A SCHOOL head has been accused of "body shaming" after suggesting to children in an assembly that girls above a size eight to ten should not wear short, tight skirts.

Anne Malcolm was trying to get the message across to pupils not to wear lycra tube skirts to school as they are not part of the uniform.

However, she caused anger among parents and pupils when she said: "I am not a size eight to ten, I wouldn't wear one."

Mrs Malcolm, who says she is a size 16, argued that her comments have been misunderstood.

But pupils at Manor Community Academy in Hartlepool say her comments reinforced negative stereotypes about young women and are demanding an apology.

One 13-year-old girl in year eight said: "I'm not a skinny girl but I think I should still be able to wear a pencil skirt if I want to.

"The principal wasn't thinking about how she might make girls feel when she said that, it wasn't the right message."

A mother with a daughter in Year 7 said: "I think there should be a proper apology because that comment will give girls the wrong image about themselves.

"I know that she meant well and she was trying to make a point about the uniform but any mother of a teenage girl knows how worried they are about their appearance.

"What she said only makes them feel more aware of their appearance when they should be thinking about their schoolwork. She made the issue about size when it was actually about standards."

Another mum said: "There has been a lot of talk about this on social media from the girls, a lot of them are very angry.

"No one doubts the head's good intentions, short skirts pulled up that far are not appropriate for school, but she went about it the wrong way."

Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO of the charity Kidscape, which campaigns for children to have a healthy body image, said: 'We can all remember as teens feeling acutely sensitive about our body image.

"This is ramped up today with pressure to have the perfect Instagram look.

"Teens cite 'looks' as one of the main reasons for being bullied and so they need their teachers to be their champions. You don't enforce rules by body shaming." 

A school spokesman said: "The principal’s comment was made during an assembly aimed at reminding students about uniform guidelines where the wearing of make-up, jewellery and short skirts is not permitted.

"Lycra tube skirts are not part of the uniform and a small number of students have been wearing these skirts and at an inappropriately short length during the school day.

"The academy has a robust policy of care and welfare for its students, promoting healthy lifestyles and positive body image for all students."