The move by Rossett Acre School in Harrogate has been condemned by parents and education campaigners as encouraging slovenly dress, which they claim is likely to lower standards.
It would mean 60 girls aged four and five in the school’s reception classes sitting through lessons in jogging bottoms. Senior staff have defended the idea as promoting “comfortable and practical dress” for the younger children, whose learning includes physical education and outdoor play.
But no other primary school in the country is thought to have come up with the idea, which was criticised by Chris McGovern, the chairman of the York-founded Campaign for Real Education.
He claimed the move will “encourage children to be slovenly rather than sporty”, and added: “While schools have to make these decisions for themselves it sounds to me like this school has lost its common sense and sense of proportion.
“Girls have been wearing skirts since time immemorial and this suggests the school has nothing better to think about. They should be concentrating on teaching.
“I would be interested to hear what the parents think about it. It just a general lowering of standards of appearance. They could switch to jogging bottoms just when they are jogging. On the whole parents are impressed by girls wearing skirts. It is a sign of a good school. A smart uniform often goes with smart standards. This is the Vicky Pollard uniform for schools.”
A mother added: “This must be the only school in the country where they don’t have to get changed for PE. It is crackers.”
The rule would apply to the 60 pupils in reception classes out of the school’s 300-strong population. Headteacher Corinne Penhale claimed it was a commonsense decision as a large part of schooling for reception class children involved activities and “learning through play”.
She said: “We therefore advised parents that reception children, both boys and girls, should wear jogging bottoms during the school day.
“This is our preference and therefore it was stated in our school prospectus. However, we did state at our recent new starters parent’s evening and on our open days for reception children that if parents preferred to send their child in a dress or skirt, they were at liberty to do so.”