Prime Minister weighs in on gender neutral uniforms

A teachers union spokesperson says the Prime Minister's comments about gender neutral uniforms may have disappointed some students, as he appeared confused about the issue.

Mr English was asked by media on Monday about the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA)'s recommendation for schools to introduce gender neutral uniforms.

He said that the Government "will not be focusing on transgender uniforms".

"I think a lot of parents just want uniforms that are practical, that wash easily and are easy to find at 7 o'clock on Monday morning."

When Newshub said the uniform recommendation was about gender neutral and not transgender uniforms he said:

"It depends what you mean by gender neutral, some girls schools have girls wearing shorts - I don't know if that's gender neutral or just girls wearing shorts."

"I'm sure the PPTA don't mean that every household should go out and buy new uniforms at great expense to themselves to make some point that the PPTA are happy with," Mr English said.

The recommendation is part of the PPTA's guidelines to schools about how to be inclusive for students of diverse sexualities and gender identities, and their legal and ethical obligations. 

"There are young people out there who'd be disappointed" - PPTA spokeperson

PPTA spokesperson Shawn Cooper told Newshub "There are young people out there who would be disappointed in the Prime Minister's confusion of the issues.

"It's probably disappointing that he wasn't able to reflect the concerns students are feeling out there, about uniforms and toilet facilities that might not meet their needs."

Mr Cooper said the Prime Minister might not have read the guidelines before being asked to comment on them.

"One of the things it exposed is he had an apparent lack of understanding about what the issues were and the issues students are facing."

He says the uniform guidelines are about advocating choice for young people and there won't be extensive costs involved, "It's about students being given a choice about what to wear."

He says there's a similar misunderstanding about the costs of introducing gender neutral bathrooms, and that it can be as simple as re-labelling existing toilets.

"It's about creating proper signage, schools would be able to print appropriate signs off their computers for a couple of dollars."

Mr Cooper and Mr English agree on one thing - the Prime Minister said the Government doesn't have a role in dictating the uniform policy of schools.

"I can tell you that the Government will not be focusing on transgender uniforms, it sounds like there's plenty of other people who are experts on it to sort that out," he said.

Mr Cooper responded, "If anything I would take that as a vote of confidence in the guidelines teachers and the PPTA have come up with, that we would be seen as experts leading change in the education field."