Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.27 20 Jun 2019


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A new gender neutral uniform policy at a primary school in Co Wicklow is a student-led initiative, school management has said.

From September, St Brigid's National School in Greystones will allow boys wear skirts and girls wear trousers if they wish.

The Irish Times reports that the school is also planning to phase out boys’ and girls’ toilets and replace them with gender neutral versions.

Health Minister and local TD Simon Harris was among those welcoming the move:

Education Minister Joe McHugh said he's pleased to see that children's opinions are being respected.

He said: "If we are genuine and serious about trying to facilitate that participation of young people, we have to allow them the space to make the argument... make the convincing argument.

"Obviously they've convinced their board of management, and that has to be respected."

"Something they had considered very carefully"

Tom Sherlock, chair of the school's board of management, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the uniform measure.

He explained that the move was taken following an imitative from the school's student council.

He observed: "Earlier this year, they came to our principal, Máire Costello, with a suggestion or request that the board of management agree to introduce a gender neutral uniform.

"It was clearly something they had considered very carefully - they had very well-developed arguments around it. It wasn't just a flight of fancy.

Mr Sherlock said the board was very happy to support the idea, as it made "great sense" when it was put to them, adding: "It was entirely an initiative of our student council."

He explained that they don't expect boys deciding to wear skirts to become commonplace.

However, he stressed: "If boys make those [kinds of decisions], in consultation with their parents... they are the best people to advise, not the school.

"What the school is saying we have a gender neutral policy. Between the pupils and their parents, they will decide what type of uniform - from the range of school uniform available in the school - they will wear."

Mr Sherlock also noted that they didn't want to dictate to girls, for example, that they must wear trousers and tops.

He added: "The correct decision is to leave the choice to the children, in consultation and in approval with their parents. The school will tolerate, within the school uniform policy, whichever they choose to use."

Main image: File photo of children in a classroom. Picture by: Dave Thompson/PA Archive/PA Images

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