Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Modern times

Furious backlash as £20,000-a-year private school says boys can wear skirts in 'gender neutral' uniform policy

A top North London private school's proposal to introduce a gender neutral uniform policy has sparked anger among alumni.

Highgate School, which charges fees of £20,000 a year for secondary school years, is set to make the change for pupils questioning their gender identity.

Under the proposal, girls' and boys' uniforms would be scrapped in favour of a mix-and-match policy.

Currently, the school uniform policy allows girls to wear the grey pleated skirt or grey trousers with their blazer and tie, but boys are not allowed to wear the skirt.

Highgate, which lets children request that staff address them by a name of the opposite gender, already welcomes one male pupil who wears dresses.

But alumni at the school - which boasts TS Eliot as a former teacher and whose ex-pupils include poet Sir John Betjeman and Reverend John Venn, the inventor of the Venn diagram - are divided on the issue.

In an email circulated among members of the Old Cholmeleian (OC) Society, which consists of around 6,000 former pupils and teachers at the school, the proposal is described as 'seriously misguided', The Sunday Telegraph reports.

'This would be both deluded and disturbing for pupils at a formative and highly impressionable age, and also damaging to the reputation of the school,' the message says.

The email urges members to sign a petition stating their opinion on the proposal, which will then be sent to the board of governors.

Responding to the petition, headmaster Adam Pettitt said the decision to change uniform policy was made 'in the light of current pupils' and parents' views, societal change and clinical advice'. 

In an interview with The Sunday Times earlier this year, Mr Pettitt said that gender identity issues were mainly occurring in the sixth form, but added that he thought 'that will change over time' - so parents could start hearing primary school children ask similar questions.

Mr Pettitt also wrote a recent blog post for the school website on gender equality, explaining why he believes uniform changes are more than a 'seemingly petty' issue.

He argued: 'Here at Highgate, we are turning the focus inward – how can stereotypes be interrogated and de-bunked? – and outward – how can young people be empowered to live their gender as they would wish without fear but in freedom and with excitement?

'It might be at a seemingly petty level in schools – issues over uniform, jewellery or sports options – but it matters that in a public arena these issues are debated so that the deeper-seated, more compelling fault-lines in gender politics are explored and repaired.'

Last year, private Brighton College introduced a gender-neutral uniform policy, while Allens Croft School in Birmingham is believed to be the first state primary to opt for the change.

The schools either dropped references to girls and boys, or have altered them to say pupils can dress in the uniform in which they feel most comfortable.

Other 'gender neutral' initiatives causing debate include major public institutions, including The Barbican, introducing gender-neutral toilets.

The internationally renowned central London venue was forced to review its decision to scrap male and female toilets in favour of mixed facilities last month, after protests by visitors.

Equality groups set up by pupils in some schools are pushing for teachers to use non-gendered pronouns such as ‘they’, for all sports to be open to everyone, and for a ban on words and phrases such as ‘ladylike’ and ‘man up’.

But critics warn that a rush to introduce gender-neutral policies could encourage copycat behaviour among children, fuelled by social media.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: ‘Schools need to help young people become comfortable with their identities, not reinforce their anxieties with measures such as gender-neutral uniforms.’

Figures show a surge in the number of youngsters – mainly girls – seeking help to change gender. More than 2,000 under-18s were referred to the Gender Identity Clinic at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in north London last year.

There were under 100 when the service began eight years ago.

Earlier this year, St Paul’s Girls’ School in west London revealed it had drawn up a gender-identity protocol to allow pupils to be known by boys’ names.


Australia: Richer people have brighter kids who behave better -- so schools where they go are more desirable -- and Leftist Canutes hate that

There is no dispute that unruly students produce undesirable schools. But the deliberate destruction of discipline in schools has made the quality of student behavior very poor in the typical  State school today. Enforcing behavior standards has become largely impossible for State schools. 

So the quality of the behaviour in a school now depends mainly on the homes where the students come from. The children of richer families tend to be brighter and better behaved.  So the best schools are now mostly in affluent suburbs. 

And the Left want to destroy that.  They have destroyed the discipline that once made all schools pretty equal so now they want to destroy the main remaining influence that creates good schools

The most sought-after public high schools and their strict catchments are creating a worsening cycle of segregation, effectively locking out poor students and giving wealthy families almost exclusive access to their "better" local schools, research reveals.

Limiting school places means children from higher socio-economic families go to popular high schools, which are in catchment areas with higher levels of income, higher proportions of Australian-born residents and higher proportions of those who identify with "no religion" on the census.

"One of the greatest challenges this country faces is the lack of equity between higher socio-economic families and lower," said Chris Presland, the president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council. "And this [research] shows that issue transcends public and private schools but is within public schools too."

Emma Rowe, lecturer in education at Deakin University and Christopher Lubienski from the University of Illinois, published the new research in a paper titled Shopping for schools or shopping for peers: public schools and catchment area segregation in the Journal of Education Policy.

The academics examined levels of segregation in the catchments of public high schools, which they categorised as "popular" (full with waiting lists), "balanced" or "rejected" (where places are available), and looked at whether school policies contribute to segregation.

The paper found there was a "rather straightforward link between the affluence of a community and the desirability of a community's school".

"It is generally accepted that most private schools are segregated across the lines of race and income but our study showed that public high schools are also highly segregated," Dr Rowe said.

"Particular parts of the population can't access certain public high schools. The gap between the well-resourced schools and the less-resourced schools is growing, which is problematic for educational equity and access."

David Hope, the president of the Northern Sydney council of P&C associations, said: "In recent times the department have enforced boundaries much more strictly. It's better for kids to be in environments where there's a mixture of backgrounds and abilities and it's better for [cohesion]."

Dr Rowe said if a parent wanted their child to attend a popular school, they would plan for it for many years and were often prepared to move neighbourhoods for a school.

"In other countries, there is minimal difference between schools so parents send children to the nearest school. In Australia, parents perceive schools to be so different to each other that they will sell their house and relocate for what they perceive to be a better school. This behaviour is quite normalised," Dr Rowe said.

The paper suggests that schools should make at least 10 per cent of places available to students from outside the schools' immediate catchment areas.

Dr Rowe said: "As part of this, we need to implement blind selection processes for a proportion of places available in a school, rather than competitive access based on testing, academic or sporting merit".

But NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said that children had a right to places at their local schools and that new school funding arrangements were accounting for inequality divides.

"Public school enrolments tend to reflect the socio-economic status of their local community," he said. "The move to more needs-based funding includes an equity loading for socio-economic background."

Mr Presland said Australian catchment "shopping" was driven partly by parents with "scant information" exaggerating perceived differences between schools but also Australia's school funding policy: "An unofficial motto in Finland is the best school is the closest school. In Finland they don't have private schools. No other country in the world does what we do in terms of funding private schools to the extent that we do".

The paper says Australian education policy agenda "pushes and promotes parents to avoid low-performing schools, and be active and engaged in choosing the 'best' school,"

"For these reasons, the My School website was introduced in 2010, to enable parents to make more informed, calculated and rational choices, using the best available data."

Dr Rowe said education funding policies, rather than parents' choices, were responsible for the problem.

"Government policy around schooling has positioned parents within a competitive environment, where things like the My School website actively encourage parents to compare schools and make a choice," she said.

"These policies actively encourage parents to choose the 'best' school and look for any kind of competitive advantage they can acquire for their children."


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