A HEADTEACHER in Bromsgrove has defended the decision to change the design of school skirts, after parents accused the move of 'discriminating' against female students.

From the start of the new school year in September, girls at North Bromsgrove High School will be required to wear one of two skirts embroidered with the letter 'N', in an attempt to improve student's safety and prepare them for work.

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But several parents have slammed the change, accusing the school of discriminating against girls by not changing boy's uniforms as well, and branding the added cost 'unnecessary'.

One parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Advertiser: "North are discriminating against the girls by telling us how much and where we have to buy school skirts from. They don't put this kind of ruling on boys trousers.

"This means I can no longer go to Asda, Tesco or Matalan for good quality school skirts at an affordable price, like I could if I had a boy.

"It's bad enough we were forced into paying for blazers, but at least that was both sexes. If my daughter wears a suitable skirt, the correct colour and a decent length, she should be allowed to continue to do so come September.

"I can buy two skirts from mentioned stores for the cost of one skirt with a logo on. It's disgusting. So much for schools making uniforms affordable for all."

But headteacher Angelina Robin-Jones insisted the new designs are necessary to tackle an ongoing problem with girls wearing too-short skirts at the School Drive school, and will help to prepare pupils for the 'world of work'.

"We haven't introduced a new uniform, it's only the skirts that have changed," said Mrs Robin-Jones. "We have previously had a very similar skirt, which girls were expected to wear, but parents made other choices. We are only enforcing an expectation that was already in place, with the addition of the embroidered 'N'."

Mrs Robin-Jones claims the decision was a result of a thorough consultation process, in which 18 out of 760 students' parents raised concerns, mainly over boys not being affected by the change.

She added: "We don't have a problem with boys' uniforms. The biggest challenge parents have raised with us over uniforms has been in regards to girls in particular. When they're about to buy their child a new uniform, the child will often say 'well my friend's wearing this tiny skirt so I want that one too'. Now there are two options - one A-line and one with a slight pleat to give students that element of choice - and that's that.

"Several parents have said 'thank goodness I won't have to go through that again' - it's been a real gripe for them."

Mrs Robin-Jones hopes the new knee-length skirts will improve safety for female pupils and get children used to dressing smartly, ready for work placements, job interviews and future employment.

She described the skirts, which cost £16.99 from Bromsgrove's S&H Schoolwear and Sports, as 'good quality skirts, which don't need ironing, don't bobble and can be washed quickly'.

Girls at North will still have the option to wear black tailored trousers, available from M&S, George at Asda and other supermarkets.