender children personal leeway with uniform. Brighton College has instead decided to abolish the notion of boys' and girls' schools altogether. Traditional uniform will be worn but the type of uniform will be a matter for the individual boy or girl, always assuming parental support."

Sixth-former Fred Dimbleby said he was proud to attend a school where "there is no concept of the norm, of conformity and of the expected way to be".

"Everyone has supported this move and I think that there is a real sense of unity, from the headmaster to the youngest third former, about this idea," he said. "I also know that students who are gender fluid, or for any reason decide to change the uniform that they wear, will be accepted, supported and encouraged by the whole school.

"I think it would be great if all schools took up this idea. Secondary school is such a formative period for people so it's important to encourage people to be who they are and who they want to be."

Sixth-former Amy Arnell said that when the change was announced no one was surprised, adding: "There is just no reason not to do it if it makes people feel more comfortable about themselves."

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