Public schools are usually seen as the beacon of conservatism; of traditional values the must be upheld. However, Brighton College are breaking ranks and have eradicated their 170-year-old uniform code, in favour of something more inclusive.
This week the students were told that the uniform code will be replaced by a “trouser uniform” and a “skirt uniform” for all pupils up to the age of sixteen. This is in order to accommodate those pupils who identify as other genders outside of school. They said it was “reacting to a changing society which recognises that some children have gender dysphoria and do not wish to lose their emotional gender identities at school”. Dysphoric girls will wear full tweed blazer, tie and trousers while dysphoric boys will wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck Revere blouse, the school has said.
The Headmaster, Richard Cairns, said in a statement “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”.
The idea came from discussions between Mr Cairns and the school’s Gender Society, fronted by Amy Arnell and Lilya Tata, with the change implemented at the start of this term. Amy has said “there’s quite a lot of discussions between our head teacher and the team in terms of how to make things more equal. We raised this as one of the main issues. Luckily our voices were heard and it’s been implemented, which makes us very proud and happy”.
Fred Dimbleby, son of BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby, has said “Personally, I’m completely in favour of it. I think it’s brilliant that we, as an institution, are leading this new approach and that we are leading this respect towards everyone no matter what they define themselves as. What’s really surprised me is the way that people have taken it within the school. I think that it’ll be foreign for people to see someone who defines themselves as a male wearing a skirt, and I think that will be something big, but I don’t think it’ll cause any outrage or backlash because that person will be massively supported by the pupil body”.
Since 2009, London’s Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service have seen referrals soar by 50% every year, hitting 697 cases in 2014. Brighton College have done a wonderful thing, and let’s hope that many other schools follow suit!
all images belong to Brighton College