Merseyside pupils protest over strict skirt-length checks by male teachers

A school has been accused of “degrading” and “inhumane” treatment of female pupils after they were made to line up so that male teachers could inspect the length of their skirts.

Pupils at Rainford high school in St Helens, Merseyside, have held protests after girls were threatened with suspension over the length of their uniform.

One parent said her daughter had been treated “like an animal” after she was “herded” into an auditorium so that her skirt could be inspected by male teachers.

Kevin Lees, 53, said his 15-year-old granddaughter came home in tears after being told she would face a formal reprimand because her skirt was an inch above her knee.

He told the Guardian: “She was just feeling degraded, humiliated. She didn’t really want to go to school the following morning.”

Another parent, who did not want to be named, said her 12-year-old daughter had been left upset after her clothing was inspected by a male member of staff.

She said: “She went into her classroom and a male member of staff was there bending to the side to look at all the girls’ skirts. She said she felt it was really creepy and she didn’t like it. She was quite upset about it.”

The parent said her daughter had a medical condition and she would “never, ever send her to school in a short skirt”. She added: “We’re normally really rule-abiding people but this is just ridiculous.”

The school’s uniform policy, published in 2020, requires skirts to be “knee length”, but parents said this had only been enforced strictly since Tuesday.

They said pupils were being punished for wearing skirts that were on the knee but not fully covering it, and that others who could not find a fitting skirt had been threatened with suspension.

Footage on social media shows hundreds of pupils gathered in the hallways of the school in protest at the strict policy. One video on TikTok has been viewed more than 1.5m times.

Nearly 1,800 people have signed a petition urging the principal, Ian Young, to stop punishing girls for the length of their skirts.

Lexi Pennington, who started the petition, said staff were treating girls “like animals” as they were “herded into a penned-in section in the auditorium to be inspected”. She said it was “very demeaning and almost inhumane to the female students being inspected by the male staff”.

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Another parent said her daughter had been threatened with suspension for wearing a skirt that was “barely above the knee” and was the longest available because she is slim.

She wrote: “This attitude that girls are responsible for boys/mens behaviour because of their clothes needs to stop! It is outdated and sexist!”

The school did not respond to accusations of “degrading” or “sexist” treatment but said in a statement that it had a “clear uniform policy” and understood “there are often sensitivities around this matter”.

It added: “Student voice is important in all aspects of school life, and we have been keen to find an acceptable viewpoint on uniform from all members of our school community. Work has been, and is continuing to be, undertaken with our young people by consulting student leadership teams to find an agreeable solution for both staff and students.

“Our focus is for all our young people to exemplify and learn the importance of high standards and expectations, so they are ready to contribute to the wider community as successfully as possible.”

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