PE in underwear row: Adviser hits back at Telford school calling it ‘1960s shame-based practice’

By Dominic Robertson | Telford | Education | Published:

A school's decision to allow children to take part in PE wearing underpants was ‘misguided’ and reminiscent of a ‘1960s shame-based practice’, according to a local education adviser.

Sir Alexander Fleming School in Sutton Hill. Photo: Google StreetView

Sarah Morgan, specialist adviser for education and children’s social care at Shropshire Academy and Learning Trust, has questioned Telford & Wrekin Council’s ‘normalising’ of the decision taken at Sir Alexander Fleming Primary School last month.

She said: “For Telford and Wrekin Council to claim that ‘getting children who have forgotten their PE kit to do the class in their underwear happens every day across the country’, not only serves to ‘normalise’ the event, but also minimises the potential impact that this may have had on the child/children and families concerned.”

The comments came after a parent complained that her daughter had taken part in a PE lesson in her underwear.

The school responded by saying that the seven-year-old pupils were given the option of taking part in the lesson in their underwear, or remaining in the classroom.

Jan Cousins, headteacher of Sir Alexander Fleming Primary, said: “There were many children who had no PE Kit on Wednesday afternoon.

“These children were given the option of remaining in class or, for health and safety reasons, removing their trousers and shoes in order to take part. All of the children who had no PE kit voluntarily decided to take part in the PE lesson.”

Telford & Wrekin Council supported the actions, adding in a statement: “This was a decision taken on the day by staff at a particular school based on the fact that the pupils in question had indicated they did want to take part in the PE lesson.

“I understand that all the pupils concerned enjoyed the lesson.


“There is no national guidance on the subject but pragmatic decisions like this are taken every day in schools up and down the country.”

Ms Morgan disputed the claim and said the practice is not commonplace.

She said: “Why would both Sir Alexander Fleming Primary and Telford and Wrekin Council seek to ‘normalise’ and ‘minimise’ the recent feelings of concern raised by an upset parent relating to children allegedly being requested to take part in PE in their underwear?

“As a former headteacher, designated safeguarding lead and specialist school improvement partner, I want to reassure parents of children that attend schools across the country, that this is not common practice in our schools.


Ms Morgan said she believed the school should reconsider the decision and rethink its policy for the future.

She said: “PE is a very important part of the curriculum, but sadly this 1960s shame-based practice only serves to undermine the importance of PE, whilst humiliating children within an already power imbalanced relationship.

“This school have seemingly been misguided in their decision-making process, and I would recommend that the head teacher seeks independent advice to review the safeguarding and allegations management procedures for the school, in line with Keeping Children Safe in Education and Working Together to Safeguard Children. (DfE)

“Professional mediation to support parental engagement and educational stability for the child/children concerned will reassure parents and children that the school is able to openly reflect and learn from the decision taken.

“I have two questions to leave you with; 1. Would this be okay if it were your child, a child in your care or a pupil in your school? 2. Would this have happened if Ofsted had been inspecting this school on the day in question?.”


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