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Education secretary sidesteps Oban tights row – but pledges national uniform guidance

Education secretary said it was up to individual schools to decide uniform policy.

Scotland’s education secretary has spoken about a national school uniform policy in the wake of the Oban High School tights row.

Shirley-Anne Somerville refused to comment directly on the Argyll school row, where girls were forced to wear tights during a recent hot spell.

But she did say that she would expect any school with a uniform policy to work with parents and pupils to make sure they understood it.

The new education secretary also revealed that government officials will work with councils to create national guidance on uniforms, with a focus on cost.

The collaboration will take place during this parliamentary term.

What happened at Oban High?

Despite soaring summer temperatures, girls at the Argyll secondary were reprimanded for not wearing tights in the heat.

To help cope with the warm weather the youngsters at Oban have been wearing socks instead of tights with their school skirts.

Parents told how their children got into trouble for the changes and Argyll and Bute Council said their uniform policy was created in consultation with pupils.

The local authority added that their uniform policy was supported by almost all of their pupils and parents and they even issued a video highlighting the importance of uniform.

Ed sec: schools should decide uniform rules

In an interview this week, Shirley-Anne Somerville said she would not directly comment on the issue and said it is down to schools and councils to make decisions on school uniform.

The education secretary, who was appointed by first minister Nicola Sturgeon in May, said it is not something that should be up ministers to decide.

She said: “It certainly should not be the place of the education secretary to tell any school or pupils about what they should or should not be wearing.  That is a decision that needs to be made locally.

“But certainly any school that undertakes a uniform policy there is an expectation they work with young people in the school and parents so there is an understanding about it.

“I’m sure the parents who have been anxious about this have been directly in touch with the school and it is certainly at a school level that should be undertaken rather than someone from Edinburgh whether that is the education secretary or anyone else telling pupils in a school what to do on a specific uniform policy.

“There always has to be room for schools to develop policies at a local level.”

Government working on specific uniform guidance

Ms Somerville also revealed that the Scottish government is working alongside councils to come up with advice on school uniforms.

She said it will take cost into account so no parents are unable to buy any particular part of a uniform.

Ms Somerville said: “We are working with local authorities to develop national guidance on school uniforms within the lifetime of this parliament and so that work will be under way.

“It will look at things like the cost of uniforms to ensure there are no challenges for families being able to afford parts of uniforms that might be expensive.”

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