Can girls wear shorts and trousers too? A review of South Australian school uniform policy following mandated requirement for choice
Sarah Cohen-Woods and
No kvwge, SocArXiv from Center for Open Science
Background: School uniform options such as skirts and dresses can impact physical activity and psychological wellbeing of girls. Restrictions that exclude trousers/pants or shorts as uniform options for girls can promote inequality in comfort and engagement in school activities. The South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) School Dress Code Procedure mandates school dress codes provide flexible uniform options with the right to choice, regardless of gender. This review examines public school adherence to DECD guidelines, and compares girls’ uniform options between public and private school sectors. Method: The proportion of girls shorts and pants/trouser options provided in school uniform policies collated in 2018 were compared across 486 public and 193 private primary, secondary, and combined schools within South Australia. Policies were grouped based on the choice they provided girls for shorts, and separately for trousers/pants. The groups were gender specific choice/open choice, unisex choice, restricted choice, or no option. Results: Overall, 98.6% of public and 26.4% of private school policies included shorts as a uniform option for girls. Of these schools, about nine in ten public, and just over half private, policies listed gender-specific or open choice shorts options. All public primary and high schools, and a majority of combined schools (98.8%) provided girls pants/trouser options, with 93.4% providing gender specific or open choices. This compared to 34.2% of private school policies including girls’ pants options. In total less than 1.0% of public, and 45.5% to 66.7% of private schools provide no opportunity for girls to wear shorts every day. Similarly, 56.0% of private schools do not provide any trouser/pant option. Conclusion: The results highlight a small proportion of public schools fail to follow mandated uniform policy procedures set by the DECD, specifically in context of shorts. Moreover, this report clearly demonstrates the discrepancy in girls’ uniform options between the public and private school sectors. We present suggestions and recommendations with the aim to improve current policy, as well as a need to advance adherence to policy and South Australian anti-discrimination legislation in public and particularly private schools.
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