Hardly a day goes by without a new aspect of the transgender debate. The recent GSA conference in Manchester received plenty of press coverage in this area, and a number of schools have created working groups to look in detail at this issue.
As the leading supplier of uniforms to independent schools in the UK, Schoolblazer recognise that uniform is at the heart of this debate. We have been working closely with a number of schools and organisations in the field and have learned a lot over the last few years. Our role is to find a pragmatic solution to the philosophy that the school wishes to adopt and to find a way to make that work within the practical constraints of production.
What we’ve learnt
Whilst the headlines in the media are largely around ‘transitioning’ this is a tiny percentage of cases. The overwhelming urge in schools is to be ‘less gendered’ rather than to support ‘transitioners’. This is a very important distinction for a garment manufacturer. A girl transitioning to a boy may simply want to be given the option to purchase and wear a boy’s uniform, including boy’s trousers. The numbers also mean that we can manufacture a special one-off set of garments in these circumstances. However, in a less gendered environment many girls may wish to wear trousers which still fit them as girls, but are less gender polarising than skirts.
So what have we done?
– Prefer not to say
Our website initially asks parents to input the gender of their child. We use this to direct parents to the correct page and also as part of our sizing algorithms to recommend the correct-sized garments, both now and in the future. For a number of our schools we have added a ‘prefer not to say’ gender. When this is ticked pupils are presented with a broader selection of garments which allows them to create a neutral gender.
– Pins and ties
Norwich School in Norfolk have gone one stage further and abolished girls’ and boys’ uniforms, replacing the titles with pins and ties. Pupils registering on our site as girls are presented with the ‘pin’ uniform, whilst boys are initially presented with ‘ties’. However, all communication stresses that either may be selected, but must be worn in its entirety.
– Girls versions of the boy’s uniform
We are seeing more schools asking for girls trousers and have worked closely to develop a style that is flattering. A number of schools this summer are seeking to develop a girl’s version of the boys’ uniform, with a jacket and trouser option that matches the boys but which is fitted to girls. There is naturally a significant on-cost to this as we proliferate items and stock, however, if handled with care it can be achieved.
The overriding lesson is that the policy must be set by the school who need clarity and understanding of their direction of travel. As the uniform supplier we do not seek to set this agenda. However, our role is to then ensure that this policy goal can be transferred into a practical and affordable solution, which does not confuse the majority but enhances the choice options for whom this is a concern.
With our integrated supply chain, where we are managing all aspects of production, from fabric sourcing through garment design to manufacture, we believe Schoolblazer are uniquely placed to support schools through this issue. We’d be happy to discuss our solutions and ideas in more detail.