School apologises for uniform advice wording after sexism claims

The Open Academy. Photo: Jerry Daws

The Open Academy. Photo: Jerry Daws - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

A Norwich school has apologised for the wording of a newsletter containing uniform advice amid complaints over "sexism and misogyny". 

The Open Academy in Heartsease told girls to avoid wearing "very short skirts" or coloured bras to avoid receiving "unwanted comments or attention" in its weekly newsletter. 

Parents criticised the Salhouse Road academy for the newsletter with some calling for the school to make more effort to call out abuse and unwanted comments rather than making the girls responsible. 

Jon Ford, principal of Open Academy, apologised for not writing or editing the newsletter "more carefully" to encompass "a more rounded approach". 

Mr Ford said he had responded to feedback from parents which highlighted how the dress code reminder could be approached. 

Jon Ford, principal of Open Academy

Jon Ford, principal of Open Academy in Norwich. - Credit: DNEAT


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A statement by Mr Ford in this week's newsletter says: "We do not condone harassment of any kind from anyone to anyone. We will challenge and deal robustly where we are given reports and evidence of harassment.

"If my error raises the profile of the issue and promotes positive, constructive discussion in our community then that is to be welcomed.

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"The issues will continue to be raised and discussed through the curriculum in our relationship and sex education." 

Mr Ford added: "I would like to reiterate that Open Academy does not and will not tolerate harassment of any kind whether it be in what our students wear or in any other scenario." 

It comes after one expert described the original uniform advice as sexist. 

Dr Jessica Taylor, director of consultancy and research at VictimFocus, said: "What is dressed up as safety advice for girls, or uniform rules about skirts and bras, often intersects with traditional misogyny

"Why are short skirts and coloured bras an issue if we don't sexualise girls' bodies?”

The uniform guidance was written by the school's safeguarding lead and said there was "an increasing number of very short skirts in school".

It added that this "can lead to others being able to see things they don't want to" with female staff members likely to ask students to "pull them down to a reasonable and safe length" in such scenarios. 

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