Late last year, Eastwood Academy in Southend, Essex hit the headlines when it announced it is to ban skirts from this September. The head, Neil Houchen, duly did the rounds in the papers and on local radio claiming widespread support for his actions. That looked very dubious at the time and the evidence that has emerged since proves the case,

The school’s claim of support was based on its ‘survey’ of parents, pupils and staff. It claimed a 30% return rate from parents and presumably at least that rate from pupils, which would mean teachers would have been very much a minority. The ‘survey’ consisted of five leading questions (see here), which were clearly set up to produce a predetermined result. According to information on the school website there was no ‘do you think skirts should be banned?’ question.

Anyone who knows anything about surveys knows that you can get almost any result you want by asking the right leading questions, as this clip from Yes Prime Minister neatly illustrates (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA). Moreover agreeing that ‘a short skirt length compromises the decency and modest of a child’ in no way implies agreeing with a ban.

All that is old news. The new aspect has to do with nearby Cecil Jones College, which, inspired by the politically correct Eastwood flirted with a ban itself. To that end it also ran a survey consisting of exactly the same five leading questions followed by a sixth – ‘I am in favour of a trouser-only policy’. The results of the final question are below.

Again don’t forget about the leading questions. Were they replaced with ones like ‘do you think children respond to discipline?’. ‘do you think it shows extreme weakness when a school does not enforce its own rules?’ and ‘do you think anti-sexist degendering should be a school priority?‘, there would have been a near unanimous ‘no’ response to the final question.

Two other quick points about the survey replies – hardly any parents responded, which means it cannot have been properly promoted and the replies they did get probably reflect a small hard core on either side. Secondly look how lopsided the teacher numbers are. Clear support for a trousers-only policy for female staff me thinks.

Anyway the point is did Eastwood also ask a ban question and then suppress the results? My guess is they did and it did not go their way. They have not replied to my Freedom of Information request beyond a courtesy saying they would. Why do that if you have nothing to hide? If that is what happened then there should be serious consequences for the head and for the governors.