Millais School has announced changes to pupils’ PE kit for new girls joining the school in Year 7 this September.
But the changes have not only angered some parents, they have also angered school uniform supply company Taylor Made Uniforms.
Mum Kelly O’Brien - whose 11-year-old daughter is due to join Millais next term - says that the new PE kit will cost parents around an extra £50 than the previous kit.
“That’s just for the basics without all the other things needed,” said Kelly. “I know some parents are really worried.”
She said she felt the school was making the uniform ‘elitist’ by insisting on having the school logo on PE shirts, track suit top, track suit bottoms and jumper.
She said parents had been told that the changes were being made because the previous kit of leotard and shorts made the girls feel insecure.
“I completely understand that,” said Kelly, “but I feel not enough consideration and consultation has been given to parents.”
Also upset about the changes is uniform supply company Taylor Made who, on its website, accuses the school of not giving sufficient notice of the changes. It fears it could be left with obsolete surplus stock.
Millais headteacher Dr Alison Lodwick said the new PE uniform would, in fact, cost less than the current one. “We have managed to achieve this by working with Sussex Uniforms who are shortly opening an outlet in Horsham,” she said.
She said the changes had been made following canvassing of students who felt that “the current kit is very dated and the material takes a long time to dry, and that they feel particularly uncomfortable in the top, due to the low v-shaped neckline, and very self- conscious in the lycra leotard.
“Body image can be critical for teenage girls and the feedback came from students of all ages throughout the school who universally felt embarrassed in the leggings, the shorts, and the leotard.
Therefore, it was to alleviate these concerns and to build confidence that we have made the changes, which now offer a choice for the students.”
She said there was a ‘misunderstanding’ of costs and that “fundamentally the overall new PE kit costs less because the leotard and cycle shorts are no longer required.”
She added: “Currently we have students who wear skorts all year round and some that wear a skort in the summer and tracksuit bottoms/leggings in the winter. Students can therefore select one item or more to suit the time of year and parental budget.
“So, to clarify our position, they do not have to purchase all the items - that will be down to individual preference.”
She said feedback from students and parents had been ‘very positive.’
“Recently at our Year 6 Induction Evening, there was one parent who was unhappy with the changes, however there were more than 300 parents present and the responses were very positive, and the same is true of the 3 Parental Workshops held in the month of June.
“Parents who have daughters in older year groups can be assured that they will still be allowed to wear the existing kit, as the new PE kit will be rolled out through the school year on year from September 2019.
“Students at Millais are equally impressed by the new kit and have expressed a wish to purchase some of these items in the future if they need to replace any of their kit.
“We wanted to procure better quality kit for our students and we have, we wanted to listen to our students and we have given them greater flexibility and choice in what they purchase.”