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Are girls' shorts gender neutral, PM asks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/05/2017 Karen Sweeney

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Whether shorts are a gender-neutral school uniform or are just shorts for girls doesn't really matter to Prime Minister Bill English, so long as they're easy to find in the morning.

As a father of six he knows the importance of finding clean uniforms and matching socks on school mornings and doesn't believe that the need for gender-neutral uniforms is high on most parents' agendas.

But the Post Primary Teachers' Association say in their latest guidelines that strictly gendered uniforms - skirts for girls and shorts for boys - reinforce gender stereotypes and "a society in which girls ought to be feminine and that boys ought to be masculine".

Asked about it during his post-cabinet press conference on Monday Mr English couldn't be certain what counted as a gender-neutral uniform.

"Some girls schools have girls wearing shorts - I don't know if that's gender neutral or just girls wearing shorts," he said, adding that on boys wearing skirts he didn't think it mattered.

"Parents take a practical view generally which is they just want uniforms that are hard wearing, easy to wash, easy to find and the socks always match - that's the hard bit."

The guidelines suggest a range of shorts, trousers, skirts of varying lengths and styles and tailored and non-tailored shirts should be available as a progressive option to students.

The PPTA want greater consideration of the need for unisex or gender-neutral toilets, away from the status quo where students have had to use disabled toilets in "highly visible area" or sometimes shared with staff.

"The requirement for students to ask permission, risk 'coming out' unnecessarily and/or be reprimanded by uninformed staff for being in staff only areas in order to perform some of the most basic of life's functions is problematic," the guidelines state.

Mr English said that was a matter for schools.

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