One private school has banned short skirts for sixth-formers in favour of suits

No more short skirts in the sixth-form

Sixth-form students at St Margaret’s School in Bushey, Herts, have no uniform at present but will have to adhere to a smart dress code from next term

Getting rid of uniforms for sixth-formers was intended to allow a relaxed dress code more in keeping with the modern era.

But one private school fears its students are taking things too far with a liking of nail extensions, short skirts and too many bright colours.

Now Rose Hardy, headmistress at St Margaret’s School in Bushey, Hertfordshire, has insisted on a strict new dress code of “sober” suits and minimal makeup because, she says, “a smart presentation reflects a professional and focused attitude”.

But parents at the £28,500 a year boarding school have complained about the uniform, being introduced next term, with one labelling it “funereal” and calling for greater freedom for pupils to express themselves.

“I am at a loss to understand why you would impose such an austere, funereal and outdated dress code on our young women,” the parent wrote to the school. “I cannot comprehend why dress/skirt/trousers have to be a ‘sober’ colour and of a matching fabric to the jacket.

“Young women in the work place today regularly wear bright colours and still look professional”.

But Mrs Hardy has defended the school’s decision. “Girls, in particular, need to feel good about themselves aesthetically, and these changes are aimed at allowing them to remain committed to learning, instead of having the added pressure of deciding what to wear every morning,” she said.

“We want them to be happy, confident and comfortable, as they make some of the most important decisions of their academic lives. The sixth form in particular, are also ambassadors for the school and are role models for the younger girls.”

The school insists that the idea of the new dress code is in keeping with the “whole Steve Jobs … ethos of simplicity by wearing the same style of clothing everyday so they [the girls] can focus on more important decisions instead of small ones”.

As well as calling for a tailored suit which must “match both in colour and material”, the dress code also bans socks, insisting that girls must wear tights that are natural or dark in colour, and says that make and nail varnish must be kept “discreet”.

Pupils must wear formal shirts or blouses with a collar. “A thin jumper or cardigan may be worn over the shirt but the collar must be visible and the jumper must not extend below the jacket,” the new code adds.

Elsewhere it says that “hairstyles should be neat and long hair should be tied back for science and practical subjects”, bans the wearing of scarves in school, and says that trainers, canvas shoes, sandals and espadrilles are not permitted.

Boots are also not allowed, except for the journey to and from school in cold or wet weather. Instead shoes must be formal, with pumps, court shoes and lace ups deemed appropriate.

“Our headmistress herself has three girls, and the majority of her teaching career has been at all girl’s schools,” a spokeswoman for the school added.

“So if there’s anyone who knows about how to educate girls and get the best out of them, it’s her.”