Irish schools are “getting it all wrong” when it comes to school uniforms, according to Ciara Kelly.
She was speaking after a new Government report recommended changes to “strict, inflexible” school uniform policies – warning that they discourage exercise.
The report warns that the issue is particularly problematic for girls and young women and urges schools to take a “physical activity-friendly” approach to uniform policy.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, host Jonathan Healy said his children’s school banned gender-specific uniforms a decade ago.
“I have to say, it was the best policy I have ever seen implemented,” he said.
“They all go to school in generic tracksuits that can be used for sport – comfy clothes, easy to take off jumpers, no fiddly ties, no skirts, no tights, none of that.
“That means, when it comes to the yard, they all just run around like mad things and when it comes to PE, they are wearing the same clothes already.
“It is incredibly sensible to do it. I don’t know why every school in the country doesn’t do it because when I see four and five-year-olds going to school in pleat skirts, ties and shirt, I’m going. ‘What are we doing to those children?’
"Getting it all wrong"
Meanwhile, Ciara Kelly said Ireland is “getting it all wrong” when it comes to school sports gear for girls.
“What do young women wear when they choose their own sports gear?” she asked. “When they choose their own exercise clothes?”
“I’ll tell you what they wear – they wear, almost universally, black leggings and some kind of a top.
“That is what they wear to the gym, that is what they wear when they are out running, that is what they wear when they choose their own clothes.
“There are no little skirts, there are no visible knickers and there are no white shorts.
“There are reasons for that. They are body-conscious and they have periods and things like that and the clothes they are being asked to wear to play sports – the white shorts and the little knickers shorts with the little skirts over them – they would never choose to wear them and they don’t choose to wear them
“Those are putting people off.”
Ciara said we have to do all we can to get more girls out exercising.
“If we want people in our country - where we are becoming increasingly heavy as a nation - If we want people to take part in sports, we have to make it inclusive and accessible to people,” she said.
“We are getting it wrong as well, in my humble opinion in the sports we are asking girls to do.
“A lot of girls don’t have a huge amount of confidence about sports in general and team sports can be really intimidating if you’re not into that.
“What do girls and women do when they choose themselves? They do individual sports, they do the gym work, they do running, they do stuff like that.
“We are not providing that for them. We are shoehorning them down the road of hockey teams and football teams that many of them don’t want.”
She said it is “no wonder they are falling off the face of the earth” when it comes to sport, when schools are forcing them into uniforms they are embarrassed to wear.
“We are getting it all wrong,” she said.