Sandringham College in uproar over uniform call

In 2015 Sandringham College introduced school uniforms at the senior campus, causing uproar among students.

August 2014

Sandringham College in uproar over uniform call

By Jewel Topsfield

On Jacqui Beaman’s first day at “Sandy,” as Sandringham College is affectionately known, an openly gay student with acrylic nails and a Lady Gaga jumper walked her to class.

“He was telling me how wonderful it was that he could wear casual clothes and he felt able to express himself in that way,” Jacqui, now in year 12, says.

For Jacqui, and many other current and former students, the casual dress policy at Sandringham’s senior campus is a fundamental part of the young-adult learning environment that makes the school unique.

They say it is synonymous with the culture of Sandy, where students are encouraged to be individuals, teachers are addressed by their first names and no one is shut down for having an opinion.

“Everyone’s able to find their own niche at this school,” says year 11 student Lucy Wohnsdorf. “I used to go to another school and everyone was very much pressured to conform and look the same.”

So when principal Allen McAuliffe announced last month a formal uniform would be introduced in years 7 to 11 and a dress code in year 12, there was an uproar.

Within days the Facebook page Say No to Uniforms at Sandringham College Senior campus has accrued more than 1000 “likes” and a petition on by former student Courtney Waters has 750 signatures.

In a letter to the school council president, signed by 26 staff from the senior campus, teacher Robert Neale argued that a uniform was “a device that is primarily designed to de-humanise”.

He said this was in direct contradiction to the philosophy of US researcher and educator George Otero, who said that schools should be about the humans within them and the relationships between these people.

“It’s no coincidence that our Celebration Days at Sandringham are generally peaceful, very different from the cathartic affairs we often see at other schools,” Mr Neale wrote.

“The logic is simple – give people fewer things to rebel against and treat them like adults and they won’t feel the need to let off steam in anti-social ways at the end of the year.”

Sandringham College became a three campus school in the late 1980s after a merger between Beaumaris, Highett, and Hampton high schools and Sandringham Technical School.

The school’s famed performing arts and music programs attract students from all over Melbourne, with alumni including playwright and actor Tobias Manderson-Galvin, singer Stella Angelico, The Voice contestant Harrison Craig, and actor Damien Brodie.

But in recent years the run-down Beaumaris campus has haemorrhaged students, sparking a community campaign to turn the campus into a stand-alone 7 to 12 school.

In a letter to parents, Mr McAuliffe said Sandringham College was a “dynamic, vibrant place”, involved in programs such as the World Challenge and overseas trips to its sister school in Britain, Springwood High.

He said it had “amazing” dance performances and its arts programs were recognised state-wide.

The school would also introduce a select-entry program for academically gifted students in 2015.

However Mr McAuliffe said the lack of uniforms was raised on many occasions during consultations on the school’s future direction.

“In every [local] primary school the lack of uniform on the senior campus and the style of uniform for 7-10 was a constant theme in discussions,” Mr McAuliffe wrote. “It has been incumbent on us to work through this matter.”

Mr McAuliffe told Fairfax Media that the school “absolutely” listened to the feedback of students. He said the majority supported a new uniform for years 7 to 10 and a review of the dress code for the senior campus.

He said an updated uniform policy will not change the school’s emphasis on individuality, creativity and maturity.

“The young adult environment we believe will be enhanced. Teachers will still be on a first-name basis – my name will still be Allen – the relationships will still be the same. We think that the changes we are making are all for the positive.”

Last month the school council voted to move away from polo shirts and windcheaters in years 7 to 10 and introduce a blazer and tie. From 2016, year 11 students will also be required to wear the uniform. A dress code will apply for year 12 students, with a review at the end of 2016 to decide whether they too should wear the uniform.

“It was clear to council that this step needed to be taken if the overall college was going to be in tune with community expectations,” Mr McAuliffe wrote to parents.

But year 12 student Jakob Dillon says there are plenty of private schools in the area, including Mentone Grammar, Haileybury, Kilbreda College and St Bede’s College, for those who want blazers and ties.

He argues that Sandringham College provides an alternative and it will lose its market advantage if it mimics what private schools do.

“Sandringham has a very different purpose and they are trying to throw that away to move into a market that is already saturated.”

The special culture at Sandringham College comes up again and again on the Facebook page.

Former student Tahnee Brotherton, who commuted from Pakenham every day, says the school was the answer to her prayers.

“Sandy is a place to celebrate your individuality and we shouldn’t destroy this nurturing environment by turning it into every other school,” she writes.

“I feel uniforms would be the beginning of ruining this unique school.”

Who designs school uniforms?

March 2017

Nothing uniform about school uniforms now

By Sue Williams

Trousers for girls. Swim shorts for boys. Unisex shirts. And hoodies now often for both sexes.

School uniforms are finally being updated, with a number of schools across Australia listening to the views of students and their parents, and redesigning their uniforms to suit kids’ changing needs.

And the drivers of this modernisation vary wildly: From young people increasingly dealing with their own gender issues to body shapes that have altered dramatically through the generations, from cultural concerns all the way to global warming disrupting weather patterns.

“School uniforms do date and a lot are often no longer appropriate to students’ ages, figure types or to the times,” says couture designer Jonathan Ward, who’s increasingly being called in by schools to revamp their uniforms.

“Young people today are very different to how they were 30 years ago, both physically and mentally. Girls develop younger, boys are taller, and they both need to be provided with clothing that suits different body types and makes them feel comfortable and confident so they perform better at school.”

Kids now typically grow 3-4cm taller than their parents, with puberty beginning much earlier; from 12 and a half for girls, who often also have breasts developing from the age of seven. In addition, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a quarter of children aged 5-17 are now overweight or obese.

Many are also struggling with their own gender identities so the option of trousers and shorts for girls, blouses and shirts that look similar and more unisex items gives students more choice.

Phillip Heath, head of Sydney’s Barker College, who has hired Ward to redesign its red and blue uniforms, says: “Allowing students a choice is, I reckon, the answer to the whole gender identity question.

“It’s important not to engineer children’s lives at a very complex time of their emerging identity but to allow them choices and a kind of wriggle-room that’s so important as they explore who they are.”

At Melbourne’s Wesley College, principal Dr Helen Drennen, also in the process of introducing a new uniform in traditional purple and gold, agrees. “Having mix and match options, as well as gender-neutral clothes, is important,” she says. “They work for boys as well as girls and cross-gender students. We haven’t had a case of a boy choosing to wear a girl’s summer dress because we’ve got options that give our student population a level of comfort.”

While independent and private schools often commission named designers to draw up changes to their uniforms, most public schools in NSW and Victoria tend not to go to that expense. Although Balmain High School in Sydney used a Mambo print for its school uniform in 1993, most rely on school uniform suppliers’ in-house designers to either suggest updates or they choose from online catalogues.

“We don’t like to talk publicly about that service,” says the managing director of one major uniform suppliers. “The schools themselves like us to be discreet.”

But Dianne Giblin, CEO of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, says that most updates result from pressure from students. “One school in western Sydney always had bottle-green trousers but the kids all started wearing black, so in the end the school agreed to change the uniform to black,” she says.

“Lots of the white shirts have gone too and are being replaced by polo shirts or T-shirts with the school’s emblem or monogram on as they’re easier. And most of the public schools now allow girls to wear trousers or shorts as that’s what they themselves want to wear as it’s a lot more practical.”

Barker College’s Heath believes there is a link between uniforms and the learning process.

“We now know that activity, and kinaesthetic experiences [learning by students carrying out physical activities rather than passively listening to lectures] augments brain function,” Heath says. “If you’re going to solve a complex maths problem or learn a foreign language, then the best thing is to go for a run beforehand.

“So a uniform needs to fit that kind of purpose too, as well as helping boys and girls feel as though they belong, and are proud of the school. It has to be comfortable to move around in, role-play and interact in small groups, so students can enjoy the whole range of learning experiences, especially as the climate appears to be getting hotter.”

As a result, most of the new, revamped uniforms are being made from much more contemporary blended fabrics, which tend to be lighter, more durable, stretchier and easier to care for.White shirts are also frequently giving way to coloured, striped or patterned shirts which can look smarter for longer, and don’t show off girls’ bras beneath.

Wesley College students are enthusiastic about their new uniforms, both academic and sporting, after a long series of consultations with pupils, parents and the community to replace the early 1990s uniform designed by Prue Acton.

“Many of the basic uniform designs came to Australia from independent schools in the UK, and they don’t fit an Australian environment and climate,” Drennen says. “So we needed a generational change with a more contemporary and forward-thinking feel.

“Students wear clothes differently now, so they’ll now have the opportunity to layer their uniform with more options. In the past, they just had a school jumper but now they’ll have a cardigan and vest as well as a jumper especially when the weather now is so unpredictable.”

Justin Garrick, the head of school at Canberra Grammar School, says Australian schools have generally fallen behind contemporaries in Britain, which gave us those original uniforms. Canberra has just replaced the old khaki shorts and long socks with modern silt-coloured shorts and ankle socks.

“Our uniform would have had its origins in Britain but, having worked in the UK for 13 years before coming back here, I saw that British uniforms moved on a long time ago,” he says. “But often Australian schools have hung on to styles that have long gone in the UK.

“In our case, we knew that not many of our students are going to grow up to wear knee-high socks, so it was time for a look that was more professional, smarter, sharper and more modern. We’ve been really keen to put more choice in too. Gender issues were also a part of our thinking in building more unisex items that can be worn by both boys and girls.”

His school has also introduced a hijab, or headscarf, that can be worn by girls who would like to, while Wesley College has a long, dark aubergine tunic option.

“It’s important that students feel like they belong, but not lose their own identity,” says Barker College’s Heath.

“We need to cater for a diverse population and be inclusive, as well as understanding the realities of early onset maturation.”

While the new uniforms all tend to be respectful to the old, with similar colours, crests and looks, it’s now all about making kids feel relaxed and comfortable, says Mr Ward.

“Girls can be self-conscious in a dress; some of the old trouser designs were pretty unflattering for boys,” he says. “But you look at how they dress on the weekends, and how they feel in those looks and fabrics, and design clothes that might feel similar – and won’t distract from their studies, their play and their understanding of what life is all about.”

New uniforms for Firbank Grammar School

Kit Willow, one of Australia’s top fashion designers, is designing a new uniform for Firbank Grammar School in Brighton.

January 2019

Private school taps top fashion designer to overhaul uniform

Melissa Singer

One of Australia’s top fashion designers is taking on her biggest challenge yet: making a school uniform that’s sustainable, affordable and comfortable.

Kit Willow, who last year was part of a Commonwealth Fashion Exchange to London, where she met the Duchess of Cambridge, is giving a makeover to the uniform of one of Melbourne’s most prestigious schools, Firbank Grammar School in Brighton.

The school has a co-ed primary division and a girls’ high school. Willow, whose label is KitX, is overhauling the current look, which has been in place for more than 15 years.

“Uniforms have an average life of 18 months because children grow, they get worn every day and sometimes washed every day,” Willow, a fierce sustainability advocate, said.

Willow agreed to the project on several conditions: she could choose the fabrics, including “upcycled” polyester, which is less harmful to the environment than virgin materials, and the school must agree to educate parents and students about the toxicity of the mainstream fashion industry.

“When you wash polyester or a blend, they give off tiny fibres into the ocean that cause massive problems for marine life,” Willow, a mother-of-two, said.

“When new nylon is created, it gives off nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more toxic than carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. New uniforms are … wrapped in ‘a million’ layers of plastic, and then when they are washed frequently, they give off microparticles, then when they are discarded … they never, ever break down.”

Firbank Grammar principal Jenny Williams embraced the opportunity to partner with a sustainability warrior, after discussing a uniform overhaul with Dobsons, one of Australia’s longest-running uniform wholesalers.

“It was really important I had a woman working with me, because it’s about positive role models for the senior girls,” Mrs Williams said.

Willow said that at first, Dobsons “had such little awareness about fashion’s impact. Now they know, they are so excited”. And there is plenty of potential for other schools to follow Firbank’s lead.

“Hopefully it’s a game-changer,” Willow said. “Quite quickly, you can have an impact. It’s not one customer buying, it’s like boom, one school done. It’s thousands of students, quickly.”

Mrs Williams said Willow’s brief was to maintain the heritage of the uniforms, including the school colours, but with a signature KitX spin. She acknowledged that some pieces will rise in cost, but that the school community was committed to the project. The uniforms could be rolled out as early as the second half of 2019.

“For all of us, it’s an important decision. Younger people are aware of the really cheap brands popping out ‘disposable’ clothes, and how unethically they are produced. With a uniform, you don’t have lots of pieces, you wear it every day.”

Willow joins a long list of well-known designers to have worked on school uniform projects, including Jonathan Ward, who has designed uniforms for several Sydney schools including Loreto, Kirribilli and St Andrew’s Cathedral School.

New uniform at Penola Catholic College

In 2013 Penola Catholic College unveiled an updated school uniform featuring new summer dress and winter skirt patters. Students changed to the new uniform during a four year transition period.

August 2013


As you may be aware, we have recently consulted on changes to our school uniform. The following changes have been ratified by the Board of Penola Catholic College for implementation commencing the 2014 school year.

The new uniform will be phased in over a number of years; with all students required to be wearing the new uniform for the commencement of the 2016 school year.

First Phase: 2014
• All Year 7 Students and students new to the College must wear the new uniform.
• All Year 11 students to wear the new College Senior Blazer (The senior jumper and other items are optional).

All other students may wear the current uniform as long as it is in good repair and fits appropriately but must purchase all new items no later than the 2016 school year.

• All Year 7 & 8 Students and students new to the College must wear the new uniform.
• All Year 11 & 12 students to wear the new College Senior Blazer (The senior jumper and other items are optional).
• Students in other year levels who have had need to purchase any new uniform items.

All students attending Penola Catholic College are to be wearing the new uniform.

Discontinued items will no longer be accepted / available for sale by the Second hand Uniform Shop.

Our Official Uniform Suppliers for 2014 are Academy Uniforms. However for students not required to be in our new uniform in 2014 items of our existing uniform can still be purchased from Lowes.

UNIFORM ITEMS THAT HAVE BEEN CHANGED: The following outlines what uniform items have been changed:

♦ Senior Blazer (Years 11 & 12)
♦ Senior Jumper (Years 11 & 12)
♦ College Summer Dress
♦ College Winter Skirt
♦ Girls Blouse
♦ Boys Pants
♦ Boys Shorts
♦ PE Track Pants / PE Track Top
♦ Rugby Top
♦ Sports Shorts
♦ Sports Polo Top
♦ Boys & Girls Bathers

January 2015

The new uniform will be phased in over a number of years with all students required to be wearing the new uniform for the commencement of the 2016 school year.

– All Year 7 & 8 students and student new to the College must wear the new uniform
– All Year 11 & 12 students to wear the new College Senior Blazer (The senior jumper and other items are optional)

All other students may wear the current uniform as long as it is in good repair and fits appropriately but must purchase all new items no later than the 2016 school year.

November 2015

Changes to Uniform in 2016 for Year 10

As a result of significant feedback from parents we have decided to delay the introduction of the new winter uniform for Year 10 Students next year.

Given the cost associated with purchasing a laptop as well as the new uniform, we are asking Year 10 parents to purchase the new summer uniform for the beginning of 2016 and many parents have already done this.

Our school photographs take place early in Term 1, 2016 so it would be great to have all students in the new uniform.

For Years 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 all items of the new uniform are to be purchased for next year. A reminder that the
tracksuit pants are optional; the Penola bathers are optional (navy blue one piece bathers as alternative) and Year 10 students can purchase the navy blazer (optional) if they wish.

One of the initiatives that the PSC set during 2015 was to hold a uniform drive, donating items of uniform that are being phased out. As all families should know, the new Penola uniform will be required as of January 2016, and we, the student leadership team, believe that sending our uniforms, would benefit the needy and disadvantaged in our society.

Therefore, it is an opportune time to send our old uniforms to the Nepalese community to assist in their time of crisis after the two devastating earthquakes earlier this year. The PSC is asking for your assistance in supporting this initiative by donating the items of uniform that students have either grown out of, or are simply in good condition but no longer required/current for 2016.

The items that may be donated:
– Maroon Blazers
– Navy Blazers
– Old ties
– Boys trousers (without the embroidered PCC)
– Shorts (without the embroidered PCC)
– Old girls dresses
– Plain maroon sports t-shirts
– Sports track pants and shorts (plain navy without the burgundy piping)
– Sports rugby jumper (with tri colour horizontal stripes)
– Any other outgrown Penola uniform that would instead be thrown away

Before donating, please ensure that the items you wish to donate are not required for 2016 and have been superseded by the new uniform.

We understand that this initiative has been introduced quite early, however with
Term 3 coming to a close, many girls’ winter skirts particularly will no longer be
appropriate for 2016

February 2016

From the first school day of 2016, all students must wear the new style uniform. The old style uniform is no longer accepted to be sold by the Second Hand Uniform Shop.

October 2017

At this stage the following changes have been suggested to the current uniform. Girls Summer Uniform to include navy shorts and the white short sleeved shirt. We are also looking at the optional introduction of navy skins to the Sports uniform. As many of you will have noticed, our students are reluctant to wear the navy track pants so navy skins worn underneath the existing sports uniform may enable students to stay warmer in the winter months.

New uniform at Kilbreda College

In 2014 Kilbreda College unveiled an updated school uniform featuring the new colours of charcoal grey and deep maroon. Girls changed to the new uniform during a two year transition period. As part of this change, the school also switched from brown school shoes to black.

The winter uniform features a charcoal grey blazer and jumper with maroon trim, matched with a grey and maroon pinstripe skirt, candy striped shirt, and a crossover tie. The new summer dress has white, grey and maroon stripes.

September 2014

During the transition phase to the new uniform, students are to wear either a complete set of old or new uniform. There is to be no mixing and matching.

There is one exception with respect to footwear. New socks (white) and new shoes (black leather lace up) may be worn with either the old or new summer uniform. New socks (black) or new tights (black) and new shoes (black leather lace ups) may be worn with either the old or new winter uniform.

June 2016

Thank-you to all families and students who consistently meet the College’s expectations with respect to the correct wearing of the summer and winter uniforms. The transition period between old and new uniform has presented its challenges and as always we are grateful for the support that we receive from our families.

School holidays provide time to take stock and tend to the tasks that busy terms sideline. Therefore we encourage all students to review their winter and summer uniforms, ensuring that skirt and dress lengths are no shorter than above the knee, blazers are clean and pressed and shoes polished.

A reminder that all students in Years 7 to 10 are required to wear the new uniform from the beginning of 2017.

New uniform at Salesian College Sunbury

Salesian College Sunbury introduced a new school uniform in 2017, to be introduced over a six year period. The previous light blue checked pattern on the summer dress has been replaced by a dark blue pinstripe, and the navy and yellow tartan patterned on the winter skirt has been replaced by more navy and yellow pinstripes.


In 2017, we saw the College introduce a new College uniform. This uniform we we rolled out over a period
of time to allow existing students to continue to wear the existing College uniform.
• All Year 7 students and Year 8 students are to wear the new rebranded College Uniform
• All current Year 9 to Year 12 students will continue to wear the existing College Uniform
• New students coming to the College in Years 9 through to Year 12 are to purchase the new rebranded
College uniform.
• There will be no mix and match of the existing branded and new rebranded uniform items.

The transition from old to new uniforms will take place over six years.

Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Year 7 New New New New New New
Year 8 Existing New New New New New
Year 9 Existing Existing New New New New
Year 10 Existing Existing Existing New New New
Year 11 Existing Existing Existing Existing New New
Year 12 Existing Existing Existing Existing Existing New

Sent home on first day of new uniform

Victoria University Secondary College was founded in 2010 by the amalgamation of two local secondary schools. A new uniform was created with a three year changeover period. In 2013 a number of students were sent home for wearing the uniforms from their former schools.

February 1, 2013

A senior student has hit back at readers who say a school was right to send students home for wearing the wrong uniform on the first day of school.

Up to 60 year 11 and 12 Victoria University Secondary College students were sent home on Wednesday for failing to wear the new school uniform.

Clair Anderson wrote to Leader Newspapers to defend herself after readers blamed the students for the row.

“As a year 12 student that attends the school, you would think they would let it slide,” she wrote.

“It is my last year and I do take my education very seriously. For them to send me home after being at school for an hour is affecting my education.”

She said her family would struggle to pay for a new uniform for just one year’s use.

“My mother is a single parent who has just had breast cancer and cannot work due to this,” she wrote.

“How is she is supposed to financially cover this?”

Principal Genevieve Simson said parents and students were given ample warning that old school uniforms would be phased out, and the new one required from the start of this year.

Many readers defended the school’s decision.

Tanya Fernando of Balwyn said students had ample warning and could not get away with ignoring the rules.

“My daughter’s school is the same. If she gets a detention for not wearing her blazer, her fault!”

School ‘breached duty of care’

But some readers say the school breached its duty of care to the students and that uniform violations were not a good reason to throw teenagers out.

Mary of Clayton said the school should have to pay for new uniforms for senior students, who would only have one or two years out of it.

“As long as the students are wearing ‘a uniform’ (even from their old schools) it should not matter,” she wrote on

“I thought school was to learn not to worry about school uniforms.”

Sara of Hawthorn said an out-of-date uniform should be acceptable for the duration of a student’s education.

“To expect parents to fork out money for another new uniform is greedy, ridiculous and old fashioned,” she wrote.

“Schools are supposed to teach, not be the fashion police.”

‘Don’t bother coming back’

Delahey mother Joanne Grey’s two daughters, Amy in year 11 and Erin in year 12, were both sent home.

Amy was not wearing a blazer, while Erin was wearing the old school jumper and canvas shoes, not leather shoes.

“Amy was told to get the right uniform or don’t bother coming back,” she said.

“It’s a bit heavy handed, year 12 should be about getting an education.”

After three schools merged in 2010 to form the college, the new school council set up a uniform committee to choose a new uniform.

“There has been a two-year change-over period, now everybody has to be in full school uniform,” Mrs Simson said.

“Parents were sent home letters, and it was in the school newsletter.”

She would not confirm how many students were sent home, but parents put the number at between 50 and 60.

Education jeopardised

Another mother, Koula Theoharou from Kealba, said she arrived home to find her 16-year-old daughter on the couch.

“The school didn’t even ring or call, I should have at least got a phone call,” she said.

“She wore the exact same uniform on her last day last year without any complaints.

“The school said they sent out letters but I haven’t seen one.

“I think it’s ridiculous, they are jeopardising her education.”

But Mrs Simson stood by the new policy.

“It’s a school rule, and they’ve had two years warning,” she said.

February 12, 2013

Victoria University Secondary College students conform to new uniform policy

CLASSES are returning to normal at a St Albans secondary school after students were sent home for being in the wrong uniform on the first day of school.
On Thursday, just four students arrived at Victoria University Secondary College in the wrong uniform.

A week earlier, about 60 Year 11 and 12 students were sent home for breaching the school uniform policy, sparking outrage among parents and students.

After three schools merged in 2010 to form the college, the new school council set up a committee to choose a new uniform.

Principal Genevieve Simson said parents and students were given ample warning old school uniforms would be phased out, and the new one would be required from the start of this year.

Last week, the school stopped sending students home, but instead barred them from classes and sent them to the gym to complete class work.

Education department spokeswoman Anna Malbon said no students had been isolated from their peers.

“The principal has informed the department that the school is committed to assisting students and their families to acquire the school’s uniform,” she said.

“While this process is under way, the four students are receiving their normal lessons together in a class and are with other students at lunch and recess as normal.”

The saga has left some parents questioning how it even happened.

One mother, who wished to stay anonymous, said she had spent close to $300 buying the new uniform for her son in Year 10.

“The majority of the parents feel there is no need to purchase the blazer because other items have been purchased with the school emblem on it,” she said.

“We are in a low socio-economic area and we, and more so our children, are being bullied by the school to purchase this ridiculous item when we have jumpers and other jackets.

“Everyone is at a loss as to how this could happen,” she said.