UK schools advised to drop 'Sir' and 'Miss' for gender-neutral language

The proposal to eliminate gendered language in schools has received a mixed reaction

UK schools told to drop 'Sir' and 'Miss' for gender-neutral terms
(Image credit: Getty)

Educators have been advised to drop 'Mr' and 'Mrs' in UK schools, as part of a new campaign to embrace a gender-neutral model in the classroom. 

Dr. Elly Barnes, the chief executive of the Educate & Celebrate charity, called for the traditional prefixes to be replaced by 'teacher' or 'headteacher' in the recent webinar, Getting the Language Right for 2022. The surname should follow the 'teacher', to avoid confusion with other staff, according to the National Education Union-funded training. 

In the 90-minute-long lecture, the LGBTQ+ activist also told participants that they should use gender-neutral terminology when referring to students by swapping 'boys' and 'girls' for 'pupils'. Dr. Barnes said that the approach was already being implemented in a number of UK schools and was "working well." 

Another suggestion made in the training was the adoption of gender-free uniforms, which would allow pupils the choice of wearing a skirt or trousers. This suggestion echoes the principles of Let Clothes be Clothes, a UK grassroots campaign set up in 2014 to call for the end of gender stereotypes in children's clothing. 

Dr. Barnes' recommendations have caused quite a stir online, with some folks expressing their concerns over the eradication of such familiar practices. 

School uniforms

Schools have been advised to different uniforms for boys and girls in a new teachers' training session 

(Image credit: Getty)

"How about let the teachers decide what they wish to be called? Teacher is so impersonal, I can't see my son's teacher liking that. She treats them like her family," one parent said on Twitter. 

Others agreed with the proposal, however, highlighting that similar approaches have already worked successfully in classrooms around the world. 

"Works fine for Japan, every teacher is Sensei and is still shown the respect they deserve," one person commented. 

This is far from the first time that UK schools have been encouraged to move towards a gender-neutral model. In 2019, the Liberal Democrats promised to legislate to revise England's 'out of date' uniform codes. Wales, meanwhile, is already ahead of the curve—adopting a gender-neutral uniform policy over two years ago. The strategy was introduced to allow children to express their gender identity more freely, in the hope of combatting the discrimination faced by many LGBTQ+ individuals in society. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.