Girls in shorts at MLC Kew

Girls at Methodist Ladies’ College in Kew are now permitted to wear shorts as part of their summer school uniform.

In response to student feedback, we are delighted to be adding shorts and a short-sleeve shirt option to our Summer academic uniform.

Both garments have been developed to work with existing uniform items and are similar to the MLC pants and winter shirt. Students have the flexibility to mix and match the various pieces from both the winter and summer uniforms in order to feel most comfortable.

Whilst it is important to have a unifying MLC uniform that students are proud to wear, we also support providing flexible options to suit each students’ individual preferences, much like they will encounter in their future careers, and to continue to support student input.


The girl who wore the “boys uniform” to school

Found on Twitter.

The school dress ‘debate’

Is the school dress ‘debate’ nonsense – just have a range of options, and let students choose? From The Conversation.

January 11, 2017

Lauren Rosewarne

For Australians growing up on a diet of American film and TV, seeing their parade of chic and shocking school outfits can only ever bristle. Here, uniform is king; over yonder it’s been a rarity since the 1960s.

In recent days a debate has been reignited about girls being “forced” to wear skirts and dresses to school. A debate that feels less like a gender firestorm and more like a disregard for history and widespread school policy.

2017 marks my 20th year out of high school; I finished with that whole shindig back in 1997. Twenty years ago, while my public school offered a delightfully fetching brown kilt or fawn shirt dress, we ladies could also don the charming green pants.

The idea that girls are being forced into chub-rub garments that they can’t easily run in seems to ignore the developments that have transpired in the great majority of schools over a great number of years. Options exist. Pick the slacks, pick the shorts. Alternate.

In researching this article I’ve spoken to friends who are teachers, school counsellors. Parents. In the private sector, in the public. No dress distress that I could locate. At all. I don’t doubt there are exceptions. To suggest, however, that there’s a widespread catastrophe here is folly.

I’m not, therefore, devoting 800 words to selling a case on why school dresses are or aren’t sexist. We’re in an education system where they aren’t commonly compulsory, so there’d be no point. This doesn’t, however, make them uninteresting. Particularly in our current social climate.

As a high schooler I vacillated between believing that having to wear the itchy green school jumper was malarkey, to actually enjoying not having to think about outfits. Sure, I likely harboured vague notions of wanting to “express” the blackness of my soul through apparel I’d self-selected, but even then I knew that having to do so daily would have soon worn thin.

Schools like uniforms for branding purposes. For social cohesion. For classroom control. In a world of teenagers with beards and boobs, they also likely help distinguish teachers from the underlings.

Parents equally favour the fixed costs, the dodged drama about fitting in, the avoided arguments.

In 2017 the uniform story has become complicated, but not because of the mystical properties of any specific garment in a school’s ensemble. Rather, we’re at the part in our social journey where the individual is king. Where freedom of expression consumes more oxygen than all those economic and social factors that once justified the uniform.

I’m not going to write an identity politics essay. It’s January and I’m saving my energies for the start of the academic year when I’ll have to have the debate weekly with my Gender Studies students. Instead, I’ll focus on policy. On how schools can best handle this issue.

Just as Australians don’t really want to steal any of the prom king/homecoming queen/school shooting hideousness from the US education system, my guess is that there’s little impetus here to abandon uniforms. With the endless parade of stories about leggings bans and spaghetti strap scandals, I dare say most Australian schools aren’t the least bit interested in that whole can o’ worms.

So the question that remains is whether uniforms can continue to serve their purpose(s) in a world in where the concept of a “male uniform” and a “female uniform” is complicated, if not even passé, and in a culture that is – rightly – trying to meet the needs of students who don’t always identify as either.

Students not identifying as male, as female, shouldn’t be forced into apparel based on their name or their genitals or their haircut or any of the other markers we used to control gender. Doing so is not only oppressive but will create the capacity for litigation. Something schools most certainly want to avoid.

So the solution – the path of least change, least legal quagmire – is so simple it seems extraordinary that the conversation is still being had. Just have a range of sanctioned options.

Approve the dresses and the blazers and the jumper and the slacks. List the items that constitute the school’s uniform and allow the students to pick. It needn’t be more complicated than this. Get rid of the “girls” list, abandon the “boys” list, and just have a list of approved apparel.

If the primary mission of schools is education, if the primary function of uniforms is cohesion, schools need to enable students – all students – to feel included so that they can concentrate on the learning. The rest is politics and wasted breath.

Mandatory shorts and pants for schoolgirls

Instead of just adding shorts and pants to the school uniform options, Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School has remove skirts and dresses from the uniform list for kindergarten and year 1 students.

23 October 2018

Melbourne school makes shorts and pants mandatory to encourage girls to exercise

A Melbourne school has made shorts and pants mandatory to encourage physical activity and play among young girls.

Kindergarten and year 1 students at Lowther Hall Anglican grammar school in Essendon have ditched school uniform dresses and skirts. The school is believed to be one of the first private schools in the state to make the uniform change for its junior primary female pupils.

The school’s principal, Elisabeth Rhodes, said the school had reviewed its uniform wardrobe to make it more fit for purpose.

Girls had previously reported feeling self-conscious and inhibited by dresses and skirts while they were playing and some were choosing to sit and talk instead.

Rhodes reflected on her own schoolgirl days doing gymnastics manoeuvres.

“I was a cartwheeler, I do remember the dress flying up over my head, as well as when you were spinning around on the monkey bars or doing handstands, you were always worried about your dress falling down,” she told the Guardian.

Rhodes said there was strong support from girls and parents behind the move, and they had some input into the design.

“It’s a beautiful uniform even though it is less formal in the early years,” she said.

School principals were conscious of the importance of physical activity not just for warding off childhood obesity but also for good mental health.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if more schools were looking to adopt uniforms that would promote engagement in physical activity,” Rhodes said.

Eveline Jona from the Victorian Parents Council – a lobby group for parents who send children to non-government schools – said it was important for schools to balance issues such as physical and mental health with freedom of choice.

Her organisation encouraged schools to consult their community before making key policy decisions on topics such as school uniform.

The Victorian state government last year sought to give female students at public schools the option to opt for pants and shorts over dresses and skirts.

Next year Queensland public school girls will also have broader uniform choice.

In New South Wales and Western Australia, public schools have also followed suit.

Girls in shorts at Barker College

Girls at Barker College in Sydney are now permitted to wear shorts as part of their school uniform.

February 2019

‘They love them’: the shorts dilemma facing private schools

By Jordan Baker

During a visit to an interstate school, one comment stopped Barker headmaster Phillip Heath in his tracks. “One of the girls said to me, ‘I love to play chasings, and I can’t in this dress’. It was because the dress was too narrow in the knees.”

In 20 years, no-one had asked the girls what they thought of their uniform, and they’d become resigned to it. “I don’t want that [at Barker],” Mr Heath said. “If a girl wants to play chasings, no garment from the school will prevent that.”

After a change to uniform policy last year, NSW public schools are now required to offer shorts and trouser options to girls. But the edict doesn’t cover private schools, and many in Sydney are reluctant to follow suit.

For most, the tradition is the stumbling block; any proposal to change a uniform sparks passion from alumni, students and parents. “You dissatisfy everybody, that’s one of the reasons why … it’s easier to leave them alone,” Mr Heath said.

As pressure grows, some are considering a change. Barker introduced shorts this year. Ravenswood will consult its students this term. MLC has changed uniform suppliers to allow it to “look at the direction for our uniform in the future”.

Yet many private girls’ schools did not answer the Herald’s query or said they had no plans for pants. Presbyterian Ladies College said it would continue to offer shorts only as part of its sports uniform due to tradition and the school’s “rich Scottish heritage”.

Alison Boston from the Girls’ Uniform Agenda said schools should prioritise girls’ comfort over tradition. “You can’t say that the rights of girls are less important,” she said.

“We certainly don’t advocate for removing dresses or skirts, if that’s not what the girls want. But it’s about having schools represent society. In society, woman can choose from shorts, dresses, pants, to suit what they are doing.”

When Barker College began its transition from a boys’-only school to co-ed in its junior ranks (it has long had female students in its senior school), it took the opportunity to review the uniform.

Mr Heath called in designer Jonathan Ward, who has created uniforms for Loreto Kirribilli, Meriden and St Andrews Cathedral school, among others, and began a two-year process of consultation.

He wanted a a uniform that combines tradition with a “level of formality that is still comfortable,” and allows young men and women to “express their identity without gender intruding unhelpfully and emphatically”.

A committee consulted students, alumni, parents (future and present), and neighbours. It laid out patterns on floors, tested samples on students, explored fabric weights and tried out different layering options.

“For every ten people, there were 15 opinions, and those opinions would change,” said Mr Heath.

It also discovered 22 different shades of red in existing uniforms and accessories, which it narrowed down to two.

Finally, it came up with a uniform incorporates the traditional Barker stripe into a uniform that uses a modern design, with “trans-seasonal” layering options, as well as trouser and shorts options for junior girls who want them.

From next year, pants will be offered to senior girls as well. “The girls were extremely eager that we introduced pants and short options,” said Mr Heath.

“They didn’t commit to always wearing those things, but they wanted the choice, and I’m all for it.”

When Mr Ward began designing uniforms 20 years ago, girls did not embrace pants on the rare occasions they had the option. But these days, “they love them,” he said.

“It’s so important for these kids to feel comfortable, and feel they have some choice.”

Pants for Santa Sabina College

Girls at Santa Sabina College in Sydney are now offered the option of wearing pants or shorts as part of their school uniform.

March 2018

Power move: Why this Sydney private school is suiting up its girls

By Jenny Noyes

Sydney’s most prestigious private girls’ schools talk the talk about empowerment, but when it comes to their uniforms, very few are walking the walk in a pair of pants.

Santa Sabina College, an independent Catholic girls’ high school in Strathfield (and co-ed primary school), is set to break with tradition next term when it joins just a handful of private schools across the city to offer pants and shorts to all female students.

It’s part of a major uniform overhaul that will also see the main school uniform colour change from green to black. The result is a sleek, almost corporate-looking suit, for those who choose to wear the long trousers with a blazer and white shirt.

Year 10 student Grace said she’s looking forward to a more “grown-up” uniform that will be less restrictive, especially for her drama classes.

“If you’re performing a scene or doing any kind of activity that requires a lot of movement then you do feel quite self-conscious [in a dress],” she said.

“We’re now wearing clothes that we could wear in the workplace and in our adult lives. I would feel a lot more grown up in the new senior uniform than the kilt, because it’s a lot more modern.”

The school has ditched its traditional tartan kilt, which has upset some parents and former students, but the option remains for girls to wear a skirt or dress if they want to.

Santa Sabina College Principal Dr Maree Herrett said the most controversial update to the uniform was not the addition of pants, but the colour change – and losing the kilt.

“It was a combination of going back to our roots even while we were breaking with tradition in other ways; looking at fabrics that would suit our climate – the kilt was brought in in 1976, and I’d like to compare the summer temperatures then and now.

Though she said offering girls pants is “hardly revolutionary”, Dr Herrett acknowledged it would make a big difference for many, both in terms of physical comfort and self-expression.

“We want girls to be comfortable … I think with the littler girls particularly, to run around the playground, to turn upside-down and all that.

“We’ve always had a variety of gender expression in schools … what I think we’re recognising is that there has always been a variety of ways of expressing your femininity or your masculinity.”

For students who might be questioning their gender, she added, it’s also a way to “make the journey a little bit more comfortable for them”.

Few girls are wearing the pants in Sydney
Fairfax Media looked at the current uniform policies of more than 100 non-government schools across Sydney, and found just two other independent schools that offer pants or shorts to female students as part of the regular (non-sport) uniform.

They are International Grammar School, a secular, co-ed school in Ultimo that offers uniform options of dresses, skirts, pants and shorts to all students; and St Catherine’s School in Waverley, an Anglican girls’ school that introduced shorts in 1998, with a “designer” uniform offering students “a range of options so each girl can reflect her personal style”.

There were also a handful of Catholic systemic schools allowing girls to wear pants, although for the most part the privilege only extended to those in year 11 and 12 – or as part of the winter uniform, for warmth.

Not all NSW government schools offer girls the option of pants and shorts, either.

Last year, a Riverstone parent who wanted her daughters to be able to wear pants to John Palmer Public School had to take the matter to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board before the school made the change. Melissa Mibus told the Rouse Hill Courier at the time: “It’s a sad reflection because the school has so many wonderful attributes.”

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said it is “common sense” that girls should have the option to wear shorts or pants as their school uniform, and he has asked the NSW Department of Education to review its policy of allowing individual schools to choose whether or not they do.

Last year, Western Australia made it mandatory for all government schools to offer the option of pants and shorts to female students, following a campaign by advocacy group Girls’ Uniform Agenda. Victoria vowed to do the same.

A spokeswoman for the group said Santa Sabina’s move represents “a significant step forward” by providing a strong example, especially to other non-government schools.

“Private and Catholic schools in particular have held on to time-old traditions requiring girls to wear dresses and skirts, when our modern times dictate that girls should have the right to choose what they are comfortable wearing, including the option of shorts or pants,” she said.

“This needs to change. Santa Sabina is leading by example … and its competitor schools should take note.”

As for student Grace, she’s proud to be blazing a trail. “We are one of the first to put students’ learning and comfort ahead of strict tradition, which I think is really good,” she said.

Pants at Avila College

In 2017 Avila College announced that they would soon be adding shorts to their summer uniform and trousers to the winter uniform.

October 18 2017

School Uniform

Parents and students would be aware that increasingly schools are reconsidering features of their school uniform to ensure a variety of options are available to students.

One feature is the inclusion of dress shorts and a shirt for the summer uniform and trousers with the winter uniform.

We are currently trialling some of these options and will provide more information in the coming months as we continue to work with students around these changes.

When decisions are finalised a full uniform list will be published via the school newsletter.

Ms Janine Bauman
Deputy Principal Students