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Skirts either too short or too long

Rows over school uniform reached new heights this week as a Suffolk secondary banned girls from wearing skirts and a West Midlands boy was turned away from an exam for wearing the wrong coloured trousers.

Kesgrave high near Ipswich decided to make trousers compulsory for girls from September after deeming hemlines had risen to "inappropriate" levels.

The majority of pupils backed the new uniform when it was agreed six weeks ago and trousers are already standard dress for girls at other mixed-sex schools in the Ipswich area.

But the school received national press attention when a small group of girls and their parents complained.

At Coseley school, in Dudley, west Midlands, Ashley Davis was banned from sitting a double science GCSE exam because he turned up for school in grey instead of black trousers.

His mother Tina said they were the same "greying" trousers that he had worn every day throughout the school year and when taking other exams.

A spokeswoman for Dudley council said Ashley was wearing grey jeans on the day of the examination, and not trousers. She added: "The school took the decision it did because it has very high standards and this applies also to the uniform code. The child was not wearing the correct uniform."

Jade Fitzjohn, 14, was sent home from St Edmond's Roman Catholic school, in Portsmouth, for wearing her hair in braids. Her mother Amanda said the exclusion had been unfair because two African-Caribbean students at the school had been allowed to wear their hair in the same way for cultural reasons.

Meanwhile Shabina Begum, the 15-year-old who wanted to wear head-to-toe Islamic dress to lessons, was still looking for a new school after losing her High Court battle.

Her solicitors claimed the decision of Denbigh high, Luton to stop her from wearing the jilbab had infringed her human rights to express her religious beliefs.

David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers general secretary, said parents and students should express their views to governors, heads and pupil councils, but not seek press attention or court action.

"If they cannot bring around change through the normal channels they should put up or shut up," he said. "We can't have teachers' time wasted by these debates."

The English Secondary Students Association, a new union for pupils, expects dress codes will be one of its main issues for campaigns when it becomes fully operational this autumn.

Alex Dowty, ESSA's national development officer, said the union's policy on uniform had not yet been decided. But the 15-year-old said that he personally felt they were "degrading".

Another voice 26

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