Police and teachers have been criticised for locking school gates to schoolchildren who protested a new ‘gender neutral’ uniform policy this morning, leaving pupils to wander the streets of a Sussex town.
Angry pupils and parents protested outside the gates of Priory School in Lewes over the clothing policy for the new school year.
But teachers and Sussex Police officers locked the gates on pupils and refused admittance to girls in skirts – and according to one eyewitness officers were actually involved in selecting which students could enter and which would be barred.
He said: ‘It was like they were bouncers – they waved some through and stopped others.’
By lunchtime a group of around 50 pupils were seen wandering the streets of the town still holding their placards from the morning’s protest.
Maria Caulfield MP said she would be speaking to Sussex Police chief constable Giles York and police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne.
She tweeted: ‘Very disturbed to see the school turning away girls from Priory school because they choose to wear a skirt and calling the police on them.
‘This is not how we should be treating the young women of Lewes’.
She added: ‘Calling the police on pupils is not the way forward’.
Maria Caulfield MP led the criticism and told MailOnline it was ‘political correctness gone mad’
This afternoon Ms Caulfield told MailOnline: ‘What has the world come to when girls in Lewes are excluded from school because they are not allowed to wear skirts.
‘While I am a strong supporter of schools having a robust uniform policy, I support parents and pupils on this issue .
‘It is ridiculous to send female students home just because they choose to wear a skirt.
‘It is political correctness gone mad.’
And on Twitter there was an outpouring of anger and ridicule with one man who claimed to be a former officer saying a request to enforce school uniform rules would have been laughed out of the room in his days on the force.
An eyewitness said police officers were ‘acting like bouncers’ waving through pupils deemed properly dressed and preventing others from entering the school or attending lessons
The actions by the school and police generated a mixture of outrage and ridicule on Twitter
The Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex, forced all pupils to wear trousers in 2017 after ‘concerns’ were raised over the length of skirts – and to cater for transgender pupils.
It has brought in a fully gender neutral uniform and yesterday the head teacher warned pupils would be sent home if they are not wearing it.
Parents of older pupils are outraged at being ordered to purchase entirely new uniforms for their children to wear for just two and a half terms.
This morning the children waved placards outside the school gates protesting the ‘pointless’ and ‘silly’ policy and the waste of previously-purchased clothes.
The signs read: ‘The fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change’ and ‘1000’s of new clothes wasted’.
Another read ‘£100 for 1 uniform for 9 months is not sustainable.’
Pupils and parents protested this morning outside Priory School in Lewes over the uniforms
The children held up placards pointing out the wastefulness of the policy at the Lewes school
Female students argued they should be allowed to choose what to wear to attend classes
The protest against changes to uniform rules meant dozens of girls were barred from entering the school after arriving in skirts.
Angry parents gathered at the gates said the school was being unreasonable.
One eyewitness told MailOnline: ‘The police were helping to enforce who was appropriately dressed and who was not.
‘It was like they were bouncers – they waved some through and stopped others.
‘What a total waste of police time.’
Cressida Murray, whose daughter Libby organised a petition against the uniform change said the school is not listening to their concerns.
‘They are hiding behind the gender neutral thing. This is just about not wanting boys to wear skirts.
‘They are saying it’s about girls rolling up their skirts but they’ve always done that.
‘They keep changing the uniform and are not listening to the parents. For a lot of the pupils it’s about climate change.
‘They don’t want to waste money on a uniform they are only going to wear for a few months.
A petition against the uniform code changes was singed by more than 300 people.
A new uniform can cost hundreds of pounds.
‘Some girls have spent £30 on new trousers,’ Cressida Murray said.
Year 11 pupils have been instructed to buy new uniforms, even though they will only wear them for a few months
At least 50 girls were turned away and many were still outside the school at half past nine.
Ami Lord, 16, was turned away for wearing a skirt.
She said: ‘We had a whole assembly about fast fashion and climate change, then they come out and tell us all to get new uniforms.
‘We don’t want to buy something we are only going to wear for a few months.’
Maddison Gore, 15, said: ‘A lot of us just can’t afford this.
‘The pupils who have been turned away are the good ones who want to learn.
‘They told us We are just doing our jobs. We told them we just want to learn.’
At the time, the school said only new students would be required to wear the new uniform.
But then shortly before the summer holidays the school stated that all students, not just newcomers, will be required to wear the ‘gender neutral’ uniform.
Officers from Sussex Police pversaw the school closing and locking the gates to pupils
Sheila Cullen, 57, said the school uniform policy had changed many times.
‘They’ve got form for this, they’ve been doing this for years.’
Parents and teachers demanding answers from the school questioned the policy of making girls wear trousers.
Penny Randall who has a daughter in Year 11 said: ‘My Amber is not happy about having to wear trousers.
‘In May 2017, we were told they wouldn’t have to and now that has changed.’
The school warned parents that children still wearing the old uniform will be sent home from the first day of school today.
But furious parents of year 11 pupils have said they will send their children into school wearing the old uniform anyway.
One parent of a year 11 pupil, who did not want to be named, said: ‘This is not about the uniforms being gender neutral.
‘This is about children and parents complaining about having to buy completely new uniforms for only a few terms.
‘It is not a good situation especially as it is my daughter’s final year of school and it’s really disruptive.’
The new uniforms as shown in a mock-up sent to parents. Parents of senior pupils complain they will have to buy their children a new uniform for a ‘couple of terms’
There are thought to be about 20 year 11 pupils who will wear the old uniforms.
Parents say they plan to protest at the school.
The parent added: ‘The school made the decision to do this right at the end of term without any time left for us to sort something out – so it’s a bit like Brexit.’
Parents say they have been in discussions with the school about the possibility of a compromise and one said they were offered money towards the cost of the new uniform.
Priory School in Lewes, pictured, said the new uniform was designed to cater for trans gender pupils, although parents claim the original plan was only to mandate new starters to wear the uniform
In a statement the school said: ‘Priory School uniform is designed to be a practical uniform which encourages students to be ready to focus on their school work and activities.
‘Our uniform also helps us to dilute the status placed on expensive clothes or labels and challenge the belief that we are defined by what we wear.
‘Instead, we encourage individual beliefs, ideas, passions and wellbeing and an ethos of camaraderie that is reflected in this shared experience.
‘We believe that a uniform worn without modification is the best way to ensure equality. We do not want children feeling vulnerable and stressed by the pressure they feel to wear or own the latest trend or status symbol.
‘Priory school is not unusual in having a trousers as the uniform item for all students. There are at least 40 other schools which have a similar uniform requirement.
‘Our core purpose remains the quality of teaching and learning and we aim to achieve this by maximising the time spent on planning, delivering and evaluating the quality of provision.’
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: ‘Police attended Mountfield Road, Lewes on Friday morning where a group of around 100 adults and children were protesting.
‘Officers engaged with the protesters and they left the area shortly after. There were no offences reported.’
He added: ‘Two Sussex Police PCSOs attended to facilitate peaceful protest and were not involved in the operation of the school gates or the decision process of who was or was not admitted to the school. That was a matter for the school personnel.’